Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Mayor vs. the Board of Education

According to an article discovered in the Albany Evening News, in the early summer of 1936, there was a "legal wrangle" going on in Hudson between the city administration and the Board of Education over the construction of Chancellor Livingston High School, now Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School.

The minutes of the Common Council yield more information about the wrangle. On May 1, 1936, in his address to the Common Council at the beginning of the new fiscal year (the fiscal year did not correspond with the calendar year back then), Mayor Fred Wheeler had much to say about the financial state of the city and about the extravagance of the Board of Education. It will be remembered that in 1936 the country was still struggling to recover from the Great Depression. Wheeler took office at the beginning of 1936. The following are excerpts from Wheeler's address:
As I had good reason to believe upon taking office that the finances of the city were in a precarious condition as well as certain departments, I proceeded to make an investigation under the powers granted by the charter. The information obtained from this investigation enabled me to correct immediately certain evils. All of the departments of this city have co-operated with me in these changes with the exception of the Board of Education, over which I have little or no control. This department still continues on its former policy of extravagance. Furthermore if some means are not devised to check its present course, the City of Hudson will never be able to emerge from the chaotic financial condition in which it now stands. . . .
A bond issue of forty-five thousand ($45,000.00) dollars was sold. It was estimated that this amount with the refunds thereon would pay the necessary expenses of the Commission [of Public Charities] to May 1st, 1936. Desperate efforts were made by the City Treasurer and the selfish interests acting with him first to divert the sum of twenty thousand ($20,000.00) dollars from relief purposes to the General Fund Account to be credited on, his illegal overdraft which efforts were ultimately defeated. The same official, backed by the same selfish interests and some members of the Common Council, sought to, and have in part, diverted refunds which were properly applicable to relief, to the payment of claims and pay-rolls. These men think more of protecting an illegal overdraft than they do of the requirements of the poor and needy. I was obliged to veto a resolution which was passed under the guise of meeting pay-rolls for the city but the primary purpose of which was to make funds available for the payment of this illegal overdraft.
With relief unprovided for from May 1st, 1936, I caused investigations to be made as to ways and means for the raising of moneys for relief purposes. I did not want to admit to the world that our ancient and beloved city which celebrated last year its sesqui-centennial and was engaged in building a five hundred thousand ($500,000.00) dollars high school, could not take care of its own citizens who were in need of aid. However, the previous administration when it bonded this city for two hundred seventy-five thousand ($275,000.00) dollars, effectively closed the door to any further borrowing except in so far as the city was able to provide for relief to May 1st. We applied to the State, which refused to increase its burden of forty per cent (40%). We then applied to the county. They have not acted. They have been deliberating over a week. While the Supervisors are conferring and procrastinating, families will go hungry; children will go to school unfed and without milk.
Upon these former officials and citizens who fostered the era of reckless spending in this city and the incurrence of an additional issue of two hundred seventy-five thousand ($275,000.00) dollars, I place the responsibility for this city's inability to continue relief. They alone must face the consequences of having caused cessation of food, shelter, fuel and milk to over one thousand people in want. In no other city except Hudson, in no other county except Columbia, could persons responsible for the mismanagement of a city and all its attendant consequences, escape the just punishment for their unfaithfulness to their trust. . . . 
I have no recommendations as to the Board of Education for this Body seems to be a law unto itself. It sold two hundred seventy-five thousand ($275,000.00) dollars worth of bonds with an interest rate of four (4%) per cent. Less than two months later this administration sold seventy-five thousand ($75,000.00) dollars worth of bonds at an interest rate of one and eight-tenths (1.8%) per cent. It is apparent that the one and only interest the Board of Education had in this matter was to dispose of the bond issue. The saving of five thousand ($5,000.00) dollars a year in interest charges was evidently not even considered.
The City of Hudson cannot, and will not, so far as I am concerned, contribute one dollar more than it is required to give by law to the Board of Education as long as that Body pursues extravagant policies. The Board of Education certainly is not economizing when it pays one firm of attorneys one thousand ($1,000.00) dollars to draw an answer and another attorney five hundred ($500,00) dollars to make an argument of half an hour, which the attorneys of record did not feel they could effectively make. The payment of this one thousand five hundred ($1,500.00) dollars was equivalent to a year's salary of the Corporation Counsel. This is truly something for the citizens of this city to consider.
Also certain salaries paid by the Board of Education should be drastically reduced. They are entirely out of proportion to the salaries paid in other cities of the size of Hudson. As I said previously until this Body shows an inclination to co-operate with the other departments of the city in the present financial emergency, I feel that the city is not responsible to the Board of Education for more than the legal requirements. . . . 
The previous mayor, whom Wheeler blamed for the "era of reckless spending," was Frank W. Wise, who served as mayor from August 1933 through December 1935. The Board of Education, which Wheeler castigated for its "extravagant policies," was in 1936 made up of Robert W. Evans, president; Montgomery C. Smith, secretary (and the Superintendent of Schools); Mrs. E. Washburn Scovill, Dr. John L. Edwards, Thomas H. M. Hathaway, and Morton L. Clark.


  1. This all has such a familiar ring to it. Wasting taxpayers money on "my feelings are hurt" bogus law suits. Paying tens of thousands of dollars sending kids to the Bridge program to boost false graduation rate numbers and now paying an architect to redesign the proposed construction over and over which is costing thousands more. This step should have been completed long ago. It's not difficult to understand why this has occurred. Leadership requires a skill set that is not in the possession of the Superintendent or BOE.

  2. Hopefully, this exposure to what's going on now in Hudson continues. The Register Star certainly doesn't go anywhere near the truth when HCSD is concerned. The facts are online, posted by State Education that Hudson ranks 419th out of 433 school districts in New York State. But according to Ms. Suttmeier, everything is wonderful. Really??

  3. I have reviewed testing results of State Assessment. The source is the State Education site. The breakdown is by subject in all grade levels. Over the past two years the failure rate for Hudson City School District is over 85%. It's interesting that this has not been presented in any BOE public session or even mentioned by the Register Star even though they had the information. This gives the impression that a certain suppression of the truth is ongoing.