Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Year, New Council

Once upon a time in Hudson, the terms of aldermen were staggered to ensure that one alderman in each ward had at least a year's experience serving on the City's legislature. That's not been the case for at least a quarter century, probably more. Of the members of the new Common Council, only one is an incumbent.

Photo: Sarah Sterling
The new Council held its organizational meeting last night. Under the leadership of new Council president Tom DePietro, there were some things that were different. To start, the election of the majority leader took place during the meeting rather than in a party caucus. When DePietro called for nominations, Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), the only incumbent on the Council, nominated herself as majority leader and Kamal Johnson (First Ward) as minority leader. (Garriga and Johnson are both Democrats—members of the majority party on the Council.) DePietro explained that the Council would consider the positions one at a time. When a vote was taken, Garriga was unanimously elected majority leader.

Determining a minority leader is a perennial problem for the Common Council, since the minority leader is supposed to represent the minority party, and there is rarely, if ever, a member of a party other than the Democratic Party on the Council. DePietro scotched Garriga's attempt to make Johnson the minority leader, maintaining that the minority leader could not be part of the majority party and noting that the only member of the Council who was not a Democrat was Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward). (Merante is NOP—no official party.) As the only non-Democrat, Merante could serve as minority leader, or he could delegate that authority to someone else. Merante chose to delegate the position to Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward).

When the time came to adopt the rules of order for the new term, Garriga, who in the fall of 2016 had been removed from the Police Committee at the discretion of then Council president Claudia DeStefano, objected to this sentence in the rules of order: "The President may change Chairs and members [of committees] at his discretion." Johnson concurred, saying that the phrase "at his discretion" was inappropriate. It was decided that the new language would be something like "The President and the majority of Committee members can change the Committee Chair or any members of any committee." The rules of order were approved as amended.

There were also changes to the standing committees. Gone is Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism, a committee created back in 2000, whose sole purpose of late seemed to be to distribute $20,000 to various festivals and events in Hudson. (DePietro said the Council would figure out what to do with the $20,000 written into this year's budget.) Two committees have gotten name changes: Public Works is now Public Works and Parks; Youth and Aging is now Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation. There is also a brand-new committee: Housing and Transportation.

The committee assignments were also announced. It is of some interest that three aldermen—Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), Shershah Mizan (Third Ward), and Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward)were not tapped to chair any committees, while one aldermanKamal Johnson (First Ward)is chairing two. The following are the committee assignments:
Housing and Transportation:  Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), chair; John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), Calvin Lewis (Third Ward)
Legal:  John Rosenthal, chair; Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), Shershah Mizan (Third Ward), Tiffany Garriga
Fire:  Dominic Merante, chair; Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), Rob Bujan (First Ward), Kamal Johnson (First Ward)
Police:  Kamal Johnson, chair; Dewan Sarowar, Rob Bujan, Dominic Merante
Public Works and Parks:  Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward), chair; Rich Volo, Shershah Mizan, Tiffany Garriga
Finance:  Rob Bujan, chair; Rich Volo, Eileen Halloran, Shershah Mizan
Economic Development:  Rich Volo, chair; John Rosenthal, Calvin Lewis, Eileen Halloran
Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation:  Kamal Johnson, chair; Rich Volo, Dominic Merante, Calvin Lewis  
The schedule for meetings was also announced. Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation and Housing and Transportation will meet on the first Wednesday of the month—already past for January. Finance will continue to meet on the third Tuesday of the month, just before the regular Common Council meeting—for this month, January 16. Economic Development will meet on the third Thursday of the month—for this month, January 18. Police and Fire will meet on the fourth Monday of the month—for this month, January 22. Public Works and Parks and Legal will meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month—for this month, January 24.


  1. Was there any mention of a new committee to handle the funding coming from the lodging tax to promote tourism? I would have assumed the AET Committee would do that?

    1. There is a nine-member Tourism Board, which was created by the law that enacted the lodging tax--Section 275-41 of the city code--to decide how those funds would be used. The law outlines who should serve on that board, and ironically one of the members is supposed to be the chair of the now defunct Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee. Of the other eight, one is appointed by the mayor, one by the Common Council, and the rest are elected by the board itself. I don't believe the Tourism Board has been created yet, and it will be interesting to see how they will handle the position that's supposed to be filled by the AET Committee chair. Probably, since the Council president would have appointed the AET Committee chair, he--the Council president--may want to take it upon himself to appoint someone from the Council to that position.

  2. I was happy to see "Education" added to a committee name. There are many opportunities for the City to partner with educational organizations on behalf of its constituents.

  3. It seems a good solution that the President and the majority of a Committee's members may change the Committee Chair when desired. But by including changes in a committee's members as well, we run the risk of majorities finding it convenient to purge their ranks of minorities.

    In those cases, the need for prudence and proportion will fall to the Presidential helm.