2017 HOBOKEN MAYORAL CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE — Ravi Bhalla
Can you please tell our readers your name (as it appears on the ballot), and how long you’ve lived in Hoboken?
Ravi Bhalla 17 years
We recently saw a political campaign ad from 1981 that cites, “potholes,” “lack of recreation,” “sewers that cannot hold a simple rainfall,” “overworked police force,” and “enormous profits” for developers as being major issues facing Hoboken. Yet here we are—36 years later—having a lot of the same discussions. Why should voters have any faith in your campaign promises?
When I came into office eight years ago, Hoboken was under state fiscal supervision and our bond rating was close to junk. We inherited a broken City Hall with a well-earned reputation for cronyism, corruption and unprofessional budget practices. As a leader on the Council, working in partnership with Mayor Zimmer, I played a central role in the Hoboken turn-around. We made the tough fiscal decisions, including reorganizing our top-heavy police and fire departments and modernizing and streamlining city services And. we saved our hospital from closing by finding a qualified private buyer, preventing a crippling default that would have left us holding the bag for an ill-advised $52 million bond guarantee. Today, we have a strong AA+ bond rating and Hoboken is on a sound long-term fiscal path.
And that’s far from all, We have upgraded all of our parks and secured additional open space for new ones as well as making significant strides to address our flooding problem, including winning a $230 million dollar federal grant for a comprehensive storm protection and flood prevention project called Rebuild by Design.
Based on this track record, I believe the voters can have faith in my campaign promises, which are based on the realistic and detailed plans that I have put forward on the major challenges facing our City.
Aside from the aforementioned issues, what else does the City of Hoboken need to address, and how will your administration do it?
The single most important challenge facing Hoboken in the years to come is bringing our aged infrastructure into the 21st Century.
As Mayor, I will act to upgrade our infrastructure, fixing our water mains, roads, sewers and piers and providing regular maintenance. I will ensure that we are better prepared for the intense storms that are predicted as a result of climate change, completing our comprehensive federally-funded flood prevention project, Rebuild by Design, and working to strengthen our electrical grid.
Additionally, I will push NJ Transit and the Port Authority for expanded bus and rail service, as well as more affordable ferry service. Our residents deserve to have reliable, reasonably priced transportation options that can also help to reduce traffic and improve our quality of life.
In order to accomplish these goals cost-effectively, I will develop a 10-year infrastructure improvement and maintenance plan that will be completed in the first 90 days of my term.
This campaign to date has certainly been spirited, some might even say divisive. Yet win or lose, many of the candidates will still be actively involved with the administration of Hoboken after November 7th. With that in mind, how would your Mayoral administration work to move ahead the projects and services that Hoboken residents need?
I will work hard after the election to reach out to all my opponents and their supporters, listening to their ideas and concerns, and working hard to bring Hoboken together. I will be a Mayor for all of Hoboken and have a proven track record of being able to work with people with diverse opinions who may not always agree with me. Given my experience under fire when we made the tough decisions to put Hoboken back on the right path, I am ready to lead from day one.
Everyone’s a critic. There’s no shortage of negative feedback on Hoboken’s various social media platforms—meanwhile voter turnout for municipal elections is routinely low. How would you encourage effective civic involvement in Hoboken?
I will actively promote the many opportunities to serve our city, whether that is on a city board or commission, as a first responder during emergencies, or as a volunteer for the many non-profit organizations that do great work. By getting a broader range of people involved civically, we not only strengthen our community; we increase interest in local politics and government.
What do you feel is the chief criticism of your candidacy, and how would you answer that criticism?
My work as a non-equity partner, a salaried employee, at a major New Jersey law firm has been distorted with a number of false and misleading attacks, that imply I am profiting from the work done by other lawyers at the firm – which is simply not true. We have responded to these attacks by supplying the facts.
But the most important information going forward is that, if I am elected Mayor, I will be working full-time for the people of Hoboken, severing my employment with the firm.
Say you win… congratulations. In four years, why would the people of Hoboken re-elect you?
The people of Hoboken would re-elect me because I will hold the line on taxes, will make fiscally responsible decisions, will complete Rebuild by Design, a comprehensive federally-funded flood prevention project, will have made substantial progress on upgrading our aging infrastructure with a sound plan going forward, and will have constructed new parks, among other important goals. In other words, I will do exactly what I said I would do in this campaign.
What’s the very first thing you’ll do after being sworn in?
I will convene a working group to begin developing our 10 year infrastructure improvement and maintenance plan that will be completed in our first 90 days.
Last but not least, why you?
I am the best prepared of all the candidates because I was centrally involved in making the tough decisions that turned our City around and put us back on the right path, taking Hoboken from Junk Bond status to a AA+ bond rating. I also have put forward the most detailed, realistic plans for the major challenges facing Hoboken, including upgrading our aging infrastructure, protecting our City from intense storms and the flooding it generates, holding the line on taxes and keeping the City on a sound long-term fiscal path, and securing more parks and open space. I know how to get this tough job done and working together with the Council and Hoboken residents, how to forge an even brighter future for the City we all love.