Hoboken’s Office of Constituent Affairs has officially ceased operations about two months after the city council overrode a veto from Mayor Ravi Bhalla to abolish the department, prompting the former director, Caroline Caulfield, to exit City Hall.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I’m very grateful for the services Caroline Caulfield provided to the residents of Hoboken over the past two years. Since we established the Office of Constituent Services in 2018, Caroline has been the go-to person for our most vulnerable populations, assisting with critical issues including unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, housing needs, and initiating critical changes such as our mold ordinance to protect residents,” Bhalla said in a statement.
“I wish Caroline well, and know that she has an incredibly bright future ahead of her. We will do everything we can to maintain constituent services despite the unfortunate elimination of this office by the city council and Caroline’s departure.”
Caulfield, a former aide to U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Migdalia Pagan-Milano, who unsuccessfully challenged Mike DeFusco for the 1st Ward council seat in November, were the only two employees of constituent affairs.
Pagan-Milano remains employed at City Hall.
The mayor’s office said prior to the June 3rd council vote that this office assisted over 1,000 residents, helped recruit 250 volunteers to feed over 900 seniors with the Health and Human Services Department, connected food-insecure families to critical groceries from the Hoboken Food Pantry, and more, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At that meeting, Councilmen Mike Russo and Ruben Ramos said that given the city’s uncertain budget situation, it would be irresponsible to continue funding the department when service cuts would be necessary.
HCV noted after the vote, Caulfield’s departure would be sooner than later. Her last day at City Hall was August 7th.
That decision was made less than two months the administration announced 26 municipal employees would be laid off, though a few were eventually brought back.
Two of Bhalla’s allies on the council, Emily Jabbour and Phil Cohen, also praised Caulfield for her service and criticized their colleagues for voting to get rid of constituent affairs.
“I regret that due to politically motivated retribution, our community no longer has the benefit of this office and the effective support they provided. Thank you to Caroline for her service and I wish her all the best,” said Jabbour, a councilwoman-at-large.
“On behalf of the people of the 5th Ward, I wish her continued success and thank her for her service. Unfortunately, the people of Hoboken are now less without her, as a result of the City Council’s abolition of the Office of Constituent Services which she served so well,” added Cohen, the 5th Ward representative.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.