HOBOKEN -- With more than 25 members of the public signed up to speak on various issues in Hoboken, combined with council members arguing over how items are placed on the agenda and by whom, the Feb. 16 City Council meeting was one of the longer meetings in recent memory, lasting until 2 a.m. The governing body unanimously approved some proposed changes to the rent control ordinance on first reading, shot down anti-'wheeling' legislation by a 5-4 vote, and approved the updating of the city's pay to play laws on Wednesday night (and Thursday morning).
Councilman Peter Cunningham sponsored an ordinance updating the pay to play campaign reforms for the city, and included a provision against "wheeling." Wheeling is the practice of using political action committees to skirt state laws limiting how much one person can donate to a candidate. The measure was aimed at developers and at Councilwoman Beth Mason, who donated a lot of money in November's 4th Ward council race.
Cunningham's ordinance was defeated by a 5-4 vote.
In November, Mason donated maximum personal contributions and also the maximum limit from her largely self-funded political action committee to Councilman Tim Occhipinti, who defeated mayoral ally Mike Lenz. All sides agree that what Mason did was legal, but some of Mason's opponents call it a "loophole."
Then, Mason and Councilwoman Theresa Castellano introduced an ordinance without the anti-wheeling legislation, which passed unanimously, updating the pay to play laws in Hoboken.
The People for Open Government, an independent political organization which wrote a majority of the pay to play legislation, did not include the anti-wheeling provision when they helped Hoboken put together the new law, and believes the issue should be addressed separately. Cunningham and some other council colleagues disagreed, saying the two go hand in hand, citing towns which have passed the two simultaneously.
The public portion of the meeting was, for the most part, filled with comments regarding Hoboken's proposed rent control changes. Some tenants believe the proposed changes strip tenants of their rights, while landlords do not feel the changes go far enough. To read about the proposed changes as they were covered at the previous City Council meeting, click HERE. For comprehensive coverage on the City Council meeting, see the cover of the weekend The Hoboken Reporter. - Ray Smith