Power shift in the projects?
Thursday’s meeting could be heated as new chairman appointed to oversee public housing
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
May 04, 2014 | 4152 views | 17 17 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MEMBER -- Hoboken Housing Authority member David Mello may become the chair of the board this week. He also serves on the City Council. Thursday's HHA meeting may get heated.
MEMBER -- Hoboken Housing Authority member David Mello may become the chair of the board this week. He also serves on the City Council. Thursday's HHA meeting may get heated.
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A long battle for control of the city’s public housing board, the last of the city’s power bases not controlled by allies of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, may reach fever pitch on Thursday when the mayor’s allies will likely elect one of their own to chair the board at its annual reorganization meeting.

The Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) oversees the governance of the city’s 1,300-plus federally subsidized units for low-income and elderly residents, located in the southwestern and western sections of the city. The HHA is run by a paid staff and director, but they are overseen by a seven-member volunteer board of commissioners, each of whom is appointed by the mayor, the City Council, or the governor’s office.
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“The only thing I can do is the right thing and hope people recognize that.” – Housing board member Dana Wefer
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Hoboken’s projects have been seen for years as a voter base and a source of lucrative contracts, not to mention a place where the city’s poorest residents are hoping for a better quality of life – hence the importance of controlling the Board of Commissioners.

Current Chairman Rob Davis III, a resident of the city’s public housing, is widely seen as a supporter of Carmelo Garcia, the paid executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority. Garcia has been at odds with Zimmer for some time and is currently suing her, claiming she and her allies have intimidated him and threatened his employment. An early version of the suit was thrown out, but he has since re-filed a slightly modified version.

Two new board members, appointed by Zimmer’s supporters on the City Council in January, are likely to tip the scales against Davis and Garcia at the board’s meeting this Thursday. Dana Wefer and James Sanford, the new appointees, give Zimmer’s supporters a 5-4 board majority. Last week, Wefer said that she is planning to nominate someone to take Davis’ position and has heard that she will be nominated vice-chair. She also said that she would accept a nomination for chairman, should she be nominated.

Davis, meanwhile, said that he fully expects to lose the post on Thursday.

“I do expect it,” he said. “They have the votes on their side and as we’ve seen before, they know who they want to install, [Councilman-at-Large David] Mello or Wefer. They have the votes to do it.”

Who’s taking over?

It is possible that Mello, another Zimmer ally who has served on the housing board for almost two years, could receive Wefer’s nomination. Wefer would not say who she is planning to nominate. Mello did not return a phone call for comment.

Last year’s reorganization meeting ended in cheers and jeers as former Chairman Jake Stuiver, a Zimmer supporter, was ousted in a surprise vote. The meetings are regularly attended by vocal public housing residents, who typically ridicule Mello and Wefer, and Thursday is unlikely to be an exception. But the reorganization is mandated by federal law, said Davis.

“The best I can tell them is to respect the process,” he said. “I served my year, and unfortunately this vote is going to seem one-sided, but we have to respect the process.”

Wefer said that her decisions as a board member are always in the best interest of the Housing Authority’s residents.

“The only thing I can do is the right thing and hope people recognize that,” she said.

Mello and Wefer have both attempted to oust Davis through pocket resolutions over the last few months that would change the board’s bylaws to allow an election prior to the reorganization meeting.

At a meeting in mid-March and at one in January, Wefer and Mello introduced resolutions to oust Davis. At the board’s regular meeting on March 13, newly-appointed commissioner Dana Wefer tried to push through a resolution that would give the board the option of electing a new chair and vice-chair whenever a new composition of the board was in session.

The board’s lawyer, widely seen as an ally of Garcia who Zimmer allies have attempted to replace several times, said that the resolutions had not been presented legally and that any votes on them would not count.

The issues faced

The struggle for control of the housing board has focused mainly on three issues.

The largest is Vision 20/20, a controversial plan that would demolish several of the HHA’s aging buildings and replace them with mixed use buildings that resemble the rest of Hoboken. Garcia is the primary proponent of the plan, but Zimmer and her allies on the board have said they were not given enough information on it, so they have opposed it.

