Friday, March 27, 2015

Criticism and Defense of the Galvan Empire

As anticipated, John Mason's article, in which former mayor Rick Scalera defends his employer, saying the Galvan Initiatives Foundation is "doing what it can to meet all the demands placed on it," and current mayor William Hallenbeck repeats his unqualified praise of Eric Galloway, saying that "he deserves the key to the city" because "he pays $450,000 a year [in property taxes], and he's never been late," appears in today's Register-Star: "Critics: Galvan keeping housing off the market."


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sad News for "Downton Abbey" Fans

It was officially confirmed today that the upcoming sixth season of Downton Abbey will be the last: "The End of the Estate: 'Downton Abbey' Is Officially Saying Goodbye." 

Legal Committee Discusses the Weighted Vote

At the last Hudson FORWARD meeting, Victor Mendolia made a PowerPoint presentation on the weighted vote system in Hudson. That presentation can be viewed at the Hudson FORWARD website.

Last night, the Common Council Legal Committee too addressed the issue of the weighted vote, starting with a memo on the subject prepared by former assistant city attorney Daniel Tuczinski. In the memo, Tuczinski considered "three major issues which arise in analyzing the application of the weighted voting principles in the City of Hudson." Those three issues are:
  1. Does each Ward boundary contain the proper population allocation for purposes of accurate voting and calculation of weighted vote?
  2. Is the current weighted voting system used by the City of Hudson Constitutional?
  3. Does the current system of representation by five Supervisors from five Wards within the City of Hudson on the County Board of Supervisors comply with Constitutional requirements?
On the first issue, Tuczinski concludes:
It is recommended that the first step to remedy these problems is to properly identify the actual Ward boundaries so that each voter will be voting in the proper district. The most accurate way to identify the Ward boundaries is with a City wide survey from which a proper map can be created which needs to be provided to the Columbia County Board of Elections. The 2010 Census blocks should then be applied within each properly identified Ward boundary.
On the other two issues, Tuczinski concluded: "Given the foregoing, which is neither conclusive nor exhaustive, I suggest a more detailed analysis be undertaken."

Stephen Dunn, attorney and Hudson resident who has undertaken the task of analyzing the arcane mathematics of the weighted vote, had been invited to address the Legal Committee. Dunn began his presentation, which soon devolved into talk about percentage of deviation, by saying that he did not think any city has ever had a weighted vote system. Dunn's opinion seems to be supported by Gossips' research into the genesis of Hudson's weighted vote system. In 1974, when Hudson decided it needed to comply with the "one man, one vote" principle, which had been established by a Supreme Court decision ten years earlier, the Common Council was given a choice: a weighted vote system or a realignment of the ward boundaries. The mayor at the time, Sam Wheeler suggested that the advice of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors be sought, since the Board of Supervisors had adopted a weighted vote system just the year before. After five months of deliberation, the Common Council decided to pursue the weighted vote. Dr. Lee Papayanopoulos, who had calculated the weighted vote for the Board of Supervisors, said he could do the same for the City of Hudson. What seems not to have been considered by Papayanopoulos, who is not a constitutional lawyer but teaches in the Department of Management Science and Information Systems at the Rutgers Business School, is that, unlike the municipalities that make the divisions of the county, the wards in Hudson have no individual governmental power.

Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward), who seems convinced that the City must remedy the weighted vote problem in order to avoid a legal challenge will cost the City $100,000 to defend, suggested a simple solution to the problem: do away with the wards and ward representation and make all the aldermen "citywide." The suggestion met with this question from Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee: "What happens if all the aldermen come from the same block?" Miah said he didn't think that would happen, but let's look at history.

The most prominent government official who is elected citywide is the mayor. Since 1974, when the weighted vote system was adopted, every mayor save two has resided in the Fifth Ward. Sam Wheeler (1974-1975), Mike Yusko (1980-1991), Bill Allen (1992-1993), Rick Scalera (1994-1999, 2002-2005, 2008-2011), Ken Cranna (2000-2001), and Dick Tracy (2006-2007) all lived in the Fifth Ward. The two exceptions are Paul J. Colwell (1976-1979), who lived on the 300 block of Union Street, in the Third Ward, and our current mayor, William Hallenbeck, who lives on Columbia Turnpike, in an area at the edge of the city that until recently was thought to be in the Third Ward but turns out is really in the Fifth Ward.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ear to the Ground

Back in January, when the Common Council held a public hearing on the local law establishing a minimum apartment size, the Register-Star reported that attorney Mark Greenberg, speaking on behalf of his client the Galvan Foundation, objected to the law, questioned the City's authority to enact it, and claimed that establishing a minimum apartment size would have the effect of reducing the amount of affordable housing. The aldermen responded by asking Greenberg about the number of apartments his client had brought to the market and the number of buildings owned by Galvan that have stood vacant for years.

