I write to report good news. Last Friday, July 1st, the City Council held its annual reorganization meeting. We welcomed our newest member, 6th Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino and in doing so regained a Council majority that is willing to work with our Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
|Ravi Bhalla being sworn in as Council President July 1, 2011|
Most importantly, as the local press has noted, we did not waste a single moment in getting down to business. With determination, we immediately began working to bring fair, efficient, and honest government to our city. Here are some of the highlights from the July 1st meeting:
Moving Municipal Elections to November
Do you think there are too many elections in Hoboken? So do we! The vast majority of towns in New Jersey have their local elections in November, but Hoboken has its local elections in May. Last year, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a law permitting municipalities with May elections to move them to November. At our July 1st City Council meeting, I introduced on ordinance that would do just that – schedule local elections in November, at the same time residents go to the ballot for federal, state and county offices. This measure will increase voter participation and save thousands of tax dollars. Please join me in supporting this measure when it is heard on second reading and final vote at the July 20th City Council meeting. The time of disenfranchising voters through holding multiple elections must come to a just end.
Campaign Finance Reform
It should not be cost prohibitive to run for local elective office. Yet, in order to be competitive as candidate for city council or mayor, too many either need to be wealthy or accept support from developers and special interests that can greatly undermine impartiality in addressing the public good. To help solve this problem, Council Vice-President Peter Cunningham has introduced two “anti-wheeling” ordinances which would prevent the circumvention of pay-to-play laws by placing limits on how much certain campaign committees can contribute in a local municipal election. It is my hope that one of these measures is made law at the July 20th meeting.
1600 Park – It’s coming!
Hoboken has been without adequate soccer and other recreation space for our children since the collapse of the Sinatra pier. Accordingly, there has been a strong desire to fill this void by developing the large plot of land known as 1600 Park into a fully functioning active recreation space for soccer, football, baseball and other recreation. At the July 1st meeting, the City Council passed a resolution awarding a contract to develop 1600 Park into an active recreation space in time for the fall soccer season. There were legitimate concerns expressed by stakeholders in the committee formed to review the design and construction of the initial phase of this project. I share these concerns, but it was the will of the majority of the council to move this project forward. As a result, I am cautiously optimistic that our children will finally have a large recreational field for sports as soon as of September of this year. I remain committed, however, to address the concerns raised by the stakeholders so that this project provides maximum benefit to the entire community.
Eliminating City Residency Requirement for City Employees and Hiring Class II Officers
We also introduced an ordinance that eliminates the residency requirement for Hoboken employees. While we want to give Hoboken residents first preference for employment with the City, we also want to draw from the largest pool of talent in our county, state and country. Simply put, having the best talent pool to choose from is what’s best for Hoboken.
Finally, we introduced an ordinance providing the Hoboken Police Department the option to hire Class II police officers. Class II police officers can serve our City at a greatly reduced cost compared to the overtime rate paid to regular officers.
As you can see, we have taken great strides, working alongside the strong leadership of Mayor Zimmer, to move our City ahead. My request of you is to attend the next City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on July 20th! Change does not come easily or without struggle. We need your voice to be heard!
Thank you, and if you ever have any questions or concerns, you can always reach my on my cell phone at 201-647-6090 or email at email@example.com.
Ravi S. Bhalla
President, Hoboken City Council