Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer kicked off her re-election campaign at a celebration on Wednesday night and in the process announced a major victory for residents who want more parks.
The city’s first female mayor announced that a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s right to eminent domain would allow them to purchase a 1-acre piece of land in the southwest section of town.
The land, known as Block 12, will be used for the 4th Ward’s first public park, pending City Council approval, Zimmer said (see briefs, page 2).
Speaking to about 100 supporters and campaign workers at the waterfront restaurant Little Town NJ, Zimmer recalled that fighting for a park in the 4th Ward, where she lives with her husband and two children, was the reason she became involved in Hoboken politics in the first place. She said that the ruling would serve as inspiration for her reelection campaign.
“I really hope it energizes everyone here, because it certainly energizes me,” she said.
Zimmer is set to face off against state Assemblyman and former Councilman Ruben Ramos, who is at the head of the Vision for Hoboken slate.
Zimmer's slate includes incumbent Councilmen-at-Large Ravi Bhalla and David Mello, as well as 26-year Hoboken resident James Doyle. Doyle sat on the council for around six weeks last fall after Zimmer appointed him in the wake of former Councilwoman Carol Marsh’s resignation, but the mayor’s opponents on the council sued on the grounds that she misused the state’s municipal vacancy laws. “Progress in this city has been stagnated by gamesmanship in the courtroom, and the only way that can end is at the ballot box.” – Ravi Bhalla
A judge ruled against Zimmer after over six months of litigation, but the mayor may have the last laugh come November. On Wednesday night, poking fun at his roller-coaster first year in Hoboken politics, Doyle said that he was putting the past behind him and will focus on open space and development issues.
“I want to dispel the speculation that I’m going to spend most of my time on the council fighting to change the state’s municipal vacancy laws,” he said. “The years of me nagging the City Council from the other side of the bench are at an end.”
Bhalla and Mello, who won their council seats in 2009 when they ran on Zimmer’s first mayoral ticket (the mayor herself ultimately lost that election to Peter Cammarano, who had to step down when he was arrested in a corruption sting) both spoke at the event on Wednesday, and cited their records on open space, tax stabilization, and what they referred to as “smart” development.
Ramos is running with Joe Mindak, Laura Miani, and Eduardo Gonzalez as council candidates.
Only the three at-large council seats are up for grabs this year. The election will take place Nov. 5.
Smart development and open space
On Wednesday, Mello said that while there are plenty of opportunities in Hoboken for new development, the city should get the benefit, not the developers.
“We need to stand up to developers and say, ‘What matters to us isn’t how to maximize your bottom line; it’s how your development is going to maximize quality of life in our city,’” he said.
Several supporters who attended the event said that overdevelopment was a major concern, and that Zimmer and her team’s approach was a breath of fresh air after the construction boom seen in previous administrations.
“Overdevelopment is a huge issue for me,” said Deb Hulbert. “It impacts flood control and corruption. [Zimmer] was an unlikely candidate, but I think she really has stepped up to the plate on development and has been a rock for this city.”
Bhalla advocates for entire ticket
Bhalla, an attorney by trade, spoke more about the city’s current political situation than Zimmer or his fellow council candidates, and impressed upon supporters that on Election Day, they should vote for the mayor’s entire ticket, not simply for the mayor or her council members.
“What Mayor Zimmer has accomplished with this city council has been through a combination of focus and resolve,” he said. “What she needs is a city council that she can work with. Progress in this city has been stagnated by gamesmanship in the courtroom, and the only way that can end is at the ballot box.”
The city council has been stuck in a 4-4 deadlock since the judge ruled against Doyle’s appointment, resulting in little progress on major issues. Zimmer said that with a majority on the council, which she would gain if her slate sweeps the election, would mean a brighter future for the city.
Ramos chastises ‘late start’
Ramos’s Vision for Hoboken slate issued a statement regarding Zimmer’s kickoff late on Wednesday.
“We would like to welcome Dawn Zimmer to the race for mayor. While she finally realized her re-election is 83 days away, Ruben has been hitting the streets and apartments of Hoboken since March,” the statement said. “He has been meeting with and talking to voters, walking every inch of town possible, and getting to the heart of the real issues affecting Hoboken. Ruben is finding a town where the residents are completely dissatisfied with the direction Dawn Zimmer is taking this city in.”
On Wednesday, Zimmer said, “This is going to be a tough election. This is Hoboken. It always is. We’ve accomplished a lot, but we can do so much more.”
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