Monday, January 20, 2020

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

There's snow on the ground, but the days ahead promise to be sunny and warmer as the week progresses. 
  • Today, Monday, January 20, is a holiday--Martin Luther King Day--so the banks and City Hall are closed. There will be no mail, and the Department of Public Works will not be picking up the trash. Keep your blue bags off the streets until tomorrow morning, when the trash will be picked up. 
  • On Tuesday, January 21, the Common Council Finance Committee, now chaired by Council president Tom DePietro, holds its first meeting of the year at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. One of the proposed initiatives for the year, which may be taken up at this meeting, is increasing the parking meter fees on Warren Street. 
The Finance Committee meeting will be followed at 7:00 p.m. by the Council's first regular monthly meeting of the year, at which it is thought the Council may hear the opinion of corporation counsel and the controversy surrounding the selection of the minority leader will be put to rest. Also on the agenda is the six-month moratorium on new short-term rentals and the amendment to the lodging tax statute that would defund the Tourism Board. 
  • The calendar on the City website lists a DRI Committee for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22. That is an error. Going forward, the committee plans to meet on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month but not in January. The next meeting of the DRI Committee will take place on the fifth Wednesday, Wednesday, January 29.
  • In the evening of Wednesday, January 22, there are two Common Council committee meetings: Public Works and Parks at 5:30 p.m. and Legal at 6:15 p.m. Both committees are now chaired by Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward).
It is expected that the legislation to regulate short-term rentals and to address the problem of sidewalks in disrepair will be discussed in the Legal Committee meeting. The drafts under consideration for both these inititives are available on the City website.     
  • The regular second meeting of the month for the Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to take place on Friday, January 24. That meeting has been rescheduled. The next meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission will take place on Friday, February 7, at 10:00 a.m.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sunday, January 19, 2020

New Use Contemplated for a Building

In 1991, Carrie Haddad opened the first art gallery in Hudson in this building at 316 Warren Street.

When the Carrie Haddad Gallery moved upstreet to 622 Warren Street in 1999, 316 Warren Street became Rural Residence, the impeccably curated shop conceived and operated by the late lamented Timothy Dunleavy. A new owner bought the business just before Dunleavy's death in December 2014 and continued the tradition, but, alas, Rural Residence is now closing. Haddad, who owns the building, has a new idea for the space which has played such a seminal role in Hudson's revitalization over the past three decades: a dance studio. 

Haddad recently issued this invitation: 
I am toying with the idea of converting 316 Warren Street into a dance studio. I would love to know if there are any of you out there who used to be, or still are, dancers, who might be interested in teaching ballet, modern, or any other kind of dance.        
She asks anyone interested to contact her by email or to call her at (518) 845-4850 to explore the possibilities. 
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Visit to City Hall

During the first full week of the new term, Mayor Kamal Johnson and Council president Tom DePietro hosted a visit to City Hall by a group of kids from Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood. Johnson, who before becoming mayor was a co-director of Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, is now an ex officio member of its board, and DePietro chairs the board. The following pictures are two of several shared on Facebook

Photo: Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood

Photo: Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood
Inviting kids to visit City Hall is nothing new, but the kids in the 2020 photos sure look like they're having a lot more fun than these kids from Mrs. Bramkamp's class, who visited City Hall in 1969.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Thanks to Dan Seward for uncovering and sharing the historic photograph 

The Future of the Tourism Board

On Monday, at the informal meeting of the Common Council, a new local law was introduced that would amend Section 275 Article VIII of the city code, the law that created Hudson's short-term lodging tax. The proposed amendment would not eliminate the Tourism Board, which was empowered by the original law "to take all steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and day-trip visitors," but it would eliminate the board's funding, which is a percentage of the revenue from the lodging tax, not to exceed $250,000 a year. Once the amendment has passed, all revenue from the lodging tax will go into the general fund. The Tourism Board will live on, but it will have to seek the approval of the Common Council to expend any of the $300,000 already set aside for its use.

