Mayor Bhalla Breaks Campaign Promise, Joins Another Politically-Connected Law Firm

 Cover of the Jersey Journal 02.21.18 

Cover of the Jersey Journal 02.21.18 

During last year’s mayoral election, Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s employment with one of the state’s most politically-connected law firms was a major topic of discussion due to the many conflicts of interest his employment could cause. His law firm counted among its clients Suez Water, the city’s water system operator, as well as NJ Transit which owns significant property in Hoboken and is in the process of being redeveloped.

During the course of the campaign, as public concern mounted about Ravi being connected with those statewide interests, he publicly announced that if elected he would, “be working full-time for the people of Hoboken, severing my employment with the firm.”   As Mayor-elect he followed through on that and resigned from his position at the firm, Florio, Perucci, Steinhardt & Fader as he prepared to be the full-time mayor he promised voters he would be.   

 Source: HMag Candidate questionnaire, re-published on 

Source: HMag Candidate questionnaire, re-published on 

But now, just over a month later, Ravi Bhalla has broken that promise and taken a job as an “Of Counsel” attorney at the law firm Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen -- a real estate, land use and zoning law firm that’s just as much a part of the establishment patronage network as his former firm.

Two Full Time Jobs

Hoboken’s mayor is a full-time position as we pay our chief executive the most in Hudson County and one of the highest in the entire state. For reference, 9 of the 12 mayors in the County make less than $33,000. Of the other three, Bayonne pays $72,000, Jersey City pays $115,600 and Hoboken tops the list at $116,100.  Additionally, the mayor receives a generous benefits package for him and his entire family which includes health coverage and retirement. The only other mayor who is in the six-figure club, Jersey City’s Steve Fulop, correctly treats his office as a full time job, and Hoboken residents deserve the same. Taking a second job while being paid this high level of public salary is concerning not the least of which because it will be impossible to separate the mayor’s use of city resources for public versus private purposes.

A Conflict of Interest with No Oversight

Mayor Bhalla’s spokesman claims his job is about “mentoring young lawyers,” but if he wanted to do that he should teach at a law school and do so apart from his responsibilities to the people of Hoboken. Sadly, this is really about one thing -- influence peddling. A firm that puts the Mayor of Hoboken on its masthead is a coup for only one entity -- that law firm, certainly not young lawyers and definitely not the taxpayers. We can be absolutely certain that this new firm will seek to leverage its relationship with our Mayor into new clients or the benefit of existing ones. How and if those interests impact city vendors, contractors and policy is unknown, but this unknown impact is exactly why this second job should be concerning to all from an ethical level.

A Republican Law Firm that Donated to Donald Trump

To make matters even worse, the new law firm that Mayor Bhalla is working for has numerous political and financial ties to his previous firm. Both firms are major contributors to a Political Action Committee called “Leadership PAC for Better Government,” an organization that has made thousands of dollars in political donations for the purpose of securing more government contracts for its founders. The PAC donated $2,000 to Donald Trump and $3,500 to Kim Guadagno. In fact, one of the principles of the firm recently served as the Chairman of the New Jersey Republican Party -- and he was replaced recently as Chairman by a partner in Ravi’s previous firm!  Considering Mayor Bhalla promise to “stand up to Trump,” it’s offensive for him to join a Republican-leaning law firm that actively supports candidates who fight harder than anyone to push Trump’s agenda in NJ. This is a clear betrayal of Hoboken’s progressive values.

Further, I am personally alarmed that Mr. Bhalla will be sharing the same title with a colleague at his new firm, former Congressman Jim Courter, who once ran as the Republican candidate for Governor, and called for limiting the rights of homosexuals to work as teachers, foster parents and camp counselors or in other jobs that put them in contact with children.   Source: The New York Times.  

Hoboken was promised full-time Mayor and we deserve better than a part-time leader whose attention is divided. That’s why the City Council will be publicly calling for Mayor Bhalla to disclose the full details of the financial relationship with his new firm.   Further, I will be immediately introducing a comprehensive  ethics ordinance to ensure that our mayor holds one job -- serving as our mayor.  




 Mayor Bhalla has vetoed the Council's ordinance to allow our community to collectively decide whether or not to re-institute runoff elections, using flawed logic for political gain

Mayor Bhalla has vetoed the Council's ordinance to allow our community to collectively decide whether or not to re-institute runoff elections, using flawed logic for political gain

On Election Day 2017, Hoboken saw 6 candidates running for mayor and 14 running for City Council to fill 3 seats -- a political circus that confused and frustrated many voters.  In response to residents concerns, an overwhelming majority (7-2) of the City Council approved a ballot referendum which would allow our community to collectively decide whether or not to re-institute runoff elections. This first passed in late-December of last year and then-Mayor Zimmer vetoed it as her last official act as Mayor -- on Friday afternoon before the holiday.  The Council reintroduced the ordinance in the new year, as required due to the change in government, but Mayor Bhalla has now vetoed the ordinance for clear political advantage.

This issue should be decided by the people, not by entrenched, establishment politicians like Mayor Bhalla who benefit from a flawed current system.  

Keep in mind, Mayor Bhalla was not supported by 67% of voters, earning less than 1/3 of votes and seeing runoffs would return majority rule, this veto calls into question his ability to actually win a majority vote.  It is further disappointing to see Mayor Bhalla not just deny Hoboken residents the opportunity to have their voices heard in a public referendum on our voting rights, but to also see him spread misinformation and half-truths while doing so.  

