Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'April happenings'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
As someone who wants to believe all people are inherently honest, April Fool’s day is crippling to me.  In 1996, reading about the Taco Liberty Bell in the Wall Street Journal I was amazed!  And it wasn’t that long ago that our own Hoboken Girl tried to trick me into believing Taylor Swift was moving into the Hudson Tea (I awoke panicked, as a board member at HTB thinking about all the potential paparazzi…).  Thankfully this year, HMAG’s article on job creation and HobokenGirl’s article on Justin Bieber had specific references to it being April Fool’s.  Phew.
So with that we start April, and hopefully spring, this week with a full agenda of Hoboken features to share with you.  
  • Light It Up Blue for Autism.  Wednesday (4/3) 6-7PM.  Join us as we light City Hall up blue following Autism Awareness day for the entire month of April!  We will be honoring those in our town who have supported our autism community and help make Hoboken even more aware, accepting and supportive to those effected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Special Meeting of the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission - Wednesday (4/3) 6-9PM.  At Hoboken Public Library, 500 Park Avenue.  In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, the State Historic Preservation Office and HUD gave Hoboken roughly $.25M in grants to update the citywide architectural survey last completed in 1979. Please come and hear about the new survey of over 1600 properties and how it can shape the future of Hoboken. It will also be live streamed on FB.
  • City Council Meeting - Wednesday (4/3) 7PM.  Click for the agenda and to watch online (link appears when the meeting starts).  You can watch live on Facebook as well. Includes the 2nd vote on: the repeal of the recent parking meter rate increases, new laws regulating bar crawls, and a potential new e-scooter program (more about this below).
  • Municipal Budget Hearing - Thursday (4/4) 6PM-9PM.  City Hall.  The 2019 draft budget by the mayor includes a 3% tax levy increase.  Join the City Council as we look for ways to reduce taxes but maintain services.  You can watch live on Facebook as well.  This hearing includes presentations from our City Clerk's Office, our Law Department and our Finance and Administration department which covers the Mayor's office, Constituent Services and our City Engineer (including Washington St. and intersection improvements).  More hearings scheduled next week.
  • Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 registration All Week (4/1-4/5).  Click to find all the information you need about registering including what documentation you will need to bring.
  • Shredding Day – Saturday (4/6) 9AM-2PM.  DPW site, Willow & Observer Highway.  Shred your identity to avoid theft.
  • Hoboken Literary Weekend by Little City Books – 4/5-4/7.  For all ages and at various locations throughout the city.  It is the first of its kind and hopefully not the last!  Tickets have been selling out so get yours soon!  I will be away, but one I personally wish I could attend is:  NY Times best-selling author Daniel Pink on Saturday at 4pm at Hoboken High.  Best-selling author of WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.  (like not sending these newsletters the day of meetings…).   
  • Hilton Hotel Project - For those unaware, the owner of properties adjacent to the Hilton Hotel site filed litigation citing concerns about the validity the negotiated terms of the project.  The project has been delayed as a judge gave a ruling this week that questions whether much of the $4.85M in community givebacks are allowed.  This was the response from the City.  More to come…
  • Our Schools are Bursting At The Seams –This week, the Board of Education had a meeting with parents of children attending Calabro to discuss planned changes that would have Calabro students (and teachers, etc. ) moving to Brandt next year.  The root of these changes are twofold – reduced state level funding and massive increases in school enrollment.  Yes, read that second part again – MASSIVE INCREASES IN SCHOOL ENROLLMENT.  In the face of rising taxes – the draft school budget suggests an increase this year of 5.4% - and significant increases in enrollment at the lower levels, the BOE is suggesting that combining Calabro with Brandt will afford better programming and use of school resources and will allow Calabro to be used for our growing pre-K enrollment.     
At least once every two weeks I have a conversation with someone about their belief that they cannot send their children to our district schools.  And by the time I get done with them touting all the amazing positives, they say to me “I had no idea...”  I will write an entire newsletter in the coming weeks on this topic, but today, the numbers speak for themselves:
  • Since 2011/12 (9 years), enrollment is projected to be up next year by approximately 900 kids (39% total increase, 4% annually) from 2300 to 3200. 
  • Of these, approximately 87% are PreK-2nd grade representing a 71% increase during the same 9 yr period.  
  • This year’s 6th grade is the front of the wave - enrollment this year vs. last year is up 77% in one year from 82 to 145. 
  • TOTAL enrollment in the district schools (pre-K3 to 12th) since last year is up 5% and expected to go up over 13% next year.
There are so many unforeseen implications to this growth that as a small, landlocked community we have to deal with.  And the combination of Calabro and Brant is just the first sign.  More to come…
  • 11th Street Baseball - Just in time for Baseball’s Opening Day last Thursday, Hoboken quietly returned the bases to the 11th street and Washington “baseball diamond” that day. New concrete bases with the original brass numbers.  A little self-promotion – this was not part of the City’s plan.  I pushed for this and worked directly with T&M to ensure we retain this ode to Hoboken history.  And the timing was perfectly coincidental with Opening Day 2019.  
  • Parking Meter Rates – tonight is the second vote on the full repeal of the Dynamic Parking ordinance.  I plan to vote yes on this, but am working with my council colleagues to hopefully come up with a replacement plan that will include some increases that will be supportive to our businesses (incentivizing turnover) but not punitive to our residents.
  • Revitalizing our Businesses - You may have read the Hoboken Reporter’s article on this… “Citywide Special Improvement District floated.” If not, please do.  Next Monday, we are having a stakeholder meeting to present the case for a Special Improvement District in Hoboken.  If you are a commercial property or business owner and are not yet aware of this meeting, please email me for details.  We sent invitations out to over 1600 people.  Since I have been on the City Council I have been pushing for an increased focus on Economic Development in our community.  As a result of significantly underinvestment and focus in this area, we have been watching our businesses close.  I am the City Council representative to the steering committee made up primarily of local property and business owners working together with an advisor who has successfully established over 35 SID’s across the area, including the one we all hear about all the time – Downtown Jersey City.  This is not a done deal yet, but I am so excited about the upcoming meeting to introduce this to the stakeholders in our community.  
E-Scooters - Tonight on the council agenda, there are two items relating to E-Scooters.  The second reading for an ordinance to allow them to be ridden in bike lanes, and a resolution for a pilot (aka trial) program for 300 EScooters at no cost to the city.  I need your feedback on this – my visceral response is a “No”.  Not because I am anti-scooter because I am not.  I see the value in helping to lead toward less cars.  I am leaning ‘no’ because there is absolutely no parallel legislation regarding enforcement and safety and I have concerns about collisions with children on bikes in bike lanes and with pedestrians when they do not stop at a stop sign.  Just google "escooter safety".  That said… this is one of those times when I feel like my opinion may not reflect that of the people I represent.  So please tell me your thoughts.
As always please forward this to anyone you think may be interested and feel free to reach out via email, text or phone (201-208-1674) about this or anything else important to you.      
Best wishes, 
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.
“More Voices are Better”

