Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mayoral Debate Tomorrow Night

The first of two live debates between incumbent mayor William Hallenbeck and challenger Tiffany Martin Hamilton takes place tomorrow evening--Wednesday, October 14--at 6:30 p.m. at John L. Edwards Primary School.

David Colby, president of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, who will be the moderator for the debate, has explained that the debate will follow the "town hall" version of the League of Women Voters debate format. After making three minute opening statements, the candidates will answer questions submitted by audience members. The questions must be addressed to both candidates, and they must be questions that can be answered in two minutes. Think about what you want to know from the two candidates, and come prepared with questions. Index cards and pens will be provided at the door to enable you to write your questions and submit them.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Authenticity or Symmetry?

The Historic Preservation Commission often faces real conundrums that pit what the members of the HPC are charged by law to do against what may be their own sense of what should be. Such is the case with the most recent proposal for 234-236 Warren Street.

A year or so ago, the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness for a new storefront to be created at 234 Warren Street. The understanding was that the new storefront would match the already existing storefront at 236 Warren Street, which is believed to date from the 1880s or maybe even the 1870s. (The building itself, as Bruce Hall surmised in an article written for Columbia County History & Heritage in 2003, likely dates back to the days of the Proprietors.) The problem is that the finished storefront does not match the existing storefront. In particular, the pitch of the roof is strikingly different.

The proposal now before the HPC is to replace the roofing on the overhang at 236 Warren Street with copper. If that is all that is done, the storefront at 236 Warren Street will still not match the storefront at 234 Warren Street. The question is: Do you alter something that has historic authenticity to match something that was a mistake, or you do preserve historic authenticity and in so doing create an unappealing asymmetry?

The conundrum seemed facilely discharged by HPC member Peggy Polenberg, who declared that there was "nothing historic" about the storefront at 236 Warren Street, in spite of the fact that it has been there for well over a century. Other members of the HPC were not so dismissive. The application was deemed incomplete, and the proposal will come back before the commission on October 23. HPC chair Rick Rector suggested that the approval process may require a public hearing.

Time for Action

Things are not looking good in the battle against the transmission upgrades threatening the farmlands and scenic vistas that surround us. It appears that, despite a growing body of evidence that the upgrades are not needed and the best way to produce energy is close to where it is consumed, the NYS Public Service Commission is poised to approve the scheme to bring electricity from upstate power plants to downstate consumers.

Photo: Farmers and Families of Claverack
Here are three things everyone should do now:
  1. Read this call to action from Farmers and Families of Claverack: "Nothing can stop powerlines from marching through Columbia County . . . but you."
  2. Call Governor Andrew Cuomo--518 474-8390--and tell him there is no need for a project that would cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars and damage the Hudson Valley's beauty, environment, farms, and more.
  3. Contact the Public Service Commission and give them the same message.
Just do it . . . now.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Man of His Word

Even before being elected, Common Council president hopeful Tom DePietro has kept one of his campaign promises. After making disparaging remarks, in an interview on WGXCabout pepperoni in red sauce--a traditional part of Hudson Italian fare--DePietro promised to eat a pepperoni sandwich at the Polka Hop, an event presented this afternoon by the Tiffany for Mayor Campaign and the Tom DePietro for Council President Campaign. DePietro kept his word, and the moment was a Hudson photo op.

Photo: Jessica Puglisi
Photo: Jessica Puglisi
Photo: Jessica Puglisi
And . . . he went back for seconds!

Photo: Sarah Sterling

Scenes from the Polka Hop

Photo: Victor Mendolia

Photo: Dorothy Heyl

Photo: Charlie Suisman

Election Prep

The election is still more than three weeks away, but, because for various reasons the ballots for the November 3 election are not as straightforward as they usually are, a little advance preparation is recommended. The sample ballots for the five wards in Hudson can all be viewed (or downloaded) on the Columbia County Board of Elections website. Here are the links:

The problematic column on all the ballots is Column 6: Common Council President. In this column, Victor Mendolia's name appears twice--on Row A (Democratic) and Row E (Working Families)--but Mendolia is not running. He withdrew from the race on August 21 and threw his support to Tom DePietro. To vote for DePietro, you must go all the way down to Row I, where his name appears on his own party line, All-Hudson.

The Fourth Ward ballot presents an additional challenge for voters. The last two columns--the ones on the far right--are for the aldermen. Voters can select two from among the four candidates whose names are on the ballot--Alexis Keith, Derrick Smart, Rich Volo, Lauren Scalera. They can choose two from Column 9, or they can choose one from Column 9 and one from Column 10, but they cannot choose two from Column 10, because the only name that appears in Column 10 is Lauren Scalera.

The burden will be on the election inspectors to make certain voters understand that in the last two columns they don't have to vote for one and only one candidate in each column.

The Hudson Arcade--Three Years Later

It was 2012 when the Hudson Arcade, the Galvan Initiatives Foundation's expansion of the little building that started life as a convenience store, received site plan approval from the Planning Board (then still the Planning Commission) and a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission. 

With a tenant lined up for the building, Galvan representatives were back before the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday seeking a certificate of appropriateness for a "modification to three specific areas"of the building.

