Monday, May 19, 2014

What They Said: Part 2

Last week, Gossips reported at some length on what the Hofstra Law students (now graduates) had to say on the topic of Hudson's weighted vote. Today, we resume that coverage, reporting on what they had to say about contracts and government structure. Here are the recommendations made in the Executive Summary:
  • More clearly delineate the intended role of the Mayor and of the Common Council in the contracting process.
  • Authorize the City Treasurer to supervise City contracts to assure adequate funding.
  • Eliminate the Commissioner structure to reduce the overall size of government and make city departments directly accountable to the Mayor.
There is a situation right now that illustrates the need for clarification in the contract process. Last Monday, a special meeting of the Common Council preceded the informal meeting. Its purpose was to approve two contracts: one the contract with Joe Rapp to be construction manager for the adaptive reuse of 701 Union Street; the other the contract for the design and engineering of the project. In both cases, as is usual practice, the Common Council had passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract, and in both cases, the contracts had been drafted by the city attorney. In the case of the construction manager, the contract had already been signed, but Carl Whitbeck, now the city attorney, maintained that both contracts required the approval of the Common Council.

Although a special meeting had been convened for the expressed purpose of approving the contracts, the aldermen complained they had no copies of the contracts. Alderman Friedman (Third Ward) refused to vote on a contract he hadn't read. Council president Don Moore said there wasn't time to read the contracts at the meeting, since both were about 160 pages long, and noted that he thought the contracts had been on the city website. Moore said he was hoping there would be some understanding among the aldermen, since the project had been scrutinized and discussed at length in the Council and it was important for the project to begin. Nonetheless, he postponed the vote until the regular May meeting of the Council, which takes place tomorrow night, explaining, "I don't want the vote to go down because people haven't seen the contracts."

The recommendation to eliminate the commissioner structure is not a new idea. It has been talked about for almost a decade. When the position of mayor in Hudson was recognized as a part-time position, it made some sense to have commissioners overseeing the various departments, but now that the mayor's position is de facto a full-time position, it seems logical for department heads to report directly to the mayor. Although eliminating the commissioners (there are five of them: Police, Fire, Public Works, Youth, Aging) seems desirable to some, the Common Council voted to include in the 2014 budget an annual stipend of $1,000 for each of the commissioners, who have never been paid in the past.

1 comment:

  1. If I were on the council, I would not vote for any contract I had not read either (and I in all probability would want to suggest changes after having read it). But then I am a lawyer, as is John Friedman. Lawyers sometimes think alike, and hey, sometimes they are even right! :)