Saturday, September 21, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Ravi Bhalla calls for partisan special meeting for non-binding resolution

Seeks campaign material for "enforcement" in non-binding pay-to-play resolution

Ravi Bhalla asks City Council: "Tell me how to do my job!" 

Weeks leading into council ward elections, Mayor Ravi Bhalla called for a special meeting this Thursday for a partisan campaign-driven resolution claiming to "enforce" the 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance.

Last week's non-binding resolution calls for enforcement of the 2011 pay-to-play ordinance Bhalla's Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia previously declared unenforceable.

Neither the mayor's office nor Aloia has offered any new analysis of how the 2011 ordinance can be enforced in the balance of 2019.

Ravi Bhalla makes a campaign play calling for a special meeting
solely for a non-binding resolution leading into November council elections.

Wednesday night, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher noted the disparity and called for an outside conflict counsel to review the matter. Her council colleagues agreed to move to table the resolution in a 6-3 vote.

The Bhalla Administration months prior, trotted out a small Hoboken municipal union as cover and obtained an outside legal analysis as a pretext to cripple if not do away with the 2011 ordinance in future legislative action. The ordinance currently limits political committees and unions from making political contributions in Hoboken above $500.

At the Wednesday council meeting, the non-binding resolution calling for enforcement of the 2011 pay-to-play ordinance saw objection to further legal analysis by councilmembers Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour and Michael Russo of the Ravi-Russo Alliance.

The mayor's office notification for a special meeting Thursday came during business hours Friday using the citywide Nixle system.

The City Council has repeatedly chastised the Bhalla Administration for illegally using the city alert-emergency system for political purposes. It recently passed legislation calling for city employees to refrain from politicking during work hours.

The City Council last month passed a measure with a veto-proof majority Ravi Bhalla declined to sign but became effective without his signature.

Talking Ed Note: Some find too much irony in all this campaigning out of the mayor's office wondering if Ravi Bhalla is really asking the City Council to do his job?

But why is this partisan campaign gamesmanship being done during business hours on the taxpayer dime?

Vijay Chaudhuri, communications manager in the mayor's office is invited but will not be available for comment. The former 2017 campaign manager for the Bhalla for mayor campaign is likely very busy with campaign chores from now until November.

Close political observers of Hoboken City Hall note the focus with the non-binding resolution is not enforcement but a campaign play as Councilman Michael DeFusco has exceeded the contribution limits in 2017 and 2019; contributions Bhalla himself seeks for his campaign war chest in a future election of his choice.

The rest of this exclusive report goes out to premium members this weekend.

Friday, September 20, 2019

City of Hoboken to take Academy Bus property downtown in latest eminent domain

Hoboken Patch reports the newest city land acquisition "Hoboken Will Use Eminent Domain to Seize Bus Company's Property."

The sub-headline states former mayor Dawn Zimmer accused Academy Bus of trying to force Hoboken into an "out-of-scale, traffic-generating development deal" on the City."

On Wednesday the City of Hoboken filed legal documents to take the land currently owned by Academy Bus for $5.3 million. The eminent domain process, however, will determine the final price.

The acre of land seized will join nearly an acre across the street with the existing Southwest Park or Southwest Plaza as some call the open space.

No additional taxes are anticipated according to the mayor's office with existing taxpayer funding provided through $1 million from a Hudson County Trust, $900,000 through the State Green Acres fund and the existing Open Space Trust tax fund in Hoboken.

It's unclear what the final cost to renovate and build on the additional acre of space will total.

The eminent domain action means discussions Academy Bus held with the City of Hoboken, Mayor Ravi Bhalla and BoE school officials for a multi-development use on the location with a proposed park and space for a new public school are terminally ended.

A rendering of the proposed Academy Bus plan for downtown Hoboken at the site of its downtown office originally included
a paid-for public park and public school. 

For more on this story, see Hoboken Patch at the link:

Talking Ed Note: Dawn Zimmer originally pushed for a Southwest Park a decade ago joining a group of Hoboken residents who had been advocating for one. A see-saw City Hall battle ensued over years until a parking lot was eventually converted by eminent domain with the critical decisive vote coming from City Council President Jen Giattino.

Dawn Zimmer expressed unhappiness when the development options proposed by Academy Bus for a privately paid park with school facilities became public late last year. This year, Zimmer and her husband, Stan Grossbard, put their home up for sale with a seven-figure price tag in the vicinity of the Academy Bus proposal as exclusively reported here.

Word of the Academy Bus offering late last year circulated with false accusations made against councilmembers who were not involved by Ravi Bhalla's online paid political operative. The two falsely accused, Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino were not affiliated near the downtown ward and had no role in the discussions between Academy Bus and Ravi Bhalla's office.

Ravi Bhalla earlier this year feigned ignorance of the matter and distanced himself from the negotiations of the Academy Bus proposal pointing to others.

Later, Academy Bus demanded that Ravi Bhalla's office have a designee in attendance on any future negotiations with their development offer to build apartments, a park, and school.

While their home was not sold, the earlier Zimmer NIMBY alert was heard loud and clear in a reported heated phone call to Ravi Bhalla.

