Saturday, August 25, 2012

The More Things Change . . .

On Thursday, apparently at the mayor's behest, Tom Casey saw fit to report about a stormy moment that took place during an executive session at the Common Council meeting on Tuesday night: "Remarks trigger council's concern." Yesterday a reader brought to my attention the account, in Ellis' 1878 History of Columbia County, of the end of the Proprietors' association. Although it wasn't the reader's intention, the first paragraph of the account reminded me that there has always been a certain amount of volatility involved in the business of governing Hudson.
Thomas Jenkins, the most prominent man among the proprietors of Hudson, died in the 1808. . . . The organization of the proprietors continued less than two years after his death, their last meeting being held May 23, 1810, of which Stephen Paddock was moderator, and Erastus Pratt clerk. They had some years before deeded all the streets, highways, and lands intended for public use to the common council, to be by them opened when, and as, the public interest might require, and it was now arranged and understood that their existence as an association should cease, and that their records should be formally delivered to the city. This action was most energetically, fiercely, opposed by Cotton Gelston, although it was into his own hands, as city clerk, that the documents were to be surrendered. In his antagonism to the proposition he seized the books and declared his resolve to destroy them if he could not otherwise prevent their transfer, and so heated did he become, that it was necessary to assign to three of the strongest men in the room (of whom Gilbert Jenkins was one) the task of his subjugation; but in the scuffle which ensued Mr. Gelston succeeded in partially destroying the papers by fire, and thus almost made good his threat. But the surrender was made, and the proprietors' organization became a thing of the past.
Whatever went on at City Hall last Tuesday, behind closed doors in executive session, seems pretty tame by comparison.


  1. This would at least improve attendance at Council meetings.


  2. Ellis' account was taken from Stephen B. Miller's earlier portrait of Cotton Gelston in his 1862 "Sketches of Hudson."

    Miller reported that Gelston was "successful in part" in his attempt to burn "the proprietors' minutes, accounts, and other papers," but that "the minutes were taken from him by Gilbert Jenkins, "then a young man, after a struggle."

    In vain, Tracy Delaney and I looked through the proprietors' minutes to see if there were any singed pages. I wonder which accounts or papers show signs of having been burned?

    Another little-known but fitting fact about Cotton Gelston is that he owned the land beneath a third of the Furgary cabins. This was recorded on the proprietors' original lot map, and by inference in a deed for the as-yet-underwater lands conveyed by Cotton's son and inheritor Samuel to a buyer.

    This is only some of the evidence which the state Supreme Court failed to take into account when it ruled against the original boundaries of the 1785 legislative land grant to Hudson's proprietors.

    It seems fitting that not only were the Furgarians robbed in June but so was Cotton Gelston, another mistreated minority.

  3. I can't comment on what happened at last weeks meeting. What I am more concerned about is that while he was Chair of the Police Committee, Alderman Wagnor failed to file minutes for that Committee for more than one year. The Police Committee is a tremendously important committee and the fact that there are no minutes in the record as to what happened there is of more concern to me at this time, than the singed minutes of the proprietors.

  4. From the sound of it, Victor Mendolia was present at the executive meeting. This might lend some authority to his view of things upon which he "can't comment."

    But after his above comment, it becomes important for us to learn whether Mr. Mendolia was present at the executive session or not?

    If he was not present at the meeting, then he wouldn't know any more than the rest of us what really happened. If that's the case, why wouldn't he be able to share any opinion he'd like based on his own preferred hearsay?

    Without knowing any of the details of tardily submitted Minutes, I would agree that discipline and timeliness are virtues in a public servant.

    However, these complaints, coming at this time, are clearly part of an orchestrated campaign against Alderman Wagoner. Keep in mind that the alderman's views and votes are usually in the minority.

    It is in deference to the alderman's minority views that I'm glad to be able to instruct Mr. Mendolia on the symbolic importance of the proprietors' singed papers.

    As I read it, Cotton Gelston represented a minority who railed against the Common Council for what was perceived as an abject power grab. His action of throwing the papers into the blaze committed to our collective memories his passion on the subject, and a warning down to our own time.

