Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Councilman Michael Russo is last man in as the Ravi-Russo Alliance gets dicey


With the unofficial end of summer, Hobokenhorse.com can exclusively report all City Council incumbents filed petitions to be on the ballot for the six council ward races this November except Councilman Michael Russo.

Russo is expected to file his required petitions along with with other council candidates today with the official deadline end of day at Hoboken City Hall.

The fifth ward appears to be the highest contested race this fall with Reform Movement stalwart Councilman Peter Cunningham announcing he would not seek a fourth term after 12 years of service.

Cunningham who earlier endorsed for re-election City Council President Jen Giattino and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher in the sixth and second wards is expected to quarterback their efforts for the anticipated entry of Tim Crowell as his replacement later today.

Crowell's entry and evident backing by the good government - reform team trio of Cunningham, Giattino, and Fisher would mean a highly contested uptown race with three candidates. Phil Cohen and Nicola Maganuco are both already engaging with fifth ward residents for the open council seat.

Russo who will seek another four-year council term will be eyeing another run for Hoboken mayor in 2021. He faces Ron Bautista who made a vanity run for Hoboken mayor in 2017, getting a little over 200 votes in an election drawing well over 15,000.

Councilman Michael Russo stands with Mayor Ravi Bhalla as his special guest at a Hoboken Democratic meeting.
He's expected to file today joining other incumbents and council candidates for his re-election bid this fall.

Last week, Ron Bautista's believed campaign manager and Hoboken Democratic committeeman filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Mike DeFusco. The odd unrelated campaign activity linked to the appearance of an invitation by DeFusco to residents for a recent council meeting is considered revenge for his backing an ordinance against City Hall employees politicking on taxpayer time and resources.

Last month, the council ordinance passed 6-2, a veto-proof majority that Ravi Bhalla refused to sign but becomes effective this month. Why a campaign manager for an election would lend their name to the specious ethics complaint in another ward is raising eyebrows.

The Bhalla Administration is complaining about the good government ordinance, claiming it would limit Ravi Bhalla from taking a position on a public referendum. The City Council finds that nonsensical and void. Bhalla's excuse not to join in closing a loophole in a common-sense good government measure is seen as the latest among his ethical lapses.

Today, Councilman Mike DeFusco requested that his opponent, the Ravi Bhalla backed council candidate Migdalia Pagan-Milano take an immediate unpaid leave of absence from her City Hall position. Pagan works for Ravi Bhalla in his newly created office of constituent services. (See below.)

Bhalla who has made massive increases in the manpower and cost of the mayor's office after the departure of Dawn Zimmer is unlikely to support DeFusco's request.

All of this begins what is expected to be another highly contested Hoboken election mirroring dirty tactics seen in 2017.

While Ravi Bhalla's council ticket has not put forward a candidate for the third ward against Russo, its spokesman said over the summer there was time to identify a candidate. Most do not expect one to materialize today. Michael Russo reportedly bragged at the time he had a deal with Ravi Bhalla he would face no mayoral opponent this November.

The lines, however, are fraying since former mayor Anthony Russo was given VIP treatment and brought into the mayor's office at Ravi Bhalla's private swearing-in ceremony in 2017. Anthony Russo was convicted in 2004 for extortion and sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. He held office in Hoboken as mayor from 1993 to 2001.

A low-key unofficial backing of Ron Bautista by Ravi Bhalla against Russo would temper the Ravi-Russo Alliance where Russo is expected to skate to an easy victory.

Talking Ed Note: Hoboken will see one council ticket this fall backed by Ravi Bhalla. Other predictions of a Ruben Ramos headed or Ramos-DeFusco ticket fell by the wayside as 100% incorrect. Fanatical Ravibots are overlooking their record of failure and insisting it will/is happening. #FAIL 

There will be far dirtier and underhanded fabrications coming and big money from outside the Mile Square City undermining its sovereignty. Brace for impact Hoboken.