Academy Bus had attempted good faith negotiations with the mayor's office and district BOE officials. Those efforts are officially ended pending the final price for their decades-owned property.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Councilwoman Fisher Thanks Colleagues for Unanimously Backing eScooter Restrictions at Public Parks, Waterfront Walkways

Official release:

Councilwoman pledges to continue working for pedestrian safety
The Hoboken City Council voted unanimously last night in favor of a resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher restricting eScooters from all city parks as well as the Northern and Southern Waterfront Walkways. A steadfast advocate for pedestrian safety, Councilwoman Fisher has been an outspoken critic of the eScooter program, relaying constituent concerns about unsafe operations by riders, lack of effective enforcement and safety issues. Councilwoman Fisher led the efforts for a revised contract with Lime, the city's lone remaining eScooter provider, that guarantees more revenue for the city to be used for enforcement actions.
Councilwoman Fisher is issuing the following statement:
"I would like to thank my colleagues for joining me in moving to restrict eScooters from our city parks and Waterfront Walkways, building on the continued efforts this City Council and the administration have undertaken to protect pedestrians, especially children and families walking in our public spaces. While there are clearly mobility benefits offered by the eScooter program, the simple fact is that until residents feel safe walking in our city we must continue working to make the program safer. I will continue working with my colleagues to institute stricter safety requirements wherever needed, while also working to identify ways to enhance enforcement and relieve the burden on Hoboken’s police and continuing to build out supportive infrastructure like bike lanes and road improvements. Last night was the first real public discussion we have had on the EScooter pilot and I appreciate everyone who came to speak and share their experiences.  As we continue to evaluate the program, input from everyone is critical so we can decide how best to make this work for Hoboken, or not.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Lime on the Line

Tonight the City Council will examine additional restrictions on the very popular and widely used e-Scooters introduced in a six-month pilot by Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

It's the last of the two companies in the pilot as the mayor revoked the other, Ojo, when a reported underage or "undocumented" user rode on the sidewalk and crashed into a woman. The woman also had a baby stroller. Ravi Bhalla revoked the contract of Ojo the same day as his prerogative.

Lime is now alone facing more regulation from the City Council tonight. As of August, Lime reported the e-Scooters were a huge success in Hoboken registering over 250,000 rides.

Last week, Lime introduced its latest generation of e-Scooter with new safety enhancements featuring a larger platform, wheels and a new data screen. Further restrictions in the waterfront areas are up for a vote tonight. Lime asked users to tell the City Council their support.

Although I don't work for Lime, on occasion I've used the e-Scooters and I support Mayor Ravi Bhalla's pilot and see there's been a significant and dramatic improvement by users. Hoboken is the perfect environment for e-Scooters being a square mile.

Previously, the waterfront area, perhaps the most popular for e-Scooters has seen a significant reduction in usage. This is due to the fun factor all but eliminated with the speeds geo-controlled down more than 50% to eight miles per hour. Basically, an overweight grandmother can be seen slowly jogging past people on an e-Scooter making the rider look utterly ridiculous. They're not likely to continue riding at the increased pricing already jacked up by the City.

Complainers being what they are, parked Limes even off by a foot are described in catastrophic terms as being the end of the world. Conversations with these people are not dissimilar to talking to a Worker's Party member in Greenwich Village back in the days of the Soviet Union. Nothing you say is going to make an iota of difference to these folks including the dramatic improvements in rider behavior since the e-Scooter introduction in May.

The e-Scooter education value is ongoing and there's been a more than modest improvement by users but there's always going to be people who will pass a red light or make a bad decision as you will see on bicycles or yes, pedestrians.

The e-Scooter pilot has a couple of months left. No one should be surprised that Hoboken at the end of the six month period is the biggest success globally but removes the carbon-friendly transportation from use entirely.

The killjoy element for regulation in Hoboken is what it is.

Update: The City Council Wednesday night as expected passed the additional safety measures with a 9-0 unanimous vote. Among them, the Lime e-scooters will be programmed and not be capable of working in the pedestrian walkways of the waterfront.

A resident who had their stroller hit by an underage 13-year-old illegal driver of Ojo discussed at length how the incident occurred with an Ojo e-Scooter running into her double-wide stroller and ricocheting into her leg. She asked for more safety and careful usage by e-Scooter riders recounting her unhappiness in succeeding days.

Not much discussion about the illegal driver or any penalty for a family member who set up the ride leading to the incident in the meeting. An account may have been revoked but later the vendor, Ojo saw all Hoboken service halted.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Horse Sense: Dark Money & Hoboken dirty deeds done dirt cheap

It's election season in Hoboken and sadly, the time of year when the bad character of individuals comes to the fore among those who seek or hold power.

Dark Money is being sounded in ever-louder warnings and there's a significant basis for it with a Hoboken vendor alleged at its center.

As Mayor Ravi Bhalla attempts to fulfill his desire for absolute power over all aspects of Hoboken governance, the before, during and after patterns of behavior is revealing.

In the 2017 mayoral election, one of the dirtiest witnessed in these parts in some time, dark money blew in days before the election in a big way.

As it turned out, the Ravi Terror Flyer was not only key in the election, it was instrumental to Ravi Bhalla eking out a win with under 33% of the vote.

In the first City Council meeting after the election, Councilman Mike DeFusco attempted to unify Hoboken backing an investigation to sort out those who were behind the dirty deed.

In response, Ravi Bhalla, in his last meeting as a councilman pointedly refused. He said Mike DeFusco had not been exonerated. He failed to note he nor his allies had been exonerated either. After going on a victimization tour, he declared the matter over and said there would be no further comment.

How convenient.

DeFusco, on the other hand, raised money with his family toward an investigative effort. The Hoboken Police Department received tips from the community but that investigation stalled as lots of whispers surfaced about dark money forces.

Everyone in City Hall, every Hoboken government insider, shadow mayor wannabe and every single person in the Hoboken mayor's office knows about the dark money force behind the terror flyer in 2017. The only difference is those who learned about it later and those who knew when the dirty deed went down.

The Feds struck a hammer blow against Hoboken voter fraud hard obtaining convictions in the 2013 election, an indictment with the promise of more to come in 2015 and the echoes of 2017 fluttering in the distance. Voter fraud in Hoboken is DOA but dark money is very much alive.