    Despite the self-congratulatory but illusory belief that human nature has changed since the time of the city's founding, what we're witnessing today is a power move against a legislator (seemingly involving the city's executive; no doubt attorney Roberts left the premises on cue).

    As if to echo the mayor's dissatisfaction with the legislator, the Common Council president easily prejudged the situation while away on vacation:

    “Although I am away from Hudson, I did hear from enough participants in last night’s meeting to know that Alderman Wagoner’s behavior crossed a number of behavior and ethics lines ... From what I have heard, strictly from the view of his conduct, as president of the council and as a Third Ward constituent, I am appalled ...” (Register Star, 23 August).

    In other words: a majority reported what they believed to be true, ergo it must be true.

    Hearsay, innuendo, majority opinion; herein lies the essence and nascent operation of mob rule.

    If Mr. Wagoner's comments resulted from his customarily dissenting philosophy from the madding crowd, I wouldn't imagine that Mr. Mendolia would care to acknowledge as much (if he was even there).

  5. I was not present because I am not an elected official. In fact I was not even in the city. Which is why I cannot comment on what transpired.

  6. Ah, "not present."

    So it would be fairer to say that Mr. Mendolia shouldn't guess, rather than that he "can't comment."

    The statement was filled with innuendo which doesn't bear out.

    (Notwithstanding his close involvement with a council president that has a proclivity for guessing, since Mr. Mendolia is in the same boat as the rest of the public it hardly bears mentioning that he "can't comment.")

    Which leaves the obviously concerted effort to undermine the alderman and his minority views unaddressed.

    The public would be foolhardy not to follow this situation very closely.

  7. Putting aside the occasionally inappropriate outbursts, I rarely have a problem with Alderman Wagoner's votes on issues of importance. What I do take issue with is an elected official who does not to the minimum required of them.

    That there are no Police Committee minutes for most of the time that he Chaired that committee is a serious problem. One which I personally asked him to address prior to the last election. He has failed to do so.

    In addition, many of Alderman Wagoners constituents have complained to me that when they have addressed complaints, letters or pleas for help to Mr. Wagoner, they have not even had the decency of a reply.

    Which leads me to think that if he does not have the time or inclination to serve the public properly, it may be time to consider moving on.

  8. I was prepared to agree with Mr. Mendolia until the second half of his comment, inasmuch as the aldermen should address allegations of tardiness.

    As for the rest, I could as easily report of his 3rd Ward constituents I've spoken with that many are satisfied with Alderman Wagoner's availability and his conduct on their behalves.

    But as to this latest salvo in the evidently organized campaign against the alderman (likely at the behest of low-lying city officials), Mr. Mendolia has just introduced an entirely new subject.

    Since neither my interlocutor nor I reside in the 3rd Ward, I'd suggest permitting that ward's residents to determine their own representation.

    In contradistinction to the customary activities of the well-plugged-in Mr. Mendolia, that would be more in keeping with most people's notions of representational democracy.

    At least the gentleman's cards are on the table. Now, who'd like to guess who else is involved in this slow-cooked cabal?

  9. No one is pulling my strings. The things I have stated here are things I have been saying for months. Yes the recent issue has brought my statements forward in a more public way. But many many people know that this is not something new. His behavior and unprofessionalism has been festering for a long time. He can blame only himself for other issues to be brought up when he continues to act in an uncivil and destructive manner.

  10. Like Mr. Moore, Mr. Mendolia admits that he wasn't anywhere near the executive meeting. Yet he persists in his negative judgement of the alderman's "behavior" there.

    Note well that his judgement is not to be taken as an example of his own "unprofessionalism"!

    Make no mistake that what is unfolding is a PURGE.

    I repeat, let the 3rd Ward decide on its own representation, lest anyone suggest that it's Mr. Mendolia's time for "moving on."

  11. Tim,

    I am at nearly every Common Council and committee meeting. I've seen Mr Wagoner melt down any number of times with my own eyes.