Rick Scalera, former mayor and now Fifth Ward supervisor who is employed by Galvan as a "special adviser," came to his employer's defense, citing the "deplorable condition" the buildings were in when Galvan acquired them and the "exorbitant amount of money" being spent by Galvan on the Armory, and offered this invitation: "Any councilman need only go on a tour with me and I'll show you what they look like."

It is not known if any of the aldermen took Scalera up on his offer, but the press did. According to Gossips sources, a reporter for the Register-Star took the tour last week, and yesterday a reporter and a photographer for Columbia Paper were shown around. The articles on the subject can be expected any day.

Reminder: Public Hearing on Friday

On Friday morning, at 10 a.m., the Historic Preservation Commission will be receiving public comment on the proposal to demolish the building at 330 Warren Street and develop the lot as part of a private walled garden. 

The public hearing and the HPC meeting that follows immediately thereafter take place in the Council room at City Hall.

Remembering Mike Gladstone

Photo: New York Times
A gathering to celebrate and remember Mike Gladstone, who died on February 13, will take place on Sunday, March 29, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Hudson Opera House. His obituary has appeared in both the New York Times and the Register-Star.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Vision That Won't Go Away

It's been four years since Harbalwant Singh shared his vision for Route 66. Back in February 2011, he told the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency that Greenport Crossing would cause a "ripple effect" and "Route 66 will be totally Route 9 in Poughkeepsie." 

In the past four years, this vision has not been realized. The project was only partially completed; a fire, which was determined to be arson, closed the convenience store and the gas station; Columbia Economic Development Corporation sued Singh for the money it had lent to the project, forcing him to file for bankruptcy; Singh demolished what remained of the V&O Press building, which he had intended to rehab as a family entertainment center. Still, the Register-Star reports today that the plan for Greenport Crossing isn't going away: "Greenport Crossing project may be salvaged."

In what seems to be a triumph of hope over experience, Ken Flood, Columbia County's economic development commissioner, seems still to be promoting the project to CEDC, although the pitch is a little different now than it was four years ago. In 2011, a franchise hotel was seen as necessary because corporate travel offices didn't make reservations with independent hostelries. Now, according to the article, Flood is telling CEDC that a franchise hotel is needed because the county's lack of one is "forcing visitors in need of a low-cost hotel to stay in Dutchess or Greene counties."

Do Your Part to Promote Literacy

Once again this Saturday, as they have done for the past two years, Chris Jones and Susan Simon invite everyone to a cocktail party to benefit the Hudson Children's Book Festival Scholarship Fund. As in the past, the $25 donation that admits you to the party enables a student to attend the festival on May 2 and purchase a book from the author of his or her choice. This year's party, which takes place on Saturday, March 28, from 5 to 7 p.m., is being hosted by Colin and Katrina Stair at Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street.

Assessing the Need for a SWAT Team

At the Common Council meeting on March 17, a document called "Inter-Municipal Cooperative Agreement: Columbia-Greene Shared Services Response Team" was accepted as a communication. Last night, at the Common Council Police Committee meeting, Chief Ed Moore spoke about this agreement, explaining that it related to the Hudson Police Department SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. 

Moore explained that he had been assessing the HPD SWAT team to determine if it was compliant with New York State regulations established in 2010. He found that the SWAT team's equipment was up to basic standards, but its size and command structure, its training and capabilities were not. He told the committee that the situation with the SWAT team "dovetails with accreditation": having a SWAT team that is out of compliance would negatively affect the HPD's accreditation.

Moore said his first thought was simply to eliminate the SWAT team and call in the SWAT team from the state police whenever the need arose, but he told the committee, "You cannot rely on getting the state police here in time." According to Moore, the SWAT team is primarily used for serving warrants, arresting people in their homes, and in situations where there are "active shooters." The solution to the problem Moore is recommending is partnering with the Greene County Sheriff's Office and the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to form a shared SWAT team made up of officers from all three agencies. Moore sees benefits in having HPD officers "share information and train together with the sheriffs' officers." The shared service agreement would also allow the group to "tap into grants."

