One of Roberts' appointees is an often-outspoken critic of the administration and City Council who routinely engages council members in debate during the bi-monthly meetings.
Maurice DeGennaro, former member of the Hoboken Planning Board and Board of Health, was selected by Roberts to serve as Efficiency and Evaluation Coordinator for the city of Hoboken.
"This is a time when we must start tightening our belts, down-sizing and reinventing new ways that the city may prosper," said DeGennaro, a former Army veteran and dock boss who worked with Applied Companies and the Nights of Columbus to develop and build Columbian Towers and Columbian Arms Senior Citizen Buildings.
"We are here to serve the public with the budget we have, and to not continuously lay the burdens of the city on the taxpayers," added DeGennaro, who will be responsible for making recommendations on how to increase city efficiency and proposing new alternatives on how the city can save money.
In the short time he has been working with the city, DeGennaro said he has already discovered an area where the city can save money. Numerous city employees who are married to other city employees are receiving individual health coverage, instead of signing up for one family plan between the two. That costs the city tens of thousands of dollars every year, DeGennaro said.
The city is also offering a post to retired Fire Chief Richard Tremitiedi. As Economic Development Advisor, he will be faced with finding new ways of bringing revenue into the city.
"I'm here to help the mayor and the council in whatever way I can," said Tremitiedi who recently ran an unsuccessful campaign against Councilwoman Elizabeth Mason for the 2nd Ward Council seat.
"I plan to bring new ideas to the city on how we can maximize our return on the sale of assets, as well as save money in current operations while not reducing our services," added Tremitiedi.
Roberts shared in the excitement expressed by the newly-hired resident advisors.
"We want to reach out to professionals and those with experience who have talent and ability and are willing to volunteer their services for the benefit of our city," said Roberts.
He added that former Environmental Services Director Cassandra Wilday has helped the city find new ways to create open space around town for the past few months. "This is a chance for people to contribute and to make Hoboken an even better place as well as increase the transparency of local government," the mayor said.
The significance of a $1 salary
Part of the initial agreement between the city and its resident-volunteers involved a $1 annual salary, which would make them hired city employees and give them access to personnel files.
As of late Thursday, however, Roberts refused to guarantee the $1 dollar contract, saying that the specifics of the contracts have yet to be determined. He said the city's corporation counsel was currently reviewing the matter. The mayor also added that he expects the contract between the city and its advisors to end at the conclusion of his term in July of 2009. (Roberts announced he would not run for re-election at the end of 2006.)
In response to Roberts' apparent unwillingness to follow through with what both Tremitiedi and DeGennaro had said was part of the initial agreement, DeGennaro vowed to resolve the situation. In order for him to function effectively in his new role, DeGennaro said, he must be granted access to personnel files at City Hall.
Not all of the Hoboken residents who wish to serve are asking for the $1 salary. Community activist Helen Hirsch sarcastically said she would take an advisory position with the city for 50 cents. "I would like very much to be an advisor," said Hirsch, who is well-known for being outspoken at City Council meetings. She regularly speaks on multiple resolutions and, on occasion, has been known to scold the council for over 20 minutes without interruption.
"They wouldn't like what I'd have to say though," Hirsch said. "I'm not a trouble maker for nothing, you know." But Roberts welcomed Hirsch to join the city in an advisory capacity, saying that he hopes his administration's initiative will promote resident involvement in local government affairs.
To find out how you can volunteer your time with the city, contact the mayor's secretary at (201) 420-2059.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.