COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN CITY HALL 94 Washington Street Hoboken, New Jersey 07030 www.hobokennj.org RAVINDER S. BHALLA Councilman-At-Large
Phone: 201-647-6090 Fax: 201-610-9030 RBhalla@HobokenNJ.org
February 5, 2011
Via email only Jacqueline Burton Hoboken Revolt Steering Committee 518 Park Avenue, Suite 1R Hoboken, New Jersey 07030 Re:
Response to Questions
Dear Ms. Burton: I write in response to Hoboken Revolt’s request for responses to questions posed to Members of the Hoboken City Council. I apologize for the delayed response to this request. Question: What do you think were your individual major accomplishments in 2010? Answer: First, kindly note that under Hoboken’s Mayor-Council form of government established under the Faulkner Act, individual Council Members may not by themselves introduce and pass resolutions or ordinances, but may do so collectively by vote of a majority of the Council as the whole. Accordingly, a number of my major accomplishments were achieved in collaboration with my other Council colleagues, specifically Councilpersons Peter Cunningham, Carol Marsh, David Mello and former Councilman Michael Lenz. As a Council majority, we worked hard in 2010 to support Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her Administration’s agenda and initiatives in the City Council. 1. Appointment of members to the Zoning Board of Adjustment: the City Council (this is one area that did not, by law, require involvement from the Administration) made a number of appointments of upstanding residents who are committed to responsible development in Hoboken and the strict application of the Municipal Land Use Law to matters that come before the zoning board.
COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN 2. Reduction of the Mayor, Directors, and Council Members’ salaries by ten (10%). The costs of personnel is the single largest line item in Hoboken’s operating budget. I campaigned on addressing this issue through a number of measures, such as wage freezes, demotions and layoffs. I also believe it is important to lead by example. The reduction of the salaries of the Mayor, Directors and Council Members’ salaries was a means of demonstrating to the public that we are not above the policy agendas we set for the rest of the employees of the City of Hoboken. 3. Passage of a fiscally responsible budget for FY 2010 and TY 2010. For the first time in recent memory, Hoboken passed an honest and fiscally responsible budget for the fiscal year 2010 and transitional year 2010, making Hoboken one of the only cities in New Jersey to actually reduce taxes in their budgets. Although it is not enough and more work can be done, I am proud to have been a part of the start of the process of steering Hoboken back to a course of transparency and fiscal responsibility in its financial operations. 4. Rejection of Police Contracts: The fiscal monitor, Judy Tripodi, placed enormous pressure on the Mayor and Council Members to ratify a police contract that was not in the best interest of Hoboken’s taxpayers. I am proud to say that by rejecting this contract, the Mayor and City Council sent a message that the days of giving away the store to the unions are gone, and that as a Council member, I represent the interests of Hoboken’s residents and taxpayers, not those of the unions. Question: What are your top three objectives for 2011 as it relates to: your ward, your subcommittee, and specific cuts to the city budget. Ward: Although I am a Councilman-at-Large, I live in the Second Ward. My top objective as it relates to the Second Ward is ensuring our waterfront is safe and secure for children, families and residents to use and enjoy. I am gravely concerned about the sinkhole created by the road collapse in the area of 13th Street and Sinatra Drive North, as well as potentially similar infrastructure defects along other parts of the waterfront. This is both a longterm public safety and quality of life issue. We must work with the County, private property owners, and other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate investments address and correct this problem for the benefit of future generations. Subcommittee: As a member of the Rent Control and Affordable Housing Subcommittee, my objective is to facilitate the passage of an amendment to the Hoboken Rent Control Ordinance that addresses a variety of problems relating to the substance and administration of this law. These problems have caused confusion in the interpretation of provisions of the ordinance, undue financial hardship on property owners, and costly litigation to the City of Hoboken. It is my objective to address these problems through the passage of an amendment to the Ordinance that corrects some of the problems in the current law.
COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN Specific Cuts to Budget: As stated previously, the highest cost in Hobokenâ€™s budget is personnel costs. There is no way to meaningfully address Hobokenâ€™s tax burden and further reduce taxes without having the courage to address excessive personnel costs. The City was able to address this issue in part through reforms to the Police Department, which resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of police officers in Hoboken and significant cost savings, without compromising public safety. In the year 2011, my objective as it relates to specific cuts is to review the forthcoming Fire Audit to identify the opportunity for cost savings in the Fire Department, and the retention of a forensic accountant to conduct an audit of every department at City Hall, so we can further identify waste and means to reduce taxes without compromising the delivery of services to our residents.
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to participate in this exercise. If you have any questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours, /s/ Ravi S. Bhalla