Friday, May 17, 2019

The Ravi-Russo Alliance Ticket!

Yesterday's prediction of an impending Team Bhalla council slate announcement came within an eyelash of dead on accuracy.

Thanks to everyone who participates and continues to support the RaviLeaks Good Government Transparency Program.

The ticket Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced is less than inspiring in many respects but closes the books on any lingering questions about the often reported Ravi-Russo Alliance here.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his special guest Councilman Michael Russo speaking at a Hoboken Democratic Committee meeting.
The Ravi-Russo Alliance is very much alive with Russo set to face no opposition from Team Bhalla.

Ron Bautista an imperfect but suitable cannon fodder candidate in the third ward would complete a citywide ticket for Team Bhalla.

Yesterday, Hmag highlighted the obvious dereliction and received a response from the Team Bhalla spokesman who described the situation as "fluid" implying there may be an addition at a later date.

There's only one problem with this spin. It flies in the face of the Ravi-Russo Alliance and the deal already cut.

In recent days, Councilman Michael Russo has openly bragged about the deal he cut with Ravi Bhalla.

The rest of this story is premium content and will go out later today to subscribers.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: 'Improving Hoboken's budget'

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
The City Council held its Public Hearing for the Budget Amendment that was proposed by the Council at the last meeting on May 1st where it was approved 8-1 (“Council Amended Budget”). 
In this amendment to one originally introduced by the mayor, the Council found ways to reduce the tax rate from the 2.8% that had been proposed to 1.3%.  In this rising cost environment, we felt it important for the City of Hoboken’s administration to show to the taxpayers of Hoboken that it can and will “do more with less” while sustaining municipal services, supporting wage increases for our lowest-paid employees, cutting administrative costs and above average salary increases and supporting our seniors and public safety teams.  The amendments we passed include: 
  • $315,000 reduction in overhead, excess budgeted amounts and unfilled positions
  • $295,000 reduction in environmental services driven mainly by lower contract costs for trash removal and use of trust accounts to offset snowplowing.
  • $125,000 reduction in budgeted legal costs
  • $75,000 reduction by delaying new police motorcycles 
  • $28,000 reductions in other areas
  • $98,000 increase for fire salary and wages and supporting our seniors 
Also included in the Council Amended Budget are the following additions:
  • A new ADA accessible medical van for our Seniors.  The conditions of the existing vans, which are not ADA accessible, can only be described as deplorable and unsafe.  
  • A new HOP to support the much-needed expansion of the HOP service.  
You may not be aware, but a portion of the surplus generated by the Hoboken Parking Utility contributes to the general budget.  It had been reduced from $4.5M in 2018 to $3.2 M in the original version of the 2019 budget and in the Council Amended Budget we recommended increasing this back up slightly by $96K.  To help fund this increase, we asked the HPU to also tighten their belts by requesting approximately 1.2% in expense reduction across the board for the parking utility.
The process to adopt the Council Amended Budget includes approval from the Department of Community Affairs which we still await and as such the Council has not actually voted to adopt the budget.  If not before, we expect to vote on the adoption of the budget at the next council meeting on June 5th.  Please read here (and attached) for the letter that Council President Giattino and I sent to the DCA setting for the Council's rationale for the proposed changes.  It also includes a detailed schedule of the amendments that we proposed.  
As always please forward this to everyone 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, 

Councilman Mike DeFusco: "Street Art, Water Mains and...Mimosas­čąé"

Official release:

The rain finally seems to have let up, and it’s a busy time here in Hoboken so I wanted to update you on several important issues being discussed by the City Council.
Last summer, our city was on the verge of making a historic mistake by attempting to jump into a protracted lawsuit with Suez Water, the private water company that services Hoboken. At the time, I cautioned the mayor against jumping into a pointless lawsuit, which would only delay solutions and benefit lawyers, not residents. I thank my Council colleagues for stepping in to keep us out of court and working collaboratively towards a better contract for Hoboken.
At the last City Council meeting, we voted on an updated water contract that was markedly better than the one I voted against in 2017. The new contract contract includes $33 million in water infrastructure upgrades over 15 years as well as an additional $2 million investment in smart technology to monitor water consumption. Although this is a great first step to making much needed investments in our water system, it is not a silver bullet, it will not entirely fix the century-old problem. We can and need to do more by negotiating more responsible agreements with development projects, like the upcoming Hilton Hotel and I look forward to working with everyone to improve infrastructure across Hoboken.
Earlier this month, the City Council passed a budget amendment to size back the mayor’s 3% tax hike which would impact businesses and residents alike. In doing so, we were able to cut nearly $1 million in excess spending from the budget, while simultaneously increasing funding for our short-staffed Fire Department. Despite having a larger tax base than ever before, the mayor’s budget proposed raising taxes to compensate for his administration’s unprecedented spending over the past year. During his first two years in office, Mayor Bhalla has increased his office's spending by an alarming 40% to fund jobs for political supporters, politically convenient contracts and unnecessary lawsuits.

While no tax increase is acceptable, the City Council has worked productively with the Administration; and though the mayor doesn't like hearing that he needs to “do more with less,” this needs to be a belt tightening year.  I’ve long said that we need a private sector approach to government in Hoboken and holding the line on taxes starts with evaluating where cuts can be made without impacting critical city services. The City Council is in active discussions with relevant state authorities to maintain Hoboken’s track record of responsible spending.
Public murals foster artistic expression and enhance community character, which is why at tonight’s City Council meeting I’m excited to introduce an ordinance that will increase public access to and community participation in the creation of original works of art and set important standards that must be followed to ensure our neighborhood's stay charming and unique. 

I am also proud to have sponsored a resolution, unanimously approved by the City Council, urging PSE&G and Verizon to allow local artists to beautify our streets by adding art to their dull and dirty mechanical boxes. Not only does this liven up our neighborhoods, but it shows our support for local artists by giving them a public canvass visible to thousands of people each day.