HUDSON–Presiding at his first meeting as President of the Common Council, Tom DePietro opened the session observing that “We begin this new term of the Hudson City Council with high hopes in a time of great excitement for all of Hudson.” The new council is the first to incorporate one-person-one-vote representation Hudson voters approved in a 2015 ballot referendum. Of the 11 Council members, including the president, 10 are serving their first terms. Tiffany Garriga (D-2nd) is the returning majority leader and now in her third term on the council.
“The DRI may be a welcome infusion of money,” Mr. DePietro continued, referring to the $10-million state economic development grant, “but I fear it makes many of us think that the beneficence of the state is the solution to all our needs. I would like to see a new civic consciousness develop in tandem with the new development projects.“
Monday night’s meeting was both the annual organizing meeting and the regular informal council meeting. Mr. DePietro announced the council committees and chairs. Gone is the Arts, Entertainment and Tourism Committee. He said its functions would duplicate the new Tourism Board, created by the 2017 Lodging Tax local law. The whole council would decide the distribution of $20,000 allocated for community events. Mr. DePietro created a new Housing and Transportation Committee, chaired by Ms. Garriga. Youth and Aging acquires the new title of Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation, led by Kamal Johnson (D-3rd).
The remaining chairs and members are: Legal — John Rosenthal (D-4th), Finance — Rob Bujan (D-1st), Dept. of Public Works and Parks — Eileen Halloran (D-5th), Police — Mr. Johnson, Fire — Dominic Merante (NOP-5th) and Economic Development — Rich Volo (D-4th). Other Council members are Dewan Sarowar (D-2nd), Calvin Lewis (D-3rd) and Shershah Mizan (D-3rd).
This new council, like its presiding officer, stuck to discussing issues and stayed clear of anything remotely personal, a cardinal principle of Robert’s Rules of Order, copies of which Mr. DePietro distributed to all members.
The first issue debated was a challenge to the long-standing council organizational rule that the president possesses sole authority to appoint or remove committee members or chairs during the two-year term. Ms. Garriga proposed a change in the rule, for greater participation by members of the council, substituting the committee members’ authority for the council president’s. After some initial confusion about the objective of the rule making, a compromise was crafted with Mr. DePietro’s support stating that “no changes will be made to chairs or members of committees without a majority approval of the committee and the president.”
Mr. DePietro signaled this desire to listen when he said, “I am…a Democrat, as are nine of the 10 members of this council—that shouldn’t mean we follow in lock-step. Disagreement is a hallmark of democracy, and I ask only that we express our differences with civility and respect.” In recent years, the Common Council rarely wanted for diversity but often fell short on civility.
In a move about which some council members expressed surprise, Ms. Halloran (D-5th ) was appointed minority leader. Mr. Merante (NOP-5th), as a caucus of one, announced that he had appointed Ms. Halloran, a step validated by an opinion of the council’s and Hudson’s newly-reappointed City Attorney, Andrew Howard.
The most recent Hudson election data show 3,950 registered voters: 57% Democrats, 22% NOP, 11% Republican, 4 % Independents, 2% Conservative with the remain six parties barely inching past a combined 1%.
Ahead in the next two months is a proposed local law to restrict chain retail establishments in Hudson “to promote and preserve the character of the Hudson community while encouraging the development and/or retention of business organizations seeking to be a local force in the City’s economy in a manner that does not harm public health safety or welfare.”
Also coming up from 2017 is an amendment to the Zoning Code for residential R-2 zones to allow for “retail, restaurants and certain other economic opportunities… to the extent such uses would not reduce the supply of dwelling units in the City of Hudson.” This is the colloquially identified Basil Nooks amendment to allow the reintroduction of a Caribbean restaurant on North Third St. The proposal faced stiff opposition last year, not against the Nooks plan but because the amendment, it opponents argued, is overly broad.
Stewart’s is back this year with a second proposal, a zoning law change, to expand its store at Fairview and Green streets.
Finally, the question of a dog park is back for another round of consideration by the Council and Mayor Rick Rector. The latest plan, a sectioning off a large portion of Charles Williams Park off Mill Street, was supported by former Mayor Hamilton and a group of local dog owners but rejected by the council last year. Then-Mayor Hamilton vetoed the Council’s resolution.
At Monday’s meeting, Mill Street resident Kia Walker, speaking on behalf of her neighbors, raised questions about the process and assertion of former Mayor Hamilton that Mill Street was the only viable place in Hudson for a dog park.
Ms. Walker asked for a new review of dog park options or to see the review described by the former mayor in her veto message, pointing out that no one on Mill Street was a part of the decision-making.
Mr. DePietro assured Ms. Walker that the dog park issue will be referred to committee and the process will start over.