Providing survey results, Bhalla reaches out to Hoboken council ahead of face mask fine vote

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Providing the results of a 24-hour survey issued by the city, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla reached out to the city council to approve a measure that would allow a $250 to be issued when face masks aren’t worn outdoors.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“While the risk of catching COVID-19 is not as great outdoors as it is indoors, health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci still recommend wearing face masks in situations where six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained from others,” Bhalla wrote in a letter to all nine council members today.

” … What has been proposed by Councilman Cohen is a proposed ordinance replicating [Gov. Murphy’s] Executive Order, with the added capability for the City to implement a $250 fine for those in violation.”

The mayor added that warnings, education, and distribution of face masks would be prioritized before the social distancing task force issues a fine, reiterating remarks he made earlier this month that said fines would only be issued in instances of “chronic disobedience,” as HCV first reported.

For about 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday, the city hosted a survey that they say saw 3,661 replies, with 51 percent of respondents indicating that either agreed of strongly agreed with the proposed $250 fine.

The results, which were forwarded to the media and also published in a Nixle alert, further indicate that 70 percent of the city’s “high-risk” population that responded would feel safer with a fine on the books, with 62 percent answering that the fine would make people more likely to wear masks.

While the first reading of the ordinance passed unanimously, it seems like there is a distinct possibility it could fail this time around with 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, and 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo publicizing that they don’t support this measure.

“Got your memo @RaviBhalla – let’s focus on actively enforcing @GovMurphy ’s existing exec. order on mask wearing. Your 10% tax increase for #Hoboken taxpayers is bad enough but trying to fill the gap on the backs of our neighbors is the definition of insanity,” DeFusco tweeted.

5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, the primary sponsor of the local legislation, responded that ” … maybe now is the time to come together and focus on saving lives rather than playing politics. The people of Hoboken will thank you for it.”

Additionally, Fisher referred to the city’s survey as “taxpayer funded propaganda.”

“If the mayor really wanted to make a difference instead of just sending emails to make headlines, he would have taken real mask related actions to improve safety including supplying masks throughout Hoboken, organizing an on-the-ground community effort to advocate mask usage, and asked Hoboken police to issue summonses and fines under our existing state law.”

If the ordinance is approved, class II special officers would be a part of the task force that issues fines, though the rest of the police department would not be.

The Hoboken City Council meets this evening at 7 p.m. via Zoom and the hearing will stream live on Facebook.