Hoboken's New Old Guard: The Ravi-Russo-Waiters Axis of Power

Hoboken on the brink as Ravi Bhalla unveils his New Old Guard

Mayor Ravi Bhalla brought Councilman Michael Russo as his special invited guest at this Hoboken Democratic
Committee meeting last year. It was exactly as foretold by in 2017.

At the last City Council meeting, Councilman Peter Cunningham after failing to interest Councilman Michael Russo with a reasonable compromise on free parking hours for residents on Washington Street remarked Russo is "carrying water" for the Administration.

It wasn't met with kindness as a glimmer of the old Michael Russo returned with gusto. Less to decry the Ravi-Russo Alliance and more to complain his victory lap was eliminated when his resolution for four hours free parking on Washington Street for residents was summarily tabled. He whined to City Council President Jen Giattino. She bullied him. She casually responded he could find the bully when he looked in the mirror.

So the lines are drawn, out in the open and not merely for business sanity for long-suffering stores on Washington Street. The Ravi-Russo Alliance denied by Ravibots and his campaign denizens in the defunct swampy cave can rest easy. They're no longer required to follow the hostess gaslighting the Hoboken public, distracting from important obvious facts and denying the obvious as told here after the Hoboken mayoral race in 2017.

The Ravi-Russo Alliance is in full swing. It's out in the open.

Now the Ravi-Russo Alliance goes into high gear tonight looking to put loudmouth Patricia Waiters on the Rent Leveling and Stabilization Board. The whispers of a revolt and resignation threats on that board are growing louder as the potential disaster approaches. The threats are real. So is the outrage.

Observers inside and outside the legal community are equally aghast at the level of political cynicism exhibited by Mayor Ravi Bhalla. This hip anti-Semitism is the new thing. The legal exposure to put Patricia Waiters on that important board with what one attorney described as a "bomb thrower's milieu" speaks for itself.

Additionally, they pointed to Ravi Bhalla's own background as a rent board attorney further highlighting his utter lack of respect for anyone, outside of his political calculations and new Old Guard allies. Will the public turn out tonight to protest? No one wants to be screamed at and deemed racist.

That the City of Hoboken is being placed in legal jeopardy with serious board matters often involving contentious litigation makes the move all the more cynical. Politically it shows Ravi Bhalla moving further into the arms of Michael Russo and fourth ward councilman Ruben Ramos. Both will be pushing to get Waiters five of the required nine votes for approval tonight.

Ravi Bhalla has reason for embracing if not sprinting into bed with Russo. Should he be squeezed out of his most sought after prize for a congressional seat next year, he'll be forced to seek re-election in 2021. Somewhere, former mayor Dawn Zimmer is hiding in a corner avoiding comment.

It's unclear if Ravi Bhalla's council allies Jim Doyle and Emily Jabbour will follow him into the pit of damnation. Jabbour originally was under consideration for a trustee seat on a BoE ticket. Dawn Zimmer put her in the mix for a council at-large seat prior to her own withdrawal seeking a third term. Certainly, Jabbour didn't sign up for this.

As for Hoboken's once-proud Reform Movement, there's not even a gravestone left standing. Ravi Bhalla kicked it over and a rain of urination is about to descend on it. If tonight goes as planned. Even if Waiters comes up short, the Ravi-Russo alliance is out in the open, once and for all.

Can you say Ravi-Beth Mason?

The new Old Guard is in charge led by Ravi Bhalla, Michael Russo, and a potential new council henchwoman ready to do dirty work at the public microphone as we head to the November elections.

It's all going according to plan.

Remnants of Hoboken's good government movement: City Council President Jen Giattino and Councilman Peter Cunningham. Ravi Bhalla is looking to cut the most cynical ugly deal and bury them with the memory of the Reform Movement in the upcoming November council ward races.

Talking Ed Note: This article of irrefutable truth is dedicated to DangCatfish. Get down there on the sewer floor and suck up your mess with the other RaviBots.