Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Decisions Are Made by Those Who Show Up

As we know, the resolution that would have enabled the Common Council to retain a legal adviser was vetoed by the mayor. At the informal Council meeting on February 10, the mayor's veto message was received by the Council, and the aldermen were to vote on the resolution again tonight. A two-thirds majority would have overridden the mayor's veto, but alas, two aldermen were absent: John Friedman (Third Ward) and Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward).

Perhaps fearing that a two-thirds majority could not be achieved without the votes of Friedman and Delaney, Council president Don Moore wanted to postpone the vote, explaining that the issue was one that was very important to the two absent aldermen. City attorney Carl Whitbeck, however, asserted that, according to the charter, a vote to override a mayoral veto must take place at the Council's next regular meeting. No vote was taken, and the mayor's veto stands. The Council shall have no legal adviser.


  1. I think I am having a brain freeze.

    Wonders never cease. Remember the old adage "99% of life is just showing up"?

  2. Armed with fresh information, earlier today I returned to the May 2011 edits of the draft LWRP (waterfront program), which were carried out by the city's previous Corporate Counsel, Cheryl Roberts.

    Wearing one of her 36 hats, Roberts served as legal advisor to the Common Council in its role as Lead Agency for the city's environmental impact statement.

    Lately I've been rehearsing the timeline for the city's past sewer investigations, and it occurred to me to cross-reference developments in the sewer world with parallel events in the LWRP's history.

    Low and behold, an edit Roberts made to the LWRP which never made any sense before now suddenly popped into relief. She was using the LWRP to help clear the way for the nasty sewer project which was funded only two months ago. The engineering report which had initially introduced the plan (unbeknownst to the public, as usual) had been completed only months before Roberts' edits in the red-lined iteration of the LWRP.

    Few if any Common Council members knew what she was up to, nor could any of them - or us - have understood the long-range implications of her typical manipulations. The aldermen simply put their faith in her, the mayor's attorney, who was privy to everything that went on. She advised each party according to a larger picture which very few were in any position to see.

    That's what you get and that's probably what you deserve when you have one attorney appointed by the mayor who does everything.

    In Hudson, you dig deeper and deeper and you still can't find the bottom of the villainy.

  3. “I’m requesting the Common Council and the mayor sit down and settle this matter,” said one alderman.

    But the choice, if he understood it, is binary. The disagreement is irreconcilable. Looked at from any angle then, the alderman's request reveals zero understanding of the issue. It's a good reason to abstain, but also a good reason to keep your brilliant ideas to yourself.

    Another alderman: “They haven’t had an additional legal advisor in more than 20 years.”

    If "they" meant the Common Council, then the council's lack of a legal advisor shows. To take the example from my earlier comment about the LWRP, the waterfront program, it took almost four years for someone to unearth the reason the previous mayor's attorney removed one word, "structural," from a waterfront law she thought of as her very own. (Our current sewer project is a "structural" solution, and the same attorney who was then advising the DPW on the same sewer project we're about to embark upon was at that moment drafting a law for the Common Council which would surreptitiously ease the way for the DPW /mayor.)

    Yet four years later we still have the same sort of aldermen, and in some cases the same aldermen, who voted to finalize the lawyer's waterfront program - including the aforementioned law - whose hidden purposes the council couldn't have possibly understood. Recall that at the time, the most frequently given reason for voting yes to the LWRP was that the process had already "taken long enough" (you're meant to gasp here at the ignorance of legislators everywhere).

    Last night another alderman suggested that a third attorney in city government would not have prevented a lawsuit for which the council recently paid a modest settlement.

    The premise is the same for everyone quoted: that lawyers dispense their highly refined product to all parties equally, and that legal advice is essentially disinterested no matter who offers it.

    We saw the same thinking last April when Roberts resigned as Corporate Counsel. The mayor said "I speak highly of her desire to protect the city's legal interests."

    But the lawsuit I'm now building against the city's sewer plans exploits a vulnerability that was often visible throughout her legal advice. That's because when you seek to maximize some gain through "lawyerese," you tend to put yourself off balance.

    The motivation was always the same, which was less about protecting the city's legal interests than it was advancing special interests in the guise of neutral advice. The covert motives for her helpful-sounding advice, often dispensed in a collegiate atmosphere of everyone working together, would always sail beneath the aldermen's radars. The number of examples could fill a book!

    But if she had resigned only a month later, who doesn't believe that Roberts would not have then advised the aldermen to approve of her sneaky sewer advice to the Office of the Mayor, and for reasons no alderman could have understood because she'd never have revealed those cards.

    That's why the following statement from last night is just gob-smacking for its naivety: "I like the city to work with each other - we have to address issues as a whole."

    Ignorance is bliss.

  4. Her job was to tell future undiscovered half truths, for our "betters."