HOBOKEN – Talk to the street players and they tell you Mayor David Roberts will run again next year, but talk to the man and he won’t reveal his intentions in what looms asa big battle, within a crucible of financial unrest.
“I have not been entertaining conversations about the upcoming mayor’s race,” Roberts told PolitickerNJ.com. “I’ve got other issues: the movie theater, the clock tower.”
But he concedes those are props in this unfolding drama, where the massive issue remains the fact that a state monitor assumed responsibility for the city’s finances. Taxes in Hoboken have ballooned in a governmenteffort to collect $12 million in reserve accounts or to make up for money that otherwise couldn’t be accounted for in city coffers.
Roberts acknowledges the issue with pain in his voice.
“We have to address the fiscal mess brought about by the city council,” says the mayor, who would be running for a third term. “The city of Hoboken continues to be recognized as one of best places to live. After all these years, I enjoy the work. Pollsters tell me I’ve got a 90 percent recognizable factor in the city.”
But Roberts’s close friend and ally, former Sen. Bernard Kenny (D-Hudson), retired last year, and now members of the council want Roberts out of there. The mayor says to that end the governing body played politics with the budget and simultaneously sent the city into a financial nosedive.
“Part of the collapse of municipal council is four of them – at least four – are running for mayor,” says Roberts. “So what you have are problems that are not being solved by government officials – they’re created by government officials.
“The council’s responsibility is to pass and adopt the municipal budget,” adds the mayor. “They didn’t do that, and now the State of New Jersey has come in here and we’ve had to raise taxes. I’m not thinking about politics right now. I’m working on trying to get tax rate to much less than what it is presently. After the holidays, I will make a decision.”
Roberts says a majority of council members bum-rushed the administration when they failed to pass the budget.
Last June, potential mayor candidates Councilwoman Beth Mason and Councilman Michael Russo lined up among those calling for the state to come in and straighten out the city’s finances, while Councilman Peter Cammarano – who is also likely to run for mayor next year- voted to tackle the $103 million budget in-house.
Whoever did what, the public sees an administration forced to work with a state monitor to straighten out the mess, and Roberts admits the image isn’t helpful.
“Of course, people think it’s my fault, I don’t think the public knows their council members, and the problem here from my standpoint is when you’re explaining in politics, you’re losing,” says the mayor.
“Look, I’m not saying it’s all their fault,” he adds. “I learn each year. But I’ve never seen a more obvious political strategy. It’s sad to be part of an exciting city that is being destroyed by the council. The problem with Hoboken is we have alternate year council elections; elections every other year. So it’s a political free-for-all. In Jersey City and Bayonne, the entire city council runs with the mayor, but here, people you run with become your adversaries.”