Notwithstanding politics, political party or personal beliefs, the terror flyer in the 2017 mayoral race was an attack on all Hoboken. The Boys of Summer need to break up that dirty political operation. Those involved should be exposed and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

All those who knowingly and willingly engage as political operatives, paid or unpaid, and continue to push lies into the Hoboken community about the origins of the Terror Flyer should see full exposure and accountability as well.

Now it's election season and Hoboken appears about to be terrorized again. You'll see a pattern emerge. What is old is new again. These leopards don't change their spots.

There's another big reveal coming. Listen to the howls for blood and listen to them proclaim their victimization even as they victimize others and the Mile Square City.

It's what they do and who they are. Smart'en up.

This Horse Sense editorial is dedicated to those who fight dark money near and far, especially City Hall.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: "E-Scooters - More Enforcement Coming'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors – 
This week the discussion on the future of E-Scooters in Hoboken came to a head when one of our neighbors was pushing her 3 month old in a stroller on a sidewalk near 8th and Clinton and was hit by an Ojo E-Scooter driven by a teen.  Thankfully, she had no serious physical injuries other than a bruised leg and the baby was ok.  It goes without saying that this paints the worst picture (with the best possible outcome) that we all fear.   Although mom and baby are physically ok thankfully, the entire family is still dealing with the aftershock and the many “what ifs.”  In response to this accident, Mayor Bhalla announced first on Twitter that he was terminating the contract with Ojo.  Although I think there is more and different that needs to be done, I applauded this decision because we needed a bold move to happen.  
Before I continue with more EScooter updates below, I would like to invite you to the City Council meeting on Wednesday night at 7pm at City Hall.  
The City Council will be voting on 2nd reading to ban EScooters from all City Parks as well as the Northern and Southern Waterfront Walkways (the areas where there are adjacent bike/multi use lanes where EScooters can and should be ridden).  If you can’t make in person, you can watch live on Facebook or online.  You would think this is an easy law to get behind - given EScooters and kids don't mix well - but because of the upcoming elections/political environment, I have less confidence that this is the slam dunk it should be.  So write your council person, come to the meeting, and let us know your views – whatever they are – on this.  I understand Ojo's CEO will be at the meeting, and as of this writing, our neighbor who was in the accident described above plans to attend as well.
Back to the update on EScooters….
Let me start by saying that my position continues to be informed by the feedback I get from many of you.  I believe:
  • We need to do as much as possible to try to make E-Scooters work in Hoboken, but in order for them to work residents need to feel safe.  And currently they just don’t.
  • It is a little more than a “few bad eggs” ruining it for everyone and that we HAVE TO GET THEM OFF THE SIDEWALKS.  
  • Anything with a motor should be banned from the Waterfront Walkway and Parks which is consistent with the State Law that has the intent of separating them from densely populated pedestrian areas (thus the sidewalk ban).  As mentioned above, we are voting to make this law at the meeting Wednesday night.
  • That the current arrangement with LIME is not sustainable – although better than when it started, we need a contract where an E-scooter provider, among other things, is financially liable for reckless riding.  
  • The City needs to do much more than it has been doing to ensure safety.
  • The City currently does not have the wherewithal to support an E-Scooter program in Hoboken through the snowy/slushy/wet winters. 
  • We should not extend the pilot in November.  I have already communicated this to our Transportation Director Sharp.
All this said, it sounds like I want to kill the E-Scooter program permanently.  And I don’t…not yet.  I think we need to continue with safety improvements – like Wednesday’s vote - during this pilot, but we take the winter off to work on what we need to see happen in order to potentially launch again in the spring.  Last time the goal of the administration was to be “first” with a program in NJ.  I think a better goal is to have a program that is “right” for Hoboken (or not have anything).

City Council President Jen Giattino: "9/24 Vote Jen Again Fundraiser!"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,
Please join me for some fun at my re-election launch fundraiser!
  • WHEN: Tuesday, September 24
  • WHERE 80 River Hoboken (in the location of the former Cadillac Cantina) 80 River Street, Hoboken
  • TIME: 6pm - 8pm
As many of you know the hardest thing for me to do is to ask for money but campaigns cost money. You have always been so generous supporting me. Each and every one of you makes a difference.  Will you support me with a donation of $25 or more? Checks payable to Jen Giattino for 6th Ward or you can DONATE ONLINE. 

I'm proud to represent the 6th Ward on the City Council and, with your continued support, will be honored to keep working together on what matters most to all of us, Hoboken. My focus has always been, and will continue to be, on improving quality of life issues, working to keep taxes low, helping those who have less, supporting our local businesses, and protecting our neighborhood feel that makes Hoboken so special. 
Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to seeing you on the 24th!

Vote Jen Again

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ravi Bhalla announces temporary retreat to unwind the 2011 pay to play ordinance for election attack on Councilman Mike DeFusco

Mayor Ravi Bhalla executes temporary ceasefire on undoing the 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance; will use it through election season to attack Councilman Mike DeFusco 

Councilman Mike DeFusco counters pointing to illicit Super PAC controlled by Hoboken insurance vendor alleging $150,000 in Dark Money set to invade Hoboken for Ravi Bhalla's council slate

With the Friday reveal uncovered in an exclusive report on showing Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his Administration orchestrating an assault on Dawn Zimmer's 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance, an end of day retreat last week was announced.

Ravi Bhalla will temporarily halt unwinding of the 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance leaving it intact for the duration of election season. Bhalla and his council slate instead will turn their guns on Councilman Mike DeFusco with a non-binding resolution claiming its intent "to enforce" the 2011 ordinance.

