Guest of the stable: Rami Pinchevsky
The Hoboken City Council currently designates one council member to serve as a representative on the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) Board. At a recent City Council meeting I suggested that the Council consider a slight alteration to their current practice of appointing a fellow Councilmember to the HHA Board for a full 5-year term. While I believe having Council representation on the HHA Board is a good thing, I don’t agree with the term lasting 5 years. Currently, the Council also has representation on the Planning Board, but for only a 1 year term. Every year at their reorganizational meeting, the Council decides to either reappoint the same person, or appoint someone new to the Planning Board. I think the Council should follow a similar practice when they appoint a Councilmember to the HHA Board.
This change would be beneficial for several reasons. First, it would likely allow more Councilmembers to serve on the Board, which would allow for a broader range of expertise. Typically, this position has been held by Ward Councilmembers, and a move like this could easily result in At-Large Councilmembers also being considered.
Furthermore, according to federal law, it is illegal to act as a Commissioner and politick for a candidate in a partisan election. Therefore, if our municipal elections were partisan, it would be against federal law for a Councilperson to sit on the HHA board while running for reelection, provided their ward contained HHA property. We avoid this federal law because our elections are non-partisan. While I agree that local elections should be non-partisan, I think we’re certainly, at the very least, breaking the spirit of the law by allowing any politicking by a Council member who has a seat on the HHA Board, and should discourage, if not prohibit, such activity.
Once again, I respectfully ask the Council to consider these changes. Let’s take this to subcommittee, get an opinion by the Corporation Counsel, and discuss the idea. If it’s not legally possible to officially make this change, I think the Council appointee, in the spirit of good and open government, should then go ahead and resign once per year before the reorganization meeting. There is a reason these types of laws exists – to avoid undue influence of housing authority commissioners over tenants. We should strive to hold ourselves to a higher moral standard, and follow the spirit of these laws.