The Mayor cites reduced voter turnout in a recent Jersey City runoff, but he fails to mention that the last time Hoboken held a runoff election for Mayor in 2009 turnout actually increased from the general election. Meanwhile, he suggests that he supports an instant runoff system that, while certainly worth exploring, is not currently allowable by state law.  Further, the mayor references “massive vote-buying” which although has significantly decreased over the years, is still sadly an issue but not unique to runoffs. Perhaps our new Mayor’s energies are best spent suppressing the referenced vote buying, not stopping the people’s right to decide whether or not they want a runoff election. Think about it, should we blame the voting process for Russian meddling, or should we aim to end Russian meddling?

Sadly, all of this is meant to distract from the fact that Mayor Bhalla is concerned that re-instituting runoff elections would hurt his chances of re-election as he has not demonstrated the ability to secure majority support or to work collaboratively with his fellow elected officials.  This is a deeply cynical ploy that puts politics over our city's values of transparency and openness. 

Take a look at the video below. In it, former Councilman Dave Mello, a two-time running mate with both Dawn Zimmer and Ravi Bhalla explains how thanks to runoffs, independent candidates like then-citizen Dawn Zimmer, were able to lose a municipal election but win in the runoff election.  Without a runoff in 2007, Dawn Zimmer would never have been elected since her opponent, the incumbent, won the four person race but lost head-to-head against her.  A similar outcome also just occurred in the 2017 Jersey City Ward E runoff.  So, in blocking runoffs, Mayor Bhalla is essentially limiting the viability for independents to run for political office.  This push to reinstate the runoff is about good government -- it's about challenging the status quo and ensuring that new energy and new ideas are encouraged and elevated by Hoboken's electoral process, not thwarted by the establishment.  

I will be working with my Council colleagues to determine what steps can be taken to ensure that Hoboken residents' voices are ultimately heard on this important issue.  I will keep you all informed via this blog and social media.  

Watch former Councilman Mello, who ran twice with Dawn Zimmer and Ravi Bhalla, explains why runoff elections help independent candidates get involved. Click the video above.  



Hoboken Council moves forward unanimously urging Mayor to activate waterfront plaza adjacent to train station

Wasted potential is always a sad thing to see, but sometimes we have an opportunity to step up and do something about it -- that’s exactly the situation at Warrington Plaza.

This currently fenced-in, underutilized property is immediately adjacent to Hoboken Terminal, located just north of the NJT terminal and PATH entrance. Right now, it’s a place where vagrants congregate and a major waste of valuable waterfront space. Since taking office in the first ward, which comprises the terminal,  I’ve worked and advocated for a plan that will return this unique and historic plaza to public use.    

On January 17, I was proud to sponsor, and for the Hoboken City Council to unanimously pass, a resolution formally asking Mayor Bhalla to move the plan forward to meet the timeline of opening access to the waterfront and activating an outdoor marketplace and waterfront plaza, this year. It’s crucial that the city do its part to keep this project moving, especially when it meets the existing redevelopment plan for the site and when the conditionally designated developer has already expressed significant support for the idea.

The Warrington Plaza Market plan would transform the property into a retail and food service hub, a place where neighbors and commuters can walk to enjoy gourmet food and drink outside when the weather allows. It will create a prime opportunity for existing local businesses and new entrepreneurs to reach new customers and expand their businesses, adding much-needed revenue to our city.

Some history on the plaza, and what’s already been done:

In the 1980’s the plaza received state funding in the form of green acres money to enliven the space and turn it into a congregation point, steps from the second largest transit hub in the state.  At that time new pavers, lights, trees and a water fountain were all installed...all of which are now broken and the plaza is in utter disrepair.   After September 11th 2001, New Jersey Transit began using the space as a parking lot and much more recently, a fence was installed to completely shut out the public from a space that had been granted tax dollars.  

 Warrington Plaza in January 2018

Warrington Plaza in January 2018

This blatant misuse of public land was an issue so important to me that it inspired my run for City Council and after winning, I immediately began advocating for it.  I worked with all stakeholders and lobbied, and continue to lobby,  the concept and viability of an outdoor market and waterfront plaza.  Aside from returning public access to the water, this plan proposes a market area, develops a lush tree grove featuring a central dining area, provides a space for potential art installation and seating along the waterfront.  Though the 2016 planning document is preliminary in nature, it shows a vision that I believe is the correct step forward for Hoboken.  What is equally as important is that the proposal is entirely within the scope of the 2014 "Hoboken Yard Redevelopment Plan" which calls for a “Terminal District” - a place where retail and cultural uses are encouraged.  No updates to the existing redevelopment plan in terms of height or density will be required to activate the plaza, and costs would be covered by the operator via rents generated from the kiosks and vendors.

In April of 2017, LCOR drafted a letter to the City and affirmed a commitment to pursuing the rehabilitation and activation of Warrington Plaza for an interim outdoor market use, as part of their overall efforts to advance the Redevelopment Plan. In that same letter, LCOR indicated that due to the complexities associated with activating the plaza, that 2018 is a more realistic activation goal.  It’s now 2018 and it’s time to move this forward in line with the deadline that was indicated as possible.

All along, LCOR has maintained an ongoing dialogue with a French market operator who would like to open a year-round outdoor market similar to their operation at Manhattan’s Bryant Park, right here in Hoboken at Warrington Plaza.  You can read more about this potential operator here:

The Warrington Plaza plan is a win-win all around, and all we need now is for Mayor Bhalla to do what’s needed to move the project forward, THIS YEAR!  