With political season exploding in Hoboken, there's actually nothing by way of any enforcement mechanism in the resolution being sponsored by Bhalla teammates, council members Jim Doyle and Emily Jabbour. 

Previously, Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia deemed the 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance "unenforceable." 

More verbiage appears in the resolution on a Bhalla Administration commissioned legal opinion seeking to unwind the 2011 Pay-to Play-ordinance by an outside attorney coordinated with the Hoboken Law Department. 

That attorney from the law firm of Hunt, Hamlin, Ridley in a September 3rd letter suggests undoing much of the 2011 ordinance due to the urging of a small Hoboken municipal supervisors union claiming it may be unconstitutional under NJ law. The union head, however, rescinded the odd late July request back on August 1st.

Unions are limited as political committees to political contributions of $500 in Hoboken. Both Bhalla and DeFusco are competing for those monies and in the end larger amounts if the 2011 ordinance is unwound. In the 2017 mayoral election, outside money contributions to the two saw their totals pop to a whopping $1,000,000.

The Doyle-Jabbour resolution Wednesday targets Councilman Mike DeFusco who's accepted campaign contributions in excess of tens of thousands in 2017 and is exceeding those limits leading into this November's council ward races.

But DeFusco dropped a bigger bomb last week launching a nuke on the mayor's office of Ravi Bhalla, his council slate and a Hoboken insurance vendor Fairview. He's alleging Ravi Bhalla's "slate of Council candidates is being supported by a powerful, dark money Super PAC controlled by the city's health insurance vendor," Fairview Insurance Agency Associates.

DeFusco first dropped the bomb in a live interview last Thursday with John Heinis, editor and publisher of the Hudson County View. Late Friday, he issued a statement of his own saying he will be offering a resolution at Wednesday night's City Council meeting

Late Friday, DeFusco said, "I will be introducing a resolution denouncing the influence of dark money on our local politics and calling on all Council candidates to reject support from Super PACs."

Ravi Bhalla and his mayor's office have been silent on the Dark Money allegations tied to Fairview Insurance, a Hoboken vendor. Coordination between Ravi Bhalla, his council slate, the Super PAC and the insurance vendor is illegal.

DeFusco also said in his interview he had opposed the big increases offered earlier by Ravi Bhalla to the insurance vendor.

The video begins at 7:58 with the discussion of Dark Money.

Talking Ed Note: It's all about the Benjamins... and power. There will be no enforcement of the 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance by Ravi Bhalla or his administration.

After the 2012 BoE election, the former Corporation Counsel attempted to enforce the 2011 ordinance in a letter to then-councilwoman Beth Mason. It was ignored. An enforcement mechanism as Brian Aloia stated previously does not exist.

No one has challenged let alone won a legal decision against Hoboken's 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance.

Although this website urged an enforcement mechanism, none has occurred then or since. It's not happening heading to November. It's all posturing for special interest money as Ravi Bhalla intends to compete with DeFusco FOR that money.

Statement from Councilman Mike DeFusco on Mayor Bhalla’s Proposed Pay-to-Play Resolution

Official release:

Earlier today, Mayor Ravi Bhalla released a statement doubling down on Hoboken’s embattled local pay-to-play law, even after a review by outside legal counsel called for it to be repealed. Councilman Mike DeFuso is releasing the following statement in response:  
“This is a blatant attempt by the Mayor to distract attention away from the fact that his slate of Council candidates is being supported by a powerful, dark money Super PAC controlled by the city’s health insurance vendor,” said Councilman Mike DeFusco. “The Mayor and his allies can continue trying to divert attention, but what Hoboken voters truly care about is the integrity of our upcoming election. That’s why at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting I will be introducing a resolution denouncing the influence of dark money on our local politics and calling on all Council candidates to reject support from Super PACs.” 
According to media reports, a Super PAC closely linked to Hoboken’s health insurance vendor plans to spend over $150,000 on this year’s City Council election. The vendor was responsible for the largest spending increase in last year’s municipal budget, which Councilman DeFusco spoke out against to protect Hoboken taxpayers. The PAC employs a fundraising consultant who previously worked for Mayor Bhalla’s campaign, and it comes after a different dark money organization spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect Bhalla in 2017. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ravi Bhalla prepares more dirt for the Reform Movement's grave

BOMBSHELL: Mayor Ravi Bhalla is undoing Dawn Zimmer's landmark 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance in a bid for Special Interest - Dark Money

Councilman Mike DeFusco launches atomic attack alleging Ravi Bhalla coordinating with a Hoboken vendor for Dark Money and a Super PAC in upcoming Hoboken election

In 2011, former mayor Dawn Zimmer pressed forward with an update to Hoboken's pay-to-play ordinance seeking to limit the amount of money from outside special interests impeding Hoboken sovereignty.

Eight years later, Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his administration are seen undermining that signature Reform legislation in the Mile Square City, one he co-authored at the time, as alleged Dark Money and City vendor conflicts emerge from the shadows in bombshell allegations.

Last August, obtained a public letter sent by Joel Mestre, President of the Municipal Supervisors Association union. The letter, published for the first time here, oddly sought to undo the landmark 2011 Hoboken ordinance.

The letter from Hoboken's small union complained about Hoboken's limitations on political contributions being far below those of the State of New Jersey claiming it was a handicap and a "potential liability" for a lawsuit.

In over eight years, there's never been any Constitutional challenge to the ordinance in Hoboken. Other municipalities of New Jersey implemented similar pay-to-play restrictions prior to Hoboken and have seen no successful legal challenge since.

On August 1st, in a telephone interview with Mestre, he claimed to author the letter. In a discussion of the ramifications with far larger special interests outside Hoboken, Mestre asked for additional time to review the situation and promised to follow-up.

