Op-Ed: Voting against $241M Hoboken school referendum is pro-transparency, not anti-education


In an editorial, Hoboken resident Rich Walker explains why he feels that voting against the $241 million school referendum is pro-transparency, not anti-education.

Photo via Google Maps.

When we turned the page on the brutal 2020 presidential election I thought we would see people being more civilized and less polarized but here we are again.

This time the venue is our own city that is so polarized over a situation that has been masterminded in secrecy over the past two years!

The elected officials of Hoboken along with the Board of Education (BOE) knowingly waited until the day after the November city election to let the cat out of the bag.

Our elected officials stacked the odds against the citizens of Hoboken for a fair, transparent and open discussion about the educational needs of the children of Hoboken.

Instead, our elected officials made the decision that we will have a new sports complex (with a school attached) and every resident of Hoboken shall pay for this school for the next 30 years.

The BOE has manipulated the numbers in their favor from an enrollment perspective while keeping tight lipped about the fact that the math and reading proficiency of the students “graduating” from Hoboken High School are some of the worst in the state.

These are the actions of our elected officials. In a true Democracy our elected officials would be meeting with constituents to understand our points of view and our concerns.

Our elected officials should be holding open forums for the residents to ask questions and get a better understanding of why this solution, why now, and why at this cost.

Instead, our elected officials have decided to join forces and buddy up to a small group of Hoboken residents with similar viewpoints.

Our elected officials and the BOE have already made the decision that a $241M ($330M with the interest on the bond) complex will be built on the current Hoboken High School stadium site. They have stacked the deck.

There’s been no talk about how this monolithic structure will improve test scores and prepare students for the real world that they will face — and let me be clear that the world and environment that these students will face when they graduate in 2029 will be vastly different than the world we know today.

Our democracy is already teetering, and our climate will likely be beyond repair. Will subpar math and reading scores prepare your child for this new world? Maybe a hockey rink will? Who knows!

Is it better to invest $241M in a structure with all the amenities anyone could imagine or to invest a fraction of that amount on teachers, books, tutors, internet and food security for our limited income students, advanced placement classes, and an emphasis on art and music?

Clearly there is a faction of Hoboken residents that believe having a state-of-the-art sports arena is more important than educating all of Hoboken’s students to the highest standards.

Our elected leaders have already decided that having one of the costliest high schools in U.S. history, that will only serve an additional 100 students, is more important than affording our students a competitive education.

Who is to blame for this situation that we find ourselves in? How is it that we have no checks and balances in in this process? How have we become a one-party city? Many of our “elected” officials ran unopposed this year.

They’ve known for some time that they could ramrod this referendum through; keep it quiet; spring it on us weeks before the election.

They’ve quietly told the residents favoring the referendum to go to the polls and vote while keeping most residents in the dark that a referendum is even approaching.

Furthermore, if the referendum fails those in favor will blame it on residents who opposed the measure falsely claiming that anyone who votes “no” doesn’t believe in education. Sound familiar?

Hoboken is becoming more like the oppressed society of George Orwell’s “1984” than a democratic entity where our elected officials represent the will of the people.

To reference the tag line of the Washington Post “Democracy Dies in Darkness” is what Hoboken residents are experiencing with the cloaked secrecy of this referendum.

So, on January 25th ask yourself this question: do I want darkness and a lack of transparency, or do I vote “No” and demand that we discuss this proposal fairly and openly — with options, outcomes, and full representation while maintaining a level of civility.

Voting “No” is not a vote against education. It’s a vote for transparency.

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  1. Agreed. Voting NO.

    The residents of Hoboken have been denied any voice in putting Superintendent Johnson staggeringly expensive vanity development plan. At a cost upwards of a quarter of a billion dollars for just the construction of a massive complex would be placed on the already heavily burdened backs of less than sixty thousand total population. That is clearly outrageous and should not be allowed to happen.

    Hoboken has fought hard over the past two decades to make it’s public institutions and officials to be responsive to will of the majority and transparent in what they do. This referendum is an insult to those ideals.

    Voting this referendum down and then working collaboratively, openly and honestly together is what must be done.

  2. Perfectly stated, Rich!

    I would add that had this been on the ballot in November (and don’t believe the “we missed the deadline” line) we would likely have different elected officials representing us – up to and including the mayor.

    Moreover, this plan was also introduced to a number of Vote YES “key influencers” of the public before others.


  3. At 20%, this is the largest tax increase in Hoboken history for the largest public works project in our history. No wonder it is such a bad plan- it was developed in a bubble. Every large project in this town- Rebuild by Design, the parks, Vision Zero, etc.- involved the community during the design phase and necessarily so. In a democratic society, community stakeholders must be included to get valuable feedback and buy-in. Unfortunately, the BOE did the exact opposite, which is why it has generated so much opposition, and why it’s a bad plan. Vote NO. Tell the BOE to go back to the drawing board and include the community in the planning and design. Our children deserve better.

    • The first step the community should be involved in is in deciding whether a new high school building is needed at all. Why is that a given? It’s pretty obvious the State doesn’t think it’s needed since they’re not contributing a penny to this. I don’t think there’s EVER BEEN a school construction project in NJ ever where the State hasn’t paid anything at all. The first part of any public process should involve the BOE telling the truth about why the State won’t contribute ANYTHING.

  4. Between this, the imminent domain of the waterfront, the Str-Eatery public land give away, which speaking of, do you know these restaurants pay like $1200 a month yet if you count their tables and potential sales revenue and its a fraction of what they could pay even though they shouldn’t even have it in the first place and I’m pretty sure is illegal; not to mention the Stalin-esque agenda to rid streets of parking spaces for people (that leaves me dumbfounded for the careless disregard of the diminishing returns factor on this ridiculous idea), overage expenses like flower pots on the corners, the 50 fold increase to noise pollution in this town and throw in the short-sided vision of a sea wall down Garden St (which is really code for protecting property east of said wall) it pretty obvious what going on here in ‘Hobroken’ is that these are excuses for the government of this bizarro run city to simply charge more taxes so they don’t have to manage under budgets properly Everything I’ve seen in my entire life in this city has turned into a coloring book, paint in the lines, superficial facade of nothing more than seemingly affluent people grafting and pandering to speculative land wealthy folks who mostly care neither to stay nor call this place their “forever” home: whatever that nonsense means. All the while the place is less efficient, acquires less and less long term tax payers who’s real investment in the city is voter consciousness; is noisier, has less manufacturing (to be taxed and refuses to attract any) AND growing in city worker which is even more money. More people here care about whether there enough garbage pails on the corner to throw their dog’s waste in than actually vote. The last election can show you that.

    So if you vote this show pony down than just keep expecting it to get worse. #takeandtakeandtake