Monday, September 17, 2018

Petitioning for Change

Even before Common Council president Tom DePietro called it a "quasi-agency that is outdated and should probably no longer exist" and asked city attorney Andy Howard to look into how it could be dissolved, Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) was under attack for its perceived lack of transparency, particularly in its planning for the redevelopment of the Kaz warehouse site at the confluence of Cross Street and Tanners Lane. The two things about HDC that annoy people most are its tendency to go into executive session without appropriate justification and its practice of meeting at noon on a workday.

The noon meeting of HDC is a tradition. Once a month, board members spend their lunch hour at a meeting, where lunch (usually pizza) is provided, enabling them to serve on the board without giving up afterwork time, which--perhaps in the past more than now--is often family time. HDC's critics, however, see the noon meeting as a deliberate attempt to discourage public attendance and curtail community involvement. There have been requests for the HDC board to hold its meetings in the early evening instead of at noon. Now the requests have become a petition, calling on the HDC board to change its meeting time. The language of the petition reads in part:
Hudson, NY, is changing. Fewer decisions for the community's future are being made behind closed doors. But the Hudson Development Corporation, which can make crucial decisions about the city, has an unelected board for which there is no oversight and little transparency. It is an undemocratic entity.
It continues to hold its monthly meeting on the fourth Tuesday at noon, despite the community's repeated requests to change the meetings to the early evening, when more citizens can participate. . . .
The HDC is not beholden to shareholders. The HDC is beholden to the community. The community asks the HDC to change the meeting time.
To read the entire petition and to sign it, click here.


  1. As a contextual comment, I think it important to understand that these meetings, now perceived as anti-democratic, date from a period of Hudson -- and American -- history when communities were more homogeneous and the appointment to such offices (including board of education) were seen as both rewards for community service and for a testament of the community's faith in the person's longstanding loyalty to the community. I learned this during my service on the school board, when I noted that people with no particular expertise education joined the board and immediately started acting as if they know everything about education. Closed door meeting was part of what the community elected them to do: you are our representative; get the job done on our behalf.... Needless to say, that cohesive community is a figment of the past, but the old governance habits die slowly. Indeed, we need governance to suit the partisan times. I wish we had a kumbaya community, but we don't. So yes, transparency, community engagement, and a respect for the law are more needed than ever. Oh yes, it would be nice to have some respect for Roberts Rules of Order.

  2. Charlie Suisman, the creator of the petition, submitted this comment:

    Yes, well said. The good, old days of back room deals! How I miss those homogenous communities. Mr. Meyer's facts are wrong - the history of Development Corporations are not at all what he describes. They were a progressive remedy for unresponsive local governments. Meyer says, "Closed door meeting was part of what the community elected them to do: you are our representative; get the job done on our behalf." This bears no relation to the reality of HDC. The board members are not elected to the board by the community. There is no oversight of their process or decisions. They all too often operate unwilling to be questioned, as we heard from Mr. Rasner as recently as the last HDC meeting, in which the community was told it could speak but not ask any questions. Yeah, the good old days of "don't question us."

    1. With all due respect to Mr. Suisman, he misquotes me, then says I got the facts wrong. I said I was referring to the Board of Ed when I said, "closed door meeting was part of what the community elected them to do...." And whether elected or not, quasi-public bodies like the HDC have acted with similar high-handedness in Hudson; born, in my opinion, of a similar sense of conferred expertise and entitlement. Mr. Suisman should have read more closely and thanked me for agreeing with him.