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