Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great Debate: Part II

It wasn't Lincoln-Douglas. It wasn't Kennedy-Nixon. It wasn't even Tracy-Grandinetti (2005) or O'Hara-Mussmann (2007). It's unlikely that anyone went to the debate undecided about who they supported or that the debate changed anyone's mind, but since it appears unlikely that there will be a second debate, last night was our only opportunity for a side by side comparison of the two candidates, and so it deserves our attention. One question that emerges from this debate--indeed from the whole campaign--is this: Which would be more beneficial to Hudson--a mayor with a lifelong history of living in Hudson and working at public sector jobs, or a mayor with real world experience in the private sector, success in managing businesses and people, and a vision for the future?

The debate started out with each candidate making a brief statement. Bill Hallenbeck, after introducing his wife, his daughter, his parents, his sister, and his niece, made the statement that seems to be the theme of his campaign: "I've lived here all my life." He summarized what he described as his "stellar career" in law enforcement: Hudson Police Department, County Sheriff's Department, and now "safety officer" for the Hudson City School District; and concluded by saying that he understood the issues facing Hudson and was "compassionate and passionate" about them.

Nick Haddad also began by introducing his family--his wife, his son, his father--and then talked about his father, whose hopes for attending college had to be abandoned when he was drafted into World War II, recounted his father's military career, praised his father's generation--the Greatest Generation--for "providing us our future," and segued into his theme: the need to provide a future for Hudson that "reflects our aspirations." Haddad talked about jobs, opportunity, and quality of life. He talked about making our school a "magnet for people" and said of Hudson that it is "more than shovel-ready, and we have the work force." He also urged that we be "Hudsoncentric," working together to ensure a bright future.

According to the format of the debate, the opening statements were followed by three questions, asked of each candidate, that HAALA said “speak to the diversity and importance to all citizens.” Those questions were:
  • What qualifications do you have to be mayor, and what would you do differently from the current administration?
  • How will you protect the quality of life in Hudson given the imposed two percent tax cap?
  • How will you address the fact that the African Americans are underrepresented in the City's workforce?
The candidates' answers to the first question pretty much reviewed what they'd said in their opening statements. Hallenbeck talked about his passion for Hudson and how he was a "people person." He disagreed with the idea that having business experience was important for a mayor and talked about his knowledge of city departments and agencies. He said that Mayor Scalera is so busy in City Hall that he hasn't been able to "meet residents and business owners and see what's going on" but promised that he as mayor would be "committed to spend time in the community." Haddad countered by talking about his "proven skill set" and his "real world experience." He maintained that a business model is a  good way to run a municipality and talked about leadership and the ability to work with everyone around you, to make people successful, and to utilize their talents: "How you manage it is how you make it a success."  

On the issue of the two percent tax cap, Haddad talked about the police force being more engaged, suggested that "shared sacrifice" may be required to "keep what we have," and advocated "inviting people into the conversation" and working together to achieve "the community of our memory." Hallenbeck complained about "unfunded mandates" that are "crippling municipalities," pledged to "make sure that quality of life is not affected," and promised he would have more to say about the two percent tax cap.

On the issue of African American representation in the City's workforce, Hallenbeck seemed to try to demonstrate that the premise was not true, claiming that the current administration had "done a good job," but he also recommended reviving the 1991 Minority Task Force. Haddad maintained that public hiring must be "merit based and colorblind," stating that "we cannot remedy the inequities only in City jobs." He talked about encouraging private industry and private business and about empowering people and working with the schools and the community college to "get people ready to take tests"--i.e., the civil service tests required for most City jobs.

Among the questions from the audience, two are worthy of note. Mayor's aide, Cappy Pierro, asked a question clearly intended to give Hallenbeck a chance to talk about his experience as a DARE instructor and as a safety officer in the Hudson City School District: "What is your involvement with the youth of the community and what is your vision?" Predictably, Hallenbeck reviewed the phases of his career in law enforcement that had to do with kids and said he wanted to see "programs implemented that coincide with programs in the schools." Haddad acknowledged that he had not been involved with youth recently (his two sons are now adults) but knew from past experience that "the hardest people on the planet to engage are youth." He alluded to the fact that the Youth Department in Hudson (whose annual budget is around $400,000) is used by only about a hundred kids. He talked about the need to "give children a reason to participate" and to "do what we can to make it relevant and attractive." 

The question of the moment was asked by Nicole Vidor: "What is your vision for the waterfront?" Hallenbeck began his answer by stating that he was in favor of the LWRP and appreciated what Cheryl Roberts had done. He claimed that he was "ecofriendly" and believed that "parks and recreation can exist with small businesses and restaurants," but nowhere did he mention heavy industry. He then said that the Common Council President, the majority of the Common Council, and the majority of residents, so far as he could tell, were in favor of the LWRP and asked: "Can we all be wrong?" Haddad, on the other hand, expressed the opinion that the LWRP was "not a perfect document," stated his concern that it will be "very difficult to get necessary investment in place if it has to coexist with heavy industry," and predicted that "what we want will not happen so long as the industry is in place." 

The entire debate may be heard online at WGXC; a videotape is promised to be available soon on YouTube.

1 comment:

  1. To my way of thinking, the choice is: business man vs police man.