by MAX PIZARRO and MATT FRIEDMAN
HOBOKEN – From an old-timer in a coffee shop on Washington Avenue to campaign workers on street corners to retired council people, Hoboken voters in the hours leading up to the polls closing Tuesday complained about spending. The most common man-in-the-street gripe was that the municipal budget has ballooned in the new millennium from $50 million to $74 million.
Voters are worried that developers are ram-rodding luxury residential housing projects without giving anything back to the community. People want more parks for their children, and fewer massive, high-rise development projects. They want the council to fully implement the master plan.
Neighborhood activist Beth Mason won in Ward Two on that message, and her ally, Dawn Zimmer, forced a run-off in Ward Four. Preaching fiscal sanity and more government accountability, banker Peter Cunningham leads in a run-off in Ward Five, against fellow reformer Perry Belfiore.
Reformers won and contended here.
But was it a statement election? Hardly.
There were 7,088 voters who went to the polls Tuesday. There are 31,000 registered voters in the city, according to Hoboken City Clerk James Farina.
"It’s a little lower than usual," Farina said of turnout. "It’s usually a little over 8,000."
Two incumbents made a convincing stand. Councilwoman Theresa Castellano and her cousin, Councilman Michael Russo, both won re-election. The Hudson County Democratic Organization unsuccessfully backed their rivals and made a point of noting their family relations to disgraced former Mayor Anthony Russo. But Castellano and Russo and the Russo family have long stood against Mayor David Roberts, who's not seeking re-election, and whom nearly everyone in the race depicted as a mostly out-of-touch mayor.
The run-off election in three wards will be held five weeks from today.