Hours later, Mestre phoned and stated, "we rescinded the letter" saying the City Council was notified in writing the Hoboken Municipal Supervisors Association was reversing course and would not be pursuing the matter. 

Asked to explain the sudden reversal in a single week, Mestre pointed to an unwillingness to see opened a "Pandora's Box" of far larger and more powerful NJ special interest groups and Dark Money entities enter Hoboken.

Other sources within City Hall point to the mayor's office and a recent move with Ravi Bhalla's Chief of Staff John Allen moving into the Hoboken Law Department as prompting ongoing efforts to undo the Dawn Zimmer reform.

"It is counterproductive to a small municipal union to have Dark Money and statewide special interests invited in to push Hoboken around," said one who asked not to be named to avoid retaliation from the mayor's office. 

Dark Money Alliances and a PAC to invade Hoboken?

Then this week, the Hudson County View published a story identifying one potential PAC (Political Action Committee), NJ Community Initiativesas preparing to throw money into Hoboken's upcoming council ward races. The PAC reportedly hired Stephanie Wohlrab, a professional fundraiser.

According to that exclusive Hudson County View report, Wohlrab counts among her clients, former mayor Dawn Zimmer and Ravi Bhalla. 

On September 3rd, an 18-page letter to Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia from a lawyer, Raymond Hamlin of Hunt, Hamlin, and Ridley stated it had been "tasked" to write on the constitutional basis of Hoboken's 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance.

Hamlin's letter to Aloia concluded, "I trust this is responsive to your inquiry." (emphasis added).

In a follow-up interview by phone with Joel Mestre yesterday afternoon, he said he doesn't know Raymond Hamlin and had no involvement in having him "tasked" to prepare an 18-page letter challenging the 2011 Hoboken Pay-to-Play ordinance.

"I never got a call from this guy," Mestre stated. 

Who's driving this train against Pay-to-Play?

Yesterday, Mestre reiterated he had rescinded the late July letter. On August 1st, hours after the first contact from, Mestre indicated a reversal, in writing, was sent to the City Clerk's Office and City Council President Jen Giattino. The letter was also received shortly thereafter by the City of Hoboken Law Department.

Why did the City of Hoboken Legal Department "task" an outside attorney to undertake a lengthy analysis and 18-page letter dismissive of Hoboken's Pay-to-Play ordinance?

In an email late yesterday to Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia, this website asked several questions with one restated below:

What role and when did the Hoboken Law Department initiate communication with them (Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley) and why?

At the time of this story's publication, there's been no response from Hoboken Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia. Back in 2017 however, Aloia, a carryover from the Zimmer Administration is seen as a $600 contributor to Ravi Bhalla's mayoral campaign. That amount is within legal limits.

Yesterday, Councilman Mike DeFusco in an interview with John Heinis, editor, and publisher of the Hudson County View launched bombshell allegations at Ravi Bhalla saying he was coordinating with a SuperPAC connected to a Hoboken insurance vendor, Fairview, to work in tandem against him and others in the November council races. Ravi Bhalla has previously announced his own council ticket.

Any coordination, however, between Ravi Bhalla, the Hoboken insurance vendor, Fairview Insurance Agency Associates in Hoboken's council elections would be illegal under NJ law.

In the interview, DeFusco was asked about his accepting excessive campaign funds in excess of the 2011 Hoboken Pay to Play Ordinance. He's previously accepted tens of thousands in excess campaign contributions in Hoboken's 2017 mayoral election and continues to do so in 2019. 

The councilman up for re-election ignored the heart of the question stating more than once he would comply with the State of NJ and Federal campaign requirements. DeFusco did not indicate how he would vote should new legislation come before the City Council to undo the 2011 Hoboken Pay-to-Play ordinance.

City of Hoboken communication manager Vijay Chaudhuri has not denied the possibility of Ravi Bhalla backing new legislation dismantling the 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance. Oddly, he references the potential involvement of the Hoboken City Council which he typically comments on almost strictly by way of attacks.

Founder and COO of Fairview Insurance Agency Associates John Graham
and Michael J. Graham

Talking Ed Note: This story is breaking.... all over the place. Hat tip to the Hudson County View for its ongoing investigative reporting contributing to this developing story.

The Hoboken 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance was passed on July 1, 2011, with the elevation of Councilwoman Jen Giattino to office. Although threats were repeatedly made alleging its unconstitutionality by former councilwoman Beth Mason, no challenge was ever made by her or anyone else in its eight-plus years. 

Former mayor Dawn Zimmer was contacted yesterday by email and asked to comment on her feelings with Ravi Bhalla seeking to undo her 2011 Pay-to-Play ordinance. She has appeared recently on Twitter complaining about pedestrian safety but does not respond to inquiries on Ravi Bhalla's actions reversing policy and legislation under her tenure.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla will not be available to comment for this story.
Communications Manager Vijay Chaudhuri will not be available to comment for this story.
Chief of Staff John Allen will not be available to comment for this story.
Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia is again invited to comment on this story.

City Council President Jen Giattino: "Thank you for your support and looking forward!"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,

Thank you to everyone who signed a nominating petition for me.  With your support, I will officially be on the ballot for re-election to Hoboken City Council as the 6th ward representative!  Hoboken matters so much to all of us and I am grateful for the chance to continue to work alongside you and to be your advocate for the next four years.  

