The City of Amsterdam, New York was invigorated by a newly elected Common Council this year. The citizens, not happy with the way taxes were going up and spending was increasing, elected conservative representatives who wanted to make a change. With a highly critical state financial audit, finances are in shambles and our elected officials still do not know how much money is in the city fund balance. Despite these facts Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane continues to increase spending, raising salaries and creating new staff positions at City Hall. Not happy with the take charge attitude of the new Council members, Thane took them to court and sued to get a ruling in her favor about the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course Pro Contract. She continually vetoes any legislation proposed by the Council even if it has unanimous support. This effectively delays the passage of all legislation. She gets on local radio and makes press statements that berate and belittle Council members and anyone who gets in her way.
The public, embarrassed and humiliated by Thane’s behavior, went to the Common Council asking to revise our city charter changing ambiguous wording to prevent misinterpretation and added costly court proceedings. The Common Council appointed a Charter Review Committee (of which this blogger is a member) who would study and recommend changes. Thane stated that a Charter Review Committee was not necessary, that there were more important things to do.
“The mayor agreed with the commission idea in the beginning, but she does not agree with the appointments. What do you do when you have a mayor for six years and she’s relentless? She does not give up; it has to be her way or no way.” — Alderman Diane Hatzenbuhler
Corporation Council Gerard DeCusatis who by law is supposed to support and advise the Mayor and Council, only does so for the Mayor. Soon after the Council appointed Charter Review Committee had its first few meetings, the Mayor appointed her own Charter Review Committee, who she insinuated in The Recorder were more intelligent than the Council appointed committee.
“What I’m looking for are intelligent people to weigh in on a document that’s affected the community for a long time.” –Mayor Ann Thane
This derailed weeks of work already accomplished by the dedicated committee appointed by the Council. As explained to me, the Mayor’s Committee takes precedent over any other Charter Review Committee who, with this action, can not send any Charter related questions to the ballot for referendum vote in the 2014 general election. Attorney Peter Califano, Chairman of the Mayor’s Charter Review Commission, cited this 2008 NYS Supreme Court decision as the standing ruling on the subject.
After exchanging emails with Peter Califano, I discovered that both of our Committees had a common goal, to strengthen the separation of powers by removing the Mayor as presiding officer of the Common Council. The Mayor presiding over Council meetings, promotes arguments and obstructs the flow of governance. For Ann Thane who tries to micro-manage every aspect of city government, it only increased her already over-inflated ego.
As many of you know I was an active member of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, whose mission was to fund and organize concerts at Riverlink Park that are free to the public every Saturday evening during the months of July and August. Our Committee consisted of four dedicated members who give a lot of time and effort for Riverlink Concerts. I donated a few hundred photos and designed hours worth of advertising design that appeared as posters and ads in local and regional newspapers. All of that has come to an end as I resigned from the Foundation a few weeks ago. Mayor Ann Thane could not keep her control-freak hands off of the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation as she held a secret meeting with Congressman Paul Tonko, Amsterdam Economic Development Director Rob von Hasseln, Grant Writer Nick Zabawski and Waterfront Foundation President Paul Gavry. It seems despite the spin put on the situation, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (Pedestrian Bridge) is way over budget and Gavry was told that the Waterfront Foundation would seek grants to fund the 1.6 million dollars of artwork a select committee decided should go on this bridge. In order to carry this out, five new members that they selected would be added to the board of the Waterfront Foundation. This effectively weighted our vote, giving the Mayor control of the Foundation. Of course when we were seeking funding for concerts or wanting to increase our membership for the past two years these people were nowhere to be found. Neither Congressman Tonko, Mayor Thane or the five new Waterfront Commission members came to support the Riverlink Concert fundraiser held at the Amsterdam MUNI Clubhouse on June 13th. They did not consider the impact this new fundraising project would have on grant applications to fund the concert series.
I really loathe politicians, they chew you up and spit you out. It seems my every attempt at civic duty was derailed by this Mayor. It’s been over three years since I sat on the committee to update the Zoning Code along with Montgomery County Planning who were paid by the City to write the new code. The Mayor’s Corporation Counsel DeCusatis sat on the document for over two years for a “legal” review. Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler had me review the document with the codes department earlier this year to get their advice. We are now 6 months into the new Council’s administration and this document still has not been presented to the Common Council for a vote. It increases the area of what is considered Amsterdam’s downtown core and eases restrictions making it much more business friendly. A little follow through and cooperation would really help our local government instead of the costly and obstructionist display of power and disrespect flaunted by Mayor Ann Thane who feels free to lambast and personally attack others when they disagree with her.
Overpriced art pieces Ann Thane insists must go on the pedestrian bridge: