GA tuned into last night's meeting in the midst of some (unusual) discord on the Council dais.
Unusual because the debate didn't split along the usual partisan lines, but on differences in governing philosophy- differences within the 6-member Reform faction. In a nutshell, the issue was whether to vote on a Resolution authorizing a $360,000 grant to pay for secure doors on unsecured HHA buildings, or wait to resolve the question of how the grant would be funded.
Resolution "...it has been demonstrated that due to age, the doors at the residential buildings of the HHA pose a significant safety concern to residents; and... it is estimated by the Executive Director of the HHA that the cost to replace the doors is approximately $360,000; and... the HHA Executive Director and the Hoboken Chief of Police determined replacing the doors is an urgent public safety issue given the age of the doors; and, ...residents in the HHA have expressed concerns regarding public safety relating to the doors to the HHA and the City; and... the City and its elected officials have an obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the health and safety of all residents of Hoboken; and,... a grant for the door replacement in the HHA allocated from this capital fund would not cause an increase in municipal taxes..."
ALL agreed that the City would find the funding for secure HHA doors; the disagreement was whether or not to VOTE to on the resolution to approve the grant prior to resolving how it would be funded.
And that's where the term "optics" entered the debate and threw kerosene on inflamed tempers; when one councilperson suggested that the "optics" of pulling the Resolution would be bad and send the wrong message, another councilman attacked any decision based on "optics" would be "political."
What to do?
Vote and ask questions later? Or put the brakes on until the funding option is selected?
Well, sometimes "optics" matter.
Imagine: the lock on your Hoboken home's front door is broken, and has been for years.
Imagine: your broken front door attracts people from Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City who find criminal opportunity in your broken front door.
Imagine: every front door on your street has a broken front door, and one of your neighbors has been murdered.
Imagine: you depend upon others to fix your front door lock.
If you had to live this way, would you understand the anxiety HHA residents have for themselves and their children? Imagine the despair, the feeling that you do not matter to the institutions that have the power to help you. In this case the optics of "waiting" vs. "acting" mattered on a psychological and spiritual level. Putting off the vote would have been a blow to residents living in sub-standard conditions and would only have validated the belief that nobody cares.
So... GA thanks the Council for voting and passing the Resolution last night! Hooray!
Wonderful things come out of vigorous, public debate, and public input.
There was one unfortunate moment in an otherwise civil debate; Councilman DeFusco suggested that Councilman Bhalla sponsored the Resolution because his At-Large election is looming.
That kind of gratuitous, partisan jab reminded GA of the Bad Old Days of partisan infighting on the City Council. It's unbecoming of Mike, and I hope he thinks twice before questioning a colleague's motives on legislation during a public meeting. Save that for the campaign.
GA Note: Thank you, Councilman Bhalla for responding immediately to the hospitalized HHA resident who asked for your help on Tuesday afternoon. You made a difference.
And, my sincere condolences to the Russo family on the loss of their matriarch, Michele Russo.