Monday, July 13, 2015

Another Meeting That Wasn't at City Hall

Tonight was the regularly scheduled informal meeting of the Common Council. When Gossips arrived for the meeting at 6:55, the audience seats were already filled, with the regular Council watchers, people interested in particular issues before the Council, and more than a dozen kids from Operation Unite, there to learn how city government works. On the dais, however, there were only three aldermen--John Friedman (Third Ward), Rick Rector (First Ward), and Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward)--and assistant city attorney Andy Howard, sitting in for Carl Whitbeck. At 7:00, when the meeting was supposed to begin, there were still only three aldermen present.

Friedman, who was chairing the meeting, began by welcoming the young people from Operation Unite, asking them to stand. He then proceeded to explain that the meeting could not happen because there wasn't quorum and to apologize for wasting their time and the time of everyone else who had come out for the meeting. His remarks concluded, "Most of the time, adults don't behave as well as youths."

As everyone prepared to leave, Friedman asked Delaney to call and "make sure Doc Donahue (Fifth Ward) didn't die, because this is the first time he hasn't been in that chair for a meeting." Delaney did so and apparently learned that Donahue was alive and well.

It seems that, as with the Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Friday, one person was responsible for the lack of a quorum. It is rumored that Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), upset because Moore had asked Friedman to chair the meeting in his absence instead of her, persuaded many of the absent aldermen not to show up. She believed it was her right as majority leader to chair the meeting; Moore maintained it was his choice.

It's unfortunate that the meeting didn't happen, because there were a lot of things--more than a half-inch of documents--before the Council that didn't get discussed or introduced, among them:
  • A letter from the director of bird conservation at Audubon New York stressing the importance of North Bay as a bird habitat
  • A resolution to provide a 10 percent match for the $950,600 remediation of the Fosters Refrigeration site
  • A resolution to retain TGW Consulting for another year
  • A resolution accepting a $10,000 donation from the Abatecola family to the Hudson Police Department, with the surprising stipulation that "the funds so set aside shall not be used to fund a K-9 unit"
  • A resolution authorizing the submission of this year's CDBG application (DPW superintendent Rob Perry, two folks from Delaware Engineering, and two folks from TGW Consulting were all there to talk about it)
  • The albatross resolution that's been hanging around since March, declaring the controversial sewer separation project--last year's CDBG project--a Type II action
  • A resolution authorizing the City to apply for a grant from the Environmental Protection Fund "to facilitate accessibility and make entrance improvements to Promenade Hill," the nature of which no one has yet seen
  • A resolution declaring the as yet unseen improvements to the entrance to Promenade Hill (and erroneously referring to that grant application as a "CDBG application") a Type II action
  • A fairly incomprehensible resolution having to do with water quality improvement projects
  • A resolution declaring the Power Avenue pump station improvements a Type II action
  • A resolution authorizing an application to the Green Innovation Grant Program for the Upper Union Street Green Infrastructure Project--a project "that would consist of installing stormwater structures that will collect stormwater runoff from the street and surrounding areas"
  • A resolution declaring the Upper Union Street Green Infrastructure Project a Type II action
  • A resolution--an alternative to the albatross resolution--declaring the controversial sewer project an Unlisted action and authorizing the completion of the short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)
Anyone planning to attend the July 21 meeting of the Common Council had best bring water and snacks (and perhaps a cushion to sit on), because all the discussion of new resolutions which should have occurred tonight will have to happen then, and the July 21 meeting is also when Rob Perry, Delaware Engineering, the Department of Environmental Conservation, et al, are supposed to be present to answer all the aldermen's questions so they can finally decide if the sewer separation project is a Type II action or an Unlisted action.


  1. ... and the Town Clock isn't working either !

  2. 1.

    Without yesterday's Informal Meeting at which new Resolutions were to be proposed, the council will now have no choice between a Type II sewer separation and anything else.

    It appears we've missed the last chance to get the council to finish the Short Environmental Assessment Form it promised in April, began in May, and then later abandoned.

    (Recall that Delaware Engineering had completed its own version of the Short EAF, a form with checkboxes which comes to less than 4 pages. Delaware's results fell so short of the state standards that residents rightfully concluded that the shoddy work was accomplished with purpose, in order to advance the firm's financial interests.)

    Now, and despite President Moore's exasperated cry "What is the alternative?," the Short EAF may never be completed. It appears that the only Resolution to be voted on next week is a standalone, uncontested Type II project exemption from the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

    How often is quorum not reached for an Informal Meeting? Residents can be forgiven for wondering if last night's outcome was also accomplished with purpose, but is the suspicion warranted?

    Since April, the public has learned a great deal on its own which is wholly damning of the proposed sewer separation project. We've studied the science involved (which the city utterly failed to do), and also revealed the falsity of the policy claims regularly cited by city officials to justify their open hostility to the public.

    Ever since the public pledged to conduct its own Short EAF (even before the council did in April) the South Bay Task Force has regularly sought the advice of at least one federal and two state agencies.

  3. 2.

    Today we know that this project will be 30 times more lethal to the North Bay than if we make no changes to the sewer system at all. Shouldn't the city have investigated this "No Action Alternative"? It is by now obvious that this alternative is the most responsible option for the actual ecology of the North Bay. It's obvious to every level of government except local government.

    Today we have federal and state confirmation that the sewer separation project was never a "directive," nor is it "required" nor "mandated." We've heard those three words more times than we can count, but city officials still insist on contradicting the permitting authorities. (Now they won't show up to meetings to avoid being contradicted themselves.)

