“Attorney,| Civil Rights activist | Proud father & husband | Die hard Yankees fan” – that’s how Hoboken Councilman Ravinder Bhalla describes himself on his Twitter handle. And now he’s added another characteristic – ‘Hoboken Mayoral Candidate.’
This June 20, Bhalla announced his bid for Mayor of Hoboken, and since then a slew of endorsements starting with the current Mayor Dawn Zimmer, have been pouring in.
The only Indian-American Sikh Councilman and elected official in Hoboken’s history has made a name for himself fighting publicly against racism and because of his accomplishments on the council which News India Times and Desi Talk in New York have reported on previously.
Just this April, Bhalla was campaigning hard for his third term as Councilman-at-large for the Nov. 7 elections. But with Zimmer declaring she will not run for another term, and endorsing Bhalla, he is gunning for the top office. Several other candidates are in the running or considering it, including Hoboken Council President Jen Giattino, a Republican, and community organizer Ronald Bautista.
While Bhalla could not be reached as this went to press, this April, he outlined his achievements over the last 8 years in the city council, to this correspondent, a record he will obviously campaign on for the Mayoral ticket come Nov. 7.
Bhalla’s concerns are keeping the high bond rating (Moody’s AA status) of this unique city perched at the edge of the behemoth Big Apple. He also sees Hoboken as a haven for members of the Sikh community to follow their faith without fear, he said. The councilman has taken on hate speech on the Web, and said issues facing the Sikh community are important everywhere in the country. But in Hoboken, the police department has given a guarantee that Sikhs will be able to serve with their articles of faith intact, he said, an achievement he hopes will be emulated by other cities. Bhalla is also working to generate a discussion at the state and national level on bullying in schools, something Sikh children face more than some other ethnicities.
“There is fear and anxiety within the Sikh community. And hate crimes against Sikhs are understated and underreported,” Bhalla contended in the April interview. After an April 9 fundraiser hosted by a Sikh family, Bhalla said on Facebook, “Today also reminded me that one side benefit, but a deeply meaningful one, of representing Hoboken the city I love, is that it gives young Sikh children a sense of possibility, that they are free to practice their faith AND pursue the American dream.”
“My Mom and Dad started their American journey in a trailer park with no family, no friends, but they have all that and more now,” Bhalla goes on to say. “America is an amazing country where great things can happen. I was fortunate to share that message today with young Sikh children and their parents.
In the April interview, Bhalla also discussed his 8-year tenure, saying he was proud of his leadership in achieving a “historic” turnaround of the Hoboken economy. “We had junk bond status (when he came into office), and recently we got a double A rating by Moody’s, which validates that turnaround,” Bhalla said.
He said he also spearheaded the “Rebuild-By-Design” initiative following the damage caused by hurricane Sandy, to make Hoboken more resilient against flooding, noting, “We received $230 million in federal funds which is going to have historic implications for Hoboken. We are actively pursuing the goals of the initiative.” He wanted to make sure that under the Trump administration, his city continues to receive the funds.
For his mayoral run, Bhalla says he is an “advocate for balanced development, open space initiatives, and sensible spending. Along with his colleagues, Bhalla notes he has worked toward lowering taxes, reforming the way City Hall serves the people, responsible development, and acquiring open space for the residents of Hoboken. He pledges to continue to balance the budget, avoiding structural deficits, lowering municipal taxes for Hoboken taxpayers, and maintaining a surplus or “rainy day” fund that is adequate to protect the city in unanticipated emergencies. “Balanced” development for him means ensuring that an appropriate mix of commercial, retail and residential development happen in the city. And flooding, which he said is going to become more of a danger due to climate change, will continue to be his priority, having served as co-chair of the Citizen Advisory Group for the Rebuild by Design project which he goes on to discuss in detail on his election website.
Bhalla was born and raised in New Jersey. During his term as Councilman, he served in several capacities, including as Council President. He was Chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Party from 2010-2011; served as a local Democratic Committeeman for the 2nd Ward, 3rd District of Hoboken from 2007-2009, before being elected to the city council.
He is an attorney with offices in Rochelle Park, N.J., specializing in employment law, commercial litigation, local government law and criminal defense in the federal and state courts of New Jersey and New York.
A graduate from the University of California at Berkeley, Bhalla got a Masters in Public Administration and Public Policy from the London School of Economics (L.S.E.) in U.K. He earned his law degree from Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The councilman is married to Navneet K. Patwalia Bhalla, and they have two children, Arza K. Bhalla and Shabegh S. Bhalla.