The first area to be modified is to the east side of the building. Three windows are to be inserted on the ground floor of the new brick section of the building; another three windows will be inserted in the cinder block extension to the building behind; and the cinder block wall is to be covered with Hardiplank clapboard.

HPC member Peggy Polenberg fussed about the windows proposed for the cinder block building not being evenly spaced out, but it was explained that a structural element in the building was dictating the placement of the windows.

The second area of modification was the front facade, where a configuration of windows and doors different from what now exists was proposed. The four sets of double doors that were originally installed will  be replaced by a double door on either end of the facade and a single door in the middle. Presumably the promised marble Doric pilasters will also be installed at this point.

The request for a certificate of appropriateness hit a snag with the third area of modification: an enclosed stairway to access the second floor of the building to be constructed on the west side of the building, between 449 and 445-447 Warren Street. 

The snag was significant. While Rick Rector, HPC chair, and Gini Casaco asked for photographs of the existing buildings and an elevation drawing that showed how the proposed staircase fit into the streetscape, code enforcement officer Craig Haigh realized that the staircase was not preexisting. The staircase he had ascended to inspect the second floor during construction was only a temporary staircase built to allow workers to access the second floor. Because the staircase is new construction, it is subject to state fire code, which, according to Haigh, requires that there be 5 feet between it and the next building. Since there appears to be less than 5 feet of open space between the two buildings, a state fire code variance will be required to build an enclosed staircase there. Securing the variance is necessary before the HPC can grant a certificate of appropriateness.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Happening in Hudson Next Month

On Thursday, in the Art & Design section of the New York Times, it was reported that Cornelia Guest, only daughter of C. Z. Guest and Winston Frederick Churchill Guest (second cousin to Winston Churchill), is moving to a farm in Columbia County, where she plans to establish an animal sanctuary, and is selling the contents of her family estate: "Cornelia Guest Sets Auction for Contents from Family Compound." The objects have been consigned to Sotheby's, in Manhattan, and Stair Galleries, right here in Hudson.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Not to Be Missed Next Weekend

A favorite and archetypal Hudson event is coming up next Sunday, October 18--Haute Cature, the fashion show and auction to benefit Animalkind and help the homeless felines of Hudson and beyond.

The show begins at 6 p.m. at Helsinki Hudson. Purchase tickets online by clicking here, or visit the shelter at 721 Warren Street to purchase them in person.

Last Day to Register to Vote

If you are not already registered to vote, act now! Elections in Hudson are won and lost by very small margins. Every vote counts.

Courtesy Hudson FORWARD
To cast the ballot that could decide Hudson's future, you must be registered, and the deadline to register in order to vote in the November election is TODAY. 

Download the voter registration form here. You can deliver your completed form in person to the Board of Elections, 401 State Street, until 5 p.m. today. Or you can mail your completed form. It must be postmarked today, October 9, and arrive at the Board of Elections by Wednesday, October 14. 

Today is also the deadline for changing party enrollment or enrolling in a party if you are currently an NOP (no official party) in preparation for voting in the presidential primary next spring.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Contemplating Sidewalks

Photo: Chad Weckler
These days, walkability is a valued and sought after quality for communities. It brings many benefits. The ones usually cited are improved fitness and reduced risks of certain health problems, cleaner air, and a greater sense of community. For Hudson, there are couple more benefits. Encouraging walking can ease the city's growing and often complained about parking problems. The city's walkability also makes it more desirable as a destination. Visitors can arrive by train and don't need a car once they are here.

Any checklist designed to rate a city's walkability usually begins with assessing walking paths and sidewalks. Do they exist? Do they stop and start? Are they broken or cracked? By this measure of walkability, Hudson doesn't score very high. There are places where there are no sidewalks. There are places where sidewalks stop and start. But mostly, there are cracked and broken sidewalks, and, perhaps unique to Hudson, there are places where the sidewalk in front of one building is dramatically higher than the sidewalk in front of the next building. Gossips did a study of the latter phenomenon in April 2012, and the situation has not improved since.

Yesterday, during the debate between the mayoral candidates on WGXC, one of the questions submitted by a listener asked if either of the candidates would address the problem of sidewalks in his or her first 100 days in office.

Mayor William Hallenbeck responded by saying he'd been addressing the issue of sidewalks since he became mayor in 2012. He spoke of individual property owners fixing their sidewalks, citing in particular the "beautiful new sidewalks" at TSL. He also spoke of how he had "changed the culture" of the code enforcement office.

Photo: Mark Orton
In her response, Tiffany Martin Hamilton spoke of finding a way to carry out a City initiative that would replace all the sidewalks in designated areas of the city at one time, allowing individual property owners to pay for their part of the new sidewalks over time in their property taxes. She acknowledged that there were challenges to making such a plan work but asserted, "We can't turn our backs on things because they are difficult."

In his rebuttal, the mayor said that he didn't see why the City should try to fix sidewalks when it's the individual property owners' responsibility.

The pictures that accompany this post, which show some examples of the extreme (and extremely treacherous for pedestrians) height variation between new sidewalk and older sidewalk, provide evidence of why offloading the responsibility for public sidewalks to individual property owners, which may be as unique to Hudson as the weighted vote, isn't working very well.


This Weekend's Big Event

The word from the organizers of the Polka Hop happening this Sunday is that the first 250 tickets, which were being sold for $5, are gone. But do not despair. That doesn't mean you have to miss out on this amazing retro Hudson shindig presented by the Tiffany for Mayor Campaign and the Tom DePietro for Council President Campaign. It only means that, because you dragged your feet, your ticket is going to cost you $20 instead of $5. To buy your ticket, go to tiffanyformayor.com.

Election Prep

A race that is not getting enough attention is the race for Columbia County district attorney, in which Democrat Ken Golden is challenging incumbent Paul Czajka. Yesterday, Golden spoke with Debby Mayer on the WGXC show @Issue. If you missed it yesterday, the show has now been archived and can be heard here.


Second Chances

If you missed incumbent mayor William Hallenbeck and his challenger Tiffany Martin Hamilton this morning on the radio, in a debate moderated by Justin Weaver and Holly Tanner on WGXC, you can hear it now--for the first time or again--by clicking here.

Or, you can read John Mason's summary of the radio show, beginning on the front page of the print version of the Register-Star: "Mayoral candidates go face to face." 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Reminder About Commenting

Gossips recently changed its commenting policy to allow commenters to opt for "Anonymous" when asked to select a profile. This was done for the benefit of readers who do not have Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, or TypePad accounts and do not wish, for whatever reason, to establish such an account. However, if you select "Anonymous" as your profile, you must sign your comment. If it is not signed, it will not be published.

Putting the Choice in Perspective

In today's Register-Star, there is a "My View" written by Don Moore, who was first elected Common Council president in 2009 and has served in that position for three terms--one with Rick Scalera as mayor and two with Bill Hallenbeck as mayor. His message, which carried the title "Hiring a Mayor in 2015," is well worth reading. Because Moore's piece appears only in the print version of the newspaper and isn't easily accessed in the online version, Gossips asked Moore for permission to publish the text here, which he granted. Moore's "My View" follows.

Hiring a Mayor in 2015   
Endorsements, especially for mayor, are the stuff of elections. I do have a recommendation, but mine is first about Hudson's future, a future where those of us in public service work together thoughtfully and positively, where, as a community, we put our best people forward for office based on the candidates' proven capacity and desire to serve and to lead.
Hudson's challenges are significant, and addressing them takes leadership and management. Replacing the Ferry Street Bridge; developing the Dunn's warehouse and the Kaz property; creating affordable, safe and decent housing; establishing a working relationship with the Hudson business community.
When we elect a mayor, we are --think of it like this--hiring a manager; someone who understands the business we are in, and has the best accumulated skills and track record to be hired for the job.
What is in the job description? Having a grasp of the whole city. What does that mean? It means understanding the various group and individuals who make the city tick; what their needs and their values are. It takes a self-starter. The ideal candidate will be aggressive and use his or her time efficiently. He or she will prioritize the projects to be worked on (with limited budget resources), and will create initiatives both to conserve resources and to find new sources of revenue.  
So, let's look at the candidates we will interview. First, Tiffany Martin Hamilton. Tiffany is a Hudson native. She has worked for major technology corporations, where she specialized in financial management, human resources, and operations management. Most recently she was employed by iRise, publisher of a visualization software platform used by Fortune 500 companies, and by NXN Software recently acquired by Avid Technology, a major international provider of audio and video creative editing technologies. Tiffany has skills tested in complex organizations over more than 20 years.
And our current Mayor, Bill Hallenbeck? Bill's argument to keep his job is based on creating lists that unfortunately, upon examination, don't add up to a record. Especially over the past two years, when Bill's time in office has been defined by the things he is against, not the things he is for. Bill says he lowered taxes. He did not. He, the City Treasurer and the Common Council approved no or slight increases in taxes.
Another example: regarding the Ferry Street Bridge, on WGXC, Bill explained his inaction since the bridge was closed by saying that the city could not pursue grants until the city attorney had issued an opinion that the city owned the bridge. It is fair to ask, was he paying attention? In February of 2013, the City, namely your Grant Writers and I, with Bill signing the application, filed a $2.4 million Strategic Transportation Enhancement Program application with the NYS Department of Transportation. We were not successful but there was no impediment to our application.
We all have to decide who we will hire this November. I believe Hudson's future would be in much better hands with Tiffany Martin Hamilton.

Today's Listening Schedule

At 10 a.m., on WGXC, Debby Mayer speaks with Ken Golden, Democratic candidate for Columbia County district attorney on @Issue.

At 2:00 p.m., on WGXC, Justin Weaver and Holly Tanner speak with the two Hudson mayorial candidates, Tiffany Martin Hamilton (Democrat) and William Hallenbeck (Republican), on Something to Talk About.

Gossips has been advised that Weaver and Tanner will each ask three questions of both candidates. There may be time for questions from listeners, so if you have a question you would like the hosts to consider, you can use Facebook to submit a question either to Weaver or Tanner or to the show's Facebook page. 

WGXC is heard at 90.7 FM or online at wgxc.org