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.