My focus has always been, and will continue to be, on improving quality of life issues, working to keep taxes low, helping those who have less, supporting our local businesses, and protecting our neighborhood feel that makes Hoboken so special.  Our track record together is strong including:
  • Making zoning changes that preserve the historic character of the community
  • Fighting to keep our taxes as low as possible
  • Adding loading zones in neighborhoods
  • Supporting building a new American Legion and six new homes for homeless veterans
  • Installing stop signs throughout the 6th ward to ensure safe pedestrian passage
  • Advocating for Union Dry Dock to be added to the open space plan since 2012 
  • Completing necessary upgrades to city parks (grass in Church Square)
  • Expanding affordable housing resources and 
  • Securing more County funding including $250,000 for dog park upgrades  
I have also advocated to ensure that local nonprofits are able to continue operating and to fix a loophole in the city’s rent control law to protect tenants and as part of the mayor's task force, I have worked to reduce homelessness in Hoboken.  A highlight for me was securing a Section 8 housing voucher and a new home for one of Hoboken's chronically homeless women.

As we look ahead, we have to continue the progress we have made including completing Rebuild By Design to make our community resilient to storm-related flooding, working even harder to keep our taxes as low as possible in a rising cost environment, ensuring new development works for Hoboken including less reliance on cars and inclusion of more affordable units, launching our new Special Improvement District to help local businesses thrive, and finishing our plans for open space including the NW, SW, Harborside Parks and connecting the last two remaining pieces of our public waterfront park.  

There is a lot to do and I am excited to have your support and together, tackle what lies ahead.  As I continue to knock on doors and meet with neighbors, I am honored to hear phrases like “you're everyone's neighbor” and "thank you for always listening".  I have strived to cultivate a reputation as an advocate for our neighborhood and pride myself on being accessible to my constituents for problem-solving while providing independent, responsible leadership on the City Council.  

Serving the residents of Hoboken is something I take very seriously and our community deserves a true advocate who has always, and will always do whatever they can to deliver to residents and put Hoboken first.  I have had the honor to lead the City Council four times since taking office as Council President, having been elected by my peers reflecting what I believe is my dedication to public service and willingness to be a consensus builder and leader.  Although we all work well together and agree most often - 83% of the time we voted 9-0 on the mayor/council agenda under this administration - at times I make tough decisions on what’s best for our city without bowing to political pressure.    

I have been proud to be your representative on the City Council and, with your continued support, will be honored to keep working together on what matters most to all of us, Hoboken.    

Thank you again for your support!  Please don't hesitate to reach out if you would like to join me on the campaign trail.


Vote Jen Again

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Matt Calicchio sentencing for his role in Hoboken voter fraud postponed


Matt Calicchio, the controversial political operative once employed by former Councilwoman Beth Mason will not be sentenced tomorrow in Newark Federal Court for his role in voter bribery as originally scheduled.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey in Newark, Calicchio's sentencing is postponed. No new sentencing date has been set.

In June, Calicchio testified on behalf of the government as a key witness against Frank "Pupie" Raia who was later convicted for organizing a Hoboken voter bribery scheme in 2013. Raia's criminal conviction is pending appeal.

Last May, Calicchio became the fifth person to be ensnared in a federal probe of criminal voter fraud activities connected to Hoboken's 2013 and 2015 elections. 

Matt Calicchio, a years long employee of former councilwoman Beth Mason will not be sentenced for his admitted role in voter bribery activities in the 2013 and 2015 Hoboken election. No new sentencing date has been set.
Below Calicchio front is Dio Braxton who also awaits sentencing and Michael "Big Holmesy" Holmes who testified in the Raia trial in lieu of prosecution for the government.

Coming a day after word of Dio Braxton's sentencing being delayed, alarm bells will be ringing in Hoboken as additional criminal indictments in the 2015 and possibly 2017 elections await. 

Last January, the first indictment in the 2015 Hoboken election came down against Fox Hill Gardens resident Willie Rojas by the US Department of Justice.

Talking Ed Note: Last May, highlighted the admitted guilt of the former Beth Mason political operative in an article inquiring who was paying for his attorney writing:

The delay in sentencing will further boost fears of further action in the federal investigation into Hoboken voter fraud.

For months, Ravi Bhalla political operatives have been pointing fingers in the fourth ward all the while misidentifying the council candidate mentioned in federal court documents connected to the 2015 Hoboken election. 

At the Raia trial, Calicchio dispelled those claims testifying he worked for the uptown fifth ward 2015 campaign of Eduardo Gonzalez.

In the 2015 Hoboken municipal ward election for City Council, $15,000 was splashed around Hoboken on "campaign workers" similar to the amounts Frank Raia spent in 2013 and similarly tied to hundreds of Vote by Mail ballots.

The 2015 funds, however, came from Councilman Michael Russo who ran that year as an unopposed candidate and is up for re-election this November. 

Russo has often been aligned with Mayor Ravi Bhalla, most recently when he said of a handful of municipal layoffs, the Bhalla Administration "would hire and fire as they see fit.

Bhalla's political operatives who have been proven wrong earlier this year in who Matt Calicchio worked for in 2015, always fail to say a word about Russo and the Ravi-Russo Alliance

Matt Calicchio is seen holding an umbrella for former councilwoman Beth Mason in this 2014 photo on upper Hudson.

Related: The January feature, "FBI arrest threatens extinction-level event for Hoboken voter fraud.

18 years after the World Trade Center fell to Islamic terrorism

The World Trade Center as seen from the Hudson River in September 1999.
All rights reserved - The Hudson Mile Square View

At 8:46 am, a moment of silence honors the thousands of Americans killed on Patriot Day, as designated on December 18, 2001, in a joint Congressional resolution.

The nearly 3,000 victims killed by name is available on the 9/11 Memorial & Museum website. Among them, 56 Hoboken residents who went to work and were murdered.