The Tourism Board will also be reconstituted. Section 275-41 specifies that the chair of the Economic Development Committee will serve as the chair of the Tourism Board, four members of the board will be appointed by the mayor, and four will be appointed by the Common Council. That's not changing. Aldermen Calvin Lewis (Fourth Ward) was designated chair of the Economic Development Committee, so he will become chair of the Tourism Board. At the Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday, Council president Tom DePietro indicated that there were currently two people on the mayor's list of appointees, but the Council has not yet made up its list. Those serving on the Tourism Board previously were Rich Volo (chair); Ted Gramkow, Tambra Dillon, Kristen Keck, Chuck Rosenthal (appointed by the mayor); and Jeff Hunt, Jamie Smith Quinn, Ellen Thurston, Sidney Long (appointed by the Common Council). 

At the committee meeting on Thursday, it was suggested that the Tourism Board had become "too independent." DePietro expressed the opinion that the Tourism Board should meet in City Hall. (The Tourism Board started out meeting at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting, where Smith Quinn is executive director, and then moved its meetings to 1 North Front Street.) It was also suggested that the Tourism Board needed to be "guided by the Economic Development Committee." First Ward alderman Jane Trombley, who sits on the Economic Development Committee, asked, "Do they set their goals, or does that come from us?" Lewis responded, "We can set the tone."
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

The Empire State Trail Runs Through It

In October, Gossips reported that the trailhead for the Empire State Trail, at Second and Dock streets, had been completed.



Now, in January, the installation of the trail markers has begun. Within the past day or so, three markers have appeared along Allen Street. Two on the south side of the street, one just above Front Street and the other at the corner of Third Street, and one on the north side of the street just below Second.

As a reminder, the route of the Empire State Trail through Hudson is this: Coming from the north, it enters the city on Harry Howard Avenue at Hudson High School and continues to the Dugway. There it follows the Dugway, Mill Street, and Dock Street to Front Street, where it makes a left turn and crosses the city along Front Street to Allen Street. It makes another left turn and follows Allen Street to Third Street and exits the city by way of Third Street and Route 9G.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Friday, January 17, 2020

See Through Hudson

Today, a reader told me in an email that he was surprised when Alderman Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward) said, at Monday night's informal Common Council meeting, that he was going to take $50 out of his check as a alderman and put it toward the Youth Department. The reader was surprised because he didn't know members of the Common Council were paid. That email inspired this post.

Yes, the members of the Common Council are paid for their service and have been for as long as anyone can remember. Currently, the Council president receives $12,500 a year, the majority and minority leaders each receive $5,711 a year, and the eight other aldermen receive $5,473 a year. The stipends are disbursed in monthly payments. 

In addition to the stipend, the members of the Common Council are eligible for City-provided health insurance. If they decide to opt out of that insurance plan, they receive a $3,500 buyout. Last year, all but one of the members took the buyout.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Stewart's Wins Again

The saga of Stewart's and Altamont started long before the story of Stewart's and its expansion in Hudson began and has continued long after. Gossips has been following the Altamont story, which began in April 2015, for two years, publishing the first post about it on January 16, 2018: "Stewart's Shops Elsewhere." In November 2019, Gossips reported that the Village Board in Altamont, made up primarily of newly elected members, had approved the zoning changes required to enable the construction of an expanded Stewart's. In April 2019, however, a neighborhood group had filed a lawsuit against Stewart's Shops and the Village of Altamont Board of Trustees over the zoning change. The group's opposition was motivated by this argument: "Once the fabric and character of Altamont begins to unravel, there is no easy way to reverse the damage."

Yesterday, the Altamont Enterprise reported on the fate of the neighborhood group's legal action: "Stewart's Altamont lawsuit is no more." The picture below, which accompanied the article, shows the two-family house that will be demolished to make way for a bigger Stewart's.

Photo: Carol Rothenburg
This past Monday, the Albany Business Review reported on Stewart's "aggressive expansion plan" for 2020: "Stewart's to spend nearly $70 million on new stores, warehouse expansion this year." According to the article, ten new stores are planned. One wonders what impact this will have on the fabric and character of the ten communities where the new stores will be built.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

A Gathering of the First Ward

On Wednesday night, the Hudson City Democratic Committee held a town hall meeting for First Ward residents at the Hudson Milliner. The meeting, which went on for more than an hour, was billed as an opportunity to meet the new First Ward aldermen--Rebecca Wolff and Jane Trombley--and to hear from Sarah Sterling, who represents the First Ward on the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.

