Monday, October 9, 2017

The Meeting with the Mayor Presumptive

The Register-Star dispatched its newest reporter to the first of a series of "conversational meetings" mayoral candidate Rick Rector is holding with residents of Hudson throughout the city. The resulting article appeared on the front page of the paper's weekend edition: "Rector cites waterfront as priority." In the print version of the paper, the article had this subhead: "Silence on affordable housing dismays some at get-to-know-you meeting." 

What's remarkable about the article is that, aside from cherry-picking a few things Rector shared in his opening comments about his background and priorities, the greater part of the article was devoted to post-meeting comments solicited from two people with fairly well-known agendas: Rebecca Wolff, a tireless advocate for affordable housing, and Kaya Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Kite's Nest, who is a champion of the economically disadvantaged and regularly speaks out against gentrification, tourism, and what is perceived as economic development. 

What the Register-Star did not report was that the candidate made it clear he intended to make no campaign promises but instead affirmed his commitment to working with whomever it took to seek solutions to problems. He did speak of one thing he planned to initiate as soon as he took office: a Mayor's Council for Youth, tasked with analyzing and coordinating services for children and young people provided by the Hudson Youth Department, the school district, the library, and various not-for-profits, with the goal of improving services. There was a suggestion that the Youth Center rejoin the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (it had that affiliation until around 2005), and Rector promised to investigate the possibility. 

Twice, in responding to questions about affordable housing and the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, Rector spoke of the housing project being pursued by HCDPA (Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency) on vacant property owned by HCDPA on lower State Street--a project, he said, that is running "in tandem" with the DRI planning. When responding to a complaint about gentrification, which the questioner said was ruining Hudson, Rector pointed out that it wasn't possible to prevent people from selling their houses. When the questioner persisted, saying he knew of ways to control gentrification, Rector expressed his willingness to hear those ideas. 

Much was said during the meeting that the Register-Star didn't report and Gossips cannot recall, since I was present as a resident of the First Ward not as a reporter. There are four more such meetings coming up--two in the next week: for the Third Ward, on Tuesday, October 10, at House Rules Cafe, 757 Columbia Street, and for the Fourth Ward, on Wednesday, October 11, in the Community Room at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street. Gossips will be present at both those meetings, with pen and notebook on hand, prepared to report what transpires. 


  1. We lost the two best reporters in town-- both Rosa Acheson and Nick Olivari have moved on. Back to business as usual...

  2. Talk about slanted journalism! The article is outrageously unfair to Mr. Rector.

    If the Register-Star tolerates such heavy-handed promotion by a single reporter, then the editors' exemplary honesty should have compelled them to announce their own candidacies for mayor.

  3. I was surprised to read the Register Star's account of Rick Rector's First Ward Meet and Greet, as the event I attended seemed dominated by a discussion over affordable housing. Yet Mayoral Candidate Rector was never given the opportunity to address the very real concern of many Hudson First Ward residents of how this would impact taxpayers already financially stretched to a breaking point.

  4. Perhaps the reporter could have done some rudimentary investigation into those whose agenda he or she chose to support. Per publicly available information, Ms. Wolff bought the two family house at 110 Union Street in which she lives for $225,000 (in 2013 - NOT 2012, as she erroneously stated in the recent Affordable Housing Hudson Airbnb Forum by Mr. Udell on Youtube). She also declared (2:32 on the video), “In buying the house, I became a landlord. I decided not to AirBnb the apartment, but rather to lease it at a reasonable rent.” However, she didn't say what that rent was, or how many bedrooms were in the tenant’s apartment. According to the tax rolls, her house has three bedrooms, so presumably one apartment has two bedrooms, and the other, one bedroom. Ms. Wolff stated that she had children, so it may not be a stretch to assume that she occupies the two bedroom apartment, while the tenant has the one bedroom apartment. (In an earlier AHH forum, an audience member seeking an apartment complained that one bedroom apartments in Hudson these days are going for $850-$900 a month. So a reporter might well ask, what kind of apartment is Ms. Wolff renting to her tenant, and what does she think is a "reasonable" rent for that apartment? At app. 1:30 on the AHH AirBnb Forum videotape, Ms. Wolff adds, “I do think there are ways to move into a place, whether you’re actually living in that place or just investing…..that are more sensitive to existing community and what’s going on in that community…I still think that the capacity to examine one’s self, to examine how you do things, and what it means to others....” Ms. Wolff is to be congratulated for her sensitivity; but other homeowners may not have that luxury. She needs to recognize that tax-burdened Hudson homeowners are also part of the "community" of which she speaks.
    It may also be relevant to note that a second Affordable Housing advocate who works in Hudson appears to live on a farm outside of Hudson owned by an absentee landlord in California; so that advocate, who directs a not for profit and is relatively new to our City, may also be unaware of the property tax burdens imposed on non-tax-exempt homeowners in Hudson. This particular advocate has publicly opined that it's OK for tenants to rent out a room through AirBnb in their apartments in order to pay their rent (which if done without a landlord's consent is most likely a violation of the tenant's lease, and could get him or her evicted - yet no such charity is extended by the advocate to a homeowner renting through AirBnb). And yet a third Affordable Housing advocate recently listed a studio apartment for rent in his Hudson house for $1,200 a month. But that should be no surprise; he presumably can't afford to be "sensitive."
    In the fourteen years that a friend of mine has owned his multifamily house in Hudson, its assessment (and hence its property tax burden) has more than tripled. Naturally, his income has not followed suit. Of course, Ms. Wolff is entitled to her noblesse oblige, and presumably can afford to pay her property taxes while charging her tenant a “reasonable” rent. But in her lack of familiarity with the evolution of the Hudson housing market and the City’s assessment and taxation practices, she’s ignoring an entire segment of “rent-burdened” homeowners: those who, when faced with the choice of being “sensitive” or getting fair market rent (or legally renting to transients) in order to pay their property taxes and maintenance costs, have no choice at all - unless they choose to sell (which of course will not render their apartments 'affordable,' either). The obliviousness of the AHH advocates in this regard only serves to divide the population of Hudson, which would be better served by an effort to recognize the burdens of all, and not just some.