Between The Lines

One less issue to argue about

The land deal that will allow the city of Hoboken to finally settle its conflict on what is called the Monarch Project gives candidates for council one less thing to fight about in the municipal election in November.

The Monarch property conflict, a battle over the development on a dilapidated pier near the Weehawken boarder, is testimony to a miscalculation on Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s watch, and perhaps finally common sense under her successor, Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

Zimmer did try to work out a deal with the developers to move the project to the west side of town, only to have her own council vote her down when members of the community howled.

Monarch, if constructed where first intended, would have destroyed the views of Manhattan for residents living in the politically-influential Hudson Tea Building. But the issue really went beyond just protecting the views.

The surprising thing is that Councilman Michael DeFusco supports the deal, considering the negative traffic impact the new location on Observer Highway will have. DeFusco, however, seems to be holding out for a performing arts center as part of the deal.

Small developers had more than once complained that the Zimmer Administration was anti-development and sought to put up continuing roadblocks to new, even reasonably sized, developments.

The Monarch development showed that Zimmer appointees went far beyond just an anti-development stance, at times even bordering on incompetence. In one instance, those boards overseeing the approval process had opportunities to legally derail the project, only to fail to live up to court-imposed deadliness to hold hearings.

Monarch, however, is symbolic of an administration that appears to have deliberately alienated developers. In some cases, the Zimmer Administration removed officials charged with overseeing development and installed less professional people whose philosophy matched the administration’s rather than people who would enforce existing zoning laws.

Longtime inspectors were removed on the flimsiest of legal excuses, inspectors with long-standing relationships with developers. New rules for historic preservation in some cases simply became vehicles for stalling or halting projects the administration didn’t like.

The settlement of the Monarch project won’t stop the bickering, but may indicate a more reasonable stance concerning development under the Bhalla Administration.

What does advise and consent really mean in Jersey City?

Battles between the Jersey City Council and the administration of Mayor Steven Fulop have been heating up of late, even among some council members who ran with Fulop.

Part of the issue involves executive actions the Fulop Administration appears to be taking without the knowledge or consent of the council.

Executive action essentially means that the administration tells the directors of various departments to conduct work without council approval. This differs from executive order, which the mayor is legally allowed to do.

Some council members complain that they suddenly find city workers doing projects without the administration bringing the issue to the council first. So when a resident in, let’s say Ward F, approaches the council member about work going on, the council member doesn’t have a clue.

This is not only embarrassing to the council member, but some council members believe such activities may not be legal.

Jersey City government is largely divided into two distinct branches with two distinct functions. The council is the legislative branch that approves funding of projects and reviews many of the details prior to the awarding of contracts or adoption of funding ordinances. The administration oversees the actual work that is the result of this legislative action. The council’s main role when not involved in funding is to advise and consent. The administration tells the council what it intends to do, and then the council through a vote, gives its consent.

The gray area comes when city workers themselves are doing a project. Some council members believe the council should be consulted before city workers perform actions such as the installation of new electric-vehicle charging stations in the city hall parking lot.

The administration, however, appears to believe it has the authority to have workers perform projects on city-owned property, such as parks, parking lots, and public buildings, without needing to seek the approval or even alert the city council of its actions.

This difference of opinion may well break out into open rebellion among some council members who do not like being uninformed, since the public usually comes to them first with questions.

Board of Education filings came at the end of July

Secaucus, Guttenberg, West New York, Hoboken, Bayonne, and Jersey City all have November elections for school board.

But unlike municipal elections in which candidates have until early September to file their nominating petitions, Board of Education candidates must have them filed by July 29.

Secaucus, Guttenberg and West New York Board of Education elections are expected to be relatively tame this year, although each has a number of significant issues that a newly elected board will have to contend with.

Hoboken is unpredictable. But the Board of Education election will likely be overshadowed by the council election.

Bayonne and Jersey City are expected to be dogfights.

Bayonne’s recent Board of Education elections have been turbulent and unpredictable. With Mayor Jimmy Davis having firm control over the city council, the Board of Education election becomes the proving ground for political aspirants. Davis has less sway over the board elections and so this provides an opportunity for up-and-coming politicos.

But Jersey City will be the Board of Education election to watch. With the massive turnover of members – Matt Schapiro, the latest to resign – voters will get to pick five board members.

This means that a sweep of the five seats could shift the balance of power.

Currently, the board is dominated by members who had the support of the teachers union, members who were instrumental in removing Dr. Marcia Lyles as Superintendent of Schools earlier this year.

A search is currently underway for a new superintendent. While the board clearly is trying to name Lyles’s replacement before a new board is sworn in in January, a delay would have the new board voting on the superintendent.

Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com