Latest chapter in saga of fiscal irresponsibility comes to a close

Latest chapter in saga of fiscal irresponsibility comes to a close
06/11/2006 Hoboken Reporter

Dear Editor:

Last night the Hoboken City Council closed the latest chapter in its saga of fiscal irresponsibility. The chapter started, as you may recall, last July 1 at the beginning of the fiscal year.

As the city overspent during the prior fiscal year they had to borrow $7.9 million and place a lien on the Observer Highway municipal garage. The garage land would eventually be sold to repay the loan. This started a dual process. On one hand the City Administration promised to create a realistic budget, which seemed possible since there are lots of new ratables (Condos) in town.

At the same time, a group of neighborhood activists met with a few City Council members to design a building for the municipal garage site which would generate the income the city needed and at the same time blend in with the character of the neighborhood. There was to be no huge ugly building on Observer Highway! A year passes very quickly.

After ten months of wonton spending the City had no budget and decided to use the normal method of adding up what they spent and calling that the "budget - after the fact."
The not surprising result was that they came up $5 million short. Now they need a total of $12.9 million from the sale of the municipal garage - just to break even. So with only weeks to go until the drop-dead date of June 30 the City requested bids from developers willing to buy the garage site and build the structure designed by the neighbors. Fifteen developers responded but none submitted bids by the due date. Then two developers submitted late bids, and neither of them met the minimum specifications.

Could this be due to the fact that the City wanted $16 million by June 30 but would only let the developer build at some time up to two years in the future? Or was it because soil contamination studies were not yet complete? Or perhaps it is humanly impossible to prepare such a complex bid in only ten days!

Nevertheless, the City Council was asked to either approve or disapprove the two late bids. One developer would actually create a building pleasing to the neighbors and supply the City with over $22 million. The City Administration did not want the Council to approve this bid and made certain of this by not providing copies of the bids to the Council, not even at the meeting. How could they vote on something they did not see?
However, this oversight was overshadowed by the fact that the bids were late and defective. In my opinion this whole rushed process is sloppy and stinks! It is driven by rampant spending, last minute after the fact budgets and gun to the head tactics. Just like last year, when the City was shut down for a day due to a lack of funds, we are faced with unpleasant choices. One perfectly legal choice is to disregard the bidding process and appoint a developer, as is done in most redevelopment zones.

Unfortunately, the time honored remedy of choosing the developer who made the greatest campaign contributions, letting him build whatever ugly building he chooses, and then accepting his budget saving payment on June 30 seems like it will be the final sentence of this chapter.

Bob Du Val
President, People for Open Government

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