Thursday, April 25, 2019

An Evening with the Common Council

If ever there was a Common Council meeting that cried out to be documented on video, it was last night's special meeting, convened "for the purpose of determining the next step in relation to the city-wide GAR revaluation in progress and possibly considering that action if determined" (that word salad was quoted directed from the "Call of Special Meeting"), but alas, Dan Udell and his video camera were not present. If he had been there, Udell would have captured Common Council president Tom DePietro interrupting First Ward alderman Rob Bujan when he tried to ask a question, cutting off Fifth Ward alderman Dominic Merante when he was expressing reservations about the Council's course of action, interrupting city attorney Andy Howard when he was offering his legal opinion, repeatedly interrupting and contradicting Mayor Rick Rector when he was speaking, and hammering the gavel and declaring a ten minute recess when audience member Alan Weaver started to speak. What Udell probably would have missed, as Gossips did, was an altercation outside the room (the meeting took place in the Senior Center on the second floor of the Galvan Armory) in which DePietro is reported to have shoved former Third Ward alderman John Friedman against a wall. (Roger Hannigan Gilson did witness this and reports about it on The Other Hudson Valley.

Since there is no video documentation of the meeting, Gossips will endeavor to report, in broader strokes, what transpired. The meeting began with DePietro explaining, "Further research indicates that the Council does have the authority to stop [the revaluation process] at this point"--"at this point" being before the tentative assessment roll is certified by the city assessor. So, because the Council could not vote to override the mayor's veto of the resolution passed on April 16--a vote to override a veto must happen at "the next regular meeting" of the Council, which won't happen until May 21--the Council voted on the resolution in its original form, before, on the legal counsel of Howard, the words "to reject the preliminary assessment roll submitted by GAR Associates on the basis of which the City mailed 2019 preliminary assessment notifications on or about March 1, 2019, to property owners in the City of Hudson" had been deleted. Predictably, given the vote on April 16, Bujan, Merante, and Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) voted no; the rest of the Council and DePietro, who usually makes a point of not voting unless there's a tie, voted yes.

After the vote was taken, Halloran asked, "How quickly will we find out the impact of what we just did?" DePietro outlined the process: "It goes to the mayor. He will veto it or not. If he does veto it, we decide if we want to press him." An earlier comment by DePietro suggests that by "press him" he was intimating the possibility of "internal litigation between the two branches of government." Howard pointed out, "Part of this resolution is that you want to reinstate the 2018 roll," and reminded the Council that "the assessor is charged with setting the roll" and "no legal authority changes that obligation." 

Interestingly, the Council voted on the resolution before hearing from the public or the city assessor, and not everyone at the meeting was aggrieved at their new assessments. Betty Bednar said she and her neighbors on Riverledge Road were happy with their assessments and some of them were anticipating their taxes would actually decrease. When he had the opportunity to speak, city assessor Justin Maxwell told the Council, "You voted on a false resolution." He cited paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10 of the resolution as containing false information. Regarding paragraph 10, Maxwell told the Council, "New York State [Department of Taxation and Finance] took the numbers and examined them and determined that at the end of the process you will have a 100 percent valuation."

After the ten minute recess called by DePietro, Fourth Ward alderman John Rosenthal urged the Council, "We need to be positive and talk about things going forward," but that never happened. Earlier in the meeting, audience member Gregg Carey asserted "the only path forward is evaluation of data" and urged the Council and those present to "stop bickering and realize that it is within our grasp to look at the data." In the end, Seth Rogovoy asked the question that was probably on the minds of many at the meeting: "Do I still plan on grieving my assessment?" The answer was not clear. It seems another special meeting will be called to discuss what happens going forward.


  1. Carole, I was there and thought DiPietro ran a great meeting, doing what a Common Council President and moderator of a public meeting should do: keep order. And he did it in the face of obvious attempts by three council members to hold up the proceedings with tangential questions already addressed at the previous meeting. DiPietro's calling of a recess when a member of the public refused to honor the chairman's request to sit down (the man stood and talked over the person that DiPietro had actually called on) was exactly what was needed after 20 minutes of raucous public comment. Under the circumstances, DiPietro's leadership last night was much appreciated.

  2. I've been man-handled by Friedman when I was caught off guard. So even though I don’t believe DePietro pushed anyone, Friedman has it coming if anyone does.

    We must always strive for civility, but I can attest that the former Alderman is known for ambushes beyond his customary verbal ones.

    1. Everyone knows that confrontation is not the same as provocation. Having given more thought to this alleged incident, and knowing the fellow's history of provocation up to and including physical contact, I'm now wondering if this was all a set-up, a political hit-job in an election year.

      Having been on the receiving end myself, this latest notion is reinforced by the seeming hypocrisy of someone who thinks nothing of manhandling others suddenly crying out that he was pushed!

      But as explanations go, hypocrisy is doubtful when you know that all boys, and particularly bullies, learn in grade school that anyone who visits summary punishments on others loses all complaining rights when a bigger bully does the same to them.

      So the account of this incident is either the height of hypocrisy or the incident itself was a baited trap meant to injure DePietro's electoral chances.

      If the latter, then the allegation alone is enough to inflict the desired damage. Just the sort of fellow, too …

  3. Hudson's Common Council ..Best show in town.Free admittion, unrehearsed performance. Side shows are always welcome.

  4. The people on Academy Hill would be very happy with the new assessments also, as their estimated taxes will drop significantly.

  5. For the residents of Hudson who are rightfully concerned, we need to shift our attention to empowering ourselves with the tools and process available to us to rectify our assessment if we feel there is data that supports a different outcome.

    Justin Maxwell’s final words last night were the most important of the night. “I just want to get your assessment right.” I have met Justin - he was genuine. He has integrity, listens well and understand the important role he has in creating fairness for everyone. GAR and Justin are not the enemy here. Far far from it. Let’s stop painting that unproductive picture.

    I observed people thinking that last night that the preliminary assessment was the end. The reality is that the GAR assessment is the beginning. Let’s empower ourselves, stop the complaining, and move forward...

    All property owners, I encourage you to:

    1. Use the grievance process on May 29
    2. If that fails, use the small claims process.

    These processes are critical input to the process. Kindly, let’s stop expecting perfection and play the role it was designed for us to play.

    If you have general questions about the process, follow up with our assessor. Or email me and I will gladly share my past experience

  6. I was standing behind Alan Weaver and it appeared that Tom DiPietro called on him to speak. Those of us in the back of the room had no idea as to why Mr. DiPietro felt the need to call a ten minute recess. The meeting was indeed the best entertainment in Hudson last night.

  7. Legitimate complaints on all sides. People over paying on accurately assessed, or highly assessed properties are correct to be upset, as are people who had under assessed property who saw their assessment jump by hundreds of thousands in one swoop. But what everyone could agree on, and no one is talking about, is why are the taxes in the city so high. It is not an issue of your assessment, or what your house is worth, the real issue is the city budget and the money being spent by our representatives. If we want taxes to go down, we have to spend less money. Its great to want stuff--I want this, you want that--but at the end of the day you have to pay for it, and the question is, what do you want, as opposed to what it is you actually need. A lot of anger is being projected onto GAR, but ulimately GAR has nothing to do with the tax increases, that is a matter of spending.

  8. Memo to the managers of Hudson's population decline, can't shrink our way out of this.

  9. I wish I could have been there to record it. I was in Orlando, supporting my daughter whose son is now undergoing chemo and immunology treatment for esophageal cancer.

    1. You were exactly where you needed to be. Best wishes to them.