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.
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