Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is once again at odds with the majority of the city council after they voted down an ordinance to place a non-binding referendum question on the November 5th ballot regarding the future of E-scooters.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Last week, I asked the Hoboken City Council to consider authorizing a public, non-binding question on the ballot in November to allow the public a voice in whether or not the City should permit an e-scooter sharing program,” Bhalla said in a statement.
” … I believe this is a democratic way for residents to make their voices heard on an issue with a number of positive benefits, but also many passionate opinions.”
At Thursdays special meeting of the city council, the governing body voted the measure down 5-2, with only the ordinance sponsors, Council members-at-Large James Doyle and Emily Jabbour, voting yes.
Councilmen Mike DeFusco and Peter Cunningham were absent.”
The language of the question would potentially be very basic: “should the City of Hoboken allow e-scooter sharing entities to operate within the City of Hoboken?”
E-scooters have been a hot button issue for weeks, with pedestrians and drivers alike routinely complaining on social media about reckless and/or irresponsible E-scooter drivers.
Late last month, the Hoboken Police Department made their first E-scooter-related arrest when after a rider hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk and then attempted to flee the scene.
According to the mayor, all this controversy warrants the community weighing in at the ballot box.
“I strongly believe we should be governing by listening to the voices of more residents, not stifling an opportunity to gather input on an issue through a fair and democratic method,” he continued.
“Whether the City of Hoboken continues to allow e-scooters is not just a mundane question of governance as we are one of the first municipalities in the region to pilot the program, and the end result could have an impact broadly across the State and region. This is all the more reason why residents should be heard.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, one of the five elected officials who voted no on Thursday, said that she has an ordinance in the works to curtail irresponsible E-scooter riders and that this problem needs to be solved well before November 5th.
”Since day one of the eScooter program rollout, the City has struggled to effectively address the critical safety and enforcement concerns that have been plaguing our streets. We need to be gathering information from residents, hearing their voices and acting today, we cannot wait until November. This is what we were elected to do,” she said.
“As a result of what we have observed already, I will be introducing an ordinance to stop irresponsible riding of E-scooters on our crowded waterfront at our next meeting. Now is our opportunity to continue working together to address the safety and economic concerns together to make E-scooters work, or not, for Hoboken.”
In response, city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri said that continued efforts to improve E-scooter services are underway and that it would be “unfortunate” if the council decided not to put this on the ballot.
“Mayor Bhalla, the City Transportation Department, and the Hoboken Police Department continue to work diligently with the E-scooter companies to improve the service and make it safer for all riders and residents,” he explained.
“This will undoubtedly continue in the months ahead. This non-binding public question is one of several considerations Mayor Bhalla proposes the City takes into account to evaluate the program’s future. It would be unfortunate if the Council prevented this public and democratic process from occurring.”
Phil Jones, the senior director for East Coast Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships for Lime, one of the most popular E-scooter vendors in Hoboken, said that they continue to monitor issues such as riding on the sidewalk, underage riding, and riding through traffic lights
Furthermore, they are working with the city on a regular basis to ensure the best experience possible for all demographics, Jones said.
“Lime scooters have proven tremendously popular in Hoboken, with over 100,000 rides in just the first month. Hobokenites have taken quickly to incorporating scooters into their daily commutes while taking carbon-emitting cars off the road,” he said in an email.
“We’re working closely with the City to ensure riders are using scooters safely and properly and remain encouraged by this growing partnership.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from a Lime spokeswoman.