Dan Udell was there to record the event, and his video was made available this morning on YouTube. Click here to watch. 

At the beginning of the video, there are introductory statements by Wolff (2:12-5:48), Trombley (5:50-13:46), and Sterling (14:06-17:23). If you listen to the end, there are comments about the Hudson supervisors from Fourth Ward supervisor Linda Mussmann (1:06:23), which begin, "I personally am seeking a revolution."

At the end, you can also hear Mayor Kamal Johnson share, among other things, the discouraging news that the literacy rate for third graders in Hudson is 35 percent (1:13:53) and the encouraging news that the DRI Master Agreement has been signed by Department of State (1:15:04), clearing the way for the City's DRI projects to begin.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Way Is Clear

Last night, the Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing on the area variances--side and front setbacks and lot coverage--necessary to build this house at 418 State Street.


The application for variances first came before the ZBA in November, at which time a public hearing was scheduled for December 18. But the December meeting of the ZBA was canceled, and the public hearing postponed. There was no indication on the calendar on the City website that last night's ZBA meeting included a public hearing (and Gossips totally forgot about this pending public hearing), so, after the applicant had rehearsed the members of the ZBA about what was proposed and what variances were needed, there was no one present to comment. Without further discussion among ZBA members, a motion was made to grant the variances, and the application was unanimously approved.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Monday's Common Council Meetings

Gossips has already reported on what transpired at the Common Council organizational meeting and informal meeting on Monday night--in three parts, which can be read here, here, and here. Dan Udell's video of the meetings became available on YouTube this morning. It can be viewed by clicking here.

Udell appears to have turned off the camera when the meeting was recessed, because the video does not include the departure of six aldermen to caucus in the hall with the "minority party" or what transpired in the Council chamber during their absence. It moves almost seamlessly from Council president Tom DePietro rapping the gavel to declare the recess (14:00) to his stating, "We will adjourn that issue" (14:07), and going on to make his statement about the objectives for the coming year. 
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Special Exhibition at the FASNY Museum

A new, mini-popup exhibition will open to the public tomorrow, January 16, at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. The exhibition, called The Hero's Tale, is made up of artifacts from the NBCUniversal TV drama Chicago Fire. Information from Jamie Smith Quinn, executive director of the FASNY Museum, explains how the exhibition came about.
The Museum staff has been actively pursuing objects related to firefighting and popular culture. Museum Educator Shaun Heller was fortunate to make a connection with Steve Chikerotis, who, besides playing the role of Chief Walker [on Chicago Fireand being a retired Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief, is also the subject matter fire expert for this drama. He graciously made an introduction to the NBC archivist, Rachel B. Parham, for the Museum Staff.
The objects that make up the exhibition will be on loan for six months. The hope is that this will be the first on an ongoing, rotating schedule of exhibits at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting featuring popular culture objects. 

The FASNY Museum, which is located at 117 Harry Howard Avenue, on the grounds of the Firemen's Home, opens daily at 10 a.m. The last admission is at 3:30 p.m., and the galleries close at 4:30 p.m.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sharing a Historic Tidbit

These days, there is concern about population loss in Hudson and an aging population in Hudson and Columbia County. Apropos that, today I discovered this little news item in the Hudson Evening Register for January 7, 1870.

 COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Meetings of the Week Update

On Sunday evening, Gossips published the list of meetings and events happening this week. Since then, there has been some new information. 
  • Tonight's meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, will go forward as planned. It has been confirmed that Lisa Kenneally has been reappointed as chair of the ZBA, and Kathy Harter has been reappointed to the board. It is still not known who will be appointed to replace Theresa Joyner, whose term on the ZBA expired at the end of 2019 and who has been appointed to the Planning Board.
  • Tomorrow, Thursday, January 16, the first meeting of the new Common Council Economic Development Committee will take place at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The committee is chaired by Calvin Lewis (Third Ward) and is made up of Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward), and Jane Trombley (First Ward).
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Monday Night at City Hall: Part 3

At the organizational meeting of the Common Council, before announcing the committee assignments, Council president Tom DePietro spoke of the goals for the coming year. He defined ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance as "the most persistent issue our city faces," identifying sidewalks as "the chief issue," and reminded the Council, "We are now being monitored by the federal government." He identified the following as other issues to be taken up by the Council this year:
  • short-term rentals
  • the status of the Tourism Board and its finances
  • raising the parking meter fees on Warren Street
  • raising the City fee schedule
He then spoke of the "temptation to cut the low-hanging fruit" to control the City budget. By "low-hanging fruit," he meant the Youth Department.

