After she was sworn in as the new president of Hoboken's City Council last Sunday, 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano said she wants members of the council to be much more involved in their duties.
"What seems to be a part-time job will now be not-so-part-time," she told her fellow members.
But one of her priorities may involve people who are normally only involved in partisan campaigns.
Castellano said that she wants to strengthen the work of ward committeepersons. Each of the city's wards is divided up into districts, each of which is represented by two committeepeople. The city's committeemen and women are elected members of Hoboken's Democratic Party. Since Hoboken is such a heavily Democratic town, all of the committeepeople are Democrats, according to Hoboken Democratic Organization Chair Maurice Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons said that among their duties is: promoting the identity of the party, taking candidates canvassing, and serving as officers of elections. However, Castellano said that she would like to get the committeepeople more involved in community outreach and district representation in the wards. She added that many people don't even know about the positions, which are elected by the public each year. "We need to bring them into focus," she said at the meeting. Castellano said that several of the committeepeople in her district had expressed a desire to become more involved in the districts. "They could be our right and left arms [in the district]. We tend to only tap into them when we need election challengers," she said. Fitzgibbons said that years ago, when Hoboken was a commission (rather than mayor/council) form of government, committeepeople were more involved. At the meeting, Castellano also asked residents to get involved in the meetings. She assured them that though she may not be loud, she is more than capable of steering the council. "I have a very soft voice, but make no mistake about it, I carry a very big stick, and I'm not afraid to use it," she said. Applause for new members
Castellano was unanimously elected by the members of the nine-member council as president during the council's reorganization meeting and swearing in last Sunday. And sworn in to much applause were new council members Peter Cunningham (5th Ward), Beth Mason (2nd Ward) and Dawn Zimmer (4th Ward), all of whom beat established Hoboken politicos in their elections. Mason was elected outright in a May election, and Cunningham and Zimmer won hard-fought June runoff elections. Sworn in to new terms were re-elected council members Castellano (1st Ward), Michael Russo (3rd Ward), and A. "Nino" Giacchi (6th Ward). Sunday was the council's first meeting for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. The next meeting will take place July 18. After Castellano was elected president of the council, she nominated 6th Ward Councilman Angelo "Nino" Giacchi for council vice-president. He was also unanimously appointed. This is the fourth term for Castellano and the second for Giacchi, who was originally appointed to fill the seat Mayor David Roberts left vacant in 2001 when he became mayor. Full house
There was a full house at City Hall, as most council members brought family and children as witnesses to the swearing in. City Clerk James J. Farina quipped to Mayor David Roberts, "with all of these children, we're going to need a lot more open space." The topic of open space was a major plank in many candidates' election platforms. Along with the current mayor, who formally welcomed and congratulated the newly-elected members, former Mayor Steve Cappiello, Superintendent of Schools Jack Raslowsky, and County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons were in attendance at the meeting. After all the newly-elected members were sworn in, they got to work on a number of important resolutions that had to be passed before the next meeting on July 18. The council passed an emergency budget and designated the city's banks for the upcoming year. This latter action drew a bit of discussion from members of the public and the council, and gave new members a chance to showcase their priorities and concerns. Maybe we'll cut our own salaries
There were some time-sensitive money matters that council members had to take care of. A resolution allowing for temporary appropriations for the upcoming 2007-2008 budget passed by a vote of 6 to 2. New members Cunningham and Zimmer voted against it. Mason abstained, as some of the money being appropriated was for lawyers' fees to fight some of the open records cases she had brought against the city prior to running for council. As a way to save money in the budget, resident Jonathan Gordon of Washington Street suggested members reduce each of their salaries by $11,111.12. "Multiply that by nine and you get an even $100,000" he said. City council members currently earn $23,657 per year, according to Maria Corcoran at City Hall's payroll office. Gordon said of his proposal, "It would send an excellent message to folks that you are serious [about reducing spending]." Members did not act on the suggestion, but Castellano said later in the week that the council may eventually consider it, along with other cost-cutting measures. "Let's see what next year's budget looks like," she said. She added that she always welcomes suggestions from residents. Too many banks
The council also discussed a resolution designating banks to hold city funds for the upcoming year. Gordon opened the discussion on this topic when he noted that the city is only one square mile in area, and asked why so many banks - 17 - were needed for a city so small. Councilman Russo, who chairs the council's Finance Committee, assured the council and the public that there was no additional cost associated with maintaining a number of different accounts. "It gives us the opportunity to make split decisions and do any banking we need to," said Russo, who added that he believed that the number of banks on the list was equal to the number of banks in Hoboken. Cunningham, who works in finance, suggested that the council request the political disclosure funds forms from the banks. Zimmer said that she believed it was in the best interest of the city to build relationships with a lesser number of institutions. Cammarano to serve third term on Planning Board
The nomination for the council's representative on the city Planning Board was the first real, marked division between newcomers and incumbents at the meeting. The Planning Board has become very politically important because so many development projects have been approved in Hoboken, and matters such as open space and parking are always affected by the approvals. The board also influences the redevelopment projects proposed for various blighted areas of town. Councilman-at-large Ruben Ramos nominated fellow Councilman-at-large Peter Cammarano, an attorney, to serve for a third term as the council's representative on that board. But Peter Cunningham nominated Beth Mason, who had served on the board in 2001, when she was appointed to the position by Mayor David Roberts. Dawn Zimmer seconded that nomination. In the end, the three newcomers did not have enough votes, and Cammarano was appointed by a vote of 6-3. Comments on this piece can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org