At our July 1 meeting, the City Council passed an Ordinance on first reading restoring the City Council’s authority to make appointments to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Some have inaccurately tried to characterize this as a “power grab.” We view it simply as setting things right. Throughout Hoboken history this authority resided with the City Council as a check and balance against an all-powerful mayor. Then in 1993 Mayor Anthony Russo convinced a City Council that he controlled to transfer this authority to him alone as Mayor.
We firmly believe that the 1993 transfer of authority was ill advised. As the legislative branch, the City Council is responsible for crafting and adopting the zoning ordinances that govern the decisions of the Zoning Board. It is, therefore, the branch of government best positioned to ensure that the individuals appointed to the Zoning Board are committed to maintaining the integrity of those zoning ordinances when developers request variances. Too often in the past, we have heard members of the City Council express sympathy, yet plead helplessness, when members of the public complain that the Zoning Board has been too lax in granting variances for high-density development. Yet that helplessness was self inflicted – the result of the City Council abdicating its responsibility back in 1993.
Our system of government works best when each branch of government does its job completely and responsibly. The Mayor and the City Council are co-equal branches of government – neither branch should simply follow the dictates of the other. We should work together, and communicate and cooperate with each other, but our city is ill served when either branch becomes nothing but the proverbial “rubber stamp.” Checks and balances are built into our system of government and are essential components of our democracy. The years of fiscal irresponsibility that led to last year’s enormous tax increase (despite more than a decade of overdevelopment advertised as a way to reduce taxes) highlights that our City has been ill served when the City Council has failed in its responsibility to assert its rightful and independent authority.
As City Council members, we are committed to working closely with the Mayor to move forward on areas of common agreement – and based on the campaign platforms of both sides there is much that we agree on. We are also committed to fulfilling the responsibilities vested in us under the Faulkner Act. Whether it be originating and passing legislation ourselves, giving due consideration to legislation suggested by the Mayor, exercising our direct appointment power, providing advice and consent when that is our role, or adopting a fully funded budget, we will never shy away from doing the job we were elected to do.
City Council President