I truly believe that only by facing the history of Hoboken’s corruption and the potential for future corruption, can we as a city heal from the past, build back the public’s trust, and prevent future corruption.
As you know, tapes of Councilman Russo’s meeting with Solomon Dwek were recently published by the Star-Ledger.
From my standpoint, the question is not: did Councilman Russo take a bribe or not? I think the questions for the people of Hoboken to ask are: Did Councilman Russo’s conversations with Solomon Dwek about development and campaign donations and pay-to-play break the people’s trust? Has the councilman’s decision to remain quiet about his meeting with Solomon Dwek at the time when this story was unfolding in 2009 broken the people’s trust? Has his decision to blatantly lie to the Hoboken Reporter about having disclosed the information at the time broken the people’s trust? When he says, this is what “fundraising meetings sound like,” is he saying that he has tried to “sell” development access in exchange for campaign donations to other developers and therefore broken the people’s trust?
What I also find disturbing is that Councilman Russo publicly positions himself as being for balanced development and open space, while in private Councilman Russo describes himself as “very pro-development.”
Even more disturbing is how he describes himself as someone who has partnered with Councilwoman Mason to “take control of the city” with a “six vote majority.” Residents should understand that with a “six vote majority” the Councilman could absolutely “control” development since the City Council is the redevelopment agency and ultimately decides on crucial development issues.
As I reviewed the tapes and the transcripts, I thought about how we have to work every single day to be ethical. As I explained to employees about three weeks ago when the FBI came and conducted mandatory ethics training for all of us, no one can “say” they are ethical; they have to work hard to behave ethically every day. The way a person behaves when they believe no one is watching or no one will know is when the person’s ethics are revealed.
Councilman Russo has revealed his true self to Hoboken. His actions speak much louder than his words. Based on my review of the surveillance tapes and the transcripts, I believe there is no doubt that he has broken the people’s trust and is incapable of maintaining his position as Commissioner on the Housing Authority or his position as 3rd Ward Councilman.
Sadly, instead of recognizing the seriousness of Councilman Russo’s actions, the council majority this week tried to minimize the significance of the fact that the councilman tried to generate campaign contributions in exchange for expediting development rights with a symbolic slap on the wrist.
Hoboken is a great city with even greater potential, but too often our progress has taken a back seat to personal gain. I know that if we are honest about the corruption that has brought us so much pain, Hoboken can become the world class city that we can all continue to be proud of.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer