In 2005, Mayor David Roberts and his Council running mates raised $1.4 million to soundly defeat Carol Marsh and her team who came up with a fraction of that amount. After his re-election, Roberts enjoyed the support of all but one or two Council members. Today, he has been abandoned by nearly all of the Council many of who are joining his political rival Brian Stack, the Union City Mayor and Assemblyman. Hoboken City Councilman Ruben Ramos will run on Stack’s ticket for Assembly. Councilmen Christopher Campos and Nino Giacchi will be running for re-election to Council also allied with Stack. The other dramatic change for the upcoming Hoboken municipal election will be the amount of money spent. Thanks to the grass roots efforts of local citizens, there will be far less money available to the machine backed candidates.
In February, People for Open Government successfully petitioned the Hoboken City Council to pass two ordinances that will put limits on contributions from developers and professional service firms seeking or holding contracts with the City. Since his election in 2001, Mayor Roberts has collected the bulk of his campaign contributions from these two sources. In unanimous votes, the Hoboken City Council passed the two measures. The redeveloper pay-to-play ordinance bans contributions from developers who hold redevelopment contracts with the City. The other, public contracting reform, strengthens an existing ordinance that limits campaign gifts from lawyers, engineers, accountants and others with no-bid municipal contracts.
Last November, People for Open Government, began a petition drive to place these ordinances on the ballot. According to the state’s statute on Initiative and Referendum, citizens can “initiate” an ordinance with a required number of signatures from local voters. Faced with the petitions containing over 1,000 signatures each, the City Council chose to pass the proposed ordinances rather than let them move onto the ballot, as would be required by law if they rejected them. The second ordinance, entitled Public Contracting Reform, is an amended version of what Hoboken voters originally enacted into law by a 10 to 1 margin in a November 2004 initiative election.
Within the next two weeks, Council Candidate will report their campaign contributions collected in the first quarter of this year. The amounts raised are expected to be far below what was reported two years ago, thus leveling the political playing field. In addition, the competition between Brian Stack’s organization and the HCDO will dramatically change the nature of Hoboken’s municipal election, and put independent candidates in an interesting position of being backed by the Mayor although they want nothing to do with him.