Hoboken, New Jersey Councilman-at-large Ravinder Singh Bhalla is running for his third term and hopes to carry on building on the achievements of the past 8 years if he gets elected Nov. 7. Three members of the 9-member city council are running, and at least 9 candidates are vying for the 3 seats to date. More may jump in during the coming weeks. The top three vote-getters win seats to the council in this non-partisan election.
The popular Bhalla hopes to get re-elected so he can continue to help sustain the high bond rating (Moody’s AA status) of this unique city perched at the edge of the behemoth Big Apple, that has made a name for itself. He also sees Hoboken as a haven for members of the Sikh community to follow their faith without fear.
This April 9, the Sikh community in Bergen County, N.J. held a fundraiser for him where 75 attendees emptied their pockets to send him back to the council.
Among the invitees and speakers was former Mayor and former Freeholder of Franklin Lakes, N.Y., Maura DeNicola, and New Jersey State Sen. Bob Gordon, as well as Sanjiv Puri, member of the School Board in Glen Rock, N.J.
In an interview with Desi Talk, Bhalla said he is 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 also spearheaded the “Rebuild-By-Design” initiative following the damage caused by hurricane Sandy, to make Hoboken more resilient against flooding. “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 said.
“Going forward I want to continue with the economic turnaround, and also make sure that with a different administration in the White House, we can continue to receive our funding for Rebuild-By-Design,” Bhalla added.
Bhalla is putting together his campaign team, and hopes to raise what an average election campaign to the City Council requires – around $250,000.
The councilman has taken on hate speech on the Web, and says 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 contends.
“There was a severe spike (in hate crimes) in the first ten days after President Trump was elected (November 8); It’s become relatively better since then,” he acknowledges, though the problem exists.
About the April 9 fundraiser, Bhalla says 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. Great day and event. Feeling very humbled.”
Response on Facebook reveal a pride in the Sikh councilman. “Scott Schlesinger says, “You r the best. Our town is amazing thanks to you, the mayor, and this city council. What a great job administering one of the best, unique cities in America.”
Kristina Sutter Nash says, “Hearting” this post wasn’t enough, I also need to say I love this post.” She adds a smiling emoji.
Bhalla was born and raised in New Jersey. During his term Bhalla has served in several capacities, including as Council Presient. He was Chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Party from 2010-2011. Bhalla 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.