There was a resolution before the Council to bring an Article 78 lawsuit against Columbia County seeking "a judicial order compelling the County to enforce the ward boundaries established in the Hudson City Charter and Code." This action stems from the discovery earlier this year that two of the ward boundaries that have been used by the Board of Elections for decades differ from the boundaries defined in the city charter. The two boundaries in question are the boundary between the Fourth and Fifth wards in the area of Harry Howard Avenue and the boundary between the Third and Fifth wards in the area of Columbia Street and Columbia Turnpike. How or why the boundaries came to be changed, no one knows, but some members of the Common Council want the Board of Elections to amend the boundaries to conform to what is described in the charter, and Republican commissioner of elections Jason Nastke is unwilling to do so. The resolution calling for an Article 78 to compel him to act is filled with words and phrases stressing the gravity and the urgency of the situation: "continued intransigence," "threatens to create chaos," "undermines our system of government and representative democracy," and "angst and grief."
During the discussion of the resolution, Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) suggested the matter should go to referendum "to let the people decide." City attorney Carl Whitbeck explained that the charter was clear and bringing an Article 78 would force the County to take action. Alderman Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward), seeming to confuse the issue at hand with a complete redistricting, brought up the fact that a referendum had failed in 2003. Whitbeck noted that the suit was directed against one person, Jason Nastke, explained that the Board of Elections was being asked to correct mistakes or unauthorized changes that had been introduced by the Board of Election at some time in the past, and reiterated that the charter was clear about where the boundaries should be.
When the vote was taken, five aldermen--Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward), Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Keith, Abdus Miah (Second Ward), and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward)--voted against it. Before the vote was tallied, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) declared, "I'm in a room full of stupid people." Despite the opposition, the resolution passed with 1,104 ayes (a majority is 1,015) and 924 nos.
Breaking News: Gossips just received word that the mayor has vetoed the resolution to bring an Article 78 lawsuit against Columbia County. He wants instead for the language of the charter to be changed to reflect the practice, and his objection to the Council's proposed course of action reflects some of the spirit of the resolution: "The stress and confusion that would be placed on the voters of these respected wards placing them in new wards to vote just prior to an upcoming election would be significant." The mayor's entire veto message can be read here. It should be noted that the mayor lives in one of the affected areas--a part of the city currently identified by the Board of Elections as being in the Third Ward but which according to the charter is really part of the Fifth Ward.
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