Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reader Mail- Scott Siegel on Beth Mason's Pandering

This Editorial was recently written by Scott Siegel and is also posted on the Hoboken Revolt Website. I may not agree with Scott on a lot of State or National issues but this op-ed piece rings pretty true to me. Read below....

Beth Mason and The Council Of No: Fiscally Irresponsible or Pandering? - by Scott Siegel

Despite my differences with my Councilwoman, Beth Mason I never thought I would write a letter questioning her fiscal responsibility. When the $100mm 2009 budget was adopted last spring, Councilwoman Mason wanted a $90mm budget. I specifically asked for details, stating if her cuts were responsible, I would support them. She declined to name any. Afterwards, she detailed savings focusing on a city wage freeze, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. She should have known as an experienced Council member that neither the Council nor the Mayor can do so unilaterally. If enacted, the unions would go to court, correctly charging that this violated the collective bargaining agreement governing municipal employment. Her suggestion would have cost taxpayers unnecessary legal fees on a losing case. Was Councilwoman Mason fiscally irresponsible, or just pandering?

At Governor Christie’s Hoboken town hall meeting and at the council she complained about rising NJ Transit fares. Unlike me, she must never ride the train. If so, she would have noticed at the Hoboken Terminal the new double decker trains purchased by Governor Corzine. Although expensive, they added additional capacity coinciding with increased transit usage (due to $4 gasoline). Similar to Mayor Roberts, Governor Corzine never paid the bills, kicked the can down the road, saddling NJ taxpayers with an increased bill that Governor Christie was forced to pay. Does Councilwoman Mason want to join this fiscally irresponsible group or is she just pandering?

Beth Mason and Tim Occhinpinti (4th Ward) have both cited the false $20 million budget surplus figure. Joining them are the new majority, Terry Castellano (1st Ward), Michael Russo (3rd Ward) and Nino Giacchi (6th Ward) and they have demanded that our surplus be returned to taxpayers. Sounds great doesn’t it? However, this includes nearly $8mm in restricted funds (soon to go to $6.4 million), relating primarily to Mayor Roberts infamous underfunded budget that led to the state takeover. The money was spent two years ago. The are no cash funds, it is merely a paper transaction permitted by the State of New Jersey. Does Beth Mason wish to violate state law and ensure that Hoboken does not pay our bills, risking another round of state takeover or is she just pandering?

What about the remaining $10mm (with $1.83mm returned to taxpayers in a one shot payment in the 4th Quarter of the past tax year)? Hoboken’s bond rating is mediocre, called investment grade, impeding our ability to prudently finance our debt. Council President Mason apparently wishes to repeat the same mistake made by homeowners who financed a long term asset with a short term adjustable mortgage (ARM). When the ARM came due many homeowners had their homes foreclosed due to the same asset/liability mismatch Hoboken employs. Only by having a solid bond rating of at least “A” (or a high grade "AA" preferred by mayor Zimmer) can we properly finance Hoboken’s debt without County support. Key to obtaining this rating is a surplus equaling 5-10% of budget. That surplus should be enhanced with additional liquidity for repairing piers that collapsed in the Hudson, for example. We can fund emergencies with cash rather than debt which includes interest and fees, paid by taxpayers. Why does Councilwoman Mason and her allies want to irresponsibly roll the dice with taxpayer funds? Are they fiscally irresponsible or just pandering?

With personnel costs equaling 75% of our budget, that is the only way we can effectively reduce taxes, not through budget gimmickry. All 6 Wards deserve fiscally responsible officials who will tell the truth and not pander. Next May I hope that’s who voters elect. ◦