Wefer indicated last week that she is willing to take another look at Vision 20/20, while Garcia has said that the process is currently at a standstill. City Council members who have voted against supporting the project, including Mello, have cited a lack of information about oversight of the millions of dollars in contracts that could be awarded to complete the project.

Another issue is the leadership of Garcia himself. The director’s contract does not end until September 2015, but sources say that should Zimmer’s allies gain a majority next week, they will attempt to void his contract early. Garcia was elected to the state Assembly last November and has faced questions as to how he can serve the residents of an agency that has been troubled in the past, while still having time to go to Trenton.

Garcia declined to comment for this story, citing a bylaw that bars the executive director of a housing authority from publicly discussing the politics of the board.

Mello and Wefer have in the past also cited issues with the board’s legal counsel, Charles Daglian, and the manner in which certain contracts are bid out without what they say was enough due process.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

***SIDEBAR***

Very few minorities in Hoboken’s leadership positions

The Hoboken public schools are made up of a population that is 61 percent Latino and 16 percent African-American, but the nine-member school board is 100 percent white. In fact, out of all the leadership positions in Hoboken, very few are filled by members of minority groups.

This week, the African-American chairman of Hoboken’s seven-member Housing Authority board, Rob Davis III, is likely to be replaced in that position by a Caucasian city council member, David Mello, who is an ally of Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Last year, the executive director of the housing board filed a lawsuit charging the mayor with “ethnic cleansing” – an extreme and, some say, unlikely charge. Still, the charge called attention to a possible trend: Not counting the Housing Authority board, there are no Latin-Americans filling the 37 major Hoboken board positions and City Hall directorships. Out of those posts, one is held by an African-American man, and an Indian-American council member is also on the Planning Board.

The Hoboken Housing Authority board oversees the city’s federally subsidized public housing, which contains a majority of the city’s black and Latin-American residents. It’s by far the most diverse board in town, with four members who are minorities – Davis, Eduardo Gonzalez, Jean Rodriguez and Judith Burrell.

But the last two commissioners who were named by the City Council to the housing board – Dana Wefer and James Sanford – are both white. Neither was publicly questioned by the City Council prior to the appointment, while Barbara Reyes, a Latina resident of the Housing Authority, was nominated multiple times last year and questioned by the council, and each time her appointment was blocked.

The rest of the city’s major boards fail to match the level of diversity on the housing board. The 11-member Planning Board (including alternates), with the lone exception of Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, a Zimmer ally who also serves on the City Council, is entirely white. The 11-member Zoning Board of Adjustment has Antonio Grana, who is of Spanish (although, a source on the board said, not Latin-American) descent. Both boards have one vacant slot.

The nine-member City Council is entirely white with the exception of Bhalla, whose parents came to the United States from India.

The six high-ranking department directors in City Hall are made up of five Caucasians and one African-American, Finance Director Solomon Steplight. The police and fire chiefs are also Caucasian.

According to the 2010 Census, Hoboken’s population is 82 percent white, 15.2 percent Latino, and 3.5 percent African-American.

Last week, Zimmer declined to comment on whether she had concerns about the diversity on the boards and within City Hall.

Appointments to the zoning and planning boards are determined by the mayor and the City Council. The vast majority of those appointments are left to the council, while the mayor can appoint one representative to each. The mayor is in charge of hiring city directors.

The school board is determined by the voters in November. For many years, it was traditional in Hoboken for the three-member Board of Education campaign slates, including from “reform” factions of Hoboken politics, to include at least one member of a minority group on the slate. Both slates that challenged the Zimmer-allied Kids First majority last November included a black or Latin-American candidate, but Kids First did not include any members of minority groups on their slate.

When Carmelo Garcia, the most recent Latino Hobokenite to serve on the Board of Education, stepped down in January to avoid conflicts with his new role as a state Assemblyman, he was replaced by the board with Monica Stromwall, who is white.

Comments
(17)
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Justmyopinion1
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May 08, 2014
I agree with that.