Then, once we secure our outdoor waterfront plaza and activate an outdoor marketplace, I'll continue my advocacy for a permanent year-round indoor market at Hoboken Terminal -- a rent generating and privately operated business, similar to Chelsea Market in NYC or Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.  

Will you stand up to hate + election tampering?





Friday night, a disgusting, racist flier calling my colleague and opponent Ravi Bhalla a “terrorist” appeared in Hoboken, and it was made to look like it came from my campaign. The flier is a crude, photoshopped copy of a previous mailer with a racist epithet added. This is gutter politics at its worst -- we’re working with the Hoboken Police Department and all relevant authorities to find out who perpetrated this smear and who is trying to paint the campaign we’ve built together as racist.

Immediately, I spoke out not just about this vile attempt to divide our city, and also against several previous instances of hate that have been displayed, from an anonymous flier calling me a “crime boss” to Super PAC campaign lies blaming me for a tax increase that happened seven years before I was in office, to hate-fueled blogs and attacks on my sexuality and my partner. This campaign has shown the worst of Hoboken, but we won’t let hate win -- stand up and vote this Tuesday for the new energy our city needs by supporting Team DeFusco.

From the start, this campaign has been about shaking up the status quo and evidently we’ve made an impact, with powerful forces aligning to take us down. But we won’t let that happen. We’re working as hard as we can through the finish line, knocking on every door and meeting every resident we can to spread our message of positive change. Please help us spread the word by sharing the video above.

Thank you, and on to victory on Tuesday.

** UPDATE as of Monday, November 6th at 1pm **

Today the Hoboken Police Department confirmed an outside actor or actors with no connection to my campaign distributed a faked, altered version of my literature with a racist epithet. This is not only an attack on my colleague but also on my own integrity and on my campaign. This was a calculated criminal act designed to sway an election. 

I urge all Hoboken residents to review this video footage and images and please contact Hoboken Police at 201-420-2131 or 201-420-2106 if you have any information about the person(s) seen here. We must all stand united against this kind of racism and interference in our democratic process, and not let fake news and misinformation change the outcome of this election.

Political stunts like this are everything that’s wrong with politics today and I’m horrified to see this happening in Hoboken.

A disgusting, racist flier was found on car windshields tonight that altered one of my campaign's mailers and added a racial epithet aimed at Ravi Bhalla. I condemn this piece of racist garbage in the strongest possible terms. Hoboken is far better than this and whoever made this flier is not only insulting one of my opponents in a despicable way, they are also painting me as a racist, which as the only openly gay elected official in Hudson County and a progressive Democrat simply could not be further from the truth.

I called Councilman Bhalla tonight to assure him that although we disagree on many issues, we can stand united against this kind of racism infecting our city. I’ve also submitted a copy of this flier to the Hoboken Police Department and will be sending it to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office to demand an investigation to determine who is intentionally misrepresenting my campaign. This injustice will not stand and we will do everything possible to get to the bottom of it.

Political stunts like this are everything that’s wrong with politics today and I’m horrified to see this happening in Hoboken.





A Super PAC that's backing Ravi Bhalla is trying to buy this election with a last-minute advertising blitz, spending over $50,000 to mislead Hoboken voters. This kind of interference from outside political interests is unprecedented in Hoboken elections and it is a clear sign that Bhalla is controlled by the special interests who are funding this shady campaign. This is especially troubling given the conflict of interest that was recently exposed related to Bhalla's vote on the NJ Transit Hoboken Yards redevelopment, because the law firm where he is a partner was paid $168,000 by NJ Transit in the same year that he voted in favor of the project.

The group funding these ads says on its own website: "ELEC works with developers to help win project approvals" and cites the very same Hoboken Yards project as a major win in its lobbying efforts.

A copy of the Stronger Foundations official campaign finance report now shows $50,000 spent on the Hoboken election.


Anyone who is concerned about over-development in Hoboken should take Ravi Bhalla's connection to this pro-development Super PAC extremely seriously and he needs to answer for this blatant attempt by outside political interests to take control of our city. Residential development has continued unchecked in the last eight years under Dawn Zimmer and Ravi Bhalla, with little to no community benefits or givebacks, more stress on our crumbling infrastructure and a lack of commercial development. With Ravi Bhalla as Mayor, this unbalanced development approach will no doubt continue. 

Read more about Ravi Bhalla's conflicts of interest and why he's the wrong choice for Hoboken. 


Mike DeFusco believes in taking a smart, holistic approach to development that emphasizes attracting new businesses by modernizing outdated zoning laws and creating responsible public-private partnerships to build new schools and make major investments in the city. He has called for a dedicated infrastructure fund that would be mandatory on all new developments to make sure that needed improvements are not made solely on the backs of residents. 

Hoboken can't let outside political interests take over our city -- stand up to the special interests and vote Team DeFusco on November 7. 




Still undecided about the Hoboken mayoral race?

Election Day is next week - Tuesday, November 7th. If you are still undecided, here is more information about the race via Hudson Reporter:

Mike DeFusco for Mayor

First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco grew up in Marlboro, N.J. He moved to Hoboken the day after graduating from the George Washington University and started his career as a marketing professional in New York City. 