    You say let the residents of the 3rd Ward decide and I agree. But in the end I doubt the 3rd Ward is terribly interested in what a 1st Ward Republican thinks. I certainly don't.

  12. I repeat that this is a purge.

    Since Mr. Mendolia will not fully disclose his role, he leaves it to others to report that he is chair of the Hudson Democratic Committee.

    He is also not a resident of the 3rd Ward, the ward represented by the embattled alderman. Nor am I.

    The political party involved makes no difference when you look at where these shenanigans repeatedly deliver us (and what they visit on innocent bystanders such as the ecosystem).

    We can all read the Gossips counter. Please voice your objection to Hudson's age-old skullduggery, and to Mr. Mendolia's meddling.

  13. 1. Historical note: John Van Buren, son of the President and a prominent Statewide figure in his own right, got into a fistfight in the Columbia County Courthouse with an opposing lawyer during the trial of the leaders of the Anti-Rent movement.

    2. Any adult who pretends to be offended by ordinary swearing, as if they have never heard these words nor used them themselves, can be assumed to have some other motive for feigning shock over such words. For example, a nakedly political motive.

    3. Chris Wagoner has been elected three times to the Common Council. If he were unresponsive to his constituents, that would not be the case. Moreover, I know for a direct fact that Mendolia’s statement is untrue, being well familiar for example with Wagoner’s assistance to neighbors during snow emergencies and other situations in the 3rd Ward (where I have my office).

    4. Traditionally, the Common Council President asks the chairs of committees to submit minutes. (For many years, it was the practice that these would be read out loud at full Council meetings.) If any committee chair does not do so -- and this is not an uncommon occurrence -- and the Council President feels there is an omission, it is both within his/her power and also his/her responsibility to ask for them. Apparently either the current or the prior Council President did not see fit to do so. But now that Moore is determined to settle an old grudge with a certain Alderman, the Democratic Chair seems to think this inside baseball issue is important. (Side note: When Rick Scalera was CCDC chair, and Alice Turco Wedlick was Secretary, no minutes were kept for years. Turco was honored by the County Democrats not so long ago.)

    5. Unheimlich’s point deserves to be spelled out more explicitly: The events of an executive session should not be known to anyone not present at the session. Thus someone saying that he cannot comment on it -- rather than saying they don't know what happened -- would appear to suggest an improper knowledge of certain events. In short, Unheimlich has a point.


  14. i find Mr Donnahues behavior has been noteworthy for years yet no one has ever made issue about him.

  15. In Hudson there are so many political hybrids among us that no one should buy into Mr. Mendolia's facile party polarities.

    The gentleman is well aware that I have always and only volunteered my efforts for Democrats in the City of Hudson. In the last mayoral election I volunteered many hours to just such a hybrid candidate. (Thanks to Mr. Mendolia's administrative neglect, the Republican candidate nearly ran unopposed!)

    People know exactly where I stand. If only the same could be said of Mr. Mendolia.

    Unlike the activities of a party Chair, a citizen's contribution warrants more discretion and respect from a public official than Mr. Mendolia is apparently aware.

    This then is a perfect occasion to revisit Mr. Mendolia's own words back onto the unethical conduct he has demonstrated above:

    Mr. Mendolia's "behavior and unprofessionalism has been festering for a long time."

    Whether inside the party or out, everyone knows Mr. Mendolia's history of "inappropriate outbursts," and his "uncivil and destructive manner."

    As Mr. Moore might even say (but never would), Mr. Mendolia's behavior crosses "a number of behavior and ethics lines."

    Hudson Democrats, you need to squeeze the puss from your leadership or else continue to fester. It may be difficult for a bigot to grasp, but the continued festering and mistakes under Mr. Mendolia's tenure make citizens of all stripes uneasy.

    Instead of the current party purge, why not rid yourselves of the real impediment?

