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.

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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.

DEFUSCO CALLS FOR DCA INVESTIGATION INTO CITY’S UNBUDGETED $8.35 MILLION SUEZ LIABILITY, POTENTIAL FOR MASSIVE TAX INCREASE TO PAY OFF DEBT

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.”

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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

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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.

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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.

 

MIKE DeFUSCO’S PLAN FOR A BETTER HOBOKEN

GET BACK TO BASICS:

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

INVEST IN OUR QUALITY OF LIFE:

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.

STAND UP FOR TAXPAYERS:

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.

THINK BIG ON EDUCATION:

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

UNSNARL TRAFFIC:

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.

ELIMINATE BACK DOOR PARKING TAXES:

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.

GET WASHINGTON STREET BACK ON THE MAP:

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.

KEEP POLITICS OUT OF PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTS:

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

STAY GREEN:

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.

PRESERVE THE PAST:

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.

IMAGINE THE FUTURE:

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.

DEFUSCO FILES PETITIONS TO RUN FOR HOBOKEN MAYOR

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."

DEFUSCO STATEMENT ON GIATTINO COUNCIL SLATE

Councilman and mayoral candidate Mike DeFusco released the following statement on Councilwoman Jen Giattino’s announcement of her Council ticket:

“Councilwoman Giattino says she wants to take a ‘fresh look’ at our local government, but her selection of Zoning Board Chair Jim Aibel as a running mate shows that she’s truly interested in the same status quo approach that has led to a stagnant business atmosphere and lack of investment in our community under the current administration. Jim Aibel has consistently voted no on land use projects that would bring needed community amenities to Hoboken. He voted against a project that will soon house a Gravity Vault rock climbing gym and West Elm retail showroom on 15th Street, against 600 Harrison Street which is adding units  to our affordable housing inventory, and against a building that now houses Elysian Charter School. Aibel’s vote against a building that would have provided free space for the non-profit Big Brothers and Big Sisters helped stop this project from moving forward, denying our community a needed addition. I first ran for Council because these kind of shortsighted planning decisions have been slowing our city’s progress and preventing our community from reaching its full potential, and now I’m running for Mayor for the same reason -- to bring new energy and new ideas to Hoboken, not the same tired, status quo approach.”

 

Jim Aibel Zoning Board Votes Cited:
Gravity Vault / West Elm = 1420 Willow -- December 22, 2015
Elysian Charter School = 1415 Park -- August 21, 2012
Big Brother Big Sisters = 1417 Adams -- May 16, 2017
Affordable Housing = 600 Harrison -- May 5, 2015

DeFusco Calls for Full Compliance with Election Laws

Councilman Mike DeFusco, a candidate for Hoboken Mayor, is calling on his fellow candidates to publicly release their donors and expenditures before the September 5th filing deadline in order to exercise transparency and provide voters with the information they deserve. DeFusco is also calling on all candidates to comply with New Jersey State Election Law by filing the required Candidate Certificate of Organization (D-1 Form), which is required to be filed by anyone running for office or exploring a run for office who has spent more than $500 on his or her campaign. Any campaign spending above that threshold by a candidate who has not filed a D-1 Form is illegal. Potential candidates Councilwoman Jen Giattino and Freeholder Anthony Romano have both failed to file a D-1 Form with the state and have publicly stated that they will not release any campaign finance information until October, less than a month before Election Day. 

"Hoboken voters deserve to know who is funding each of the campaigns for mayor, which is why I am proud to have released our full list of donors showing a broad coalition of residents, business leaders, labor unions and more," said DeFusco. "It is disheartening to see some candidates refusing to comply with the spirit of transparency by hiding their donors and expenses from the voters, and even more troubling to see candidates raising and spending money without even filing their official Certificate of Organization with the state, a violation of election law. I am calling on all candidates to voluntarily release their donors and comply with all applicable election law, because Hoboken voters deserve transparency as they make this crucial decision for our city's future."

Romano's apparent failure to file the D-1 form is particularly troubling given that he is considering running for both Freeholder and Mayor at the same time, raising questions about whether funds donated to his Freeholder campaign are being used for his mayoral campaign, which would constitute an ELEC violation. Currently, Romano's most recent filing for his Freeholder campaign shows a balance of negative ($3,407.81), along with an outstanding personal loan from Romano to his campaign of $113,900. 

"Hoboken has seen candidates for office skirting transparency and pay-to-play laws in the past and now is not the time to return to this kind of irresponsible practice," said DeFusco. "Every candidate for mayor should be eager to meet these important requirements and to give the residents of our city the transparency they need, and I see no reason why any of us should not be willing to hold ourselves to a higher standard." 

DEFUSCO STATEMENT ON PROPOSED SUEZ CONTRACT

Councilman Mike DeFusco, a candidate for Hoboken Mayor, released the following statement regarding the proposed contract between the city and Suez Water announced today by Mayor Zimmer:

"Mayor Zimmer has had nine years in office to reach this agreement and announcing it now shortly before an election to succeed her as Mayor is troubling, especially given that if approved this contact would be in effect for decades. The proposed agreement deserves serious scrutiny from both the Council and the community to ensure that it's the best possible deal for the city. It's particularly concerning that the contract would include an annual rate increase of at least 2%, which would amount to yet another hidden tax on Hoboken residents that many will struggle to afford." 

DEFUSCO IS "SHOCKED, STUNNED"

DeFusco 'Shocked, Stunned' that Politically Connected Lawyer Bhalla Selects Politically Connected Lawyer as Running Mate

Photo credit: Hudson County View

Photo credit: Hudson County View

Councilman Mike DeFusco, a candidate for Hoboken Mayor, released the following statement in reaction to the announcement by fellow Councilman and mayoral candidate Ravi Bhalla of his Council slate:

"It was difficult to contain my shock at hearing that Ravi Bhalla, a politically connected insider lawyer at one of New Jersey's most powerful law firms, made the stunning choice to select a fellow political establishment attorney in John P. Allen for his Council slate. Who could have ever guessed that a lawyer like Ravi, whose law firm was paid over $3.8 million in government contracts in 2016, would decide to run with a lawyer whose firm was also paid over $3.8 million in government contacts? A truly inspired, outside-the-box pick."

"In all seriousness, this is just the latest example of a candidate for Mayor in Ravi Bhalla who claims to represent reform, but who in reality is a pay-to-play lawyer more interested in the next government contract than in delivering for the people. That's who Ravi Bhalla is and this selection of a fellow insider attorney is just the latest proof."