In what has to be some of the worst reporting I've seen in a while, Channel 13 News covered last night's Common Council Legal Committee meeting: "Common Council at odds over resolution supporting 'Hudson Breathes Act.'" It is recommended viewing if only to appreciate how stilted and sensational, not to mention inaccurate, TV news can be.
As Gossips reported, late yesterday afternoon, Quintin Cross distributed, on behalf of the Hudson/Catskill Housing Coalition, proposed legislation called the "Hudson Breathe Act." This legislation was introduced at the Legal Committee last night by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who explained that the bill as presented was only "Part I of the Hudson Breathe Act." In introducing the proposed legislation, Garriga read aloud the first page and a half of the document, which states the findings, intent, and purpose of the law:
In honor of the lives of those stolen by police and state-sanctioned violence—Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Natasha McKenna, George Floyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Elijah McClain, Pearlie Golden, Kayla Moore, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Atatiana Jefferson, Oscar Grant, Daniel Prude and far too many more—this local law shall be known as the Hudson Breathe Act of 2020. This visionary bill reinvests our taxpayer dollars in a new vision of public safety—a vision that allows all communities to finally breathe free.
George Floyd’s nine-minute long, agonizing and public murder demonstrates that the police system needs more direct and systemic reform to stem the violence and racism inherent in the founding of America. We acknowledge the City of Hudson is not immune or exempt from systemic racism, and the very name “Hudson” documents our settler colonial history, including the near genocide of the former estimated 8,000 Mohican residents. We acknowledge the expansion of the Hudson Police Department in the 1980s in response to “urban clusters” began a pattern of racial profiling that continues today.
In May 2020, a post circulating [on] social media detailed a Hudson Police Department budget of approximately $3 million, based on information readily accessible from the city’s publicly posted budget. After further investigation, we now know actual annual city spending on police exceeds $4.8 million, encompassing more than 33% of the overall city budget, and far above all other spending categories. The next largest group of expenses, Utilities, is $1.97 million less than the police budget. This Bill serves to better align our stated verbal priorities with financial priorities.
We acknowledge the individuals serving in the Hudson Police department are talented, capable, and respectful individuals who took the oath in order to serve this community. Yet the underlying problem of police brutality is not only related to individual police officers, but is a societal problem that centers on an American overdependence on an armed police, and the lasting influence of the institution’s origins as an all-white force for the express purpose of enforcing slavery. The residents of Hudson have elected a City Council and Mayor that is diverse and progressive for this very reason, that we should lead our county, state, and country in the adoption of best practices. These practices include but are not limited to a greater investment in community programs, a ban on no knock warrants, a non-emergency phone number, the development of a Citizen Response Team, data mapping and transparency, and police members that reside within the community they police.
We affirm the words of Mayor Johnson that “the residents of the City of Hudson are diverse, possess universal human rights and are entitled to dignity, respect and equal treatment under the law.” Therefore, we propose the following reforms and resolutions in order to codify the changes called for in the Executive Order, and more. We acknowledge the urgency at this time to act and that its passage in 2020 is an overdue act of justice, with much work remaining. We envision this bill to be only Part I of the Hudson Breathe Act.
Garriga said she wanted the proposed legislation on the agenda for the October informal Council meeting. Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, pointed out that the document had only been received that afternoon and cautioned, "We need to figure out what's being done by the mayor's commission." Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, commented, "It's not in the form of a local law that can be adopted."
In July, Mayor Kamal Johnson created the Police Reconciliation and Advisory Commission tasked with hearing from the community on issues related to "community policing; police interactions with people of color, those with substance use disorders, or people in a mental health crisis; and incidents of police brutality or misconduct, if any, among other issues the community may wish to raise or the Commission may wish to explore." The commission is to present a report to the mayor, with recommendations, no later than November 15. While the commission is still doing its work, there are other police reform initiatives. At the beginning of September, a group identifying itself as the Columbia-Greene Democratic Socialists of America sent a Black Lives Matter resolution regarding police reform to the Common Council and posted it on imby.com. In a post on Facebook, Johnson called the document a "falsified Executive Order." According to information received last night, that resolution has been referred to the Police Committee.
Regarding the legislation proposed last night by the Hudson/Catskill Housing Coalition, it was decided that the budget issues contained in Section 5 of the document were all policy decisions and therefore could be converted into a resolution to be considered by the Council in October, in advance of the final drafting of the city budget for 2021. The following is quoted from Section 5 A of the document: "A reallocation of a portion of the police budget to community programs."
A.1. At least $490,000 (or 10% of the adopted $4.8MM 2020 Hudson Police Budget) shall be diverted to the Hudson Community Development & Planning Agency (HCDPA). This funding shall provide for at least 6 more subsidized housing units made immediately available to offset houselessness needs, or for other purposes as determined by the management of the HCDPA. Additional funds may be added as needed to address the current affordable housing crisis.
A.2. At least $242,552 (or 5% of the adopted $4.8MM 2020 Hudson Police Budget) shall be diverted to the Hudson Youth Department. Additional funds may be added as needed.
A.3. At least $145,000 (or 3% of the adopted $4.8MM 2020 Hudson Police Budget), shall be diverted to services for assisting formerly incarcerated individuals with re-entry and job placement or business development services, such as ReEntry Columbia. Additional funds may be added, with special interest in investing funds for new businesses being started by formerly incarcerated individuals.
A.4. At least $100,000 (or almost 2% of the adopted $4.8MM 2020 Hudson Police Budget) shall be diverted to the development of a Citizen Response Team, including hiring of the staff needed to run the program.
A.5. At least $100,000 (or almost 2% of the adopted $4.8MM 2020 Hudson Police Budget) shall be diverted to the creation of a non-emergency phone service, with the inclusion of a modern CRM solution, such as SeeClickFix, and staff.
It was also decided that Baker would draft a resolution affirming the goals of the Hudson Breathe Act. Drafting a law will have to wait until Baker establishes what in the proposed legislation is possible given the existing police contract, which was approved by the Common Council at the end of last year. Among the amendments to the city charter suggested in proposed legislation are the requirement that all Hudson police officers live in the city and a reduction of the number of police officers, including the chief and sergeants, from twenty-six, which is the current maximum, to sixteen. There are currently twenty-three officers on the force.
The Legal Committee will hold a special meeting on Thursday, October 1, at 6:00 p.m., to review the two resolutions and vote on moving them forward to the full Council on October 13.
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