Councilman Peter Cunningham was appointed City Council president for a one-year term, and Councilwoman Jen Giattino, the newest member of the council, was appointed to vice-president by the council at its meeting on Wednesday. Councilwoman Carol Marsh was reappointed to be the council’s representative on the Planning Board.
All three appointees were the sole nominations to the positions, and each is among the five-member council majority aligned with the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
“I thank my council colleagues for their support,” said Cunningham, who also thanked outgoing president Ravi Bhalla for his service in the post. “I only hope I can serve with the same kind of distinction, courteousness to my colleagues and the public, and certainly with the utmost respect to them as well.”
“The shouting that went on at that meeting was extremely distressing and embarrassing for the council.” – Councilwoman Theresa Castellano
“These [appointments] are not surprises,” said Castellano, later adding, “I find it very disingenuous and disheartening that the people vying for the positions at least did not call me and ask for support. It’s very insulting.”
“I apologize to those council members that I didn’t speak to, and will endeavor to do better,” Cunningham said during the meeting. “I will do my very best to hold this office in the highest regard.”
Controversial conduct ordinance tabled
The council tabled a controversial ordinance introduced by minority member Tim Occhipinti due to uncertainty over its legal implications.
The ordinance seeks to set standards of conduct for appointees to boards.
It includes requirement that municipal appointees not improperly use the influence of their appointment for private gain, will perform their duties professionally and responsibly, will behave in a manner that protects the city’s reputation, and will not use confidential information for private gain.
Before the meeting, Mayor Zimmer said she had “concerns” about the measure.
“I’m concerned about free speech,” said Zimmer, adding that she also has concerns that the measure would apply to board members but not council members.
Occhipinti introduced the measure despite a previous recommendation from the city’s corporation counsel against it. According to Interim Corporation Counsel Melissa Longo, the ordinance poses complications because municipal codes of conduct must be in accordance with existing state statutes.
Longo also said that establishing codes of conduct requires the creation of a municipal ethics board, the approval of the state’s Local Finance Board, and other restrictions.
Occhipinti said he consulted an unnamed attorney who advised him the proposed municipal codes do conform to the existing law, and claimed the council has the authority to implement them, rather than an ethics board. Other proponents of the ordinance have argued that a municipal ethics board is not appropriate when dealing with appointees.
The matter was the subject of a lengthy discussion from the council members after Cunningham permitted one question each per council member. This allowance distressed several of council members, who argued that ordinances up for introduction (rather than the final vote at a subsequent meeting) should not be discussed.
“It’s an unusual evening,” Cunningham responded.
Castellano said she felt this ordinance was proposed in the aftermath of last month’s heated council meeting.
“I have a feeling it’s the antics of the last council meeting, [which saw] council people screaming and yelling and really acting inappropriately,” said Castellano.
“If somebody is 8 or 80 and yelling at us from the audience, we really need to not respond to that,” she said, perhaps in reference to the fact that former Housing Authority Commissioner Marianne Camporeale engaged in verbal exchanges with members of the council at the last meeting. “The shouting that went on at that meeting was extremely distressing and embarrassing for the council.”
A roughly $1 million bond ordinance was introduced that seeks to provide $800,000 for the design and engineering costs for several improvements to Washington Street. According to Zimmer, these improvements include repaving the road, installing modern traffic signals with pedestrian countdown timers, and installing crosswalks and ramps.
The bond also allocates roughly $100,000 for improvements to Sinatra Drive between 4th and 11th streets, and roughly $130,000 to secure federal funding to improve Observer Highway and Newark Street. The improvements are intended to make the streets safer and more accommodating for pedestrians.
Zimmer said in a memo to the council that a series of public meetings will be held to hear community input for the plans.
Zimmer also said the estimated cost for resurfacing and installing the new signals is approximately $9 million and the city will apply for grants to help pay for construction costs.
“I think it is extremely important for the city of Hoboken,” said Zimmer before the meeting. “Washington Street is really the center of town, a place where our community comes together.”
A resolution was also passed to apply for a $20,000 Sustainable New Jersey grant to carry out a project to install curb extensions to manage storm water runoff.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.