Several of the issues mentioned by DePietro were the subject of resolutions and a local law introduced during the informal meeting that immediately followed. On the subject of ADA compliance, there was a resolution transferring $5,000 from the contingency fund to provide additional compensation to mayor's aide Michael Chameides, who has been designated the ADA Coordinator, a position required by the settlement agreement with the federal government.

On the subject of short-term rentals, the local law imposing a "moratorium on the registration or operation of any short-term lodging facility in the City of Hudson" was reintroduced. This time, the proposed moratorium is not for nine months, as it was in the past, but for six months.

On the subject of the Tourism Board and its finances, a local law was proposed that would amend the law that created lodging tax. The amendment would not eliminate the Tourism Board, but it would eliminate its funding. At the present time, a portion of the revenue from the lodging tax, up to $250,000 a year, is set aside for the use of the Tourism Board, and Section 275-41 of the law empowers the Tourism Board "to take all steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and day-trip visitors by making use of the funds set aside." Last summer, when the Tourism Board wanted to use some of its money to hire a consultant to help craft a strategic marketing plan, the Council refused to give its approval. The proposed amendment that was introduced on Monday states: 
The City of Hudson finds that the dedicated revenue from the short-term lodging tax unnecessarily constrains the ability of the City to meet the other fiscal needs of the City to protect the health, welfare and safety of City residents. This local law provides for the revenues from the short-term lodging tax to be deposited in the City's general fund and be allocated during the regular budget process to support the efforts of the Tourism Board as the City deems appropriate and necessary.   
The proposed amendment does not alter the makeup of the Tourism Board. As before, the chair of the Economic Development Committee, now Calvin Lewis, serves as the chair of the Tourism Board, which is made up of four members who are appointed by the mayor and four members who are appointed by the Common Council. The amendment, however, does not define the terms of those serving on the Tourism Board.

On the issue of the Youth Department, a resolution was introduced to transfer a total of $72,983 from the fund balance "to pay for the projected staffing needs of the Hudson Youth Center and Oakdale Summer Camp." The money requested to pay part-time personnel had been cut in the budget process in November. 

In the discussion of the proposed resolution, Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) suggested it was "premature in January to ask for it to be the number you wanted . . . just because you didn't get it in the budget." Alderman Jane Trombley (First Ward) observed that the amount requested was "almost 10 percent of the entire budget" for the Youth Department. (It's actually more than 10 percent. The 2020 budget for the Youth Department is $580,150.) Halloran continued, "We need to see what happens as the year goes on. Every department could come in and ask for what they didn't get." Youth Director Nick Zachos explained that he was "going through the process of building an employee structure" and argued that he would "have to start cutting people right now" if he didn't get the money.

DePietro suggested that the money might come from the contingency budget instead of the fund balance, since the fund balance is currently as low as it has been in recent memory, and, according to the City's own policies, no more money can be taken from it. Trombley asked Zachos if the money from Friends of Hudson Youth figured into the budget and was told that money was used for programming. (Two resolutions regarding the not-for-profit Friends of Hudson Youth were also introduced: one authorizing the acceptance of donations from the organization; the other authorizing the mayor to execute a memorandum of understanding with Friends of Hudson Youth for future donations to the Youth Department.) Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) observed "the idea is to provide a stable budget not something that has to be raised."