Common Council president Don Moore asked what Chief Moore thought the group needed grants to acquire, expressing concern about SWAT teams "that have gone way over what is required by the community," apparently alluding to the trend toward militarizing local law enforcement agencies. Chief Moore said the group has already acquired a robot but did not elaborate except to say that there was grant money available to pay overtime.

Police Committee member Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) moved and the committee unanimously agreed to bring a resolution on the shared services agreement before the full Council at its April meeting.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Of Interest

Yesterday was World Water Day. Today, Modern Farmer published a list of very compelling facts about water that should be kept in mind whenever reckless actions that put water at risk are proposed.

Historic Health Tips

There's a nasty bug going around, and for those of you who have succumbed to it, here's a bit of advice, for your edification, from an ad that appeared on this day in 1870 in the Hudson Register.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Winter Expo Today

Although the high today will only be in the 20s, it is possible to believe that spring is just around the corner, making it a perfect day to call a halt to winter and take a look back. That's just what's happening from 2 to 4 p.m. at Kite's Nest.

During the long winter, the kids at Kite's Nest have been exploring music, tracing the paths that fibers travel around the globe, examining the movements of bodies in relation to protest, and investigating future alternate realities. This afternoon, they share with all comers their experiences and discoveries.

The Voice of the People

Never let it be said that the people of the First Ward are apathetic. Article III, Section C3-5 of the city charter indicates that when there is a vacancy on the Common Council, the Council appoints someone to fill the vacancy. The residents of the First Ward, however, have shown themselves to be not entirely satisfied with this arrangement. When Larissa Parks resigned in March 2012, after being an alderman for only about ten weeks, the First Ward gathered for a meeting, took a straw poll, and let the Council know their choice: Nick Haddad. At a special meeting on March 22, 2012, the Council followed the will of the people and appointed Haddad First Ward alderman.

Three years later, there is once again a vacancy on the Council as a result of the resignation of First Ward alderman David Marston. As they did three years ago, residents of the First Ward gathered today at noon to hear from those interested in the position and to participate in a straw poll. After brief comments from the remaining First Ward alderman, Nick Haddad, candidates Karla Roberts and Rick Rector addressed their neighbors.

Roberts described herself as someone who "likes to speak out, give my opinion, and be involved in the community process." She called the First Ward "the best ward to live in" and urged that we embrace tourism and support the "below Third economy." She characterized the group who had come out for the meeting as "a good representation of people who care."

Rector said Hudson was changing "very, very quickly and for all the right reasons" and he wanted to see "every politician wrap their arms around tourism." He told the group that since settling in Hudson he had the time and energy to devote himself to "less selfish endeavors" and defined his areas of interest as education and historic preservation. Rector has served on the Historic Preservation Commission, which he now chairs, since October 2011.

When the time came to vote in the straw poll, Claire Cousin, who had arrived while the other candidates were making their statements, announced that she too wished to be considered, saying she was "running on behalf of people who are not represented in the First Ward." 

When the ballots were cast and tallied, it was announced that Rector had received the majority of the votes. It was not revealed how many votes had been cast for each of the three candidates.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Keeping Tabs on the Cement Giants in the Valley

Earlier this week, Sam Pratt commented, on his blog, about the latest development in the proposed merger of the cement giants that cast a long shadow in the Hudson Valley:
"Holcim-Lafarge deal hits a rocky patch."

Update: On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that problems had been worked out: "Holcim, Lafarge Agree on New Merger Terms."

Help Support History

On the night of April 25, 1865, ten days after the death of Abraham Lincoln by the hand of an assassin, the train bearing the President's body from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, stopped briefly in Hudson. What happened that night was recorded in the journal of Assistant Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend, the commander of the funeral train:
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in white, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President's coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. The whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night.
A hundred and fifty years later, elaborate preparations are being made to re-create this scene, at the very place and hour it happened, on April 25, 2015. Some very able and accomplished people--Mary Deyerle Hack of Diamond Opera Theater, Stephanie Monseu of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Jamison Teale, Windle Davis, Melissa Auf der Maur of Basilica Hudson--and a cast of more than sixty are donating their time and talent to reproduce this moment in history, but monetary contributions are needed to acquire the materials to costume the "band of young women" construct the tableau, and create the torchlight. 

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise the needed funds: Help Re-Create History. Historic Hudson is the not-for-profit sponsor of the event, so all contributions are tax deductible. Checks can also be mailed to Historic Hudson at 611 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534. Please note on the check that the donation is for the Lincoln Funeral Train event.