At the beginning of the semester, I was so excited to switch my voter registration over to Hoboken so I could make an impact on local politics. I went to all of the major candidates’ websites and started reading up on all of their positions. I was just about ready to pull the lever for Councilman DeFusco; my only reservation was based on how he would do during the debate. But after what I saw last week, I’m not so sure that I really want to vote for any of the candidates.
The nice thing about local politics is that the Republican versus Democrat debate doesn’t really come up all that often unless the election is in a major city. Thankfully, Hoboken is safe from candidates putting a D or an R on the ballot next to their name, so I could only guess who supported what political party. At first, I guessed that Mike DeFusco was a Republican based on his pro-business stance, Ravi Bhalla was a Democrat since he was endorsed by current Mayor Dawn Zimmer who is a widely known Democrat, Anthony Romano appeared to be an independent based on his stance on taxes staying low along with his push for more government involvement, and Jen Giattino appeared as a Republican based on her aim to cut government. I correctly predicted two out of the four because it turned out that DeFusco and Romano are Democrats. I was surprised to find myself supporting a Democrat at first, but there wasn’t much with which I could disagree with him on a local level.
But the debate really changed my mind. DeFusco was the first candidate to speak, and he came out swinging. He immediately challenged a few of his opponents’ records, which I personally felt was not a smart move. I want a mayor that can convince people based on ideas and not have to run a smear campaign in the process. The only accusation that I felt was fair was against Councilman Ravi Bhalla. According to DeFusco, Bhalla’s law firm had accepted over $8 million in lobbying fees from Suez Water, Hoboken’s only water supplier. I was excited to see Bhalla respond to this during rebuttal, but instead, he remained silent, essentially admitting he was guilty of the charges leveled. That immediately removed him from my potential list of candidates. At the same time, DeFusco began to sound very pretentious and didn’t talk much about the issues in the beginning. If he had stuck with nothing but the issues and that one valid accusation, he would probably still have my vote.
The remaining candidates were Romano and Giattino. After it became clear that Freeholder Romano is running for both the mayor and county freeholder at the same time, he was off my list. It clearly means that he isn’t dedicated enough to Hoboken to pick one position and do that to the best of his abilities. He also never really mentioned what he accomplished for Hoboken while a county freeholder, aside from keeping the streets clean during snow storms. I wouldn’t even consider that an accomplishment unless he was literally out there plowing snow or managing snow removal crews.
Last, but far from least, was City Council President Giattino. She was good in the majority of her remarks but appeared very unexcited. Although she did seem to want to break from the status quo, it didn’t come through very well. She would only provide a rebuttal when directly challenged, but to her credit, all of her rebuttals were very effective. My only other point of detraction is her, and all of the other candidates’ reaction to Washington Street construction. As a future civil engineer, it was clear that not a single candidate knew what it was like to work on or manage a construction site, especially one that stretches roughly 14 blocks. They all complained about the slow progress of a project that is surrounded by one of the busiest streets in Hoboken. I dare any of the candidates to actually take the time to understand how construction works and then continue to criticize the Washington Street project.
As for the two minor candidates, for whom it would take a few miracles to win, they weren’t bad, but I don’t know if they could really get the job done. If I could somehow mix the passion of DeFusco with the ideas of Giattino, I would have a candidate to vote for. All in all, I don’t know who I’m voting for, or if I will even vote at all.