The last City Council created scenes of drama but this time most were not of the manufactured variety. Heartfelt moments with stressed officers, family members saddened by the impact they felt was coming and an overcrowded room with the air conditioning failing as a result. Four hours of the public speaking almost all of it from the “sea of yellow” gave way to the full range of human emotion in a stifling, overcrowded City Council Chamber. The heat was nothing compared to the internal combustion felt by many in the room.
“I live for this.” Councilman Mike Russo yucks it up before the meeting with a union t-shirt propped nearby.
He seemed less happy through the course of the night, later apologizing for attacking a member of the public for doing nothing more than sitting in an audience of approximately two hundred people.
Sea of Yellow – Some time before the City Council meeting the room was already filled to capacity.
There wouldn’t even be standing room available anywhere. Whatever capacity is, this evening met it.
As time goes by – hours into the meeting the heat and stress of the proceedings took its toll on everyone.
The City Council doesn’t have a legally binding vote on layoffs although a resolution “disapproving” was introduced. That resolution by Councilwoman Beth Mason was tabled prompting an exodus of yellow.
Chief Falco acted as a balancing force urging professionalism from police supporters in the audience throughout the evening. Standing to his left, Captain Ed Mecka (Ret.) and his daughter Lauren Mecka who spoke on behalf of her brother on the force who was not able to attend due to illness.
She just entered Columbia University.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer remained in the overheated Council Chambers throughout the public portion with dozens of the public speaking on behalf of the police department. She clearly stayed to hear their concerns firsthand. (A yet unexplained technical glitch shows about half her budget speech missing from the TV broadcast of the meeting on Cablevision Ch. 78 but is available online here.) Public Safety Director Alicia, a frequent target of criticism from some police officers remained stoic throughout the evening.
Michelle “Mama” Russo had two sons on the police department now one, scrutinizes the proceedings.
Freeholder/Police Captain Anthony Romano was a voice of reason. He acknowledged “hearing” the concerns on costs in the department and urged efforts to come to a reasonable solution. He provided some much needed comic relief recounting huffing and puffing on the pavement recently to run down a perpetrator.
Dr. Leon Gold rose to defend himself. He was attacked by name by Councilman Russo from among the hundreds in attendance. Russo did not care for his silent observation of the proceedings.
MSV has never seen a Council member attack a citizen for just watching a meeting in a jammed to capacity room of hundreds ever before.
Jovial no more: unannounced candidate for the fifth ward, Perry Belfiore voiced his opposition to police layoffs and launched a personal attack on Corporation Counsel Michael Kates for good measure. He vociferously criticized fifth ward Councilman Peter Cunningham for stating the obvious on a certain political operative who’s faced removal for his bad behavior at multiple Hoboken government meetings this year. Who can that be now?
The Council of No – their wild roundhouse attacks became more shrill as the night progressed.
Even some polite directors of the administration have begun standing up to their abuse. Hoboken Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs refused to take the bait on a question from Councilman Russo whether staff recently hired in his department were more important than police officers.
Michelle “five bucks a tow” Russo reflecting perhaps on the family business of kickbacks in better days gone by as a Hoboken Parking commissioner. Her Democratic Committee slate was defeated earlier this year even with her co-opting former elements cast off from the reform movement. Take a guess who’s on that short list.
Police Chief Falco urged a third way to find reductions bypassing the announced layoffs.
Last year, Fiscal State Monitor Tripodi rescinded police layoffs she scheduled in late June saying it wasn’t “a good time” in an interview last February with MSV.
4th ward Councilman Mike Lenz gave the most detailed, direct explanation on the actions of the city in the introduced budget. He explained the legal limitation by the State of New Jersey on the announced 5% tax cut. He also took on the issue of layoffs with specific explanations on how the situation is contrasted with the taxpayer, the city’s financial situation and the pain in the community. “Everything hurts somebody… We have real, real problems. Everybody is going to have to hurt some.” Hudson County’s unemployment rate is in double digits.
Fourth Ward Candidate Tim Occhipinti arrived very late even after Council President Marsh had offered members of the public another chance to speak. He was still granted an opportunity and briefly spoke on his earlier stated position there should be no police layoffs.
Councilman Ravi Bhalla arrives for the meeting. He would later calmly fend off a race baiting attack by Hoboken411 minion Lane Bajardi. The Ubermensch Beth Mason supporter dealt the race card from the bottom of the deck accusing Councilman Bhalla who had not even spoken on police layoffs of being personally responsible to “allow the layoff of the first Asian American police officer.” Councilwoman Beth Mason applauded those remarks. With all the emotions and feelings in the room so raw, it was an utterly low class despicable act. The public shouldn’t hold the police responsible for it, merely the author.
Robert Castellano, husband of Councilwoman Terry Castellano stood quietly next to Da Horsey without a word said over hours. That is until a repeated pathological lie on the city “throwing out” $25 million on the Municipal Garage recently valued by the vaunted buyer at $14 million just several meetings back in the very same City Council Chambers was met with loud crowd noise and a “bullshit” from Da Horsey. The patrolman then became animated and put his finger into Da Horsey’s face with a very aggressive reprimand on language. The Castellano family recently suffered a loss of a nephew who served in another NJ municipality. (Sympathy to the family.) It’s rumored patrolman Castellano submitted his retirement papers earlier this year but may have withdrawn them.
PBA President Vince Lombardi is the man in the middle of the storm. It’s up to him to find a way to navigate the membership through the announced layoffs. He voiced his displeasure with the status and fairness of negotiations with the city. Some in the public question if his remarks are appropriate and view them as a veiled threat. MSV doesn’t agree but thinks suggesting the mayor has a personal vendetta against the police is counterproductive to the negotiations leading into September 24th, the layoff date.
The Hoboken411 minion Lane Bajardi standing by his Democratic Committee friend Michelle Russo. His race baiting against Ravi Bhalla compliments another ugly attack on a Democratic committee candidate who defeated a Michelle Russo opponent last June. As reported by the Hoboken Journal, upon exiting Room 84 after that political party meeting, Lane Bajardi barked, “Fuck you! Fuck you! You piece of shit.” And no, he’s not even believed to be a registered Democrat. Guess it’s just solidarity with “Mama” Russo.