Friday, October 23, 2015

It Was Predictable

On Tuesday, October 20, the Common Council passed a resolution authorizing a referendum, to take place in November 2016, on the weighted vote. The proposed referendum was the first step toward achieving in Hudson the constitutional standard of one person, one vote. A simple majority--1,015 affirmative votes--was required to pass the resolution. The resolution passed with 1,104 affirmative votes.

Today, Mayor William Hallenbeck, in his wisdom, vetoed the resolution. Click here to read his veto message.



  1. This veto makes no sense. The Mayor says he's in favor of letting the voters speak on the issue, but doesn't want the voters to speak without precise Common Council approval, which would require a seating of a new CC. This is ridiculous, and clearly a stall tactic. As MLK would say, justice delayed is justice denied.

  2. According to the Mayor, elected officials who turn over every two years should not bother making laws for the final three months of their term. What, then, does he think we pay them to do?

    If newly seated aldermen feel strongly about the issue next year, it would then be their job to meet with their constituents and explain why. That is what we elect them to do and the ones I know are more than capable of doing it. That is democracy. And it just got blocked by one guy.

  3. The weighted system is a travesty, a leftover from 100-plus years ago. Truth is, though, the entire ward system is ridiculous in a city as small in population and area as Hudson. Any council member who doesn't get to know all of Hudson isn't half trying. And if you're worried that council members from other wards won't pay attention to your problems, consider how screwed you are now if you don't get along with your alderman.
    So what makes sense? How about a five- or seven-member council, elected at large. Give them a small salary for their part-time work. The council members can choose a chair--call that person the mayor, and give the mayor $3,000 more each year for attending more ribbon-cuttings. The council decides policy issues. And have the council hire a professional, nonpartisan, full-time city manager to carry out the policies and to insulate city employees from politics.
    Mayor Hallenbeck's veto is kind of annoying, though he's right in that the new council (with the new mayor!) can go ahead with the referendum a year from now in any case. But why don't we take some time in the next few months to consider whether a bigger change makes more sense?
    In any case, the current system is confusing and encourages Hudson residents to think that the game is rigged. Let's get rid of it.

  4. dose he think people will swallow this excuse.
    not any more.time to put him out to pasture

  5. "One is left pondering why now?"
    I applaud the mayor for such wisdom and foresight.
    Pondering is such a waste of time when there is an election to run. Thank you for finding time in your busy schedule running this city to sit down and compose yet another veto while Tammany Hall beckons.

  6. More like he's left pandering ....

    To paraphrase his mini-me: why would he want the wards changed when his ward has the weighted vote?

  7. Those who follow the issue closely already know this, but others may be understandably confused.

    Overriding a veto in Hudson is not achieved by 2/3 majority, because one person does not equal one vote.

    With respect to veto overrides, there are 2025 weighted votes. Wards 1 - 4 + the Council Pres have 1,321 of these, or 65%, just shy of two-thirds. It's impossible to override without at least one 5th Ward Alderman voting yes.

    The winners in this rigged game have enough voting power to make sure it stays rigged. It's why it's all the more impressive that 5W Alderman Delaney voted as he did, with the entire city's interests at heart.

    For anyone who wants to dig into the specifics, you can find them at

    It's clear we all have to get to the polls Nov 3.

  8. Mayor to Hudson:

    Sue me, suckers! I dare you!

  9. Hudson loves law suites.

    (and who pays for that ?)

    the end.

  10. The irony of all of this, is that despite the almost universal assumption to the contrary around here, based on my legal research, and a published NY State Attorney General's Opinion, the Council has the power to move the ward lines and fix the system without a referendum, which proposed referendum was so generalized, and phrased in a form of a question, that I have doubts a Court could enforce it, assuming the Council took no further action. It did not even specify the number of wards for example. What is a Court to do? So in my view, it was mostly all sound and fury signifying not much at all. The problem is that this city is so divided, that much really can be done as to much of anything.

    Hopefully, after the election, with some new faces, there will more of an interest by our city leaders to try to bring us together in an amicable and constructive fashion, and work, and work hard, to try to find intelligent compromises, rather than the my way, or the highway, mentality.