Toward the end of the meeting, Alderman Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward), who has been appointed chair of the Youth Committee, opined that the Youth Department should be "our primary focus" and said he didn't understand "why there is such tension" over the department's budget. He offered to donate $50 from his monthly Council salary to the Youth Department. Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) suggested that the $300,000 set aside, under the original lodging tax law, for the Tourism Board, "that we can't touch," should go to the Youth Department.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Disturbing News

Late this afternoon, Bill Williams shared the news on Facebook that he had been fired from his job at 98.5 The Cat. Here is his statement, as it appeared on his Facebook page:
Well, I was fired this morning. I was part of a nation-wide blood bath that saw a lot of radio people get fired.
So much for working a 70 hour week and doing the work of 10 people, and not complaining about it.
When it all comes down to it, I was just a number on a spreadsheet, with a salary that needed to be eliminated.
What I'm really sorry about, is the area will suffer now, without any station that will serve them. Although The Cat, Oldies, and 1230 are owned by a huge company, it was me, and me alone, that kept them serving the area, and informed.
Starting tomorrow, don't know what you can expect in the way of LOCAL news, because I won't be writing and gathering it anymore.
Not sure what my future will bring. In the old days, you could just go to the station across the street. Now, all the stations seem to be owned by the same person.
It's been a pleasure serving you all.
I have to confess I never listened to 98.5 The Cat, preferring instead WAMC, but I followed 98.5 The Cat on Facebook and was amazed by the news--both aggregated and original--that it brought me. More than one post on Gossips was inspired by local news shared by Williams, and I was honored to have Williams consider me a fellow newsperson. Representing The Cat, he was ubiquitous and indefatigable, appearing in every parade, supporting every worthy cause, and remarkably always being on the spot when news was happening--even, when I was trying to get help for the mangy foxes in the cemetery, alerting me to early morning fox sightings on Ten Broeck Lane as he made his way to work. 

Reacting to the news, Sam Pratt commented on Facebook, "The station's owners plainly don't realize that Williams was central to their identity. Or don't care." I share that sentiment and add my own: This really sucks.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Monday Night at City Hall: Part 2

Also on the agenda for the organizational meeting were committee assignments. Since the assignments had been shared with the aldermen prior to the meeting, there was no discussion or dissension about them. The makeup of the committees and the meeting times are as follows:
  • Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation  Chair: Malachi Walker; Calvin Lewis, Eileen Halloran, Shershah Mizan  The committee meets on the first Wednesday of the month.
  • Housing and Transportation  Chair: Tiffany Garriga; Rebecca Wolff, Shershah Mizan, Malachi Walker  The committee meets on the first Wednesday of the month
  • Finance  Chair: Tom DePietro; John Rosenthal, Rebecca Wolff, Eileen Halloran  The committee meets on the third Tuesday of the month
  • Economic Development  Chair: Calvin Lewis; Dominic Merante, Eileen Halloran, Jane Trombley  The committee meets on the third Thursday of the month
  • Police  Chair: Dewan Sarowar; Rebecca Wolff, Malachi Walker, Jane Trombley  The committee meets on the fourth Monday of the month
  • Fire  Chair: Dominic Merante; Malachi Walker, Dewan Sarowar, Jane Trombley  The committee meets on the fourth Monday of the month
  • Legal  Chair: John Rosenthal; Rebecca Wolff, Shershah Mizan, Tiffany Garriga  The committee meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month
  • Public Works and Parks  Chair: John Rosenthal; Calvin Lewis, Shershah Mizan, Dominic Merante  The committee meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month
After presenting the committee assignments, Council president Tom DePietro noted that all committee minutes will now be taken by a secretary (Linda Fenoff) and advised the committee chairs that the agendas for committee meetings should be posted on the city website by noon on the day of the meeting.

Tiffany Garriga voiced an objection that aldermen had to go through the Council president, DePietro, to contact the Council's legal counsel, Jeff Baker. Baker explained that DePietro wanted to manage the work flow. Garriga argued that any alderman should have the right to deal directly with counsel. Baker said he didn't want calls from eleven different people asking him to draft things. Garriga countered by claiming that she gets phone calls from 700 people and gets "way less money than you do." In the end, DePietro acquiesced and declared that "the attorney will be available to all committee chairs."
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

No Longer Mobile, No Longer a Home

Mobile homes or trailers permanently parked and used as offices or residences have been illegal in Hudson since 1963, but there are still a few in the city that have grandfathered status. That number will soon be reduced by one.

