Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla gave his first State of the City Address at the Stevens Institute of Technology last night, highlighted by Vision Zero, the city’s deal with Suez Water and addressing climate change.
One of the three biggest takeaways from Bhalla’s speech was that his administration will be launching what he described as one of his most important priorities of 2019: the Vision Zero campaign to reduce automobile-related injuries and deaths.
“Hoboken’s ambitious Vision Zero campaign will aim to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and injuries by the year 2030. This major goal is not something we can accomplish alone–it will require a collaborative approach that includes the input of residents and other key stakeholders. We must enact bold, safe streets’ policies so no one has to endure the experience of being put in harm’s way while crossing a street,” Bhalla said.
The second major initiative the administration will be pursuing in 2019 is the renegotiation of a deal with SUEZ Water in light of all the water main breaks that have been ongoing for years, but created major frustration for residents and commuters alike last year.
“I’m happy to announce that my administration is in the final stages [with] SUEZ Water that will provide for over $1.5 million in proactive water main replacements every year,” he said, proclaiming himself the “infrastructure mayor.”
“We are also directly investing an additional $10 million over a two-year span to replace the oldest water mains in our system, [and] over the next 15 years, our new deal will include $33 million in watermain infrastructure upgrades.”
And to top off the evening’s initiatives, Bhalla said his administration will be creating a framework for a Climate Action Plan that will eventually transform the Mile Square City’s municipal operations to become “net [carbon] zero by 2025 and carbon neutral by 2035, and for the City as a whole, to become net zero by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050, with these standards exceeding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.”
Bhalla noted that he hopes that the City council will join him in approving these new initiatives, particularly the new agreement with SUEZ Water.
In an interview after the speech, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said she thought the mayor did an excellent job in his first address covering all the important issues important to Hoboken residents.
“For his first state of the city, I think he did a pretty good job, he hit on all of the important issues that we have been working on this past year,” she said, indicating that she is on board with Vision Zero and working out a deal with Suez.
“We’ve had a water contract for the last two-and-half decades that has been favorable to SUEZ. We should be in a situation where all of the revenues that our citizens are paying for water should come to the benefit of the city so that we can invest all that money. And effectively, this new contract is going to shift all of those revenues into the hands of the city of Hoboken, that’s what we have fought for. I think it’ll be a 9-0 vote on the Council,” Fisher said.
With that in mind, she still felt the mayor missed an opportunity by not specifically mentioning the entire council who have worked collaboratively with him on issues such as securing funding for the Hilton Hotel.
” … at the risk of sounding petty, I think it’s a shame that he really left out the contributions of the broader city council,” began Fisher.
“It was clearly on purpose, he left out five of us that he perceives as being his opponents, but nothing could be further from the truth. I can tell you that [Councilpersons] [Peter] Cunningham, [Jen] Giattino, [Mike] DeFusco, myself and [Ruben] Ramos, we work hard on so many issues.”
While Fisher said that she and the aforementioned council members want to continue to work with the mayor, she believes that the mayor could have demonstrated how he and the council actually work well together most of the time.
Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, one of Bhalla’s running mates in 2017 who introduced him to the hundreds on hand prior to his speech, weighed in after Fisher.
“I think it’s difficult, when you sit through a council meeting I think your impression of the state of the city is one of a little bit of chaos. Oftentimes, there’s a lot of hard feelings and personal feelings [but] at the end of the day it’s our job to be professional, to make policies that are going to help everyday residents,” explained Jabbour.
“It’s not about scoring political points; I’m really hopeful that people are going to be able to put that to the side when it comes to these really major initiatives like Vision Zero [campaign] and the [SUEZ Water] contract,” said Jabbour.
“I think tonight was a really accurate depiction of where most everyday citizens in Hoboken feel like the city is going, I think people are very positive about the job Mayor Bhalla is doing, and I hope that the council takes away the understanding that that is the perspective of the larger community and maybe that will change the tenor of some of the conversations at the council meetings.”
The mayor’s entire State of the City streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: