The first-ever Indian-American mayor of Hoboken, N.J., delivered his first State of the City address Jan. 29, at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Mayor Ravinder Bhalla has distinguished himself with his very active grassroots social media approach to 21st Century governance.
Calling his city the best place to live in the country, he dwelt on his achievements even as he presented a long-term vision that aims at dealing with daily lifestyle issues. He also recognized an Indian-American child with an award.
“I’m biased, but Hoboken is the best place in America to call home,” Mayor Ravinder Bhalla asserted as he began his speech. His address focused on his three major priorities: a Vision Zero pedestrian safety campaign that would eliminate all traffic-related deaths by 2030; water main upgrades that include $1.5 million dollars each year in proactive water main replacements, with $33 million in water main upgrades over a 15 year span; and Hoboken’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the effects of climate change, a plan that calls for municipal operations to become net zero by 2025 and carbon neutral by 2035.
The Mayor recognized two residents for their contributions to the community, one an Indian-American, Satya Singh, a 5 year old cancer survivor who has helped raise $500,000 with her mother and father for cancer research. She was honored as “Hoboken Girls’ 2018 Girl of the Year” for turning tragedy into triumph, the Mayor said.
“We’re joined tonight by one of my favorite young people in Hoboken, Satya Singh,” the Mayor said, recounting the experiences of the five-year old, who was diagnosed four years ago. “Satya, with the strength of her mother, Raakhee and father, Agan, had to endure long hospital stays, hundreds of doctor visits, sleepless nights, and a six hour surgery to remove a tumor. She didn’t just beat back cancer, though. With the grace of God, Satya is now cancer free,” Mayor Bhalla noted. “Today, at the age of 5, she’s inspiring countless children across the country,” he said.
Jack Silbert who runs a program called “Don’t dis – disabilities” was also honored at the event.
The address also featured performances by the Hoboken High School Choir, and the Hoboken School’s Thespians Club.
When he was sworn in a year ago, Bhalla said, “I envisioned a progressive, forward thinking, 21st century model of what urban living could look like. And I am proud to say we’ve made incredible progress towards achieving that vision.”
Bhalla experienced hate speech during his campaign and after his victory, and one of his first acts on coming into office was to sign an Executive Order declaring Hoboken a fair and welcoming city.
“In a time of divisiveness, when the values embodied by the Statue of Liberty are under duress, when we fight over whether to build walls or not, I chose to signal to the world that Hoboken is open, that in our streets and neighborhoods, the American Dream is alive and well. We don’t need Washington to define who we are, WE can do that,” the Mayor said.
Among his achievements is extending municipal services to residents and improving delivery, setting up a homelessness taskforce, a food pantry, job training and placement programs, housing vouchers for permanent housing, increasing the budget for a tenant advocate, and establishing paid parental leave for all city employees, “because those first few months with a child should not leave someone with an empty wallet.”
The full video of the State of the City can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/Hoboken/videos/545899202577534/