But if you have mostly puerto rican children in a school system and a lot if their families are in a community and you can't find a single person of color to put on the school board then maybe you are not getting the BEST people.

maybe instead you are chosing the people who most look like and vote with you. maybe the BEST people do not all feel welcome to apply because of their race. what are you doing about that? maybe you are missing out on some good people. or maybe not, it is not worth asking the question.

reading the story of the person who made the jewish comments she is in the wrong as well. there is no reason for prejudice and name calling and maybe we need to take a deep look at everyone now. both issues need a look.

just my opnion, no slander here.
ss1959
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May 08, 2014
It makes no difference what someones ethnic background is, or their religion for that matter. What does matter is their qualifications, how they behave and more important how they vote and govern. I don't care if they are purple beings from Mars. I do do care about their votes and actions. I hope that every Mayor hires the BEST person available.
Justmyopinion1
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May 08, 2014
test
VoteHoboken
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May 05, 2014
Is it true that Patricia Waiters is now on Carmelo Garcia's Assembly staff payroll ? That could connect a few dots.
Grafix_Avenger_blog
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May 07, 2014
Yes, she is. MSV OPRAed that information. Waiters is paid $10K annually.

The HR has a one-sided obsession with alleged racial and ethnic bias in the Zimmer admin, while ignoring hate speech from their political allies.

Here is Carmelo Garcia's aide speaking at the May 2014 HHA meeting.

HHA Meeting Minutes: http://www.scribd.com/doc/222319624/HHA-May-2014-Meeting-Minutes

Section 138:

Waiters: "It is disgusting that both of you came aboard with a dirty motive, and we are not letting it happen." (Comment directed to HHA commissioners Sanford and Wefer.)

Waiters: "They got three new people to take those seats, Jewish, of course, okay, and those not race baited because they pulled you all from Morris County."

Section 139:

Waiters: "... she lost three elections and now you came here." (To commissioner Wefer.)

Dave Mello: "Show us some respect."

Waiters: "I don't have to respect you, because you are not respecting us."

Mello: "I don't appreciate anti-Semitism."

Waiters: "... I don't care."

Page 140:

Waiters: "I'm showing facts... Why was I denied?" (Reference to not being voted by the City Council to an HHA seat.)

Mello: "an employee (of) an Assemblyman of the State of New Jersey (Carmelo Garcia) should not be making in public anti-Semitic comments..."

Waiters" "Do the work. Do your facts. Go check and everybody is going through the contract, and tell me if everybody she hires is not Jewish."

The full story of the anti-Semitic rantings of a public official on Carmelo Garica's payroll at:

http://www.hobokenhorse.com/2014/05/carmelo-garcias-paid-aide-goes-on.html

Larrence3
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May 05, 2014
keep asking questions HR, seems clear you touched a nerve and we should all have this conversation, not just about race but about class being pushed out of town too. thank you
VoteHoboken
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May 05, 2014
When Applied pushed with Carmelo Garcia's blessing very few people raised their voices.
Grafix_Avenger_blog
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May 05, 2014
The Dark Side needs smarter political operatives.

Allow me to debunk this BS they fed Mr. Chiaro:

"According to the 2010 Census, Hoboken’s population is 82 percent white, 15.2 percent Latino, and 3.5 percent African-American."

WRONG.

(1) There is no "Latino" demographic.

The demographic is" Hispanic or Latino Origin." The Hoboken Reporter invented a "Latino" demographic for political purposes. The HR specifically identified ZBA member Anthony Grana as "Spanish" and "not Latin-American."

(2) The Hoboken Reporter's census data mixes two categories (race and ethnicity) to create a false result.

Hispanic/Latinos are not included in "population by race" figures. Hispanic/Latino is a separate category overlapping population by race. Hispanic/Latino is an ethnic category not a racial category; Hispanics/Latinos ARE white, black, asian. The ACTUAL Hoboken Population by Race Census data is: (note the absence of "Hispanic/Latino category"):

82.24% (41,124) White (includes Hispanics/Latinos)

7.12% (3,558) Asian(includes Hispanics/Latinos)

3.53% (1,767) Black or African American(includes Hispanics/Latinos)

0.03% (15) Pacific Islander

4.29% (2,144) from other races

2.65% (1,324) from two or more races .

