Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Nothing Is Ever Easy

In July, the resolution authorizing the mayor to execute a memorandum of understanding for the construction and governance of the dog park was referred to the Public Works and Parks Committee. After hearing a presentation from the dog park advocates who have organized to plan the park and oversee its governance, the PW&P Committee voted unanimously to recommend it to the full Council. At the informal Common Council meeting last night, the resolution was introduced. Two members of the public--Tracy Hennige and Verity Smith--spoke in support of the dog park, stressing that dog parks encourage responsible dog ownership. Nick Zachos, while voicing support for the dog park, wanted to know who the dog park planners were. Michael Chameides, Third Ward supervisor, wanted to be assured that the Council would review and approve the terms of the MOU. 

The dog park resolution was introduced and seconded; it will be voted on at the Council's regular meeting on August 20.

Photo: CN Traveller
The resolution authorizing the Tourism Board to commit $75,000 of its $140,000 budget to hire a consultant to develop a strategic marketing plan didn't fare as well. Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Tourism Board, explained the process that led to the selection of Chandlerthinks as the consultant, stressing that the emphasis on community involvement and community input was the reason for selecting this particular consultant. In his comments, Volo said, "If you have happy residents, you have happy visitors." Later, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) would reference that statement to declare, "A lot of residents are not happy. Is it really going to cost $75,000 to find out why?"

Garriga also questioned how community input would be solicited, claiming that in the DRI process "residents downtown thought they had no voice." Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) suggested the study might "put some facts around" what is happening in Hudson, which would satisfy some of her constituents.

When the audience was invited to comment, Peter Frank expressed the opinion that the community process proposed was not broad enough, referring to the DRI community engagement process as a "travesty." He also expressed concern that Hudson be understood as "cool and interesting, not mediocre."

Tambra Dillon, executive director of Hudson Hall, who is a member of the Tourism Board, explained that the board was only requesting funding for the first phase of the study, which is about $27,000. She asserted that the board had carefully considered "how we can spend a fairly limited amount of money and have the greatest benefit."

Former Second Ward supervisor Ed Cross warned, "We're at the point where we're going to be shipping people out. . . . Tourism should not take the place of families and children." Nick Zachos commented, "All the community involvement is going to lead to is branding and marketing," and went on to complain, "$75,000 is twice what we put into our largest park"--our largest park being Oakdale, where the Youth Department holds its summer camp program. 

Kurt Trumble, who alleged that "stores are closing around us," called the tourist economy "the most fickle" and cautioned, "We have to be careful with the money we're spending." Chris McManus suggested that, with "so many people in Hudson who are marketing people," the City should "tap into local talent."

Garriga suggested that the resolution should be "sent back to committee," although it wasn't clear which committee she had in mind. Halloran reminded everyone that the funds came from the lodging tax, and there were constraints on how the money could be spent. She was making reference to the law that created the lodging tax, which also created the Tourism Board, gave it a budget, and empowered it "to take all reasonable steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and daytrip visitors." 

In the end, it was decided that introducing the resolution would be postponed until the Council's next meeting on August 20.

Dan Udell's video of the meeting is now available on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking here.

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