People for Open Government
“POG” - is a nonpartisan, political committee dedicated to:
Promotion of open, accountable and transparent municipal government.
Active participation of Hoboken residents in municipal affairs.
Curbing the undue influence of campaign contributions on public policy .
April 30, 2012
The Hon. Ravinder Bhalla, Esq.
President, Hoboken City Council
The Board of Directors of People for Open Government (POG) invited you, and any Council colleagues you chose, to meet with us in a public forum to discuss problems with the way the City Council conducts its business. In reply, you have said that, instead of such a meeting, POG should send you a list of remedies to the problems we have identified. POG expects the City Council and City administration to be willing to meet with citizen groups on public issues. Such meetings would foster the accountable and transparent government to which POG is dedicated. Inasmuch as you are unwilling or unavailable to meet with us, this letter will inform you of our thinking.
POG’s main concern is with the difficulty for the public of obtaining information about Council agenda items in a timely way.
As for POG’s remedy, we ask that, at a minimum, the Council follow its own rules as set forth in the Resolution Adopting New Rules of Procedures for the City Council of the City of Hoboken, adopted by the City Council Feb. 18, 2009. Article IV provides that “All reports, communications, resolutions, ordinances, contract documents, or other matters to be submitted to the Council, shall be delivered to the City Clerk by 4:00 P.M. on the Thursday preceding each regular Wednesday Council meeting.” Further, the City Clerk shall make the agenda available to the public as well as Council members and City officials “no later than 4:00 P.M. on the Friday prior to the Wednesday meeting.” Exceptions shall be items “of an urgent nature, and . . . shall have the written approval of the Mayor before presentation to the Council.” The Council should adhere to these procedures and deadlines in order for the public to be properly informed in a timely way about Council business.
We use the expression “at a minimum” above because we think there were other steps the Council could take in addressing these issues. You have said that the Council recognizes that there are difficulties with its present operations and that it is considering changes to its procedures. We look forward to learning about your proposals.
Alice Crozier, President, for the POG Board
Cc: Council members
April 12, 2011
People for Open Government (POG) is dedicated to open, accountable and transparent municipal government in Hoboken and one of our goals is to curb the undue influence of campaign contributions on public policy.
We are disheartened to hear Hoboken Councilman Michael Russo, in his own words on FBI tapes in the Spring of 2009, while at lunch with an FBI informant, talk about legal restrictions on campaign contributions, anti-“Pay to Play” laws, as “nonsense.” Additionally, we are troubled by Mr. Russo’s description of how he would, in theory, control and circumvent what should be the autonomous planning and zoning processes for development in Hoboken.
With the support of Hoboken citizens, POG has worked hard over the years to open the processes of government, shine light on its procedures, and reform government to work more in favor of the citizens than for the special interests and the politicians themselves. We have had good success in enacting anti- “Pay to Play” laws that strengthen restrictions on money in politics.
But Councilman Russo reminds us when he says that he operates under the mantra, “I do for you, you do for me,” that we must continue to fight against those that use their positions in government to advance and enrich themselves and their selected friends over the interests of the public that they are sworn to serve.
Using the taxpayer-supported resources of government to selectively buy favor and promises of support is wrong and those who violate this public trust should be held accountable.
Revelations that then candidate for office and recently resigned Public Safety Director Angel Alicea also met with the same FBI informant as Russo, while important, are a separate matter and one about which the public has a right to know. Our Mayor and the full City Council must take forceful measures to rebuild the public trust that is necessary for us to have confidence in our government.
Please join us in our on-going endeavor to make government work better for the people.
WHAT WE'VE ACCOMPLISHED:
2004 REFORM ORDINANCE PACKAGE
In 2004, POG created a package of reform ordinances, in cooperation with New Jersey Common Cause and the Center for Civic Responsibility, with the intent of reducing the amount of money in municipal elections, and leveling the playing field among municipal candidates, as well as among developers seeking variances or redevelopment contracts, and entities seeking no-bid professional services contracts with the city. The purpose of the reform package was to lower the cost of professional service contracts, improve the quality of services provided to Hoboken, and increase the publics knowledge of, and trust in, government.
Electronic Accessibility of Public Information
Ordinance requires the city to make public notices, agendas, and records available in electronic form in the City Clerks office as well as on the Hoboken City website.
Competitive Negotiations for
Professional Services Contracts
Ordinance requires that the city award all contracts or agreements to outside consultants for the provision of professional services on the basis of competitive negotiation.
Developer Contribution Disclosure Statement
Ordinance requires developers before the City Zoning or Planning boards, or taking part in redevelopment processes, to disclose contributions made to city officers and political candidates.
Public Contracting Reform
Ordinance restricts the amount of campaign contributions that are permitted to be made to Hoboken politicians by professional services entities that have contracts with or seek to obtain contracts from the city.
Public Contracting Reform
Not a new ordinance, actually, but better and more comprehensive than the previous law.
Redevelopment Pay-to-Play Reform
Ordinance prohibits developers who engage in redevelopment activities from contributing to local candidates and political parties. This will help reduce the amount of influence developers have in creating and defining our redevelopment zones.
Amending the Professional Services Contract
Designates compliance officer who will create and make public a list of
no-bid professional contractors and redevelopers with contracts or agreement with the city of Hoboken; who will receive and check local ELEC filings for compliance with reform ordinances; who will receive anD investigate complaints from public; and who will report regularly to the City Council on the status of any investigations or complaints.
People for Open Government
P.O. Box 1554
Hoboken, NJ 07030