“I have spent the majority of my life post-college here in Hoboken, and that’s typical of a lot of people here,” said DeFusco. “I’ve come to love it here. As a guy born and raised in New Jersey, I had always heard of Hoboken as a fantastic city, a place where residents and culture thrive. Everyone growing up wanted to move to Hoboken.”

Now he is a homeowner and full-time marketing executive for a fortune 500 media broadcast company in New York City, where he oversees a multimillion dollar budget, employees, and projects. He said he will leave the job if he becomes mayor.

“I am the only candidate running who works in a field unrelated to state or Hoboken politics,” he added. 

DeFusco said he first got involved in politics by volunteering for the Obama campaign in 2007. 

“When Obama decided to come to Hoboken, I went to his rally and I was moved by the positive changes he wanted to make,” said DeFusco who then worked on his primary campaign. 

He then got a seat on the Zoning Board in 2011, where he served for five years, before he ran for City Council in 2015, beating mainstay Theresa Castellano. 

“Despite everyone telling me I wasn’t going to win, sure enough I beat a longtime incumbent by 14 percent,” said DeFusco. 

He said his biggest accomplishments are work he did on the Zoning Board and City Council. He cited approving the building where Trader Joe’s is located, working to include affordable housing in new buildings, and the fight to improve traffic in southwest Hoboken. He also mentioned obtaining a commitment from the train terminal operators for an outdoor French market. 

DeFusco was the only political official to announce his candidacy for mayor against Mayor Dawn Zimmer earlier this year, before she announced in June that she was not going to seek another term. He also had stood up to her on certain matters, such as zoning, whereas his opponents – Jennifer Giattino and Ravi Bhalla – rarely if ever publicly opposed her until this campaign. Giattino and Bhalla have both been on the council for more than one term.

“After working with the mayor, after disagreeing with the mayor, after having successes with the mayor, and after being frustrated with the mayor, I had an opportunity to decide again if I wanted to run for office,” he said. “And I decided to run against Dawn because I feel I can do a better job.” 

DeFusco said his main issue is transparency. 

“I don’t think we have had an administration that’s been transparent,” said DeFusco, citing the 8.5 million debt with the city’s water provider, the city budget funded by “unbridled haphazard residential development,” and the acquisition of park land using eminent domain which took the city 10 years to build. 

He said one of his biggest frustrations is that “we had a master plan reexam in 2010 and during that time no one codified the recommendations the plan made.” 

He said the masterplan is the “roadmap” that will help guide development and redevelopment zones instead of “zoning by variance.” 

He said if elected he will turn the recommendations into law and that he will work with the Planning Board and City Council to update the city’s outdated zoning.

As for development, he said he would like to see a mix of residential and commercial space including tech incubators, urban wineries, co-working spaces, and mom-and-pop shops. 

He said eminent domain is a last resort used for a greater public good but only after honest upfront negotiations have taken place with property owners. 

He said rent control not only helps senior citizens or those who have been in town for 30 years but journalists, artist, musicians, and teachers. 

Some residents have criticized DeFusco for running a negative campaign. He has pointed out problems with almost every other candidate.

“If the facts sound or seem negative, perhaps it because they actually are negative,” He said “When ever we state a fact, it is sourced with where we found it including news sources or council documents.” 

DeFusco is the most highly funded candidate, collecting more than $300,000 in donations this year. This has led some residents to wonder if he will be beholden to some of his contributors if elected mayor. Residents have also said that he may be supported by the Hudson County Democratic political machine. For instance, his hired campaign spokesman is also the spokesman for North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, a leader of the countywide party.

“Independence to me is the heart and soul of why I ran in the first place,” said DeFusco. “Nobody asked me to run in the 1st Ward. Nobody put me up to run against Mayor Zimmer for the mayor’s office. I did this because I independently knew that my vision, my heart, and my integrity were going to serve the city well.” 

“I’m honored to have the support of many in the building trades,” he said, “however they aren’t developers, they aren’t land owners. There are actually benefits in the long run in terms of our ability to find support in Trenton to find support in finding money in Washington. Having the support of trade unions is a good thing for leadership because we can work together with them to make sure we can find additional funding for resiliency or our water main infrastructure or our failing sewerage line.”

He added, “So in regards to independence, it’s a common political tactic that my opponents have used successfully in other races, but it’s not holding. It’s not sticking against me because I think people are smart enough to know that.”

Corner Stores Can Fill Potholes. It All Works Together.

Mike DeFusco for Mayor

Throughout this campaign, we’ve presented a lot of big ideas — modernized parking garages with real-time availability of spots, a seasonal dome over the field at 1600 Park and a European-style market at the train terminal, just to name a few. These are certainly exciting ideas but the question I hear a lot is “how are you going to pay for it — raise taxes?” Absolutely not. We’re going to stabilize taxes by creating new revenue sources for the city that aren’t on the backs of residential taxpayers, and without negative streams like the $6.5 million we generate from parking tickets.


This summer, it was revealed that Hoboken has racked up a previously unreported, completely unbudgeted debt of $8.3 million to Suez Water, our city's water provider, that has increased unchecked for the last two years. Residents are outraged and I’ve called for an independent DCA investigation to find out how this debt could have accumulated without public knowledge.

Only one major political figure in Hoboken was silent when this issue was brought to light -- Councilman Ravi Bhalla. The reason why is important to understanding why he’s not the right choice for Mayor.