Councilman DeFusco Calls on Opponent to Take Voluntary Leave From City Hall Job Until After Election

Official release:

Councilman Mike DeFusco is calling on First Ward Council candidate Migdalia Pagan-Milano to take an immediate unpaid leave of absence from her City Hall position to protect the integrity of the November 5 municipal election. As a political aide to Mayor Ravi Bhalla working in his Office of Constituent Affairs, this is an unprecedented situation where Pagan-Milano has direct access to government resources and sensitive voter information. Councilman DeFusco believes Pagan-Milano must voluntarily remove herself from her position for the duration of the election to eliminate all conflicts of interest and ensure taxpayer-funded resources will not be used for political purposes. 
“Everyone has the right to run for political office, but running a candidate who simultaneously collects a City Hall paycheck and reports directly to the mayor is a clear lapse of ethical judgment and poses a huge conflict of interest,” said Councilman DeFusco. “It is unfathomable that Mayor Bhalla would take a page out of Hudson County’s troubled past by supporting a candidate who is willing to push his political agenda rather than serve as an independent leader who will do what is best for Hoboken. The First Ward deserves a clean, fair election based only on the merits of the candidates’ ideas, experience and vision, and as long as my opponent is an active city employee I am concerned that this will not be possible.” 
Councilman DeFusco recently sponsored a sweeping ethics reform plan to prevent city resources from being misused for political purposes, and he has been a consistent voice against insider politics and the local political establishment. 

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Pedestrian & community updates

