Sunday, August 25, 2013

Executive Powers

One of the things being discussed in the Common Council Legal Committee is amending the process by which mass gathering permits are applied for and granted. The impetus for doing this is Mayor William Hallenbeck's decision to approve a mass gathering permit that allowed Joe Fiero of American Glory to shut down the 300 block of Warren Street on a fine Saturday in May, much to the annoyance of other business owners on the street, for an event that didn't live up to expectation.

The challenge is to amend the law so that the desire of one does not interfere with the interests of many without curtailing the power of the mayor, since a referendum is required when an action by the legislature changes the executive's power.

Soon after the July Legal Committee meeting at which amending the process was discussed, Gossips discovered, while searching the Common Council minutes for clues about what happened to the Hudson-Fulton fountain, that a similar situation had occurred a hundred years ago. The following excerpt is from the minutes for January 26, 1911:
Alderman McAree inquired as to whether the Mayor had given permission to representatives of the Italian Church to discharge fireworks recently, and Alderman Finigan inquired as to whether the Mayor was liable in case of an accident resulting from his granting such permission.
The Recorder read Ordinance No. 36 in relation to the subject.
Alderman McAree then moved that the Finance Committee be authorized and directed to amend Ordinance No. 36, so as to curtail the discretion given to the Mayor.
Alderman Finigan suggested that if the Mayor was to be given such discretion he should be required to give a bond in order to indemnify the city.
The motion of Alderman McAree was adopted.
A hundred years ago, the Common Council seemed to have no constraints when it came to curtailing the executive's powers. The minutes for March 2, 1911, reveal the reason why the Common Council wanted to hold the mayor responsible for his decisions.
A claim of Basil Halloran for $15,000 damages, for alleged injuries received by an explosion of a piece of fireworks which he picked up in an alley north of Robinson St. was read, received and placed on file.
The piece of fireworks that injured Halloran was no doubt from the fireworks discharged by the "Italian Church." According to the 1912 Hudson city directory, St. Maria Del Monte Carmelo was located at "Market Place," North Front Street near Diamond Street.


  1. Back to my previous post about the longevity and life of Common Council resolutions, and this case an Ordinance, is such an enforceable statement ("Ordinance 36") regarding Mayoral powers still on the books? If not, why not? If so, is it applicable? Enforceable? Isn't there some form of civil institutional memory procedure that documents these Resolutions and Ordinances so a member of the public (Gossips, in this case) doesn't have to stumble across a hundred-year-old solution to a modern problem in a newspaper article?

    1. I would think that would be the job of our paid for 'legal council" - otherwise known as Cheryll Roberts. Whens she's not busy manipulating the magic curtain.

    2. Hey, Clown Town--Alderman John Friedman, chair of the Legal Committee and himself a lawyer, responded to your inquiries about the longevity of resolutions and laws. Resolutions, he said, have "no teeth." Laws may changed since 1973, when the charter and the code were revised.