  11. Steve Dunn while the Council has the power to move the Ward boundaries it doesn't have the power to do away with the weighted vote without a referendum according to our attorneys. So while we could, theoretically, draw lines that would result in zero weighting of the votes I'm not really sure what that would look like in practice -- nor does anyone else given the uniqueness of Hudson's byzantine voting system. It certainly seems the line of least resistance, and quickest, surest outcome, to pose the question "should this be done?" and then take it from there. As for the advisability of posing the referendum as a question, in NYS referenda are often posed in this way and their legitimacy is not questioned. Moving the issue forward in the form of a question also elevates it to a more non-partisan (if such a thing is possible in Hudson politics) plane than a detailed plan would make possible. The timing of the resolution -- 1 full year before the date of the ballot on which the question would be posed -- was chosen by the Council to provide sufficient time for education, discussion, public hearings, etc. to enable the voting population and other residents to form educated opinions. Could we have gone down different paths? Sure -- we have that flexibility in both the State Constitution, applicable State statutes and the City Charter. But we actually spent a long time discussing this and we made a considered decision that cut across party lines and had the full support of the Legal Committee (which framed it) -- including Mr. Miah (go figure).

  12. Thank you for you response Mr. Friedman. I respectfully disagree with your attorney's opinion on this matter. A city may restructure once a decade, and the AG opined that simply changing the weighted vote figures is not a restructuring, so the council can do a restructuring. 1975 N.Y. Op. Atty. Gen. No. 149 (N.Y.A.G.), 1975 WL 341319. But as you say, ward lines can be changed without a referendum, and if changed so that the populations are within the 10% parameter (with some reason for deviating from perfect equality), the weighted vote system becomes moot. Indeed, it seems that changing ward boundaries by referendum is actually illegal, and can only be done by a council vote. 1981 NY OP Atty Gen 1981 WL 145737. And I still have doubts that the language in the referendum is specific enough to be enforceable by a court. It seemed almost more precatory in nature. But that is moot too, since it didn't pass.

    What the council needs to do next year, is try to reach agreement on ward lines, and numbers of wards, that does away with the need for weighted voting in my opinion. And if that fails to happen, the whole matter needs to go to the Courts. There are a host of other legal violations in the mix here as well, including among other things, the supervisor lines violating the Home Rule statute, even before getting to Constitutional issues. I really think the referendum route is a red herring, and also entailed not having new lines in place until the 2019 election if I understood it, because yet another referendum would have to be held. I understand the wheels of justice tend to move slowly, but that pace seems more glacial than slow to me, now that we all know the facts about how screwed up everything is on this issue, including ward lines being in the wrong place, voters voting in the wrong wards, the population counts being wrong, and now the Supervisor lines being illegal under the Home Rule law, in addition to the weighted voting issue itself.

    I hope the Mayor, whomever it may be, and the new Council will work to get this done within the next 6 months, and wish them luck in doing so. Absent that, we need to move on to a new venue to get this resolved. That is my goal for next year. Enough is enough.

  13. Oh, I forgot about the 2016 election, where a second referendum could be put up, so I withdraw the 2019 comment. It would be 2017. The potential prohibition of using a referendum to change ward lines needs to be carefully considered however. I suppose a referendum could be held doing away with weighted voting, with a map passed by the council in place in the event it passes to finesse that issue. But really, the elected representatives should just get the job done themselves. That is what we elect our representatives to do.

  14. Hudson's current voting weights are wrong, because the wrong ward boundaries were used to calculate the ward populations, and the Hudson Terrace Apartments were misallocated between Wards 1 and 2.

    This is a clear violation of one man, one vote - which does not refer to one alderman, one vote; but rather each ordinary voter should have equal weight in legislative decisions.

    Hudson has stolen votes from wards 2, 4, and 5, and given them to the aldermen from wards 1, 3, and 5. On the council resolution, the aldermen from wards 2 and 4 voted no; while those from 1 and 3 voted yes. Had the correct populations been used for calculating the voting weights, the results of the resolution would have been reversed.

    Litigation on the merits of weighted voting in Hudson is a long and uncertain process. But if the weighted votes are calculated in error, and this has an outcome on actual resolution as it did last week, Hudson is certain to lose.

    Hudson should fix the current weights immediately.