Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Wishes of the First Ward

About forty residents of the First Ward gathered this morning to hear from the two people who have expressed interest in the vacant First Ward seat on the Common Council: Nick Haddad and Geeta Cheddie. Cheddie was not present at the meeting because, as she explained in a prepared statement, she had recently taken a job as a patient representative at Columbia Memorial Hospital and could not change her schedule. Nick Haddad, however, was there to speak and respond to questions.

In her statement, which was read by Alderman David Marston, Cheddie reviewed her involvement in politics--in Hudson and elsewhere. Speaking of her two years as alderman, she stressed her knowledge of the issues, pointing out that during her tenure she had attended every committee meeting and had a "solid working relationship with the Council members I served with."

Haddad, a mayoral candidate last November, talked about the need to work together with the new administration for the betterment and future of Hudson. He identified as issues of particular concern taxes, education, the waterfront, and jobs. He explained that he saw the vacancy on the Common Council as an "opportunity to participate, which is what I want to do."

In addition to the First Ward representatives, Alderman David Marston and Supervisor Sarah Sterling, who organized and moderated the meeting, other elected officials were present: Common Council President Don Moore, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward), and Supervisor Ellen Thurston (Third Ward).

Concern was expressed by some present about the process whereby the new alderman will be chosen. Moore explained the provisions in the city charter for replacing an alderman. The election by the Common Council must take place no sooner than 10 days and no more than 20 days after an alderman resigns. A special meeting of the Common Council has been called for Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m., at which time a resolution for each candidate will be presented for a vote by the Council, in the order in which the candidates declared their interest. The successful candidate must be elected by a simple majority of the weighted vote in the Council.

It is not yet clear if this is a simple majority of all the possible votes or all the votes that can actually be cast by the members of the Common Council present at the meeting. A simple majority of the full Council is 1,011. The Council is now short one alderman, and if Fifth Ward alderman Cappy Pierro, who was absent for the informal meeting last Monday, is not present for the special meeting on Thursday, a simple majority of the votes that could be cast is only 825. Whatever constitutes a majority, only 94 of the votes can be cast by the lone representative of the First Ward. More than one audience member expressed concern and frustration that, given the weighted votes, a new First Ward alderman could be chosen by representatives of the Fifth Ward.

At the conclusion of the meeting, audience members were asked to participate in a straw poll, writing their preference--Haddad or Cheddie--on a piece of paper provided to them only after they had signed in, giving their name and address to validate their status as First Ward residents and voters. The marked "ballots" were then placed in a ballot box. The results of the straw poll will be presented to the Common Council on Thursday, as evidence of the First Ward's wishes.

First Ward voters lined up to cast their ballots in the straw poll
Although the straw poll involved only the two candidates who have so far declared their interest, Stewart suggested that there might be a third candidate, who has not yet been identified. Anyone interested in the position has until the special meeting on Thursday, March 22, to declare his or her interest and be considered. 

1 comment:

  1. Today's meeting was disappointingly short on 1st Ward issues. I would have thought that violent crime in the 1st Ward was more pressing than the entire city's concern about the Ferry Street bridge or far flung parks.

    Instead, I was fobbed off with the usual buck passing: "go to the police committee meeting."


    Now Geeta Cheddie's "solid working relationship" with the other Council members is what worries us. There's no surprise that other wards would want her back!

    In the Common Council Minutes I can't find when Ms. Cheddie ever disagreed with a concern that profited the 2nd Ward even where 1st Ward interests were at stake.

    Yet a single 2nd Ward alderman already enjoys nearly twice the votes of each 1st Ward alderman, so why did they always need Ms. Cheddie's vote as well?

    It's true that Ms. Cheddie's pet issues properly belong in the 2nd Ward, but for some reason she still wants to represent us. I say "for some reason" because when she initially ran for alderman she stopped in to meet us, then inadvertently let the cat slip the bag. When asked why she wanted to be an alderman she shrugged, giggled and admitted that she didn't know.

    Last August while the city's expensive and very crooked SEQR review carried on, Ms. Cheddie circulated a broadside blaming "public comments" for cost-overruns that were hurting "taxpayers."

    (These are the same taxpayers whom she treats as an open tap for social services, her thinking being consistent I suppose with Rep. Pelosi's idea that food stamps are synonymous with "stimulus.")

    But considering that many and probably most of the comments she viewed as obstructive came from the 1st Ward, wasn't that an attack on her own constituents? It begged the question whether her attack was justified.

    According to the SEQR guidelines (which are available to all in the SEQR Handbook online), it is not only a public right but practically a public duty to provide comment on its own behalf.

    Ms. Cheddie's August broadside was cynical and demagogic, aiming to turn constituents against one another and against the state guidelines. This one example speaks volumes, but there are more.

    Whoever is appointed as our next representative, 1st Warders above all must keep the drumbeat going to amend Hudson's weighted voting system.