Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla Somewhat Weak First Week in Review

The Hoboken Resistance hopes you had a happy holiday season. I took some time off and enjoyed not worrying about Hoboken politics for a few weeks. It is now time to get back to business.

Last week Ravi Bhalla began his first week as Mayor of Hoboken. Here is a brief recap so far of key moments...

The Sold Out Inaugural Ceremony and Focus Outside of Hoboken:

Ravi Bhalla was sworn in on January 1st in a sold out ceremony at Hoboken's High School. Numerous high profile dignitaries attended including New Jersey US Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez among many others. Both US Senators spoke of the historic significance of electing a Sikh Mayor in this current political climate. This significance is not lost on this author as well but ultimately the Mayor of Hoboken will be judged on his or her handling of local issues and not national ones like identity politics or immigration. If you want to make Hoboken a "Welcoming City" focus on finishing Washington Street first.

The notoriety of his Inauguration  is obviously a plus for Ravi's political profile but it remains to be seen what that will translate into for the sake of Hoboken and not just Ravi's own political advancement. Certain key issues about Hoboken will come down to WWPMD (What will Phil Murphy do) like NJ Transit Redevelopment and the Union Dry Dock. We will have to see how this develops but the stakes are huge and will determine how Hoboken develops going forward.

Hoboken's New Mayor Ravi Bhalla - Screen Capture from HCV

More coverage of the ceremony are on Hudson County View with link below:

Coverage of Ravi's Swearing in on Hudson County View

The City Council Appointments and Consequences of Scorched Earth Political Campaigning:

The following key appointments were made to Hoboken's Public Boards. Ravi Bhalla had essentially no say as Mayor on the City Council appointments and the vote largely fell 2-7 against his favor.

  • Ruben Ramos appointed to City Council President.
  • Jen Giattino appointed to City Council Vice President.
  • Mike Defusco appointed to City Council Planning Board Representative replacing Jim Doyle.
  • Jim Aibel re-appointed to Zoning Board of Adjustment. Notably Phil Cohen, a key Ravi Bhalla ally was not re-appointed or even nominated. 
  • Antonio Grana  re-appointed to Zoning Board of Adjustment. 
  • Steve Firestone, Cory Johnson, and Ann Graham appointed as alternates to Zoning Board of Adjustment. 
  • Tony Soares was appointed to represent Hoboken on the NHSA (North Hudson Sewer Authority) once again. Tony replaces Brian Assadourian on the Board who was a key personal Ravi Bhalla ally and close personal friends of both Mayor Zimmer and her husband Stan Grossbard. This was accomplished despite all the belly aching from Civil Discourse Disruptor Grafix Avenger who spewed all kinds of venom about putting Tony back on the board. I am on the board and all I can say is that Tony Soares has been a good advocate on the Board and displayed nothing but professionalism while on the board. Whatever you think of his political views outside of the board that is fine. I look forward to working with Tony once again and value his input with respect to the NHSA. 
Tony Soares - Back on the NHSA! Bye bye Brian! - Elections have consequences

This is an example of how Ravi Bhalla may have won the Mayor seat but lost the City Council majority. The City Council appointments are made by the City Council and not the Mayor and this shows the limitations on what Ravi will be able to do if he can't get a Council majority on key votes or a super majority for bonding to be the infrastructure Mayor he desires to be.  He will have to be more open than Zimmer in his approach to the City Council and will not be able to be "Ram it Ravi" but rather "Reconciliation Ravi." The choice is his. What path will he choose?

Santa-Con - Disgrace on the Uptick:

Ravi Bhalla as Mayor elect spoke out against the the debauchery of Santa-con, the seminal drunken douchebag drinking event that has replaced Leprecon as the number on public nuisance in Hoboken sponsored by a mere 13 bars. It is all fine and well to speak out against the event but it still remains unlcear what Hoboken can do legislatively or administratively other than crack down on capacity of bars and shut them down for violations. We will see what real solutions Ravi proposes rather than rhetoric on Twitter. It is my hope the City Council will cooperate with any viable solutions out of the Mayor's office but keep in mind State regulations on liquor licences will drive what can be done ultimately. 

Two For the Price of Three Times a Single Chief of Staff: 

Jason Freeman is to be appointed as Deputy Chief of Staff for a reported $85,000 per anum. This is in addition to failed City Council Candidate John Allen who was appointed to the position of Chief of Staff. There is no official confirmation of his salary but something north of $100k per year is likely. When Dan Bryan became "Chief of Staff" he was in the range of $50k or lower when he started. The question is why is an assistant necessary now? The result of this a potential threefold cost to staff the position when Mayor Zimmer first started. If you add in a potential new Constituent Services Director and staff you could be adding over $500K to the Mayor's Office budget. The question is and remains are these expenditures necessary or just an extension of the old Hudson County Patronage Playbook - the one perfected by County Executive Tom "Who ate my Hoboken Cheese" Degise ? Time will tell. 

Snow Removal:

I give the incoming Mayor a B for the first snow storm of the year in terms of snow removal efficacy. We had over 12 inches and blizzard like winds and thus it was a tough task. The side streets were plowed but not a cleanly as in the last storms under Zimmer. Just one more pass would have brought the performance up a bit. The Hoboken Horse gives Ravi a B+ for snow removal this storm. Perhaps he had some carrots before opining his opinion. Horses facing the glue factory are apparently less stringent in grading than project managers who run websites. In the end no one gives a horses ass what I or the Hoboken Horse think about snow removal as long as the damn roads get plowed. Good to see this facet of government is still effective.

Union Dry Dock: 

Mayor elect Ravi Bhalla, his council allies and Council persons Giattino, Cunningham, and Fisher seem to be in synch in trying to prevent NY Waterway and NJ Transit from making the Union Dry Dock a hub for ferries on Hoboken's valuable waterfront. It remains to be seen if Hoboken will ultimately have any control on the decision or not. Key is this is Governor Phil Murphy and the balancing of Mass Transit vs. Hoboken's quality of life issues. Once again its WWPMD - What will Phil Murphy Do?

Will the War on Cars Continue?:

Ravi Bhalla did not initiate the Washington Street repair project but as the new Mayor of Hoboken he will be expected to close it out. The project is not even close to be on schedule and there are penalties for the contractor that will incur per diem to the winning bidder if the project is not completed on time. Much has been made about the excessive use of curb bump outs on Washington Street by many Hoboken residents. Perhaps as one citizen suggested they amend the contract to not include curb bumpouts past 7th Street, the project could actually get done sooner. It will still be behind schedule in all likelihood. Is 2019 the new realistic completion date? Yikes! 

Bumpouts are one thing but will we see the current Disney-fication with additional bollards as well? I give you Ravi Bollards Hoboken. All in jest. Happy parking!

Ravi Bollards? Yikes! Happy Parking Hoboken.