Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Public Hearing That Wasn't

Quite a few people showed up at City Hall this afternoon for the mayor's hearing on the amendments to the mass gathering provisions, but most seemed to have come hoping to witness some afternoon drama rather than to express an opinion that might influence the mayor one way or the other. The Register-Star seemed to be expecting theatrics as well. Reporter John Mason was there, along with photographer David Lee and multimedia guy David McDonald, but they were disappointed, along with everyone else.

The purpose of a public hearing is to receive public comment, but a few people who should know better rose to ask questions or seek clarification about the proposed amendments. Former alderman Quintin Cross wanted to know why this sentence appeared in the amendments: "Exceptions to this application process may be made for good cause shown upon petition to the Mayor." (The answer, offered by Common Council president Don Moore: That language is in the current law, and it was retained so as not to curtail the powers of the mayor and necessitate a referendum.) Supervisor Ellen Thurston (Third Ward) wanted clarification about the amount of insurance required. (The clarification, again offered by Moore: The insurance requirement is $1 million. It does not change unless there is alcohol involved, in which case it increases to $3 million.) Supervisor Sarah Sterling (First Ward) wanted to know if there would be a website or "clearing house" for events being proposed. (Moore's response: "It is our intention.")

The only genuine comment has made by Bob Rasner, who operates a B and B on Union Street and an antiques shop on Warren Street. He expressed the opinion that increasing the time in advance of the events for submitting a mass gathering application from 60 days to 120 days was actually "healthy for the applicant." He pointed out that large events need to be planned much further in advance than 120 days, and the 120-day requirement gives everyone more time to consider the application and gives the applicant time to regroup should the application be denied. (The mayor responded to this comment by telling Rasner that "the law was not written to the benefit of the planners but for public comment.")

The public hearing was over in thirteen minutes, but afterward the mayor invited Mason to step out into the corridor, presumably to give him a statement. If you are curious to know what the mayor said, check the Register-Star in a few hours.

Addendum: John Mason's report on the hearing has been published, and the mayor appears to have had nothing new to say, except that the legislative branch can pass a law with fewer than the 120 days of public scrutiny they are requiring for a mass gathering permit: "City's new mass gathering permit law on mayor's desk." 


  1. In 2007, the City of Hudson was issued an Order on Consent and a fine by the State of New York for, among things, a failure to devise a notification system for sewer overflow events and a public participation program for the city's sewer plan.

    In 2005, the state had already informed the city that it required a public notification program "to inform citizens of the location and occurrence of [sewer overflow] events," so by the time the 2007 violation rolled around the city did what it always does in a corner and promised a website.

    By 2012, the DPW Superintendent acknowledged that the city still had no mechanism in place to alert the public of overflows, but that the county did. But when I called the county Health Department they told me this was the city's responsibility.

    Also in 2012, Assembly candidate Cheryl Roberts (D) - for years Hudson's disastrous "environmental" Corporate Counsel - told the New York League of Conservation Voters that she supported "a public right-to-know act that requires public notification when raw sewage is released into state waterways." The League missed her hypocrisy, but voters saw through the disingenuousness.

    Nearly 10 years after the state's first warning, there is not only no website but no notification system at all aside from the permanent signs placed at the sewer outfall pipes the city knows about (one is lost, another is indeterminate!).

    But it was the city's elaborate response to the federally-required public participation component of the program which elicits laughs about Mr. Moore's "intention" to establish any websites.

    In reply to the Order on Consent, the city floated the development of another website which "could present pertinent project information clearly and conclusively to the public. The goal of the website is to provide a readily accessible, convenient place where the public and/or project team could access project specific information ..."

    The state bought the lie; the subject was dropped and never discussed again.

    So when Mr. Moore states "it is our intention [to create a website]," he's really saying "Next question!"

  2. With reference to Mr. O'Connor's concerns regarding the Mass Gathering Permit, the City Clerk has already established a separate calendar for Mass Gathering Permitted events that can be viewed at:


    1. Thank you! And congratulations. I'm happy to be corrected in a good cause.

      Next let's get moving on public health and safety with the state-required public notification system for sewer overflow events. I'm sure we can finally get this done.

      Timely notifications of overflows posted at the City website should include all relevant data: time; date; location; duration; volume.

      The boating and fishing public should be alerted to take precautions, but we'll also get a sense of the regularity of these overflows. And why shouldn't that be public knowledge?

      Please make the record publicly available through the required public notification system, just as the state has instructed the city to do on countless occasions.

      Please work with the mayor and do whatever it takes.

  3. "The boating and fishing public should be alerted to take precautions, but we'll also get a sense of the regularity of these overflows. And why shouldn't that be public knowledge?"

    If that were public knowledge, county fishermen and boaters might find out that the city's reason for taking North dock was a land grabbing lie...

    The extra $15 million and the land under Furgary wasn't needed to separate storm and sewer water, just sport fishermen from shore...

    1. Our handlers can't abide that the we should have too much of a say in our own welfare, but why?

      For a less complex conspiracy theory, I'd say most officials who make it difficult for us to access information they're required by law to divulge simply deny us out of convenience. They prefer to keep the public in the state of ignorance that they see the public prefers.

      To maintain this easy state, the mediocre politician will create the impression that whatever he does, he does for the public good. (Or claims she cared when she didn't; c.f. candidate Cheryl Roberts' false self-reporting above.)

      But the failure to produce the required public notification system for sewer overflow events means that this state of ignorance which all have a hand in perpetuating may adversely effect our health.

      Where public health is concerned, our local officials have duties and obligations beyond the minimal requirements of those laws our bloated state and federal governments are too unwieldy to enforce.

      The only possible conclusion is that the City of Hudson is failing the health and welfare of its half-asleep residents, who nevertheless deserve better.