Ravi Bhalla is a partner at one of New Jersey’s most politically-connected law firms, a firm that has $3.8 million in government contracts. He can’t speak out about the Suez debt, because Suez is one of his law firm’s clients. Suez Water paid Bhalla’s law firm $240,0000 in lobbying fees over the last two years, at a time when the city was negotiating the new contract. You can see the payments right here on official lobbying expense disclosure documents filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission:

 Year: 2016

Year: 2016

 Year: 2015

Year: 2015

Bhalla was forced to recuse himself from all votes and discussions on the water contract because of the potential for a major conflict of interest, but that doesn’t answer all the questions on this issue. The Zimmer administration began renegotiating the Suez contract two years ago, before Bhalla’s potential conflict was exposed. Mayor Zimmer has described Bhalla as “my partner from the beginning” in a recent letter she sent to voters endorsing him. Does that mean that Bhalla had a role in negotiating with Suez, even though he had the potential for a major conflict?


In 2014, the Hoboken City Council voted to approve a redevelopment plan for the NJ Transit Hoboken Yards property. Ravi Bhalla voted in favor of the plan, but during the same year the vote was cast the law firm where Bhalla is a partner was paid $168,630 by NJ Transit. This created a potential conflict of interest and possibly a serious violation of state ethics law. Bhalla’s law firm, which had $3.8 million in government contracts last year, continues to work for NJ Transit to this day according to its website.

Bhalla’s vote on the NJ Transit redevelopment plan appears to be a violation of the law given that his law firm has a long term business relationship with NJ Transit, billing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for personal injury defense work. Bhalla did not disclose any potential conflict prior to the vote and chose not to recuse himself.

New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law states:

No local government officer or employee shall act in his official capacity in any matter where he, a member of his immediate family, or a business organization in  which he has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment;

I believe that Hoboken needs a new perspective so we can solve our longstanding problems and create a better future. That's why I ran for First Ward Council and defeated a 21-year incumbent, because I think we should always challenge the status quo. I’m not a part of the political establishment and as a private sector media professional at a Fortune 500 company I have no ethical conflicts. I’ll work to reduce flooding in our neighborhoods by fixing our failing infrastructure, and I’ll also prioritize renegotiating the Suez debt to protect our taxpayers and our city. The same can’t be said of Ravi Bhalla.

Check the Facts

Hoboken’s Future Will Be Decided This November. Before you Vote, Check the Facts. 


Over the last few months, we’ve been talking about big ideas for Hoboken’s future together, as well as the necessary changes we can make right now to make our city work better. But now Election Day is almost here, and I think it’s time to take a look not just at what I’m proposing, but who I’m running against in this race.

All of my opponents have positive attributes, and this isn’t about personal attacks. But I think you deserve to know more about their backgrounds, because we can’t solve the problems in our city with the politicians who have helped cause many of them. This is why I think it’s important to check the facts about the candidates for Mayor.

Screenshot 2017-10-05 11.53.50.png


Councilman Ravi Bhalla is a partner at one of the most politically connected law firms in the state, with over $3.8 million in government contracts last year. Although he initially denied a conflict, he was forced to recuse himself from voting on the city’s water contract when it was revealed that Suez had paid his firm $240,000 in lobbying fees over the last two years. He’s also been subject to two lawsuits for violating residents’ first amendment rights at city council meetings, one ongoing and one that the City settled at taxpayer expense.

Screenshot 2017-10-05 10.48.07.png

Freeholder Anthony Romano is running for two offices at the same time, both Mayor and Freeholder. He’s a career politician who lives in subsidized housing, occupying an apartment that could be used by a family who needs it, even though he collects two government paychecks (a pension and Freeholder salary) worth over $160,000 per year and has substantial real estate investments in Hoboken. Romano has been a Hudson County Freeholder for over nine years, and during that time Hoboken’s county tax burden has increased by 86% to over $70 million.

Screenshot 2017-10-05 11.54.08.png

As City Council President, Jennifer Giattino presided over city government during a time when we racked up an unreported, unbudgeted $8.3 million debt to our water provider. She also sponsored an ill-conceived flood ordinance which is now causing the destruction of historic brownstones, placing huge financial burdens on homeowners and displacing long-time residents from affordable garden level apartments. (Ordinance Z-263 2nd reading 11-6-2013 sponsored by Giattino, seconded by Mello). Now, she’s pointing fingers and asking for an explanation for something that happened on her watch.

Screenshot 2017-10-05 11.46.47.png

I’m the only candidate for Mayor with no personal business interests in Hoboken and nothing politically to gain. As a private sector media executive in Manhattan, I’m not part of the political establishment. I ran for City Council because I saw that the longtime incumbent representing my neighborhood wasn’t getting the job done. I knew I could deliver more to my neighbors, and I’ve done that by reducing traffic congestion in the Southwest, improving pedestrian safety on Newark Street and securing a commitment from the operator of Hoboken Train Terminal to open an outdoor French market next year.

Now, I'm running for Mayor to be a problem solver for all of Hoboken, to make our city work for everyone -- I hope you'll help get us there on November 7.

Councilman Ruben Ramos Endorses Mike DeFusco for Mayor

Councilman Ruben Ramos Endorses Mike DeFusco for Mayor

Fourth Ward Councilman and former State Assemblyman Ruben Ramos is endorsing Mike DeFusco for Mayor along with the Team DeFusco Council slate in the November 7th city election. Ramos was elected decisively in 2015 and has partnered with DeFusco on numerous issues on the city council, from improving traffic conditions in the Southwest to pushing for better pedestrian safety on Newark Street and more.

