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Hoboken's budget blunders released, pols exposed

U .S. Rep. Albio Sires of West New York attended the Hoboken St. Patrick's Day dinner on Feb. 22, and he brought his own leprechaun who had no pot of gold for the Mile Square City.

Yet, as transcripts of the June 6, 2008, state Local Finance Board meeting reveal, the panel's chairman and sprite, Richard Turner, who also doubles as mayor of Weehawken, had offered the Mile Square City council members something better than a pot of gold. He gave them priceless advice - approve the municipal budget already. Unfortunately for Hoboken taxpayers, it was ignored.

City Council members Beth Mason, Dawn Zimmer, Peter Cunningham, Michael Russo and Theresa Castellano were all present, according to the transcripts released by The Jersey Journal's HobokenNow blog. After reading the transcripts, you come away wondering "what were they thinking?"

Where are investigations heading? Fiscal monitor may stay another year, gives updates on money mistakes

Six months ago, state fiscal monitor Judy Tripodi came to Hoboken to oversee the city’s finances, in the wake of the City Council’s last-minute budget passage. Since then, she has uncovered some problems and errors in City Hall’s financial initiatives that the taxpayers may have to pay for.

As the May mayor/council election approaches and city officials jockey for attention, several city officials said last week that Tripodi may be asked by the state to extend her stay in Hoboken from August 2009 to August of 2010.

Tale of the tape - DCA transcripts from when Hoboken was taken over by the state

Councilwoman Beth Mason filmed meeting, but refuses to release the video

Why was Hoboken taken over by the state? For not adopting a 2008 budget by June 6, 2008. We know, we know, the state takeover of Hoboken was a while ago. But we figured everybody should be able to read the following transcripts from when several Hoboken City Council people went down to Trenton last June to speak with the Department of Community Affairs regarding Hoboken's budget mess.

Tax group asks: Where do Hoboken candidates stand on the issues?

The Hoboken Tax Reform Coalition (www.hobokenrevolt.com) has come up with a questionaire for potential mayor and council candidates for this May.

1. Objective: Drive a significant reduction in property taxes without compromising the safety and soundness of Hoboken.

Question: Do you agree that the annual operating budget for Hoboken should be reduced?

What do you think the appropriate budget for each of the next five years should be? Do you have a detailed plan to accomplish this? If so, what are the significant initiatives you will support to reduce the annual operating budget?What is the timeline to implement the plan?

Please explain any calculations of savings that may be included in your plan.

What concessions, if any, will be necessary in the upcoming Police and Fire contracts in order to achieve the target budgets you propose?

What revenue-enhancement opportunities do you see?

Zimmer, Mason divided over uptown redevelopment

2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason

Wednesday night, the council voted to approve a redevelopment study for the now-19 block area near the Burlington Coat Factory, where a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Group has been buying land. The area now under review by the Planning Board was expanded westward to the Palisade cliffs, including the land occupied by the Academy Bus Company.

If a city declares an area a redevelopment zone, the city can change the zoning, seek developers with plans that conform to the new guidelines, take over certain property by eminent domain if necessary, and possibly offer a tax abatement agreement.

Mason said, “If [Hoboken] stops building, it will die. It will die. You have to continue to grow to some extent. You cannot stop.”

CORZINE REPORT CARD - APPROVALS DROP

CORZINE REPORT CARD: APPROVALS DROP

Nearly 3-in-4 say New Jersey is on the wrong track

Governor Jon Corzine’s brief flirtation with positive job performance ratings last month has ended, according to the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll. His semiannual report card continues to average a “C-” from the New Jersey public, while his grades for cutting waste and his level of effort have declined.

Currently, only 34% of all New Jersey adults approve of how their governor is handling his job, compared to 48% who disapprove. Among registered voters, his ratings stand at 34% approve to 51% disapprove. Just last month, slightly more voters approved (43%) than disapproved (40%) of the Jon Corzine’s performance. The governor’s current 34% approval number marks a return to the low public ratings he held last spring.

Roseville plans to write more of own tickets and keep all the money

Tickets for running a stop sign or ignoring a "No U-Turn" sign soon may be less expensive for drivers in Roseville but much more profitable for the city.

It's all part of Roseville's plan to encourage police to write tickets for certain types of moving violations under the city's municipal code, rather than the state vehicle code.

The plan would put conservative Roseville shoulder-to-shoulder with Berkeley and a few other cities. But the plan doesn't sit well with the insurance industry.

The difference for offenders? A lower fine – $100 instead of $146 for first offenses – and a driver's record without added "points" that can lead to higher insurance premiums or even a revoked license.

Andover to cut cost of public records

John Paff

Andover Township is expected to be the latest municipality to make its government records more financially accessible to the public.

The Township Committee unanimously introduced an ordinance Monday night significantly lowering costs of all paper documents and audio recordings of meetings.

Paper copies will cost 7 cents per page, and CD audio recordings of meetings will cost 40 cents each, if the ordinance is approved.

Andover is on a wave of change for many towns that are changing their Open Public Records Act fees as .......

City says It was a mistake

An extensive investigation into several current and former city employees who were incorrectly receiving city health benefits has turned up some interesting names and little explanation from the administration.

State-appointed fiscal monitor Judy Tripodi confirmed the names of five individuals – including two former members of the City Council – who were sent letters by the city in October and November stating they would be removed from municipal benefits because they are no longer qualified. The city gave the individuals 30 days to object, and none did.

Both Tripodi and Mayor David Roberts blamed the situation on “oversight,” and Roberts said this sort of thing happens in every city. “One division didn’t know what the other division was doing,” he said. “I don’t want to minimize this. This and every issue will be taken seriously and handled accordingly.”

Potential layoffs at the Hoboken University Medical Center

Faced with declining patient numbers and falling revenue, Hoboken University Medical Center officials said yesterday that workers may be laid off and services cut as early as next month.

HUMC spokeswoman Joan Quigley, who is also a state assemblywoman, said revenues have been dropping at the hospital, most noticeably in the last quarter of 2008. The hospital had fewer patients during the holiday season than in previous years.

"We've had some doctors tell us their waiting rooms are empty," Quigley said. "The national economy has hurt us all. A lot of people lost their insurance and other people don't want to spend the co-pay because they're afraid they'll need the money later."