Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco are again trading punches, this time over a community meeting in DeFusco’s ward that was limited to residents of Marineview Plaza.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“So I’ve been barred from entering a community meeting in my home district by the taxpayer funded security detail assigned to @RaviBhalla and two tax funded city employees. What is the mayor so afraid of? Misuse of official office. #Hoboken,” DeFusco tweeted last night.
While the meeting, hosted by the mayor, was billed as private, DeFusco added that he didn’t believe that excuse held water since three City Hall employees and the Bhalla’s security detail were present.
City spokesman Santiago Melli-Huber said that the meeting wasn’t open to the general public and that no one on the city council was invited.
“The meeting was not open to the general public, and no Council members were invited, whether they represent a specific ward or the entire City as At-Large Council members. It was specifically for residents of MVP to speak directly with Mayor Bhalla about issues impacting their building and community,” he wrote in an email.
“The Constituent Affairs chief and CoS were there to help address and resolve any of the residents’ concerns. To the extent that Mayor Bhalla was a guest in their building, he respected the wishes of the community by only opening it up to residents, as the flyer you are alluding to specifies.”
Melli-Huber added that the head of the Hoboken Office of Constituent Affairs Caroline Caulfield received an email on August 16th from multiple Marineview Plaza residents specifically asking for DeFusco not to be invited.
“I will be there IF 1st Ward Councilman DeFusco is not invited to attend. He hasn’t shown his face around here since he was running for Mayor. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a fast talker that should have nothing to do with MVP,” the email, where the four senders are redacted, says.
In response, DeFusco said that the redacted email hardly proved any of the points being made by the administration.
“If their decision to block me from a taxpayer funded event is based on an anonymous message that supposedly came from a resident, then that is absolutely laughable,” the councilman stated.
“The fact that the mayor’s tax funded spokesman is now sending political attacks against me to local media further indicates that the Bhalla Administration is incapable of working with the City Council to move Hoboken forward.”
He also argued that several Marineview residents invited him to the meeting and urged him to attend.
Bhalla received a little more pushback on Twitter, with some arguing that private community meetings have no place in Hoboken.
“Why were elected officials and community members barred from this event that included city staff, its designated logo, and was funded with city taxpayer dollars? You should be investigated,” wrote Greg McAdams.
A cell phone video from the meeting shows a Hoboken police officer guarding the door of the community room at the Marineview Plaza, telling DeFusco and others that the meeting is strictly for residents.
That short clip can be seen below: