Thursday, January 18, 2018

Highlights from the Council Meeting

A couple of noteworthy things happened on Tuesday, at the first regular meeting of the Common Council for 2018. First, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted to revisit the appointment of the minority leader. It will be remembered that, at the organizational meeting on January 8, Garriga nominated herself as majority leader and Kamal Johnson (First Ward) as minority leader but was informed by Council president Tom DePietro that the majority could not elect the minority leader. Garriga intimated on Tuesday that DePietro's response was ad hominem, and DePietro made a point of denying that "the name Kamal Johnson was not why I stopped the conversation." At the organizational meeting, DePietro explained that, as the only non-Democrat on the Council, Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) could either serve as minority leader or designate someone to serve in his place. Merante designated Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward). On Tuesday, Garriga said she had gotten a legal opinion that the appointment to minority leader needed to be the result of a vote and requested "case law to support how the minority leader was determined." 

Responding to the request for case law, city attorney Andy Howard said, "This is the first I've heard of it," but reiterated his position that "members of the majority vote for the majority leader, but they do not then get to select the minority leader." That seems pretty logical, but it did not satisfy Garriga or Johnson, who said he wanted "a better understanding of the process." The majority and minority leaders represent the Council on the boards of two agencies: Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA) and the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA).

Also of note, the Council voted to enact Local Law No. 6 of 2017--"to preserve community character, local business ownership, and local wealth." The law essentially bans "formula businesses"--chains with more than four locations and a uniform appearance and signage--from the city. The vote to enact the law was unanimous, but at the end of the meeting, Garriga stated that although she supported local businesses, she wanted the Council to consider "that people cannot afford the restaurants on Warren Street." It is not clear if Garriga was suggesting that lower-cost chain restaurants be added to the list of exceptions already in the law: "(a) federally or New York State chartered banking, savings and loan, and trust institutions, (b) pharmacies and drug stores, (c) stores where the overwhelming majority of foods sold are un- or minimally-processed and intended for preparation and consumption by the purchaser at another location [in other words, supermarkets], and convenience stores that also sell gasoline"; or if she was seeking some other remedy to the high cost of dining out in Hudson.


  1. good ol' boy shit right out the gate? sorry ms. garriga, but usurper isn't a great first look. the same vapid little plot was exercised on me when i was the minority representative (NOP). but it was let to pass. perhaps mr. johnson has more sense than ms. stewart did at the time.

  2. The only issues that Ms Garriga will fight for are those that are of benefit to her personally. Let's hope that my alderman will not let her lead him down the same path .

    1. I'm sure you know how bad apples will spoil a barrel, but let's both remain hopeful.

      In a recent thread we lauded film and literature as providers of descriptive appellations for some of human nature's sorrier tendencies. Nowadays we've lost so many of those useful references. In that thread there was someone who didn't know Frank Capra's film "It's a Wonderful Life," and a conversation about property speculation was deprived of a fitting illustration in the film's notorious "Mr. Potter."

      I confess, I'd be hard-put to identify Alderman Garriga's shenanigans with anyone on the following list of Dickens characters, though many of the names were once common references:

      A great lesson in practical politics (and one straight out of Dickens) teaches the value and the timing of fitting caricatures, and I mean those which transcend name-calling when questionable behaviors caricatured themselves. "The Simpsons" is another invaluable source of character portraits, and for a time Hudson even had it's own "Mayor Quimby":

      A few years ago, some wit stuck a red nose on the photo of a Hudson official who'd beclowned himself for the umpteenth time. The comic affect was a bull's-eye, immediate, and worth a thousand words.

      In the present case, unless the self-caricaturing behaviors of the more ridiculous Council members are recognizable to one and all, then the lowest common denominator will invariably afflict the entire group. It will pull more and more members down the same path once those of weak character - usually those who've dispensed with the burden of shame - grasp the corrupt insight that they, too, are free to pursue their own agendas at the expense of everyone else.

      While it's true these actors tend to form interest groups - in part to defend against any awareness that their motivation perpetuates a questionable self-image - such alliances rarely rise above marriages of convenience. As such, they are equally deserving of our ridicule.

      If and when we arrive at such a regrettable moment (today we're in the "hope" stage), then the importance of caricaturing bad actors and interest groups among our representatives will become our solemn public duty.

      The first commenter above nailed it: "good ol' boy shit right out of the gate," and "[not] a great first look." That's a terrific start in the red-clown-nose direction, but we'll have to do a lot better if our new Aldermen are of such poor character that they can't recognize Ms. Garriga's base manipulations in the service of raw power grabs.

      We have to show that there's a better way, but can that be done without the assistance of Martin Chuzzlewit, Josiah Bounderby, Kent Brockman, or Charles Montgomery Burns? Why even try?