“Mike DeFusco is the only candidate running for Mayor who truly understands what makes Hoboken so special -- the people who live here,” said Councilman Ramos. “Mike is a valued colleague of mine on the City Council and a tireless advocate for his constituents. As Mayor, I know he will fight hard for everyone. I'm proud to support Mike DeFusco and his entire team.”

DeFusco is running for Mayor along with Council candidates Michael Flett, Andrew Impastato and Vanessa Falco.

“I’m honored to be endorsed by Councilman Ramos, someone I consider not just a colleague but a true friend who shares my vision for a more progressive and inclusive future for our city,” said DeFusco. “Our campaign isn’t about old Hoboken or new Hoboken, but about bridging the political divides that have held our community back for far too long. I look forward to working hard to earn every vote in this election and I thank Ruben Ramos for his strong support for our campaign.”

$8.35 Million

Hard truths are never easy to accept, especially when they come with long term consequences. When we began this campaign together four months ago, we talked about the need for change and for new energy and ideas in City Hall. Now, we’ve learned that Hoboken has rung up a debt of over $8 million to Suez Water that seems to come as a surprise to the very people who were in a position to do something about it. Need for change has never been more urgent.

Some time in 2014, for reasons we are not yet aware of, Mayor Zimmer’s administration stopped paying Suez for repair work the company had done on our city’s aging water infrastructure. These repairs cost the city millions of dollars each year, yet somehow these figures were never included in the city’s municipal budgets or annual audits. Now, with the administration pushing for a new contract with Suez seven years before the current deal expires, the truth about this $8.35 million liability is coming to light.


We don’t know what the ultimate impact will be yet, but if the city has to pay these bills in one year it would cause a 15% tax increase, which would hurt every homeowner and renter in Hoboken. I will do everything I can to help us avoid this outcome.

This all happened at a time when two of my opponents in the race for Mayor, Ravi Bhalla and Jen Giattino, served as Council President and had seats on the Council Infrastructure Committee. Now they are pointing fingers, but the truth is that they have been Mayor Zimmer’s closest allies on the Council and have always been in a position to do something about this unbudgeted liability. Councilman Bhalla has since had to recuse himself from any of these discussions due to a potential conflict of interest stemming from his law firm’s business relationship with Suez.

Yesterday, I sent a letter to the State Department of Community Affairs requesting an official investigation into these issues to find out the extent of the damage done to our finances. Only an independent analysis will reveal how deep a hole we’re in and the costs that could be eventually passed on to taxpayers before it gets any worse.  

I'm running for mayor to bring new energy and new ideas to City Hall, but now it’s clear that we also need a fresh injection of transparency and sound fiscal judgement. As your mayor, I will work tirelessly to resolve any outstanding liability in an open and transparent manner while modernizing our aging infrastructure. Only an honest discussion will allow us to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

Now is the time for new leadership and a new direction for our city. I hope you will join me in making that a reality.


Mayoral candidate and Councilman Mike DeFusco is calling for an independent investigation into the recent revelations that the City of Hoboken is carrying an $8.35 million liability to Suez Water for infrastructure repairs over the past three years, a sum that was not accounted for in any recent city budget, or listed on the city’s audit.  Speaking about the liability at last night's City Council meeting, the city's auditor claimed he just became aware of the sum “yesterday” while the City's Business Administrator, Steven Marks, first was alerted of the presence of the liability “a year ago” but claimed to have not realized the extent of the debt until “a few months ago.” The liability came to light due to the administration's push for a new long term contract with Suez, seven years before the current agreement is set to expire, and the questions raised by DeFusco and other members of the City Council.

“This unbudgeted, previously unknown liability is a shocking display of either incompetence or obfuscation by the Zimmer administration and its Council allies Ravi Bhalla, who is a member of the Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Council President Jen Giattino, who is also a member of that committee,” said DeFusco.  “It's difficult to believe that a publicly traded company would allow a liability to get so large over many years and not say anything to the debtor. This could amount to a 15% tax increase to pay off this unfunded liability, which would be a harmful outcome for our city.”


DeFusco has sent a letter (attached) to the State Department of Community Affairs, which oversees local governments, outlining the situation and requesting an official investigation.

At a previous meeting Councilman DeFusco revealed that Councilman Ravi Bhalla had a potential conflict of interest due to his work as a partner for a law firm that Bhalla has now admitted counts Suez as a client. The firm’s business dealings with Suez date back at least to 2014, which was the year Hoboken began negotiating the proposed new contract. Ravi Bhalla has since recused himself from Suez related discussions and votes.  

“As further details come to light, it is becoming more and more clear that the root of this mess was Mayor Zimmer’s intent to try and take this debt off the books through a hasty and ill-planned restructuring of the city’s contract with Suez so she could claim a tax cut for residents going into an election year,” said DeFusco. “It’s not yet clear exactly when Mayor Zimmer became aware of this mounting debt, but her decision, and the willingness of her Council allies, to try to sweep it under the rug rather than publicly acknowledge and address the problem flies in the face of open and responsible government. We need a full and impartial investigation into this matter to determine the extent of the damage that has been caused and the costs that will be eventually passed onto taxpayers thanks to the Zimmer administration's actions.”

