If you’re looking for a good drama this evening, the special City Council meeting tonight should do just fine. The key issue will be whether the Old Guard (Mason, Russo, Castellano and Occhipinti) bows to reason and extends a sixth vote to finance the city’s legal defenses.
They have Hoboken in this position because State rules require a super majority for additional expenditures in the period before the annual budget is adopted and many believe they engineered a flurry of legal activity and expense at the beginning of 2012. A ‘No’ would be in keeping with Old Guard’s strategy of financially starving the city, to force tax increases, defaults and perhaps a return to State control. A ‘Yes’ vote would indicate a retreat from their Hoboken harming, self-centered strategies. But the drama will not end if the finance resolution fails 5-4 , as the council is forced to declare which cases they do not feel worth defending.
Your master of politrickin this evening, Al Capone, uhm, I mean Councilman Michael Russo
So the first thing on the agenda to pay particular attention is the debate over resolution number 4, emergency legal appropriations for 2012. A key point: the list of lawsuits increased by two in just the last week, as litigators sensed weakness and pushed up their legal action. These are items 32 and 33 on the agenda, Maxwell and an ‘affirmative action’ case, that is Angel Alicea claiming he was fired for being Hispanic rather than resigning, after it was revealed he hid his meetings with FBI informant Solomon Dwek. If funding for defending the city’s legal interests is not approved expect many more cases, new and old, to be rushed to court as the wolves circle and close in for the kill on our crippled city. Tim Occhipinti is the key vote here. If the Old Guard is going to fold they will have collectively chosen Tim to act in his ‘independent’ role.
If a sixth vote is not forth coming, watch for the next 28 items on the agenda to be voted on individually and for some interesting mechanics as the Old Guard will try to justify their actions. In these votes, an affirmative vote is a vote to end the defense of a lawsuit. Expect Michael Russo to bloviate that this is a meaningless exercise and that, like so many things, this is not his job.
Most of the roughly 28 or so lawsuits facing Hoboken break down into a few categories. On of the largest categories is employee lawsuits, for instance the cases of Andriani, Alicea, and Arezzo, and that is just the A’s. The individuals here are all supporters of convicted Mayors Russo and/or Cammarano. Many of the others also have ties to Old Guard council persons. From the links above you can see the highlighted cases all intensified or started recently, probably as part of an Old Guard plan to spark this crisis. The case to watch here is the Alicea case, currently listed in position 32 as a new affirmative action case. It belies the Old Guard claim that they are saving money as the case is timed to cash in on. The Old Guard will generally oppose pursuing legal defense here, no matter how they vote as they trade on their ability to protect and steer money to favored municipal employees. At the last meeting Theresa Castellano, Old Guard, council member was reported to exclaim ‘just give him his job back’ in the case of Al Arezzo.
Development issues loom equally large. There are lawsuits from Maxwell, Monroe Center Development and Monarch Waterfront Development among others. Watch for splitting of votes in this class of lawsuits with several 3-6 votes. This will allow the Old Guard to signal their willingness to play ball with developers while still allowing individual council persons to say ‘I voted against over development in my ward.’ The highlight here will be how Mason deals with the Monarch case. This is an issue she previously put effort into ignoring but recently has made a show of opposing.
Related to development are the fair housing cases; Advance Housing and Fair Share Housing, are suing Hoboken over failures to provide enough fair housing, at numbers 22 and 23. Advance Housing is the odds on favorite to go 0-9 voting wise in support of funding. Advance Housing uses Michael Kates as general counsel, he is Hoboken’s former corporation counsel. Kates is widely disliked by the Old Guard for his attempts to clean house in Hoboken.
The other large group of lawsuits relate to rent control including cases listed as Denardo, Burns and Tumpson. Apparently Mason’s ordinance changing rent control has not ended rent control controversies as it was intended. The council should vote consistently against cutting funds to these. Despite the deep flaws in Mason’s ordinance it was passed unanimously. The Old Guard is staunch in their support so much so that ally Reuben Ramos was reported to have misinformed election day workers that they were opposing the ordinance when in fact they were handing out literature in support.
The Founding Fathers knew that giving in to extortion was to invite more. When France, the world’s most powerful nation at the time, demanded tribute and personal bribes for French official in return for continued peace, the correct answer for a great nation was “millions for defense, sir, but not one cent for tribute!” This should be the the way of a great city of Hoboken in the area of legal defense, France backed down in the face of a vigorous response, as will merit less lawsuits.
Story by David Denning
Talking Ed Note: MSV understands Councilwoman Beth Mason will not be attending the meeting due to family business out of town.
Correction: The Alicea case is separate from the affirmative action case mentioned above. The Tumpson case is separate from the rent control case(s).