Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Pushing the Limits

Bill Huston has a reputation for his relentless criticism of city government and city management, which he expresses on his blog HUDseen, in regular emails to city officials, in frequent visits to City Hall, and at city meetings. Huston was previously banned from City Hall and consigned to participate in city meetings only on Zoom. Now that city meetings are taking place at the Central Fire Station because of the renovations to City Hall, Huston is back in person at meetings, arguing that the ban does not apply to the fire station. Last night, his persistent questioning during the informal meeting of the Common Council led to his being ejected from the meeting by Chief Mishanda Franklin.

The informal meeting is when department heads and/or commissioners make reports to the Common Council. Last night, Huston had a least one question for everyone making a report. Of Liz Yorck, youth director, he demanded to know why the Youth Department used Facebook to communicate information when using Facebook is considered by many to put children at risk. Of Shawn Hoffman, fire chief, Huston wanted to know why volunteer firefighters are allowed to exceed the speed limit getting to the fire station. When Councilmember Ryan Wallace (Third Ward) cited NYS code, clarifying that it was allowed by law, Huston persisted. It was then that Mayor Kamal Johnson, attending the meeting on Zoom, stated that he did not want his commissioners harassed by Huston. But Huston's questions didn't stop.

When Franklin had completed the monthly report for the Police Department, Huston wanted to know why there were not more foot patrols in Seventh Street Park. Franklin's response indicated that Huston had emailed her about this issue several times, and she had already provided the answer. After Rob Perry made his report on the Department of Public Works, Huston quizzed him about parking policy in the municipal lot behind City Hall. Why were the alternate side rules for overnight parking abandoned, making it impossible for the street sweeper to clean the lot? When Perry explained that is was a decision made years ago by the mayor, the police chief, and the Planning Board, prompted by requests from the community, Huston persisted, asking if Perry was content with the state of the parking lot, given that it could not be swept regularly. It was then that Franklin interceded and told Huston he had to leave the meeting. Apparently at Franklin's request, Wallace called the police station to request a car to take Huston away.

The incident inspired Councilmember Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) to suggest that the Council needed to revisit the issue of decorum at its meetings. Council president Tom DePietro alluded to the rules of order that are adopted by the Council each year and commented, "The person in question continually abuses those limits." 



  1. And the police chief took my sippy cup away and wouldn't give it back!

    1. Bill, you often make good points, and our municipal departments could use more oversight, but your tactics overshadow the message. It does't matter what you say if you get written off as a blow hard. Don't attend meetings in person if you can't follow decorum. Questions are not supposed to be interrogations. Keep writing your blog. Don't bother your neighbors over their recycling bins. You'll never win an election that way. Also, respect the Chief and don't harass municipal employees. You'll end up with a restraining order. In other words: chill out.