Romano Simultaneously Running for Two Offices is Legally Questionable, Unethical, Unfair to Hoboken Residents


Anthony Romano’s decision to simultaneously run for re-election as Freeholder and for Mayor of Hoboken is potentially against state election law and should not be allowed, said mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco, pointing to state statute that does not allow candidates to seek offices that the state constitution would not allow them to hold.  DeFusco is confident that the Hudson County Clerk’s Office will advise Romano that he cannot run for both positions on the November ballot. Romano filed petitions with the city clerk today.

“Although I welcome all candidates to the race, the simple fact is that Freeholder Romano can't simultaneously serve as Freeholder and Mayor, and thus is prohibited from running for both at the same time according to state statute” said DeFusco. “Compelling legal questions aside, this decision sends a terrible message to voters by reinforcing old stereotypes about politicians cracking back room deals and thinking the rules don’t apply to them. I’m running for Mayor with no conflicts and nothing to personally gain, because I believe our city needs new ideas and new energy. The same can’t be said of my opponents, including Anthony Romano.”

DeFusco first voiced his objections to Romano’s candidacy last week after a letter filed on behalf of a concerned citizen challenging the legality of the decision  was recently made public. The letter outlines specific sections of state law that Romano’s dual candidacy would violate, most notably NJ Revised Statute 19:3-5.1 which states that no candidate may appear twice on a ballot for offices which the state constitution would prohibit “the simultaneous holding” thereof. In addition, the letter lays out the possibility that the Freeholder seat could remain vacant for up to a year if Romano wins both elections.

In addition to the legal issues related directly to his potential candidacy, DeFusco is highlighting the clear possibility that Romano has intermingled funds from his Freeholder and Mayoral campaigns. Romano is using the same headquarters for both campaigns and much of the same campaign staff. His campaign did not file an official D-1 form with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission until late July, over a month after Romano mayoral materials were seen around Hoboken. All of this points strongly to a mixing of funds, an action that would violate election law, however given Romano’s history of failing to file campaign finance reports in the past, it is impossible to determine conclusively.

During his current term in office, Romano failed to file required ELEC reports for more than 31 consecutive months, with at least $31,300 of activity hidden during that time. Perhaps most troublingly, Romano has refused to file his 20 day post-primary ELEC report for this year and is refusing to file any mayoral ELEC report until October, denying voters the chance to see who is funding either of his simultaneous campaigns.

“Hoboken voters deserve to know who is funding all of the campaigns seeking their support, and candidates who hide behind loopholes or just ignore the law to shield their donors from public scrutiny are not promoting open government and transparency,” said DeFusco. “Anthony Romano has habitually failed to file mandatory campaign finance reports, leaving Hoboken completely in the dark about who is financing his campaign. This is unacceptable and yet another reason why his dual candidacy is problematic.”

DeFusco Responds to Legal, Ethical Concerns about Romano Running for Two Offices on Same Ballot

After a letter filed on behalf of a concerned citizen was made public this week regarding the legality of Freeholder Anthony Romano running for both Freeholder and Mayor in this November’s election, Councilman and mayoral candidate Michael DeFusco is responding to the legal and ethical concerns raised by the situation. The DeFusco campaign obtained a copy of the letter by filing an Open Public Records Act request with the Hudson County Clerk’s Office, and a copy is attached.


Currently, Freeholder Romano is set to appear on the ballot for Freeholder by virtue of winning the primary election.  He has also announced that he intends to run for Mayor at the same time. This action may be a violation of state election law, and is certainly a disservice to Hoboken residents who deserve elected leaders who put the community first, as well as appropriate representation at all levels of government.

“Compelling legal questions aside, what Freeholder Romano is apparently planning on doing is exactly why so many people are disillusioned with politics -- because he’s putting his own interests ahead of our community’s,” said DeFusco. “I’m running for Mayor because I believe that Hoboken needs new energy, new ideas and a new leader who will be focused only on giving back to our city and helping it reach its potential, not on taking from it.”

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Read the full letter obtained through OPRA request from the County

The letter outlines specific sections of state law that Romano’s dual candidacy would violate, most notably NJ Revised Statute 19:3-5.1 which states that no candidate may appear twice on a ballot for offices that which the state constitution would prohibit “the simultaneous holding” thereof. In addition, the letter lays out the possibility that the Freeholder seat could remain vacant for up to a year if Romano wins both elections.

“The possibility that Hoboken’s representative on the Freeholder Board could remain vacant for up to a year until a special election, or that our seat could be appointed by politicians, not elected by the voters, is a chance that we simply can not take,” said DeFusco.  “Hoboken needs more representation, not less, and with so many pressing issues affecting our community at both the local and county level, it is shocking that Freeholder Romano would ask Hoboken residents to accept that outcome.”

Washington Street Construction -- A Haphazard and Dangerous Mess

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For the past few weeks my phone has been ringing off the hook about the construction on Washington Street and how haphazard and dangerous the process has become. We were promised an organized rollout, but the Zimmer administration’s handling of this vital project has raised concern throughout the community. Take a look at some of these disturbing photos taken recently on Washington Street.

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We can’t live like this for the next year, which is how long it will take at the current pace.  Businesses are suffering, quality of life is being disrupted, and alarming changes are being made that will permanently alter the face of Washington Street. We have recently learned that 22 mature trees along the sidewalk are slated to be cut down, and last week we witnessed the destruction of a historic bluestone sidewalk in front of City Hall, forever altering our city’s unique character.