  16. In the comments following Tom Casey article in R.S. on this matter ,the first one was

    tazer wrote on Aug 23, 2012 6:51 AM:
    " Doc Donnahue - enough said. "

    I have witnessed Donnahue 's most rude and obnoxious retorts to fellow councilmen not in lockstep with him,in particular ,then Alderman Ellen Thurston, not only be not newsworthy,but have never seen the other councilmen,CC Pres or Mayor admonish Donohue's behavior when he doesn't even have the floor.. Wagoner is not my ward representative,but he is one my City's representatives.I am on most points in agreement of Wagoner's stances and votes.His voice and votes matter to me,as the 2nd ward is so woefully represented and mostly MIA and pretty much goes the way of the 5th ward herd's wishes, as does the 4th ward.
    I find it much more egregious that CC Pres.Moore,that wasn't even in town,to make a statement to the press,based on hearsay.

    "Although I am away from Hudson, I did hear from enough participants in last night’s meeting to know that Alderman Wagoner’s behavior crossed a number of behavior and ethics lines that responsible legislators must and do observe,” said Moore. “From what I have heard, strictly from the view of his conduct, as president of the council and as a Third Ward constituent, I am appalled and have told the alderman my views in no uncertain terms.”

    (CC should tread lightly on the subject of Ethics and behavior, as Scalera is way out on a limb.)

    "Wagoner was asked to leave a July meeting after a heated argument over the direction of a homeless housing conversation. Hallenbeck said the trend led to his decision to contact Moore."-Register Star Aug.23

    Oh ,a much needed argument over the direction of the homeless housing conversion? That constitutes a trend?What trend might that be?Not going the way of Galloway,unquestioned?
    We need Alderman Wagoner.

    But Donohue's trend of public outbursts at anything disrupting GalVan's on going shenanigans,like yelling out to get rid of HPC
    or rudely blasting in a public forum, then Alderman Thurston, for singularly voting the way of the packed house of citizens in opposition with the majority of CC on the fate of South Bay,
    that was acceptable to CC Pres.Moore?I never saw Donohue's behavior make a story in the paper or commented on by a City official, present or not.

  17. A reader stymied by Blogger's commenting system asked me to post the following

    Funny that Victor did not consider "moving on" after he totally screwed up the last election as Democratic Chair. First he screwed up the paper work for Nick Haddad so the Dems almost had no candidate and a bunch of us had to help rectify it. After that, he propped up Scalera to run for Supervisor with no competition and then got blindsided by Scalera and his folks but them not even endorsing the Dem candidate despite the fact they bamboozled Victor into saying they would if there was no competition for Rick.

    Oh no, Victor won't just "move on" as he spent too much time making his best pal Don Moore get elected to whatever office the two of them thought they could possibly win. "Let's see, Mayor...oh Don might lose that. O.k...treasurer....Yea that's it. Oops, Eileen's running so that's out. O.k ... Let's go back to Council Prez and get Sarah Sterling to run for Supervisor....Phew...she's out of the way. Now, we have an office we can win to continue on!!... Yay".

    After all that, the one man who has been there, who has won, who hasn't let himself be affected by Victor or anyone else keeps working for his Ward. Victor wonders why Mr. Wagoner gets frustrated and upset. He wonders? He's the one who has left Mr. Wagoner with this group of people. He's the one who made it so that the very values of the Democratic Party and what the people of the 3rd Ward want keep getting undermined. Oh,...but Alderman Wagoner can't get upset. He should join Victor and Don Moore's love fest. He should sit and be quiet and just turn the other way whenever he doesn't agree with Mr. Moore, the Mayor and his attorneys.

    In this case I see it as so mean spirited that Alderman Wagoner can't even defend himself because what is said in an Executive Session I'm told cannot be repeated per the law. Oh, but Victor can now start bringing up things about our 3rd Ward Alderman. He can attack him when he has no defense. Victor, there are a lot of us in the 3rd Ward that wish that you would just move on. Hopefully then our Alderman will have a chance someday to have a group of people around him that he can work with. That will be the day our City becomes better.

  18. Suddenly, amidst the orchestrated purge, "Houston, we have a problem ..."

  19. Thank you 3rd ward for our two aldermen, John Friedman and Chris Wagoner. Always responsive, both of them. I'm glad some politicians call a spade a spade.