Hoboken’s 2011 City Council Grades: the good, the bad, the ugly

MSV readers have submitted their 2011 comments online and
via email and the year was both momentous and fortuitous.  The first in the saving of Hoboken University Medical Center and the second in the retaking of the Hoboken City Council back to a majority responsive to the public without the antics of the Hoboken Sopranos re: the Beth Russo hydra or MORTe: beth Mason, tim Occhipinti, michael Russo and Terry Castellano.

Here’s how you the reader helped Da Horsey break it down: 
Council President Ravi Bhalla – took the reins of the chair
from Councilwoman Beth Mason producing  an immediate improvement in respect for
the institution by merely not manipulating the proceedings and running the meeting as
a criminal political operation.  Just as important showed deference to members to
give voice to their concerns within the framework of the rules.  Has allowed emotion to find its way into his
behavior in one rare occasion and he understands it’s inconsistent with a bar he’s set for himself and the institution.  
Needs to be
cognizant the totality of his actions both as Council President and legal livelihood makes him and Reform a target at all times and must act accordingly within required ethical standards.  Earns more
respect for being the council majority interface with the Administration sparing others the time and
effort needed to move Hoboken forward. Overall handling of council meetings has been beyond impressive.  Grade A-
Peter Cunningham – the rock of the council majority,
Cunningham has seen more of the bad old days than any normal person could stomach.  He’s moved into an adjusted but slightly more quiet statesman role,
one he is well suited. Wants to see a proactive agenda take shape in Hoboken after two years of fixing the problems of the past, he’ll be trying to aid that process and see projects move ahead.  
Cunningham has a very good ear
to the ground and it showed in last May’s election when he took out multiple
opponents and won on the first ballot avoiding a runoff in the 5th
ward.  He knows the voices
of his constituents and Hoboken as well as anyone.  He’s been battle tested and he’s beloved by those who are aware of his contribution in both the recent and more distant past.  Grade A
Carol Marsh – the most experienced person in council government
acting to temper the lessons of the past to the eagerness of the present.  She knew how dangerous MORTe was but until newer members got to see their destructive actions for themselves as a minority, they couldn’t understand. 
Balanced, always sharp with an incisive wit, you have to pay attention to her low key remarks as they erupt more like a bubbling volcano.  An explosion of pithy common sense sometimes backed with a ferocious wit is liable to sound off at any moment.  Not much gets past her.  She’s carrying a lot on her shoulders with a long memory of the bad old days.  It’s both an asset and a burden.  Her mentoring today is a plus along with her dedication to the council as a full time job.  She was a superb council President even when she countered Da Horsey’s out of order remarks as a public speaker.  Grade A

Dave Mello – an emerging voice, no council member has elevated higher with less tolerance for the contempt MORTe shows the public than the at large councilman this past year.  His remarks during the hospital vote pulled no punches and he garnered big accolades for his analogy on a Disney picture and the Rapunzel story to the destructive force on the council.  His entry into elected government came as part of Mayor Zimmer’s spring 2009 wave.  There’s no escaping it and rather than looking for reasons for differentiation he’d do far better to embrace it.  Would score a rising A grade but for a very discouraging vote for the Old Guard’s Frank Raia to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.  Lost a full grade on that one vote, so a reluctant and hopefully the last ever Grade B. 

Jen Giattino – ‘that Jen Girl’ entered the body July 1st and her presence changed everything in a heartbeat.  A game changer in multiple ways seen and unseen, her quiet strength is always present.  She has time to find her voice and has begun doing so by taking on the challenging food truck issue and showing a deft touch in building reasonable legislation.  
She’s on target for an A grade but for the moment it’s incomplete until a full year under her belt.  Her overall skills are an advantage not just as a council member but to majority cohesion in particular.  Her instincts are remarkable considering how little time she’s been immersed in the loaded Hoboken political atmosphere.  No council member gets more positive public remarks all over town here than that Jen Girl.  She has an indomitable spirit and a very bright future.  Nino who?  
MORTe – The readers were pretty much unanimous – it’s a collective F.  But it’s not just for noisy obstructionism or the contemptuous dismissive attitude towards Hoboken.  The hostile action on every legislative issue on the hospital put before them made it obvious to any objective observer their intent was its destruction.  That success would have cost thousands of people their livelihood and forced Hoboken into bankruptcy. 