The trailer that stood for years at 247 Columbia Street is now being removed--not hauled away in tow but demolished with a backhoe. There had been a devastating fire in the trailer, rendering it uninhabitable, and in September the lot was purchased by the owner of the two adjacent lots, 249 and 251 Columbia Street. The two houses that once stood on those lots were demolished a year ago.

Photo: Victor Mendolia
The plan is to merge the three lots into a single property and to construct thereon a single family home with a three-car garage. The proposal to merge the lots came before the Planning Board at its December meeting and was approved. The board was told that the plans for the house "followed all the setback regulations," which means the house will not conform to the prevailing setbacks on the street and will be more suburban than urban in its placement on the lot. Nothing is known about the design for the house nor will it be. Columbia Street is not part of a locally designated historic district.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Monday Night at City Hall: Part 1

There were two consecutive meetings of the Common Council on Monday night: an organizational meeting, which happens at the beginning of each new year; and the informal meeting, which happens every month. Much transpired during the two meetings, and Gossips will report what happened in a series of posts.

The first thing on the agenda for the organizational meeting was the election of the majority leader and the minority leader. Recommendations for the positions come from the party caucus, and the full Council votes to confirm. Tiffany Garriga, who has the longest tenure of any of the aldermen, was designated majority leader, a position she has held since beginning of 2015. But the meeting came to a halt with the confirmation of the minority leader.

Choosing a minority leader is a perennial problem for the Common Council, because the Council is typically made up almost exclusively of Democrats. In the past, when there was a lone Republican on the Council--Dick Goetz for much of the first decade of this century, and Bart Delaney for much of the second--that person has been the minority leader. On a few occasions in the past, things have gotten more creative. In 2012, when the only non-Democrat on the Council was an NOP (no official party), David Marston, it was maintained that to be the minority leader one had to be a member of a party. So the Council, apparently drawing on a different meaning of minority, chose Ohrine Stewart, an African-American woman and a Democrat, as the minority leader. The same thing happened in 2016, when the Council passed over the only non-Democrat--Priscilla Moore, again an NOP--to elect Abdus Miah, a Bangladeshi American, as the minority leader. In 2018, the Council got over the notion that the minority leader had to be a member of a party. In that year, Dominic Merante, an NOP and the only non-Democrat on the Council, ceded the position to Eileen Halloran, a Democrat; in 2019, he claimed it for himself. This year's solution to the problem seems to be the most inventive yet.

There are currently two non-Democrats on the Council: Dominic Merante, an NOP, and Rebecca Wolff, a member of the Working Families Party. As Gossips understands it, the plan to determine the minority leader was conceived in the Democratic caucus, where Garriga assumed the continuation of her role as majority leader. Two members of the caucus, Calvin Lewis and Shershah Mizan, both presumably registered Democrats, decided to "identify" as members of the Working Families Party, hence creating a minority party to elect Wolff, who is starting her first term on the Council, as the minority leader. 

When the recommendation of Wolff came before the Council for a vote, Merante cried foul. He protested that he had not been invited to the Democratic caucus where these things has been decided, although Wolff had been present. He alleged that the process by which she had been chosen was invalid, saying it was not transparent and not inclusive. 

Jeff Baker, the new counsel to the Council, said there were no rules in the city charter that govern caucuses and parties. Council president Tom DePietro said that "the new attorney advised us that how we did it in the past was not correct." It wasn't clear if the "new attorney" was Baker or Cheryl Roberts nor was it clear exactly what had been incorrect. DePietro then suggested that there be a short recess during which the four members of the "minority party"--Merante, Wolff, Lewis, and Mizan--could caucus in the hall and come to a decision about who would be the minority leader. Halloran, who had stated earlier that she did not caucus with the Democrats, although she is a registered Democrat, joined the caucus in the hall, as did Jane Trombley. There were then six aldermen in the hall, caucusing as the minority, and four aldermen left in the Council Chamber. 

After ten minutes or so, Baker went out to speak with the "minority caucus" and reported back to DePietro. A few minutes later, DePietro went into the hall to call the members back. Although Halloran was heard to say, "We're almost done," the six returned to the chamber at DePietro's bidding. The issue of who will be the minority leader remains unresolved.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK