Six Hoboken Parking Authority (HPA) commissioners voted to pass the resolution and commissioner Michele Russo voted "present," which means that she could not vote on the resolution because she did not have enough information to make a sound decision on it.
"I don't see how we could vote on it when we don't have the money and the meeting was held illegally," Russo said after the quick meeting. "I knowingly know we don't have the $1.5 million."
Two weeks ago, it seemed as though HPA would not give the city the money. At the council meeting Jan.16, HPA commissioner Alan Cohen told the City Council that the city's request for money from the HPA was "irresponsible." Cohen, the chair of the HPA's finance committee, told the council, "If I had to make a guess, I would say that there isn't going to be a penny."
After Thursday night's council meeting, Cohen said the HPA had a change of heart.
"After careful evaluation, we decided to pass the resolution," Cohen said.
In order to win the support of enough HPA commissioners to pass the resolution, Mayor David Roberts had agreed to sell the HPA a plot of land on 11th Street and Willow Avenue. Roberts said after the meeting that the $1.5 million will serve as payment for the land, rather than a payment in lieu of taxes given to the city for all the nontaxable land the agency owns throughout the mile-square city.
According to Cohen, the HPA is expected to turn the vacant property into a parking deck.
"I'm very pleased with the vote," said Roberts. "Two governing agencies worked very well tonight."
Not much public notice
There was discussion at both the HPA and council meetings of whether or not the two meetings were legally scheduled.
According to the state's Open Public Meetings Act, a public body must send notices of meetings to at least two newspapers "for publication" at least 48 hours before the actual meetings. But a city attorney said that the newspapers don't have to actually publish the notices as long as they receive them.
HPA commissioners Russo and Donald Pellicano raised the issue of the legality of the meeting. When Pellicano began to express his thoughts on the subject, Roberts, who was sitting in the front row, interrupted him by calling out that he was being a "filibusterer."
Immediately after the interruption, the HPA chairman called for a vote.
Six of the commissioners voted "aye," including Pellicano, who first took a moment to think about it.
At the council meeting, 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano also asked about the legality of the meeting. City Attorney Esther Suarez said the city was in complete compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act. When Castellano asked Suarez to show her where the notices had been published, Suarez said, "The notices do not have to be published. The newspapers can do whatever they want with them."
The meetings were listed as "special" on both agendas. But during the debates regarding the Open Public Meetings Act, Suarez, Roberts and other city officials referred to the meetings as "emergency."
The 2002 budget covers city spending from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002. It offers a two-cent tax decrease per $1,000 of assessed property, according to Roberts. The city originally expected $2 million in revenue from the HPA. After calculations made by city Business Administrator Laurie Cotter, the request was dropped to $1.5 million, and $500,000 in assessments from tax payments will be used to make up the difference, Roberts said.
The injection of the HPA's $1.5 million to fill in a revenue gap allows the administration to avoid increasing taxes or further cutting costs. Cotter had said in the past that the budget is tight and has little room for cuts.