The Beth Russo hydra thought it was a great plan.  The resistance to refinancing the midtown garage will come back to hurt the people they claim to represent with more layoffs and needlessly so.  Pointing fingers is their reflexive action and will be on this issue when those cuts hit too.

Beth Mason – the epitome of the worst in any politician, is there any lower bar left to go?  To say she’s become a disappointment would be gracious but that was almost two years ago.  Her single-minded actions to satisfy her ambition for power at all costs can’t be accurately measured; it’s beyond the scale of decency.  One small example is her attack on Cunningham and his wife while they were away attending the funeral of her mother.  It even made Councilwoman Castellano visibly cringe.

On the plus side, the worst management seen in the council chair as President.  That term become the shortest in living memory after the May council elections.  Suspicion about her behavior didn’t end there and MSV has pointedly shown the light on her email witch hunt making Mason a primary target in the FBI’s investigation into the Data Theft Conspiracy Ring.  Absolutely believes her inconsistencies on the issue publicly will not lead to any problem for her personally.  Do the Feds let her off with pointing the finger at minions? Nuts! 

Mason is not only a nightmare to Hoboken’s good governance, she’s proven herself utterly useless except to the Russo clan in feeding their voracious appetite for power and taxpayer money.  Destructive, petty and vindictive are evident in her behavior at almost every council meeting.  Those are her good moments.

Terry Castellano – no one can make a better claim among MORTe last spring that they were elected fair and square but that’s where the upside ends.  Hates the Hoboken of today and the lost power wielded in the “On the Waterfront” past especially the mayor who is the visible symbol of it all ebbing away.  Actually stated “the mayor hates Hoboken,” on a live microphone in a council meeting.  It’s her hate eating her up.

Best moments in the City Council is the effective sniping out of order combined with a shameless ability to ignore what was done or said, be it a minute or a meeting ago.  A decades long loyal soldier to pushing the Russo clan agenda treating taxpayer money as personal piggybank.  Her coverup of the million dollar HPU quarter swindle is her living epitaph. “It’s been cleared up.”

Tim Occhipinti – no one who sits on the City Council and with a straight face reads political satire about the Star Trek Vulcan death grip bragging about police
involvement he called in and the ensuing “investigation” can be called anything but a blight.  The youthful symbol of Old Guard corruption with massive voter fraud in BOTH his elections, Occhipinti is the worst combination of hubris and utter vacuousness.  
Oblivious to his own behavior, every council meeting is sure to feature long winded repetitive pain of petty “gotcha politics” and interrupting others.  Thinks that earns him the chair Beth Mason wheeled $30,000 for and in a way he’s right.  On just about everything else he’s wrong.  Learns lessons the hard way as he did on freedom of speech; he has plenty more ahead.
Michael Russo – the brains (along with Ma Russo) of MORTe.  Missed his true calling, professional criminal – he’s taken the second best option – stealing for a living via the family name, Hoboken past connections and control of the 3rd ward electorate.  At any given City Council meeting he’s liable to start ranting out of order, bullying others and came within an eyelash of engaging in fisticuffs with Dave Mello after one meeting.  May have been surprised those tactics met with acceptance at his invitation to take it outside.  
His true character was shown in the FBI surveillance tape with Solomon Dwek last spring proving he’s not a thug at all but a swindler politician.  Every action is guided by guile learned from the street and being raised in a political crime family.  He’d protest that designation pointing to their internal code and he’d be right but only in comparison to the completely amoral Beth Mason.  
Affable and anything but dumb, he’s not to be underestimated.  Not a stand-up guy like Pa Russo; he doesn’t want to see happen to himself what he saw after Peter Cammarano’s arrest.  Feds, please note and act accordingly.

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