On Patriot Day, we solemnly remember the nearly 3,000 people who perished on September 11, 2001.  With gratitude, we honor the brave first responders, resolute members of our military, and ordinary Americans who showed extraordinary courage to save others on that fateful day.  We will always be grateful for the heroic men and women of our Armed Forces who fought in defense of our country in the aftermath of the largest terrorist attack on American soil, and we will never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our liberty and freedom.
Many Americans vividly recall the precise moment when terrorists killed our fellow Americans at the World Trade Center in New York City; at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; and on a quiet field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  A beautiful September morning was marred by stark disbelief, agonizing sorrow, and profound suffering.  America’s strength, courage, and compassion, however, never wavered.  First responders instantly rushed into harm’s way to save their fellow Americans from the wreckage of the attacks, the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 decisively fought back and saved countless lives at the cost of their own, and Americans from across the country provided aid, assistance, and comfort to those in need.  Against the backdrop of cowardly acts of terror, America once again demonstrated to the world the unmatched strength of our resolve and the indomitable power of our character.
This year, I was proud to sign into law the Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.  This bipartisan legislation, named in honor of New York first responders Officer James Zadroga, Firefighter Ray Pfeifer, and Detective Luis Alvarez, permanently reauthorizes compensation for victims and their families, first responders, and those on the front lines of rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero.  Through this legislation, our Nation is fulfilling our sacred duty to those who risked their lives for their fellow Americans on that infamous September day 18 years ago.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: " It starts with a petition, ends with a vote!"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors,

Four years later, a little older, a little wiser, and even more inspired than ever to run for election again!  Because of your support, I will officially be on the ballot on November 5th for re-election to Hoboken City Council as the 2nd ward representative.  Together we can continue working to make Hoboken the best place to live.  Thank you to everyone who signed a nominating petition on my behalf to help make this happen.


Four years ago I began this journey because I wanted to contribute more to my community and felt that I could help make a difference in the challenges Hoboken faced including our aging infrastructure, the effects of our significant population growth, and the pressures of development and rising home prices.  Little did I know that I would need and use all of my 20+ years of professional, financial and community experience every day, on every issue, to ask the right questions, to get the right answers, and to ensure that Hoboken residents and taxpayers always get the best outcome.  

My June 27th kick off announcement included the highlights of the long track record we have accomplished together and that we all should be so proud of ranging from signing a new Suez water contract that saves taxpayers $30M and puts an end to water main breaks to advocating for our most vulnerable and longer-standing residents to executing on a pedestrian safety plan for the 2nd Ward and more.  Engaging with, informing and advocating for you has driven these successes along with a City Council and administration, despite what you may hear otherwise, who work well together to make good decisions for Hoboken. 

As we look ahead to the next four years, many of the same challenges remain and I am ready to roll up my sleeves again to:  
  • Work even harder to keep taxes low which includes cutting waste and excess spending, managing our debt, striking better economic deals with our partners, getting more services from Hudson County and growing our tax base carefully.  And as Chair of the Finance, Revenue and Infrastructure subcommittee for the past four years, we have achieved all of these but will still need to keep this focus going forward.  
  • Get better economic outcomes for Hoboken.  Best shown by example:
    • SUEZ: original 2017 proposal - residents pay 15% higher water rates to fund $30M for necessary water system upgrades while Suez keeps $70M+ of our water revenues over 15 yrs.  With my advocacy:  Suez only gets $45M so that all $30M of system upgrades can be funded with no increase in rates.  
    • LIME: original proposal - Hoboken gets $12,500, Lime to make ~$1.5M during the pilot program.  With my advocacy for a new contract, although still not enough to cover the significant enforcement costs, Hoboken now gets over $100K.
    • SMART CITIES: original proposal - Hoboken trades 100% of advertising/data rights in exchange for large kiosks and free city-wide wi-fi.  With my advocacy, a financial advisor was hired and recommended we scrap that deal given the significant economic value that Hoboken was going to give away.  Administration has since not prioritized this project. 
  • Continue to fight to complete our waterfront.  This started for me in 2011 when I led the public effort to fight against the proposed Monarch project.  This is a historic moment in time for Hoboken where we are so close to ensuring the best possible public access and enjoyment of our entire waterfront.  Last week the City Council approved 9-0 to allow the mayor to acquire the former UDD site.  And 9 years later, the Monarch settlement agreement is now on track to be completed in 2020.  
  • Make Vision Zero a reality.  This time around we need to embrace this project, to act on the recommendations and to create a culture of safety in Hoboken where our "entire system is responsible for safety" because our lives depend on it.  And although not ever implemented, let’s start by using what was then the equivalent of a Vision Zero program, the 2010 Hoboken Bicycle and Pedestrian, as a guide for action immediately.   
  • Ensure that all future development addresses our community needs and makes sense for Hoboken.  This is one of the most difficult issues to navigate if you don't have the proper tools and skills and we are at a critical moment in time given the amount of development pressure our city faces.  I have worked tirelessly to bring much needed financial and real estate expertise into all of our redevelopment negotiations so that Hoboken never again is the underdog in these discussions.  The $3M+ of community benefits in the proposed Hilton Hotel are an example of what you can achieve when you have the right financial tools.
  • Do more to expand transportation alternatives so that we can stave off the growth of cars coming into, driving around and staying in Hoboken.  Don't worry, this isn't at all to say that we need to get rid of cars.  I drive one.  I like to drive one.  But the biggest issues I hear from you - congestion, traffic, parking and pedestrian safety - can be tied to the growth in cars and car services.  So as we see our population grow, lets expand the free Hop again, figure out if and how eScooters and other micro-mobility sources can work safely in Hoboken (or not), advocate for more 126 buses, build a new light rail station in NW Hoboken, increase the price for resident parking permits, build more bike infrastructure and require lower parking ratios for newer buildings, especially those near transportation hubs.   
  • Keep our local stores open for business.  No one likes to see empty storefronts.  With the support of our Business Administrator, I have driven the effort to create a Special Improvement District for Hoboken like those in the economic flourishing areas of neighboring Jersey City.  After 18 months of steering committee meetings, the City Council approved this in July and, last week, voted 9-0 to appoint me to its Board.  We will need one more City Council vote to get it funded, operating and advocating for our businesses but we are closer than ever to restoring our main street.  
  • Maintain the historic character of Hoboken.  Watching our historic properties be demolished is watching Hoboken’s history vanish before our eyes.  The last two years I led the advocacy to substantially increase the funding for our Historic Preservation Commission from their shoestring budget so they could take on projects like producing necessary “design guidelines” and “This Place Matters” to better protect our historic landscape.
  • Make our parks as clean, inviting, safe and accessible as they can be.  Creating a park conservancy will hopefully bring much needed, new focus and resources to our parks. I have spoken with the City about this in the past and am excited that Elysian Park will be one of the first parks in this program.
  • Complete Rebuild By Design to make Hoboken resilient to the devastating effects of hurricanes and storm surges.  I have been working on this important project for five years and we have 3ish more to go with construction starting in 2020.  Our hearts go out to the residents of the Bahamas after the ravaging impact of Hurricane Dorian last week.  A level of devastation not previously seen, and a painful reminder that we need to complete RBD as soon as possible.
  • Continue expanding capacity in our sewers to minimize the flooding effects from significant rain events.  This is happening through all the resiliency infrastructure we are adding in our parks, on our streets and to our new buildings to collect stormwater to delay its entrance into our sewer system.  I have worked with the NHSA to also provide information to residents on what they can do in their homes to help mitigate the risk.
  • Collaborate with the Board of Education and other local schools to ensure that their real estate and facilities needs are addressed before it’s too late given the massive growth in young children in our community, the related enrollment growth in our district schools in particular (40% in eight years), and the more families that want to stay longer in Hoboken.  Whether it’s helping them find a location to build a new school or to build flexible/swing space for students while a new school gets rebuilt - we need to find and reserve this space now before it’s too late!  We never get to say "let’s take those 10 acres by the highway and build a new..."  I don't want to manufacture a crisis, but...
  • Build more active space that our growing population of all ages can use for recreation – whether soccer fields, a pool, pickle-ball courts, waterfront activities, a new senior center, dog parks, an uptown library and/or other activities, we need to find this space because again, we never get to say "let's take those 10 acres by the highway and build a new..."  Given our land constraints, I have always pushed to include active space like when both the NW and Harborside parks were originally proposed with only passive uses...  I have also been and will continue to be a big proponent of the City partnering to restore the uptown "Y" (click here for their survey looking for input on the restoration).   
  • Ensure that the commercial development and a municipal/public parking garage are built in the North End.Commercial development is critical to diversify our tax base and stimulate our local economy.  Notwithstanding the points above, for the uptown commercial areas to be viable, they need public parking for visitors.  I have helped drive these discussions on the North Community Development Council subcommittee for four years and hope you can join for our next public meeting on 9/24 at 630 pm at Wallace to discuss the next steps (more to come).
  • Celebrate and protect the diverse fabric of our very special Hoboken community – to borrow one of my favorite phrases from Hoboken’s Mustard Seed School “You Are Who You Learn With.”  The very definition of the value of diversity.  In particular, every day we need to make sure there is room for those with less in our city that has more through enforcing our rent control laws, improving the conditions for those who live in our Housing Authority, ensuring safe transportation for our seniors, and building more affordable housing.  I recently led the effort to secure a new transport bus for our seniors after seeing the awful conditions of the current ones.  And I have been on the affordable housing subcommittee since I was elected and although we made some amazing steps, we still have so much more we need to do.  
  • Work collaboratively and always support what is best for Hoboken.  Notwithstanding any rhetoric you may hear to the contrary, the mayor and the City Council have gotten a lot done together.  The Mayor entrusts me with leading many of the complicated issues like negotiating the financial terms of the new Suez contract, strategizing about Union Dry Dock and development, and leading the effort with our local businesses to establish a Special Improvement District for Hoboken.  But we don’t agree 100% of the time and I will always question what’s best for Hoboken.  Ideally, and I don’t fault him for this, he wants to have a team that will rubber-stamp his agenda.  Apparently, the 9-0 votes supporting his agenda 83% of the time by the City Council since he took office isn’t enough. 
As your neighbor, I believe Hoboken residents and taxpayers deserve a representative who will always be working and advocating for them.  Who listens and engages.  Who will be transparent and informative on all issues. Who has the interest, commitment, and experience to tackle all the big and small issues that Hoboken residents are facing today and in the future.  Who strives to be a uniting community leader, not a dividing one.  Who is not a rubber stamp, but will ask tough questions and always vote Hoboken first.  And who believes more voices gives us the best chance for the best outcome. 

As your council representative today, if you re-elect me, I promise to continue to be that advocate for you.

What inspires me to want to continue on this journey of advocacy is seeing the impact that more voices can make together.  Your voices.  I am amazed daily by your engagement on issues important to you.  And it is this engagement that motivates me to work with and for you and to continue to be an important source of information for you on all that matters.  Four years on, the heart of my platform hasn't changed - Engage.  Inform.  Advocate.    

This is such an important election for Hoboken so please forward to anyone you think may be interested in this and especially to any of your friends in the 2nd Ward who will be voting in November.  Thank you again for this amazing opportunity to serve you and for your support.  I will continue to work hard, every day, to earn your vote on November 5th.