Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday Night at City Hall

Not everything that happened at last night's Common Council meeting was newsworthy, but a few things were--one of them being the discovery, revealed in the Finance Committee meeting which preceded the regular meeting, that five items had been left out of the budget for 2014. 

The first was a shortage in the Police Department's "Personal Services" account (i.e., salaries) of $48,397.68. According to the resolution passed to transfer funds, the shortage "was caused by the retirement and incentive payments made to police retirees." In discussion at the meeting, it was explained that funds for the position of someone who was retiring had been eliminated from the 2014 budget even though the position had not been eliminated.

Then there was an additional $20,000 needed for the city attorney's office. The resolution authorizing the transfer of funds and the amendment of the budget began: "WHEREAS, the Mayor desires to reorganize the City Attorney's office and provide for establishment of an office and staff for the City Attorney within City Hall. . . ." In August, city attorney Cheryl Roberts left the law firm of Rapport Meyers and moved into an office somewhere in City Hall. In speaking of the resolution, Council president Don Moore explained that "we did not fully anticipate what [having the city attorney resident in City Hall] would mean and did not adequately budget for it." Of the $20,000, $5,000 is a negotiated raise for assistant city attorney Carl Whitbeck, and $15,000 is for "support staff." Moore assured the aldermen that, with the additional expenditures, "the Council will have more direct legal service than we've had in the past."

The third item omitted from the 2014 budget was the mayor's health insurance buyout. The mayor, as do all elected officials, has the option of not accepting the health insurance offered by the City and taking instead the money the City would have spent for it, which according to Moore is $2,000.

The fourth item left out of the 2014 budget was the money needed to keep the heat and the electricity on at 701 Union Street until work on rehabbing the building for the police department and city court begins in May or June.

The fifth item was parking meters for the new parking spaces created in the 700 block of Columbia Street and a few other places that it seems need meters.

One of several other new resolutions before the Council authorized the superintendent of Public Works to sell at auction a number of vehicles and pieces of equipment "that are no longer used by the Department of Public Works." Of the sixteen items on the list, one caught the eye of Alderman David Marston (First Ward): a 1999 BMW 323i. What, Marston wanted to know, was the Department of Public Works doing with such a car?

The answer was provided by Gary Graziano, the police commissioner. It seems the police had seized the car at some point, in connection with an arrest, and had been using it--presumably for undercover operations. The police department no longer has use for the car and so has turned it over to DPW to be sold at auction. [NOTE: The car in the photograph is a 1999 BMW 323i, but it is not the 1999 BMW 323i to be auctioned by DPW.]

Since November, a local law has been on the aldermen's desks that would replace Hudson's Planning Commission with a Planning Board. Moore announced that there will be a public hearing on the law at 6:30 p.m. on February 10, prior to the February informal meeting of the Common Council.

Before calling for a motion to go into executive session to discuss "the settlement of a foreclosure issue," Moore entertained questions from the audience. Marie Balle wanted to know if the Common Council was going to vote to approve the sale of half the community garden to Habitat for Humanity. Without acknowledging that misinformation had originally been reported in the press, Roberts indicated that the Council did not have to vote on the sale because the property was owned not by the City but by Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency, and that board had already approved the sale.

After the topic of the sale of half the community garden to Habitat for Humanity had been introduced, Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) expressed the opinion that it was time for the Council to begin a conversation with Habitat for Humanity about being more "county-centric" rather than "city-centric," pointing out that the organization is Columbia County Habitat for Humanity not Hudson Habitat for Humanity.

Moore was quick to say that he did not wish to chair such a discussion. (Moore's wife is a member of the Habitat staff.) Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) also declined to chair the discussion, although he said he was no longer on the Habitat board. Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) also declined, saying that he, as minority leader, was on the HCDPA board. Finally, Marston volunteered to chair the discussion. Haddad went on to say that he thought Habitat needed to be "more reflective" going forward and should be urged to rehabilitate existing houses in Hudson rather than always building new. He reiterated his suggestion that the Council should "start a conversation with Habitat."

Marston requested that a discussion with Habitat for Humanity be added to the Council agenda for February, and Moore agreed to do so.


  1. Contrary to the tune she used to sing, henceforth no one will be able to directly contact attorney Roberts without going through the mayor first. Even another $20K won't buy her an email account, which is just totally screwed up. We're paying her more money so that she can be even less accessible.

    And will she be entitled to continue her private practice from this nice new office we're buying her? As I see it, Ms. Roberts still owes Hudson residents for the lost nine months in 2009 when she applied herself to the wrong GEIS alternatives. Two years later she explained that it was "simply a misunderstanding on the part of BFJ staff." Sure, I'll bet.)

    Now we should be more fair to the Register Star which reported on January 4th that "the sale, to Habitat for Humanity, still has to go before the Common Council." It wasn't quite "misinformation" when the same story had Alderman Friedman saying that, as a Habitat board member, "he always recuses himself from any vote having to do with Habitat." Why would someone say such a thing if they weren't already discussing a pending council vote?

    But if it turned out that Mr. Friedman was correct after all when he wrote in a Gossips comment thread on November 7th that "the Common Council has nothing to do with this [community garden] land," did he confuse the issue all over again in the January 4th Register Star story?

    At a meeting of the Economic Development Committee on May 17, 2012, Mr. Friedman was present to discuss an application for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) as well as a draft report prepared by the NYS Rural Housing Coalition subsequent to a NYS CDBG planning grant.

    (Also present were the Executive Director of the city's HCDPA, at least half the members of its board, and the agency's grant writer.)

    There's no record of Mr. Friedman recusing himself on that occasion, but in all candor perhaps there was no reason for him to do so.

    I do hope that I owe Mr. Friedman an apology, but I'm sure he'll appreciate that the public has its own duty to scrutinize its public officials.

  2. the community garden serves the young and old of the total group who lives around it. its feeds them and is years of time invested in a community amenity.

    habitat for humanity should look to build a house outside of hudson where the school system is not so terrible. hudson schools abuse both the poor who have to go there since its ratings are the worst in the state and abuse the tax payers who have to pay so much for such inferior schooling.

    habitat should build a house in a community with a better school system so that the poor they serve have a chance to join the middle class through better education. trapping the poor in hudson is not the ticket to a better life in america.

  3. The following language is from our current City Planning Commission law:

    "Not more than 1/3 of the members of said Commission shall hold any other public office in the City of Hudson."

    The same sentence appears in the proposed law and merely substitutes the word "Board" for "Commission," except in the proposed law the sentence continues:

    " ... and no person who is a member of the Common Council shall be eligible for memberships on said Board."

    Although the General Municipal Law doesn't specify it, can language be added to the effect that non-residents of the city not be permitted to preside over city planning as members of our Planning Board?

    If that's a permissible condition of such a board, then why isn't it in the language already? If it permissible, then who drafted this law, and was its author a resident of the City of Hudson?

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