Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Voice of the People

Never let it be said that the people of the First Ward are apathetic. Article III, Section C3-5 of the city charter indicates that when there is a vacancy on the Common Council, the Council appoints someone to fill the vacancy. The residents of the First Ward, however, have shown themselves to be not entirely satisfied with this arrangement. When Larissa Parks resigned in March 2012, after being an alderman for only about ten weeks, the First Ward gathered for a meeting, took a straw poll, and let the Council know their choice: Nick Haddad. At a special meeting on March 22, 2012, the Council followed the will of the people and appointed Haddad First Ward alderman.

Three years later, there is once again a vacancy on the Council as a result of the resignation of First Ward alderman David Marston. As they did three years ago, residents of the First Ward gathered today at noon to hear from those interested in the position and to participate in a straw poll. After brief comments from the remaining First Ward alderman, Nick Haddad, candidates Karla Roberts and Rick Rector addressed their neighbors.

Roberts described herself as someone who "likes to speak out, give my opinion, and be involved in the community process." She called the First Ward "the best ward to live in" and urged that we embrace tourism and support the "below Third economy." She characterized the group who had come out for the meeting as "a good representation of people who care."

Rector said Hudson was changing "very, very quickly and for all the right reasons" and he wanted to see "every politician wrap their arms around tourism." He told the group that since settling in Hudson he had the time and energy to devote himself to "less selfish endeavors" and defined his areas of interest as education and historic preservation. Rector has served on the Historic Preservation Commission, which he now chairs, since October 2011.

When the time came to vote in the straw poll, Claire Cousin, who had arrived while the other candidates were making their statements, announced that she too wished to be considered, saying she was "running on behalf of people who are not represented in the First Ward." 

When the ballots were cast and tallied, it was announced that Rector had received the majority of the votes. It was not revealed how many votes had been cast for each of the three candidates.


  1. 1.

    Someday, when our Conservation Advisory Council is finally appointed, Alderman Marston will smile from afar at perhaps the most important piece of legislation he sponsored.

    Ms. Roberts and Mr. Rector were in agreement on the issue of tourism, but I worry about wrapping our arms around it as an unproblematic solution to everything. There's something unsustainable in tourism that people who are self-admittedly new to this kind of community cannot understand. In addition to the kind of growth they're talking about, there's also reasonable disagreement about how much growth is too much.

    For all the blessings of tourism, which includes the influx of people who can afford second homes (I should be so lucky), there are always negative consequences to elevating economic results over the kinds of concrete relations which preceded us all.

    There are any number of recent changes in Hudson which are happening for the wrong reasons, and which also have negative consequences.

    Look no further than the waterfront. Generally speaking, waterfront planning in Hudson continues to be conducted without the useful information and advice of the public. Central to every failure of waterfront planning and grant-getting (including the current sewer fiasco) is the terrestrial perspective of our betters in City Hall who are confident that all other perspectives from their own can be safely excluded.

    As a tweak to Gossips' observation that 1st Warders are not apathetic, I'd like to remind my riverside neighbors why they ought not expect anything but failures for years to come. To wit, why would we expect politicians and officials who assume their own managerial prowess - even to the point of substituting their supposed expertise for federally-required public participation - to learn from their own errors? They will not suddenly become self-enlightened. Uninterrupted, their terrestrial outlook will continue to covet and taint waterfront issues for years to come.

    All waterfront planning must begin with an understanding of local river ecology, and only then can trade-offs in favor of tourism be understood. (Please do not reply that the two interests are equal or I will bite your head off!)

  2. 2.

    As a second warning to the opened-armed welcoming of tourism, I always liked what Helen and Scott Nearing wrote in "Living the Good Life," even if it pertained more to rural economies than Hudson's situation.

    "What is needed in any community is individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over .... Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year round community."

    The essence of their warning is applicable everywhere outside of gigantic cities and their immediate suburbs.

    However inevitable you see the demise of Furgary, the long history of that community at North Bay offers a unique, complicated, and topical example of what the Nearings were touching on.

    Furgary was a highly complex living culture which was deeply rooted in local tradition. Relations between kin and cliche were anything but straightforward, which is typical of fishing communities the world over. Most of the community's activities can be dated to the mesolithic, but its social structure was uniquely American. Like such communities everywhere, its raucous atmosphere came hand-in-hand with productivity, expressed materially in the very shape of the harbor and its shacks.

    Now that the community was forced out, should historically-minded newcomers like myself disregard or even destroy Furgary's vernacular architecture? If so, why would we do that?

    If we preserve the shacks for their tourist appeal (the front cover of the LWRP is a photograph of Furgary), what a sad comparison that is to the vital community which thrived there continuously for at 125 years at very least.

    To date, no one in city government has questioned the demonstrably prejudiced opinions of our former Corporate Counsel who refused the lease any of the shacks to Furgarians by her misreading of state law. Indeed, this same attorney tolerated the city's illegal relationship with the owner of The Spirit of Hudson, but would not consider legally extending the same deal to Furgary.

    Hudson is well rid of her, but we continue to suffer from the long shadow of one attorney's terrestrial biases. She was a classic example of someone who embraced tourism, but whose plans all came to ruin and tears.

    Welcoming tourism with open arms is a mixed bag.

    About the young woman who arrived late and announced she was "running on behalf of people who are not represented in the First Ward," I'd like to have asked in what sense she feels unrepresented? Has she voted before? Whether or not her candidates were elected, did she then reach out to her representatives only to be disappointed? Somehow I doubt it. But if she doesn't wish to be seen as a demagogue right out of the gate, she ought to defend her implied criticism by explaining precisely how it is that she and her neighbors in particular are "not represented."

  3. Sorry to see Dave Marston go. The voters preference for Rick Rector also noted in today's Register Star. Rick will do a splendid job.

  4. I've just learned about a "discussion" at Voy that's reportedly taking off on yesterday's comment by the late-comer candidate that some people in the 1st Ward are "not represented."

    If true, then I can understand why the young woman was so late to the meeting. To present yourself among people whom you believe have not represented you is intimidating.

    But it is a serious charge to make. The hazard of being capricious with other people's reputations is that we thereby put our own reputations on the line.

    Therefore, from a sense of decency, the person who made the remark really must supply a specific example of "not represented."

    Reasonable people will give her a fair hearing, but the 1st Ward in particular is owed an explanation.

  5. First, the Furgery stuff is pure nonsense. To pretend a bunch of drunk exclusive free loaders fishing somehow lend the the vibrant atmosphere in Hudson is like say we ought to reopen every whorehouse and make them hang signs announcing their historic vibrancy. And it seems proof enough of the fakery of these first ward meetings is the lack of a straw vote report, just a guy saying another guy won?

    1. Got it: Furgarians are free-loading whores and 1st Ward straw polls are conspiracies.

      Since you can't have been a participant at either, you're just stirring it up.

      To contest your bigotry only as far as the reach of factuality, Furgarians were no more "freeloaders" than the City of Hudson. Until 2012, nobody knew who owned the land. The Supreme Court decided that Furgary and the city's Waste Water Treatment Plant were both built on state land. Obviously the heavier judgement for "freeloading" comes down on the city.

      There was a decision after the 1st Ward straw poll whether or not to make the results known. It included all participants.

      If you were there, you'd have had a chance to make your opinion known, but no one contested it because in the moment (which had just followed the surprise 3rd candidate's outrageous announcement ("not represented"), it seemed an indecent thing to do.

      If I may make a suggestion, you'll likely find a less informed audience for your stuff at Voy.