Salary increases and the creation of the new Division of Housing were all part of a two hour long Hoboken City Council meeting.
During the meeting on Dec. 1, the council voted to increase the salaries for elected officials and the maximum salary ranges for other city officials, and also voted to create a new Division of Housing within the city.
Salary increases for elected officials and directors adopted
The city council voted to adopt an ordinance that would increase the salaries for elected officials and the salary ranges of a few top directors in the city government. The ordinance was first introduced at the Nov. 15 meeting.
The salary increases are as follow:
- Mayor: $116,950 to $130,000 (This will go into effect following the election of a new mayor)*
- City Council Members: $24,130 to $35,000
- City Council President: $26,541 to $40,000
- Council Vice President: $37,500
The maximum salary range increases are as follow:
- Business Administrator: $162,000 to $199,000
- Directors of Community Development, Human Services, Public Safety, Transportation & Parking, Environmental Services, and Finance: $137,500 to $170,000.
- Chief Financial Officer: $132,441.75 to $142,441.75
- Tax Collector: $133,850.37 to $141,850.37
- Comptroller: $122,038.92 to $132,038.92
- Assistant Comptroller: $107,558 to $120,000
- Payroll Supervisor: $79,590.60 to $87,590.60.
The council voted 5-3-1 to adopt it, with Council members Phil Cohen, Jim Doyle, Vanessa Falco, Emily Jabbour, and Michael Russo voting yes. Council Vice President Jen Giattino, Michael DeFusco and Tiffanie Fisher voted no, and Council President Ruben Ramos abstained.
Hoboken spokesperson Marilyn Baer said after the first reading that the ordinance was drafted so that the city remains “competitive in attracting and retaining talented employees, as over the last few years several high-caliber directors have left the employ of the City after receiving higher paying job offers with similar titles elsewhere.”
Baer didn’t respond for comment on why elected officials were getting salary increases.
The adoption comes just a month after Election day, where Doyle and Jabbour had won reelection last month under Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s slate. Michael Russo’s uncle, George DeStefano, is also the city’s Chief Financial Officer.
During the meeting, Fisher, who had vocally opposed the ordinance, attempted to introduce a motion to separate it into different parts for elected officials, directors and other city officials, but it was voted down by the council.
She also asked earlier who the sponsors of the ordinance were, noting that the legislation has not listed them since they suspended in-person meetings. But that was substantially shut down, with the council members saying they will gather a list of sponsors for the next meeting.
“It’s funny that people resist putting sponsors on there,” she muttered during the meeting.
The day after the meeting, Fisher said that was disappointed that they weren’t able to discuss and look over each of them separately to “improve each of the terms for the different groups.”
“I just hope that the administration prioritizes settling the five outstanding union contracts as soon as possible,” she said. “So the approximately 500 city employees who have gone without any cost of living increases for four years can get what’s coming to them.”
Division of Housing formally created
The City Council voted to formally create the Division of Housing, which was announced by the city earlier this summer, and will aim to provide resources to address affordable housing needs.
The division will be headed by Councilwoman Vanessa Falco, who was tapped by Bhalla for it and is vacating her council seat at the end of this year. She will work on the city’s affordable housing effort, as well as “act as the City’s liaison to the Hoboken Housing Authority, and initiate additional community engagement on affordable housing, among several other duties.”
During the meeting, there was heated debate over the new department and the upcoming leadership of Falco.
At the beginning of the meeting, Sheila Brennan, a former at-Large City Council candidate, said that the division is a good idea in principle, but a bad idea considering it’s genesis. She also called Falco as “completely uncredentialed and ill equipped to handle the role based on any history.”
While Brennan said that, Falco nodded and smirked on her webcam and took a sip from her mug. Cheryl Fallick, a tenant activist who ran with Brennan on a slate in this year’s elections, called it out when she spoke.
“Council President [Ruben Ramos], maybe you should admonish a couple of your colleagues there for making faces and laughing at members of the public,” said Fallick.
“It’s my face, Cheryl, and I can do with it what I please,” responded Falco. “I’ve had it with the name calling, the accusatory references…”
The meeting quickly dissolved into a mishmash of voices between Falco, Fallick, and Ramos before being brought to order.
“I can’t control people’s faces,” said Ramos after the commotion.
“You can request that your council colleagues behave like adults,” responded Fallick.
Fallick went on to criticize the Division of Housing for being “broadly, but ill defined” in the municipal code, the vagueness of the job description, and the responsibilities for determining what’s up to date and enforcing rent control ordinances.
Later during debate of adopting the ordinance, Emily Jabbour defended Falco, saying that people have made the ordinance about Falco and have made “nasty comments” about her as well.
“You can keep it professional, keep it clean and focus on the policy, which is whether or not we should establish this division and not about the person involved,” said Jabbour.
Tiffanie Fisher said in response that she doesn’t disagree that they should always have decorum, but said that there’s been a lot of discussion about the department and the person that will be running it.
“It is a controversial issue, and the only way we get to the best possible outcome for the city is to have public engagement on an issue,” said Fisher.
The council ultimately voted 6-2-1 in favor of creating the department, with Fisher and Giattino voting no, and Falco abstaining.
“The Division of Housing and its functions is one that Mayor Bhalla and his administration sees as important,” said Falco in an email. “I am very thankful for the collaborative relationship I have been able to maintain with the Mayor and his staff and am very much looking forward to continuing the work I started as Councilwoman at Large.”