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Busy Hoboken council to review ranked choice voting, electric vehicle program and more

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Ranked choice voting isn’t used in New Jersey, but if the state ever authorizes the method, Hoboken wants to be ready to take advantage of it.

An ordinance planning a referendum on ranked choice voting is one of more than a dozen new ordinances scheduled for first reading at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Discounts for electric charging parking and exempting unions from the city’s political contribution limit are also on the list.

Ranked choice voting is a system that allows voters to rank candidates on the ballot, rather than only voting for the number of candidates to fill the available seats. For example, if there were five candidates for mayor, voters would be able to pick a first choice, second choice, and so on.

The ordinance up for introduction Wednesday would lay the groundwork for a referendum in Hoboken, should ranked choice voting become legal, in which voters would determine whether the city should use the system.

The referendum would take place the first November after the state authorized ranked choice voting.

The ordinance calls the system a “simple upgrade to the way Hoboken voters currently vote.”

“(Ranked Choice Voting) enables voters to rank candidates in the order of preference and ensures that winners of any election have the support of – and are accountable to – a majority of voters,” it says.

The system also spares taxpayers from paying for runoff elections, another reason Mayor Ravi Bhalla supports it, said his administration’s spokeswoman Marilyn Baer.

A separate new ordinance would focus on the electric vehicle charging stations that the city started debuting in its garages last summer.

Hoboken now wants to create a six-month pilot “Green Pass” program that would allow electric vehicle owners to access the garages at discounted rates.

“The Green Pass program will allow the city to build a database of electric vehicle ownership in Hoboken, which will help inform planning of new municipally managed electric vehicle charging stations,” the ordinance up for introduction says.

Drivers with a “Green Pass” would pay $6 for up to eight hours in a municipal garage with a charging station. Garages B and D typically cost $20 for eight hours and the Midtown Garage costs $17.

The stations have been used for more than 1,100 charging sessions since they debuted, Baer said.

In addition to allowing the city to create a database of ownership in the city, the city thinks the program would incentivize the use of electric vehicles.

“Transportation accounts for about 31% of (greenhouse gas) emissions in Hoboken currently, so supporting green mobility options, including electric vehicles, that reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions is a major priority for Mayor Bhalla,” Baer said. “Increasing adoption rates of electric vehicles is also a key strategy in the city’s Climate Action Plan, which lays out a roadmap for Hoboken to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

The city is also looking to update its campaign laws before Christmas, with an ordinance on Wednesday’s agenda that would exclude unions’ political committees from the city’s $500-per-election contribution limit.

It would apply to both public and private unions. The legislation was only ever intended to limit PACs, Baer said. Under state election law, political committees can donate up to $7,200 per election.

“This amendment would simply correct that and allow unions to financially contribute during elections as allowed under New Jersey State law,” Baer said. “The ordinance is being introduced now to allow ample time for future candidates to familiarize themselves with the change ahead of future elections.”

Amongst the ordinances currently listed for a final vote are the Neumann Leathers redevelopment plan, which would add new housing and plazas at the artist haven, an expansion of the Western Edge Redevelopment Area, raises and salary ceiling adjustments for elected officials and some city employees, and the creation of Division of Constituent Services and Division of Housing.



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