Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer took aim at Council President Jen Giattino, claiming she isn’t right to lead the city at least partially due to being a Republican, prompting a response from the mayoral hopeful this morning.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Jen, like many of her fellow elected Republicans, does not accept that climate change is a real issue requiring urgent government action,” Zimmer wrote in a mass e-mail sent out today, echoing the sentiment in a mailer that went out last week.
“The $230 million federally funded Rebuild By Design project is essential for protecting our City. Yet, when political opposition threatened Rebuild by Design, Jen suggested to me that perhaps we should give up on it because it might be too difficult. I’m not sure Jen will get this important project done.”
Last week, Zimmer announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the release of the $230 million allocated for the Rebuild by Design project.
Both Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, who has the backing of Zimmer in the mayor’s race, and Giattino put out statements expressing excitement that the project is moving forward.
“I am thrilled to see the Rebuild By Design project, which will protect Hoboken from rising sea levels and major storms, move forward. The reality is climate change is real. This $230 million for comprehensive flood protection provides Hoboken with a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Bhalla.
“I was Council President when Hoboken was awarded the Rebuild By Design project and along with the full support of my council colleagues I worked side by side with Mayor Zimmer to advocate for this project. This is a big step in the process of making Hoboken resilient and sustainable,” stated Giattino.
In the email, Zimmer continues that she’s “not sure” Giattino will be able to help create the infrastructure trust fund or expand the southwest park since she felt the Hudson Tea and Maxwell place buildings should pay for their own flood protection and that 6th Ward residents should not have help pay for “a pocket park.”
Giattino represents the 6th Ward on the council.
In a statement released on Twitter, Giattino expressed disappointment with the Zimmer/Bhalla camp, who have also recently produced several mailers criticizing Giattino for not denouncing the policies of President Donald Trump.
“As we near election day a certain amount of back and forth is expected, but I did not anticipate completely baseless attacks from people I’ve long supported and been supported by,” she said.
“I am saddened by the recent attacks and false statements, but I cannot undue their words. I can only choose mine. We must not let Hoboken be spoiled like Washington with partisan politics.”
Hoboken’s municipal elections are non-partisan, but that has not stopped Bhalla from aggressively targeting a Democratic voter base that largely outnumbers Republicans – though the Mile Square City has one of the larger GOP voting populations in Hudson County.
Over the phone, Giattino told Hudson County View that she is “shocked” Bhalla would resort to mudslinging against her.
“I’m completely shocked by it. It’s beyond being allies with someone, we were actually friends,” Giattino stated, declining to go after Zimmer, adding she has worked with her for six years on a number of issues including Hurricane Sandy and climate change.
She further stated that as mayor, she “will follow that work through to completion.”
Additionally, Zimmer notes in her e-mail that she asked Giattino to run for council in 2011 and backed her re-election in 2015, but concludes that the best choice for mayor is “clearly and unequivocally Bhalla.”
Over the phone, Zimmer told Hudson County View that she felt there were a lot of “misconceptions” out there as to why she supported Bhalla over Giattino and wanted to set the record straight, pointing out that she still isn’t comfortable with Giattino’s stance on climate change.
“She still hasn’t said anything about the role municipal government needs to play in climate change, particularly in Hoboken, while Ravi Bhalla has made it clear this is an important issue for him that he wants to see through,” Zimmer explained.
Moments after Zimmer revealed she would not be seeking a third term in June, she endorsed Bhalla to succeed her.
Giattino announced her mayoral candidacy about a week later and quickly had a falling out with the Zimmer administration after the fact.
At a city council meeting where they had the option to vote on a new Suez Water contract, which the mayor advocated for, last month, Zimmer had a tense exchange with the council before the measure was pulled from the agenda by Giattino after no one sponsored it.
Since then, the two exchanged words regarding the approximately $8.3 million liability that has come with the current Suez Water agreement.