In response I have requested an emergency Council Meeting to discuss these concerns and look for a solution that will repair Washington Street without harming our city’s historic features or our environment. I’ve submitted an official request to Council President Jennifer Giattino asking that the meeting be scheduled immediately given the urgent nature of the subject, and that it be open to public comment about the construction. The residents of Hoboken deserve an opportunity to voice their concerns and frustrations with this bungled project.

Vanessa Falco joins defusco's council slate

I'm thrilled to welcome Vanessa Falco as the final member of our team. As the mother of two public school students, I know Vanessa will represent our young families and push for expanded municipal activities, like summer camp and a broader range of cultural, tech and athletic programs for our children to supplement our school system.

-Mike DeFusco

DeFusco calls for full disclosure of Bhalla law firm's business relationship with Suez Water

Councilman and Mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco is calling for a full public disclosure of Councilman and fellow candidate Ravi Bhalla's business dealings with Suez Water, the city's water provider, with whom the Zimmer Administration has negotiated a new contract proposal that will have a major impact on residents for decades to come. Bhalla is a partner at the law firm of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, which has received payments of at least $130,000 in lobbying fees from Suez as recently as 2015 according to publicly available records (Source: NJ Law Journal). Despite this publicly documented information, Bhalla denied at an August 2nd, 2017 City Council meeting that the firm has continued business dealings with Suez, and further claimed that the firm only negotiated the original agreement between the City and Suez in the 1990s. 

Suez is listed as a client on the FPSF website as of the time of this release. This raises serious questions as to whether Bhalla is attempting to conceal his law firm's dealings with Suez at a time when the City of Hoboken is actively negotiating with the company. 


Mike DeFusco is calling on Ravi Bhalla to disclose the full nature of his law firm's relationship with Suez, including how much the company paid Bhalla's firm in legal fees and lobbying fees since he has been a partner. Additionally, DeFusco is calling for Bhalla to recuse himself from all negotiations and any votes related to Suez as long as this conflict exists, and for an investigation into whether Bhalla was present or involved in the city's previous negotiations with Suez. 

"Councilman Bhalla's failure to disclose that Suez Water was a client of his law firm while the City was negotiating with them on a decades-long agreement worth tens of millions of taxpayer dollars is the antithesis of transparent government. Ravi was asked directly at the 8/2/17 Council meeting whether his firm still represents Suez and he said "no", but the truth is, his firm received $130,000 in lobbying fees from the water provider as recently as 2015. Negotiations between Hoboken and Suez started in 2014, so we need to know the full extent of Ravi's business relationship with Suez and determine whether or not he was involved in the city's negotiations given this apparent conflict of interest. It's about time he decides if he wants to represent the taxpayers or his own private business interests." 

Bhalla's law firm is one of the most prolific public contractors in the state, with $3.8 million in government contracts in 2016.  Bhalla has faced numerous ethics complaints during his time on the Hoboken City Council, including failing to disclose mandatory public information on government contracts, and a case under active review by the Local Finance Board regarding his vote for a city contract for an attorney with whom he personally held shared business interests.




Reallocate city resources to fix potholes, repave streets and keep our sidewalks clean.


Create a quality of life department, a joint operation between environmental services and the Hoboken PD, to respond to noise violations, vagrancy, panhandling, dog waste and other daily nuisances.


Keep residential taxes stable while expanding the commercial tax base by encouraging innovative uses like urban wineries, coffee roasters, co-working spaces and culinary incubators.


Plan a new public high school complex north of 14th Street so that families can stay in Hoboken.


Return Observer Highway to four lanes of traffic, with three lanes out during the morning rush and three lanes inbound in the afternoon. Address traffic caused in and around Paterson Plank Road by the Light Rail, a promise made by the current administration a decade ago.


Stop quota-driven parking tickets used to plug deficiencies in the city budget. Focus on safety and traffic flow, instead of interfering with people going about their day-to-day lives. Invest all revenue from valid parking violations directly into improving parking and transportation.


Cut the prohibitive costs and red tape that are chasing businesses out of Hoboken. Encourage an even more vibrant restaurant scene and help mom and pop shops, makers and creative enterprises thrive.


Slash the current administration’s reliance on politically connected contracts, producing better services while eliminating cost overruns.


Continue the push towards a more resilient and green future by developing responsible public-private partnerships to build out park space and protect against flooding. Take a neighborhood approach to planning to ensure Hoboken stays charming and unique.


Stop the demolition of historic brownstones by expanding the historic district and fight against residential displacement caused by the current administration’s overbearing flood ordinance on streets that rarely flood, like Bloomfield, Garden, and Park.


Advance plans to encourage a regional tech hub developed in conjunction with Stevens Institute of Technology, adaptively repurpose parts of the train terminal into a world-class European market and rebuild the crumbling multi-service center.


Today councilman and mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco filed petitions to officially place his name on the ballot for the November 7th election.

"This is an important day not just for our campaign, but also for Hoboken.  Election Day is 100 days from today and that's when we'll have the opportunity to bring new ideas and new energy to City Hall," DeFusco stated.  "I'm humbled and proud to have submitted 564 signed nominating petitions for Mayor today, showing the tremendous support our campaign has received so far from throughout our city. We will be continuing to collect petitions up to the deadline in September, each one a personal conversation about the future of Hoboken.  It's time for new leadership and a progressive agenda that will allow Hoboken to thrive, and based on the response I've seen from Hoboken voters so far, I'm confident we'll make it happen."