0.15% (73) Native American

The Hoboken Reporter omits Asians (7.12%), omits Native Americans/"other races" (7.1%) KEEPS whites (82%), KEEPS blacks (3.5%) then pulls the "15.2%" Hispanic/Latino from a separate category to CREATE RESULTS, to create a false narrative.

3) The Hoboken Reporter's "15.2% Latino" is really "15.2% persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin" and INCLUDES ALL RACES.

Like a true political operative-fed rag, the Hoboken Reporter presented SKEWED data to support a false conclusion of a Reform bias against Latinos.

That's just a small sample of why Beth Mason is suing 24 bloggers via proxies.

More at:

http://grafixavenger.blogspot.com/2014/05/hr-skews-2010-census-data-to-attack.html

QuestionableTactics
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May 05, 2014
I think Hoboken and the HHA would be far better off without a extremely questionable and divisive tactics of Carmelo Garcia.

The job of Chairman of the HHA is a full time job and deserves to have someone who will give it his or her full attention.

Larrence3
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May 05, 2014
This stirred up a lot of talk on the internet, city's apologists so far blame the media for even pointing it out and their response is, "The city has LOT'S of minorities on its boards because they have put several people from Spain and Portugal on the historic preservatrion commission. People from Span and Portugal are LATIN."

Keep pointing these thigns out, HR because if you don't force us to take a look at them who will.
TheStratergy
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May 04, 2014
One might consider that this story is part of a well orchistrated race baiting campaign to try to help Carmelo Garcia to keep his very well paid position in the HHA and his iron fisted control of the votes of residents of the people who live there.

If Mr. Garcia is removed from his position he will likely try to initiate another "racial cleansing" lawsuit asking for a great deal of money for himself.

When you see the people who are supporting Carmelo Garcia this scenario looks right and logical.

As with most things in Hoboken, this bit of theater has much more to do with power and money.

The
TheStratergy
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May 04, 2014
The strategy of trying to divide Hoboken on economic and racial lines for the political and financial gain of a few is not new.

It should not be allowed to succeed.

Paulis
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May 04, 2014
Interesting that you try to discredit the source by asserting that it is part of some orchestrated strategy yet do not call into question any of the facts in the article. It looks to me like this story is simply reporting on the tensions and facts surrounding the ongoing struggles at the housing authority.

I'd say that the facts speak for themselves.

Your comment is a classic deflection.
greenshirt
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May 04, 2014
The facts are this story doesn't even get the board numbers correct. There are seven board members.

Grafix Avenger offers more corrections and tears the ugly veneer off the Hudson Reporter's editorial board with laugh-a-rama cutting satire.

http://grafixavenger.blogspot.com/2014/05/breaking-no-minorities-in-hoboken.html

This comment, IP details and identifying information not approved for dissemination to Beth Mason, her political operatives or employed lawyers suing Hoboken residents in a current or future SLAPP suit. Any unauthorized use of this comment and its identifying personal information other than for public comment purposes here is prohibited and may be unlawful.

Larrence3
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May 05, 2014
100 percent white school board and 80 percent minority school system not worth a hard look? wonder if you've even read the story up there.
drainaged
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May 04, 2014
Your kidding me. Didn't realize it was so glaring until I read the piece. The school board that is suing to shut down a small charter school because supposedly the charter school does not perfectly match the demographics of the district...is itself 100 PERCENT WHITE? Kid's First could not find a hispanic or black candidate out of 1000's in this city to run on their ticket, and they point the fingers at others?

Not sure what Hola's demographics are but I am guessing it is not 100 percent white like the board is.

What is Kid's first doing to address this? Don't our students need role models, Maybe Kid's First needs to hold a lottery.
TheStratergy
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May 04, 2014
When you see the same people using the same race baiting strategy to try to play politics and protect their own self interest, then you have to question how much of the rhetoric is real and how much is phoney.