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors, 
Hope you had a wonderful summer and are settling in for back-to-school, back-to-work, and/or back-to-home! It always amazes me how the weather often tells us it is time to return.  Before I jump into the main topic – Pedestrian Safety Initiatives – I wanted to touch on what I refer to as “Campaign Season” which starts tomorrow – and it is a season – continuing 9 weeks exactly to Election Day which this year is Tuesday, November 5th.   What this means for my newsletters is that they will often include campaign-related information along with the same community information I always provide.  For me to continue engaging with, informing and advocating for you, I need to be re-elected!  So thank you in advance for your support, your patience, and your input along this campaign journey.  
But for today, the unofficial last day of summer, let’s talk Pedestrian Safety, Intersection and Traffic Initiatives you are coming home to.  This is mainly an update to my 5/20 email - 2nd Ward Pedestrian Safety Improvements Coming to You!  and also includes some homework for you at the end. 
The map on the left shows you the various County roads across Hoboken.  The one on the right drills down into the 2nd Ward.  I met with County officials last week and discussed all of the intersections that are starred.  Here is a summary of the outcome of those discussions: 
14th and Willow
Update:  In response to the resolution I sponsored and Council supported 9-0 that had several recommendations for the County to consider, the County has approved making two immediately – converting the parking lane adjacent to Trader Joe’s to that of a travel lane and installing vertical delineators in the center lane of Willow that will prohibit left turns in and out of Trader Joe’s parking garage.  Additionally, the County will be reviewing the entire traffic flow, lane striping, etc. to improve the safety at that intersection.  
14th & Park
New issue discussed - cars speed up Park Ave to make the green light at 14th.  Steps to be taken - County will install Optimum Programmable lights that will somehow make drivers not be able to see the color of the light until much closer to the intersection which should slow down drivers.  
13th & Willow
New issue discussed – pedestrian light only turns if button is pushed.  Steps to be taken - County is programming the pedestrian light to automatically change when the traffic light changes from 7am to 7pm.  Outside these hours you will need to push the button.  
15th & Park /Willow
Update: County synched the westbound traffic lights for improved traffic flow and safety and less congestion at the intersection of 15th and Park.   The County is also relooking at the traffic light timing and crosswalk striping at the intersection of 15th and Willow to help address safety concerns.  New:  The county is also looking into installing the Optimum Programmable lighting for traffic flowing westbound to help slow traffic.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the accident that occurred this weekend where a car ended up crashing into Orale – there will be more details tomorrow, but I understand that it related to a car exiting the car wash and another car that swerved as a result.  The big issue there is the road is very wide and it is a main thoroughfare into Hoboken.  These intersections are all part of the various redevelopment, NHSA and RBD plans and are being discussed as part of these plans.  
14th and Hudson
Update: I am told that this has recently been fixed so that the pedestrian light changes automatically with the traffic light changes.  
13th and Sinatra
Update: I was disappointed to hear that a warrant study for a stop sign wasn’t yet completed.  However, there is a “stop for pedestrians” sign that was installed. Steps to be taken:  At the latest, we will wait until next spring when Pier 13 opens again.  However, if when Sinatra near Hudson re-opens after construction of 1425 Hudson is completed we see a significant increase in traffic along the waterfront, we will revisit doing a warrant study earlier.  What we don’t want is a study done when traffic is lower than typical and the result is that a stop sign is not warranted.
11th / Hudson / Sinatra
New issue discussed – traffic light timing and signage.  Steps taken:  The County has already taken action that resulted in the following:  When the light is green for Hudson St. going south, the pedestrian lights crossing 11thare white (go) all others are still red; Every 2nd cycle there is an all traffic stop and all pedestrian go; and if you are standing at any intersection and press the pedestrian button, it will cause an all traffic stop.  The point I raised though was that anyone who doesn’t know these rules couldn’t know this because the signs don’t suggest this is the case.  And the confusion creates a dangerous situation.  The county is going to look into better signage.
Hudson & Sinatra
New issue discussed – need for traffic calming of speeding traffic down Hudson.  Steps taken - The County is going to look into narrowing the entrance of the one-way portion of Hudson just south of 11th either via curb bump-outs, vertical delineators in the loading/fire zone areas and/or street markings (loading zone stripes for example).  
Hudson & 8th / 9th
Update: the County told me they recently did a warrant study for stop signs at these intersections and the result was a stop sign was unfortunately not warranted.  They are going to come back with more information.
14th & Garden
Update: New Traffic Light installation underway.  Was supposed to be completed before school starts, which it wasn’t.  But it should be over the next few weeks.
15th and Garden
The new RRFB’s – Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon Crosswalk System – have been installed just in time for the new school year.  The jury is still out on how effective they will be.  One thing I have noticed is that traveling west, three of the four signs are actually blocked by trees.  I have let the City know this.  
15th and Bloomfield
I have asked the City to consider narrowing Bloomfield leading into the intersection including painting the curbs and loading zone stripes on the road, bump-outs and/or vertical delineators.  In particular, because the parking garage was built to close to the road (“accidentally”), the visibility turning left onto 15th is particularly terrible.  
15th and Washington
I have asked the City to revisit whether or not the intersection warrants a traffic light and if so to start that process that can take a few years.
15th and Hudson
I have asked the City to look into enlarging the current bump-out on the South East corner which houses the stop sign.  This would narrow the travel lanes and create better visibility for the stop sign.
15th Street Targeted Enforcement
At the meeting with about 23 15th Street residents on August 20th, Hoboken PD informed us that 15th Street is one of the top five areas of concern in the City.  We have seen recently that they have increased their presence and I personally have seen them stopping a number of cars who have blown the stop signs on that street.   

The administration Mayor finally announced the kick-off of Vision Zero this week.  I am told it was delayed because of other things going on in HPU.  It seems odd that it was also announced during the slowest week of the summer and that most of the City Council was not invited to attend.  I digress.  But there is a Task Force and the City Council will be voting on Wednesday for a $100K contract for a consultant who will help us with this important project.  I will be voting yes on the contract… because I believe we need a formal process and an independent voice to guide us and introduce us to best practices we can use to create what I will call a Culture of Safety in Hoboken that is currently missing.
But…I recently became aware that the City did something that looks a lot like Vision Zero in 2010 with the result being this 69 page City of Hoboken Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan that included 163 recommendations.  Most of which were not implemented.  So for another $100K I will ask that the new Vision Zero consultant refer to this prior plan and then will demand that it work with the administration to actually implement the recommendations.
For my 15th Street neighbors, you may be entertained (may be the wrong word) to know that 15th Street in the 2010 B&P Plan was identified as a top 4 “location identified by stakeholders and the public as priorities for bicycle and pedestrians improvements within the City” with the main issue identified as speeding.  You can scroll to pages 62 and 63 to see the recommendations – none of which were implemented in 9 years.