Councilman Ravi Bhalla shares his local choices for Election Day

From the desk of Councilman Ravi Bhalla:

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Dear Neighbors,
I am sure most of you are still recovering from the devastating effects of Sandy, and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as we continue to work together to rebuild Hoboken in this time of need.
I understand it is very hard to focus on an election in such challenging times. However, while this crisis will pass, many of the local issues we can vote on tomorrow will have an impact long into our future. For this reason, I am strongly urging you to go to the polls and vote tomorrow, November 6th.
In addition to the Presidential Election, there are important local issuesthat you will have a chance to vote on, and I write to briefly inform you about these issues. Voting on local issues is where you can have the biggest impact tomorrow!
School Board- VOTE for KIDS FIRST: Tom Kluepfel, Ruth McCallister and Jean Marie Mitchell.
In the Board of Education election on tomorrow, I strongly urge you to vote for the Kids First team of Jean Marie Mitchell, Thomas Kleupfel, and Ruth McCallister.  As a proud parent of two children, including a daughter in the school district, I am personally invested in ensuring Hoboken’s children receive the best possible education to prepare themselves for the future.   Over the years I have become intimately aware of the great work the Kids First team has been doing in improving the quality of education in the classrooms, rooting out waste and patronage, and spending our tax dollars responsibly. So I ask you to continue the progress and support these three wonderful candidates.
PLEASE NOTE: even if you do not have children in the public school system, the quality and strength of our schools impacts the entire community. A substantial portion of your property taxes (your hard earned money!) is allocated towards the Hoboken school district. Successful schools will also attract more families, improve our quality of life and have a positive effect on property values. So even if you do not have a child in the public school system, it is in your direct interests to have a successful school district.
Local Questions 1&3, ELECTION REFORM: VOTE YES!
There are two very important referendum ballot questions – Local Question 1 and Local Question 3, on which I would strongly urge you to vote YEStomorrow.   Currently, local elections for Mayor and City Council are held in May, and if no one receives over 50% of the vote, a second runoff election is held. Why is there an election in the middle of May and June? I have no idea, but frankly it makes no sense. This is our chance to change it! By voting YES on Local Questions 1 & 3, local elections will be moved to November, on the same date as federal and state elections, and there will be a single election. This is a common sense reform that will reduce trips to the polls, increase voter turnout, and save tax dollars associated with extra election days. So before leaving the voting booth on November 6th, remember to voteYES on Local Questions 1 & 3.
Local Question 2: Rent Control: VOTE NO!
I urge you to vote NO on Local Question 2 regarding a change to our Rent Control laws, and here is why: the proposed change does with a sledgehammer what we should be doing with a scalpel, through thoughtful legislation. I strongly believe that Hoboken should be a “live where you work” community where all residents irrespective of their income can find an affordable apartment. This referendum question will significantly erode this objective through the gradual elimination of affordable apartments in Hoboken.
Property owners claim that rent control is defective because wealthy residents are able to live in rent controlled apartments at rents well below what they can afford. Here’s a solution to that problem: place an income-eligibility requirement into the law as they do in New York City.  There, a property owner may submit an Income Verification Form to their tenant and if the federal adjusted gross income for the household exceeds $175,000, the property owner can apply to have the unit decontrolled.   There is no reason we cannot consider a similar reform rather than decontrolling thousands of units for those that may need rent control’s protections, as this referendum question will do upon vacancy of the current tenant.
I also often hear that property owners have no incentive to upgrade rent controlled units because the rent rolls are so low as to not allow them the means to do so. There’s also a solution to this issue already within the rent control ordinance: apply for a hardship increase. Every landlord that can demonstrate they are not receiving a fair return on the investment of their property may apply before the Rent Control Board for a hardship increase, and there is no reason property owners should not take advantage of that benefit if they feel they are not getting enough value from their property.
Regarding exempting smaller buildings, I would be willing to consider an exemption of smaller buildings, but this ballot proposal includes bringing buildings with 10 units or more to market after a tenant vacates, which I do not support.
As you can see, this amendment is way overbroad. The problem is a complex one and requires a more nuanced approach if we are to maintain our current stock of affordable housing units within Hoboken, while also being fair to property owners. We can do it through further legislative reforms. But this ballot question simply shifts the law way too far to one side, so I ask you to vote NO on the Rent Control ballot question.
Thank you for reading this far into my email. If you have any problems voting tomorrow, please call me on my cell at 201-647-6090 and I will try to assist you.
Ravi S. Bhalla


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