Officials failed to do their duty

Officials failed to do their duty

September 16, 2008  Jersey Journal Editorial
Last week, the state Local Finance Board put Hoboken under "supervision," a polite term that sounds better than a limited takeover. This comes two months after the city failed to approve a balanced municipal budget.

While the mayor and the City Council will be able to propose and vote on municipal business, Susan Jacobucci, director of the state Division of Local Government services, will have final approval on all fiscal matters (expenditures above $4,500), union contracts and the hiring and firing of employees.

If it is not a takeover, it comes pretty close. The state will oversee the preparation and final approval of this year's delayed budget, which has a $10.5 million deficit, as well as the 2008-09 municipal spending plan. Trenton will determine whether any bonds need to be issued, review department heads, set the working hours and roles for the city's 524 employees, and oversee tax collections. The only thing that is different between Hoboken and a "distressed city" is that there will be no state funding to help bail out the city.

In an editorial earlier this year, The Jersey Journal warned that there was plenty of fault to go around for the budget mess in the Mile Square City. While members of the City Council pounded Mayor David Roberts at every meeting, they did little to get a budget approved, perhaps forgetting that they are part of local government. Local officials just ignored a state demand to act. The point is to have a spending plan in place, even if it means some compromise.

State officials left no doubt that they believe pure politics played a big role in the city's failures. The political logjam seemed inevitable when there are about four members of the City Council who may run for Roberts' post next year.

"In my opinion, there is no reason why Hoboken should be here today," Jacobucci told Roberts and three council members. "Hoboken is and should be a vibrant city. This is because of the inaction of local officials. To come to this point today, it is a sad state of affairs for a city like Hoboken not to pass a budget."

If there are any tears that should be shed in this drama, it should be for Hoboken taxpayers.

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