The two candidates for Hoboken mayor, Councilman-at-Large Peter Cammarano and 4th Ward Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer, sat down for a question-and-answer forum with the Hudson Reporter editorial board on Thursday. Each candidate got two minutes to answer each of the 10 questions, and was allowed a one-minute rebuttal. There were also some one-minute offbeat questions at the end.
The debate will be available this Tuesday at www.hudsonreporter.com, where some people have already been discussing it in the comments sections of our website and other blogs.
Hiring, firing, and patronage
Both candidates are planning different directions for their first 100 days in office, they said. But both said they will try to rid the city of the state intervention as soon as possible.
Zimmer said she will make a priority of replacing the Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman, whom she blamed for the $4.2 million blunder regarding an early retirement incentive plan struck down by the state. She said that this goal is in line with the number one thing on her to-do list: creating accountability.
“We have a mayor who does not spend enough time at City Hall.” – Peter Cammarano
He also said the he will reduce legal expenditures and spend more time at the office than the current mayor.
“We have a mayor who does not spend enough time at City Hall,” Cammarano said. He said he will put in a “dedicated hard days work” and he expects the same from his directors.
Cammarano also said the city spends too much money on lawyers, and that it even offended him as a lawyer. He also charged that Zimmer’s first order of business will be to hire a new lawyer, but Zimmer responded that she was simply saying she would replace the current one.
When asked whether they would consider outsiders for top positions in the city, Zimmer said she will employ an “open, fair process” and that she will start her search inside Hoboken and expand outward as necessary.
She will also continue encouraging the enforcement of Councilwoman Beth Mason’s ordinance to keep residents aware of various board appointments so that they can apply for the openings.
Cammarano was more forceful, saying he would definitely be willing to search outside of Hoboken to find the most qualified individuals for the job, especially important positions like business administrator – “the most important appointed position” – and corporation counsel.
He said he won’t be repaying people for election favors by offered “low-show or no-show jobs.” He criticized Zimmer’s team for allegedly being part of a county political machine, accusing her advisor Michael Lenz of being the “poster boy for political patronage.”
In response, Zimmer accused Cammarano of being funded by the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) and said she knows that he has already promised jobs to supporters.
She said Cammarano is getting HCDO support “whether he wants to admit it or not.”
Spending and taxation
Both candidates agreed that collective bargaining negotiations are paramount for fiscal health, and Cammarano said he will be intimately involved in the process. He said he has much experience in those negotiations as a labor attorney.
Zimmer said he should have no problem working with the unions since he took $10,000 in campaign contributions from unions just in the month of March.
Zimmer said she would press the state for their operational audits of the city so she could analyze spending. However, she failed to mention that state monitor Judy Tripodi has said several times that these audits don’t currently exist, as the state never finished them.
Both candidates were asked if incremental tax increases are healthy for a municipality. Experts claim the city’s financial mess was caused by artificially low taxes – budget gaps being plugged with one-time revenues and bills ignored.
Both Zimmer and Cammarano said the massive tax increase could have been avoided with small year-to-year increases over the past few years. But neither candidate committed to making increases in the future, and neither explained how they will avoid a normative increase as the city moves forward.
How to solve parking
In response to the parking issue in Hoboken, Cammarano said he would work for more public garage parking, saying that street parking should be more expensive and garage parking less expensive, to get cars off the streets. He said increasing private parking spots only increases the amount of cars in Hoboken and adds to traffic problems.
Zimmer said she will work for better public transportation within the city to alleviate parking. She wants to continue making Hoboken a bike-friendly town, hoping that car usage will diminish. She also said she will try to encourage businesses to make better use of the municipal parking garages.
They both agreed that use of Zip Cars should be encouraged and said they would fight to bring back the crosstown bus.
The future of the hospital
The candidates differed on whether the city made the best deal it could have when it bailed out St. Mary Hospital and created Hoboken University Medical Center.
Cammarano said, “The city got a tremendous deal there,” citing ownership of the property without incurring the debt. Zimmer said the city did not make the best deal for the taxpayer, and since many hospital patrons are from surrounding communities, she said the city should have asked those communities to share the burden.
As far as trying to move the hospital into someone else’s hands, Zimmer said she will “proactively look to privatize the hospital.”
Cammarano said he wouldn’t be actively seeking a buyer, but that he “wouldn’t stand in the way” of any deal. He also noted that he had heard the rumor that Bayonne Medical Center has inquired about purchasing the facility.
The candidates were also asked how to finally cut the drug arrests in the projects (which continue even with new locks on the doors), about corruption, and other important questions.
They were also given some offbeat questions to see how they would respond to something for which they weren’t prepared. As noted on several blogs in town, the candidates were asked their favorite Beatle, but Zimmer was caught off guard. Neither of them picked Ringo Starr. To see the results and add your comments, visit www.hudsonreporter.com starting this Tuesday.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mason endorses Zimmer, but her slate endorses Cammarano
After being bounced from the election, former candidate Beth Mason is now putting her support behind her old reformer ally Dawn Zimmer and one of Zimmer's council candidates. However, Mason's council candidates went the other way.
Mason held an impromptu press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday and released a statement in support of Zimmer, Ravi Bhalla – a City Council candidate on Zimmer’s slate – and two candidates who ran on her own slate, Vincent Addeo and Raul Morales II. All of those candidates made it into the runoff, as did two other Zimmer council candidates and a candidate on contender Peter Cammarano’s slate, Angel Alicea.
Mason said she will help Zimmer push her agenda, which Mason said is very close to her own and not supported by special interest groups. She said Bhalla was on a short list of council candidates for her early in the campaign process, and that she is confident he would be an asset on the council.
“The biggest issue here is change,” Mason said, noting that she sought input from supporters on who she should back. Her supporters, she said, were not favoring one side against the other.
As far as campaign contributions, Mason said she’ll be sitting this one out. “I feel like I put forth a very strong effort on that front already,” she said.
Addeo and Morales II, on the other hand, are siding with Cammarano in the runoff rather than with Zimmer.
Cammarano added Addeo and Morales II to his lone council candidate in the runoff, Angel Alicea, to form a three-candidate council slate. Addeo and Morales II released statements in support of Cammarano just a day after Mason went the other way.
The ballot drawing for the June 9 mayoral and council runoff elections was held Wednesday at City Hall. Zimmer drew the top spot, a position Cammarano enjoyed in the first election.
Cammarano and those three will now face Zimmer and her council slate of Bhalla, Carol Marsh, and Dave Mello.
To read comments left by our readers about these endorsements, see www.hudsonreporter.com.