Mayor Dawn Zimmer urged an end to the political divisiveness which she struggled to overcome in her first term and asked her colleagues and city residents to work with her throughout her second term to make Hoboken a stronger and more resilient community after being sworn into office for a second term as the mile-square city’s 38th mayor last Saturday.
Flanked by elected county, state, and federal officials at the Stevens Institute of Technology’s DeBaun Auditorium, Zimmer said the local political rhetoric has to move beyond divisive terms like “Old Guard” and “New Guard.”
She said the various political factions in town have the same goal – a better Hoboken – and should be able to work together moving forward.
“We need to let go of the old monikers,” she said. “All Hoboken residents benefit from having a hospital and all Hoboken residents benefit from our city becoming stronger and more resilient. Say goodbye to the divisive rhetoric and let’s work together to make Hoboken a better place.”
Discussing some of the unforeseen challenges of her first years in office – the Sinatra Drive sinkhole and soccer field collapse, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and the near-death of Hoboken University Medical Center – Zimmer previewed parts of an ambitious agenda for her second term, including building parks on the west side of town and redesigning Washington Street.
She also vowed to continue supporting arts and cultural initiatives in town and working with Hoboken’s best and brightest to make the city a welcome destination for tech startups and new companies.
As she has since Sandy struck Hoboken in October 2012, Zimmer pressed an agenda of urban protection for the city, which, while nothing new, was the issue that she spoke most passionately about during her reelection campaign.
“Out of every catastrophe comes great opportunity,” she said. “We cannot raise our homes on pilings in preparation for the next storm, but we are well on our way to becoming a national model for urban resiliency.”
Also sworn in on Saturday were the three members of Zimmer’s council-at-large slate: incumbents Ravi Bhalla and David Mello and newly-elected Jim Doyle.
Speakers at the ceremony included U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9th), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization Vincent Prieto, and former governor James Florio.
Gabrielle Frederick, the valedictorian of Hoboken High School’s class of 2012 and now a student at the University of Pennsylvania, sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.”
Council speeches a highlight
Though Zimmer’s inauguration was the main attraction at Saturday’s event, the speeches from Doyle, Mello, and Bhalla were equally engaging.
Mello, who recalled the beginnings of his friendship with Zimmer years before either of them considered running for public office, discussed a need to find new ways to keep families from leaving Hoboken, including approving development focused on three-bedroom apartments.
“The American Dream is changing,” he said. “Where people once moved to the suburbs where I, as well as many of my colleagues, were raised, now people are embracing urban centers.”
Bhalla, who is a Sikh and the son of Indian immigrants, also spoke of the American Dream and his journey from the Pennsylvania trailer park where his parents lived, to the podium where he stood Saturday.
“I grew up with people telling me that as a Sikh, the pillars of my faith, the turban and the beard, would prevent me from succeeding,” he said. “But my father told me that if you work hard, your diversity will be embraced, and it was my father’s faith in America that brought me here today.”
Doyle, who at this week’s council meeting was given the unofficial title of “most expensive councilman on earth” because of the year-long litigation over whether Zimmer could appoint him, brought his locally famous dry wit to the podium.
“Many of my family members are here under the impression that this event is all for my inauguration, and that all of you very important people came here for me,” he said to the slew of state officials who sat across from him on stage. “So if they come up to you, do me the favor of humoring them.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org