    We also know that at soon as this block grant money is released upon request, the City will be bound to this grant for years to come. For $600,000 - a fairly measly amount in the grand scheme of things - city officials will commit the public to a single alternative which is bound to produce controversy and delays for years to come.

    Last night's Informal Meeting was the time, before the funds are released, to soberly and openly consider any doubts about project delays or completion.

    On the other hand, if we don't accept the money this year then we can simply reapply next year after making the necessary changes to the plan. No harm done.

    In fact, this year's block grant application (2015) seeks the identical upgrades to the Power Avenue pump station which were in our last attempt to win a WQIP grant. (That application was submitted by the DPW in December 2013, a month before the DPW appeared before the Common Council to seek retroactive permission to submit it.)

    Back to the present block grant, it's only when the city accepts the money for the sewer separation project that Hudson's future chances of grant-getting will be at risk.

    Overtaxed residents who now have greater knowledge than either city officials or their hired engineers of the risks involved with this project have long surpassed the flimsy deceits first visited on the grantors and public alike in 2014.

    The usual suspects in city government were so fixated on the "free" federal funding that they're now overcommitted. It's easier not to show up at a council meeting than to face the fact (in an election year no less!) that their coveted sewer project was always a bad idea.

    City officials have nothing new to say - certainly nothing credible - so they'll rely on that trustiest of old Hudson tactics and run out the clock.

  4. The boycott appeared to be unrelated, but you can't tell me that the no-shows weren't relieved not to to be facing more sewer separation business.

    The Aldermen are so sick of the issue they'll likely vote for a SEQR exemption just to make it go away.

    But it's amusing to read Mr. Perry's words in the Register-Star, that "once again, we've been present [at a council meeting]."

    It was due to Mr. Perry's absence at the last Regular Meeting on June 16 - and thus his unavailability for answering questions about his reply to the CAC's firmer grasp of engineering concepts - that helped deliver us to the position we're in today.

    Last night, the thoroughly discredited Delaware Engineering firm showed up to put more lipstick on the pig, with a green infrastructure grant for upper Union Street, "to filter stormwater and separate it from the combined system."

    Um, don't they think we know how gravity works? The problem is at the bottom of the system, not at the top.

    It's marvelous these people were able to discover at the 11th hour that funding is available for green infrastructure funds after all, but it's too little, it's at the wrong end of the project, and it's too late.

    These things should have been considered beforehand, around the time the public was improperly excluded from the planning.

    Instead, the so-called "dry" first phase of the project necessarily commits 1222 acres (far more than the 240 million gallons a year of the as-yet-unseparated areas) to a single solution.

    Green infrastructure on upper Union Street indeed! The project is already boondoggle, and now they'll attempt to sell it with more boondoggles. Lipstick on a pig.

    The problem staring everyone in the face is that the project can no longer be completed according to the rationale and scope of the block grant application.

    The premise is shot because the goal is no longer attainable.

    The ultimate goal was always Water Quality Standards (WQS), which the city explained in its CFA would protect public health by achieving worthy environmental standards, but that story can't be sustained any longer.

    Even aside from the city's obvious "segmentation" if the council votes for a Type II exemption (that's a technical term from SEQRA), the project cannot be completed according to the terms of the CFA and the grant.

    With a well-informed public educating all the involved federal and state authorities, this project will become mired in endless delays. Because of the fixed time-frame for using the grant monies, and because the rules of the agreement are broken by the new impossibility that the project goals can be attained (WQS), this project will end up costing the city dearly in the end.

    Of course we could re-apply for the same grant next year, but with a retooled plan which has finally benefited from the federally-required public participation.

    We need to explain this to our Aldermen, so that they fully understand our shared peril. I think a few of them are beginning to figure it out for themselves, though others seem more concerned for the professional reputations of city appointees, and for the self-interested staff of Delaware Engineering.

  5. Clean air and water (and access to it) are federally protected issues. What good is "Federal Navigational Servitude" if a city can just exploit municipal home rule to deliver untreated water or close the poor man's pathway to paradise?

    From the NOR:
    The U.S. Supreme Court replied, “All navigable waters are under the control of the United States for the purpose of regulating and improving navigation, and although the title to the shore and submerged soil is in the various States and individual owners under them, it is always subject to the servitude in respect of navigation created in favor of the Federal government by the Constitution.” - See more at:

    1. "The interest of man must be connected to the constitutional rights of the place." Publious: federalist 51.

    2. The Federalist was produced in a time when geniuses had just rediscovered self-government (thus the Greek reference).

      Today it's all top-down; the rule of the apparatchiks. For that lot, it's more lucrative to tear down a Jefferson than to agree or disagree with what he was saying.

      Nowadays, crying out at injustice first looks around for an industrial-level sponsor. Which authorized non-profit will validate my protest?

      We no longer appreciate the true genius of our system (c.f. The Federalist), which is that self-government was initially understood as an experiment, an essentially temporary endeavor.

      And with this forgetting, self-government expires from a street-level atrophy and bureaucratic obesity.

      Publius is no more - sold down the river with everything else I hold dear.

    3. Take the salaries over the last 5 years of Hudson Development, Columbia Land, Columbia Ecconomic, Greenway, City of Hudson Council, NYS dept of Environment Conservation, and throw in another $15 million. What does the taxpayer get? Frienly fences to keep us away from unfriendly water.

      Government grows while our liberty shrinks. Publius knew they are inversly proportional.
      1 Riparian