Michael Russo’s political gift to Hoboken at Christmas

Most people expect a respite from politics on Christmas Eve and even Hoboken where politics is always on the agenda for the Old Guard Council, you’d think they’d take a break from hatching some rumor mongering, spreading ill will and all manner of fabrication during the year end holidays.

If you count yourself among a group in town who answered the phone from a strange phone number on Christmas Eve, you’d be wrong.
Michael Russo who holds the title of Third Ward Councilman opted out of Christmas cards to his friends and neighbors in Church Towers this year and recorded a robocall issued to people well outside his turf according to one recipient in the sixth ward, Grafix Avenger.
Michael Russo didn’t let Christmas get in the way of his political announcement he planned to make a future donation for
Hurricane Sandy “across” the state.  The announcement came in a robocall on Christmas Eve.    
What caught her attention in the prerecorded Christmas Eve call was a pledge at some undetermined point in the future to make a donation for Sandy relief “across the state.”  

The Russo clan holds some lovely digs down the shore at Belmar.  Was Michael Russo’s planned unspecified donation inspired by coastal damage or was it in whole or part some new political operation he and the Old Guard is launching?

In pondering the two, it does coincide peripherally with ally Beth Mason’s political fundraiser by her Mason Civic League “charity” to curry favor with Hudson County politicos.  The zip code demographic of the Hudson County fundraiser just happens to envelope Assemblyman Ruben Ramos’ district in the county and Mark Smith’s home turf.  Smith also happens to be the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) chairman and is mayor of Bayonne.

Wot a coincidence.

At the last City Council meeting, Tim Occhipinti assured Hoboken flooding residents they didn’t have it so bad seeing they didn’t have their homes “razed to the ground” like others on the Jersey shore.  Was that an ode to his fellow Old Guard grandstander or a dog whistle to undermine the mayor’s efforts with

Hoboken residents are fighting to reach something resembling normalcy taking on insurance companies who are not providing coverage for most of their losses.  If there is a step down from street level in their garden units, the losses are worse or in total based on the flood insurance parameters, a problem the mayor spoke to remedy at a US Senate subcommittee.   An unknown number of Hoboken residents are looking to move back into their homes after losing everything and suffering major structural damage.

Occhipinti feels your pain if you are a hospitality owner in Hoboken and in the face of an outpouring of anger on his Facebook page, again called for bringing back the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at the City Council meeting, most Hoboken and fourth ward residents outrage be damned.

In addition to insulting Hoboken residents who suffered massive flood damage to their homes, Occhipinti informed everyone of his concern where the federal government would get the money. (Touching isn’t it?) It was all part of his staged grandstanding for a political purpose in his vocal opposition to the last of Hurricane Sandy’s emergency spending in a $2.6 million authorization.
Are we beginning to see an Old Guard council pattern emerging?
The Old Guard Council has been frustrated in being coerced by Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath to behave, this with a mayoral race and three at-large council seats up in a municipal election less than a year away in November 2013.  
Mayor Zimmer has stymied them in numerous ways in her term, from saving the hospital in a sale MORTe viciously fought to see collapse and with it the City’s financial health to reducing spending by over $12 million (last count) while she’s been in office.  That prudent restraint turns out to have been not discretionary but essential to the City’s financial health in the wake of the storm.

The mayor had thrown down in a pitched battle back in the spring of 2011, where a lame duck council majority led by Beth Mason savagely fought to leave the City without one penny in surplus for a rainy day – or a hurricane.  That political operation failed when the State of NJ refused to approve the budget because of numerous budget errors and Councilwoman Jen Giattino was sworn in that July replacing the compliant Nino Giacchi.

Where municipal financial experts state 5-10% of a town’s budget should be put aside in a surplus to offset potential problems and other issues arising in a fiscal year, the Beth Russo hydra desperately tried to stave off the good government practice in the hope to inch Hoboken toward a tax increase should a shingle fall off the roof at City Hall without any appropriated funds available to repair it.  You can hear them try to box the administration in similar ways at almost every single council meeting with the exact idea in mind.

Even simple year end budget line item transfers have been turned into hours long brawls over multiple meetings if the mayor doesn’t have five votes available on the City Council.  In other New Jersey municipalities, the same line item transfers are voted on year end in fifteen seconds.

The budget surplus issue is representative of the savage battle over Hoboken politics in the last few years, what the Russo clan sees as the ebbing away of their political power with every dollar in spending reduced a threat to the municipal jobs they would see themselves doling out (with scams out the back door) buttressing the largesse on themselves and those they deem worthy.
Hoboken is in an election year.  For the Old Guard council the political warfare after Mayor Zimmer’s inauguration never ended. No need to let something like Christmas get in the way.

The Russo robocall is the latest in the Old Guard call to arms, even at Christmas. 

Michael Russo robocall graphic courtesy of Grafix Avenger

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