The current Common Council, under the leadership of Tom DePietro, takes pride in the civil manner in which it conducts its business. All of that seemed out the window last night, in a meeting that lasted for more than an hour and a half and included many a feisty moment.
The discord started with a resolution forwarded to the full Council by the Housing and Transportation Committee, chaired by Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward). The resolution calls for extending New York State's Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) of 1974, the law that created rent stabilization, to the entire state. The resolution also expresses support for the following bills now before the state legislature--S2845/A4349, S185/A2351, S2591/A1198, and S2892/A5030--all of which relate to tenants' rights.
Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) had concerns about the potential cost to the city of adopting rent stabilization, suggesting it might discourage investment, and protested, "This is an awful lot to ask us to understand and then vote on next week." When DePietro assured her, "This doesn't commit us to anything," Halloran opined, "I don't see Hudson as a place that needs rent stabilization." After several other aldermen reiterated that the resolution simply declared support for legislation, DePietro called for an introduction and a second to introduce the resolution.
That was the last of the resolutions to be introduced, and it was then that audience member Annette Perry rose to deliver an emotional indictment of the Common Council, the main themes of which seemed to be that she was born and raised in Hudson, and it was her town; the members of the Council (or some other undefined you) were taking over her town and wrecking it; and she was not going to let them ignore the kids and the elderly. She accused the Council of "taking from the kids" and "meeting in secret" and complained about the condition of the Youth Center. It is not clear if there was any particular incident that inspired her outrage.
DePietro tried to placate Perry by saying the Council was looking into moving the Youth Center to the former John L. Edwards school and announced that the proposals to do a feasibility study of the potential adaptive reuse of the building would be received and opened today, Tuesday, March 12, at 4:00 p.m., in City Hall.
Alderman Shershah Mizan (Third Ward) then brought up the issue of assessments, stating that some of his constituents saw the assessed value of their property double or triple, and wanted the Common Council to pass a resolution to have those properties reassessed. Mizan was told that's not how the process worked, and city assessor Justin Maxwell explained that the property owners needed to challenge their assessments. Advice was offered about the process by other aldermen, and Mizan was assured that all information needed was available online, but he protested that many homeowners don't have a good command of English, and Alderman Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward) noted that many did not know how to use a computer. Maxwell promised to work on getting interpreters and setting up a meeting with GAR on the weekend expressly for Bangladeshi homeowners. The possibility of extending the deadlines for challenging assessments was also raised, but no decision was made regarding an extension, and it may not be possible since the assessment rolls need to be finalized by July 1.
When DePietro asked if any other aldermen had issues to bring before the Council, Halloran stood, which is not typical for aldermen when they have the floor, and declared that the environment of the Council Chamber was getting "more confrontational" and called for a return of civility. DePietro said he was not allowing anyone to "go over the line," which he defined, in part, as questioning someone's motives. Garriga took Halloran's complaint to be specifically about Perry's tirade and accused Halloran of judging her (Garriga's) constituents who come to City Hall. The exchange devolved into intimations of racism and then segued into aldermen taking turns declaring what they have done, individually and collectively, to help the youth of the city. Audience member Claudia Bruce took the opportunity to bring up the revenue from the lodging tax controlled by the Tourism Board, which now amounts to about $140,000, and express the opinion that the money should not be used for branding and marketing the city but for other things--namely, the Youth Center and sidewalks. DePietro encouraged people concerned about how the funds were spent to attend the next Tourism Board meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, March 26, at 5:30 p.m. at 1 North Front Street.
When DePietro invited comments from the public, a woman who identified herself only as Gloria from CCSM (Columbia County Sanctuary Movement) wanted to know whom to hold accountable for the police "violating the executive order." When DePietro said the Common Council had no jurisdiction over the police and referred her complaint to the mayor, she said, "The mayor is not getting my anger and frustration." Bryan MacCormack, executive director of CCSM, then said, "If our only access is the mayor, it's a closed door meeting. The public has to be involved." Mayor Rick Rector, who was present at the Council meeting, responded, reiterating many of the points made in a statement released on Friday. He avowed that he had supported the "Welcoming and Inclusive City" resolution when he was on the Council and continued to support it and stressed that he just wanted to get to the facts. "If the police did something wrong, we will correct it. If I did something wrong, I want to know." The woman from CCSM told Rector that his statements "don't sound like they are coming from a sincere place."
After DePietro asked MacCormack to provide more evidence that the HPD is violating the the "Welcoming and Inclusive City" resolution, and MacCormack alleged the police were present at the incident last Tuesday "to protect the safety of ICE not anyone else," it was decided that the mayor's next meeting with CCSM would be a public meeting, to take place on Friday, March 15, at 6:00 p.m. in City Hall.
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