Saturday, June 29, 2013

No Chickens on Every Lot

The public hearing yesterday on the chicken law seemed to serve primarily to validate Mayor William Hallenbeck's position on raising chickens in the city. Few people spoke in favor of keeping chickens, and several spoke against it. John Mason describes the proceedings in great detail in today's Register-Star: "Mayor upholds chicken veto after hearing." The article is accompanied by a memorable picture of Alderman Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) in the act of declaring that, if the law goes back to the Common Council, it will not have the two-thirds majority needed to override the mayor's veto. "The residents of the Fifth Ward do not want chickens as neighbors or in their neighborhood," crowed Donahue, who with his fellow Fifth Ward alderman Cappy Pierro have almost enough votes between them to guarantee it doesn't happen.

What was striking about the hearing was that the mayor responded to every comment, reiterating and elucidating his position on the chicken law. When mayoral candidate Victor Mendolia, who had earlier stated his support for keeping hens and criticized the mayor for calling the chicken law an "elitist law," pointed out that if this were a "true public hearing," the mayor should be listening to comments and not explaining his position, Hallenbeck told him simply that he was wrong. (Gossips has not been able to find any basis in the city charter or New York State general municipal law for the notion that a mayoral hearing is different from any other pubic hearing.) Later when Clay Laugier rose to make a comment, Hallenbeck told him, "This isn't a debate," and insisted that Laugier identify himself as Mendolia's campaign manager.

The chicken incident earlier in the week, reported in the Register-Star on the morning of the hearing, didn't help the cause of backyard chicken husbandry in Hudson. Hallenbeck revealed at the public hearing information that had not been reported in the newspaper. The yard where the chickens were found had no coop where the chickens could roost at night, but the owner of the chickens explained that at night they were kept in a spare bedroom.

1 comment:

  1. While I certainly don't think that the Chicken Law is on the list of most pressing issues before the city, the Mayor's veto message of the law and his handling of the subsequent Public Hearing do deserve further comment.

    Regarding his handling of the Public Hearing. The Department of State guidelines for Public Hearings say:
    "The board members [or in this case Mayor] may want to ask questions of witnesses in order to clarify facts and opinions presented in their testimony. In addition to questioning witnesses, the board may permit members of the public to question witnesses at the hearing. If it does so, the board should be careful not to turn the hearing into a debate." Yet the Mayor did in fact turn the Public Hearing into a debate. Public Hearings are for the public to have their opinions heard and recorded into the official record. Not debated.

    In the June 21, 2013 online edition of the Register Star Mayor Hallenbeck reportedly said "This is an elitist law." That comment was later omitted from another version of the story on the subject dated June 25, 2013. Using divisive language like "elitist" has no place in a civil discourse. The people who support the law, genuinely believe it to be a good idea. Those on the other side should respectfully disagree. Not inflame have and have not, us vs. them divisions.

    In the June 29th, 2013 story on the Public Hearing titled "Mayor upholds chicken veto after hearing" Hallenbeck said, “In the city of Hudson, one would think that any law created would be inclusive to any resident.”
    He said he had considered the availability of the law to people in Providence Hall, Section 8 housing, the low rises, Schuyler Court, Crosswinds, “whose ability to have chickens just isn’t there.”

    Laws and code requirements throughout the City's Charter and Code apply to some people and not others depending on zoning, lot size and other factors. So this particular argument is ridiculous.

    In addition, if the city waited to solve all problems for every single resident at one time, nothing would ever get done. But maybe that is the way the Mayor looks at problems. If he can't solve the entire problem in one stroke of the pen, then nothing will get done.

    That would explain why we are no closer to solving the issues surrounding the waterfront, the deplorable conditions at Bliss Tower, substandard housing throughout the city and the truck routes than when he took office. In fact things are worse.