POUGHKEEPSIE – The City of Poughkeepsie Common Council is having two meetings on Monday night. The 5:00 pm meeting is a public hearing on the proposed Civilian Review Board. The second meeting is a regular meeting except that the traditional “Mayor’s Comments” portion of the meeting has been removed from the agenda by Council Chair Sarah Salem.
In an email to the mayor sent on Thursday, Salem advised him of the change. The communication said in part, “The lines and between the Executive and Legislative branches of our City Government seem to be muddled and confused. For that reason, and in an attempt to bring clarity to each of our functionalities, I am removing Mayor’s comments from the agenda.”
Rolison responded to Salem via email, saying ” In response to removing Mayor’s comments from the agenda I don’t see how this is helpful to the lines between the Executive and Legislative branches that you say are confused and muddled. In addition this part of the meeting which takes up very little time is a communication tool that both the Council and public have had for many years . The Administration and the workforce of our City Government work very hard in communicating to the Legislative branch and to the public . This certainly hinders that communication and is not in the best interest of our City.”
Councilmember Chris Petsas, the former chair of the body, is disappointed with Salem’s decision. “For as long as I can remember, the council has afforded time for the mayor to give us and the public an update on city business.” Petsas called Salem’s decision “petty politics.” Councilman Matt McNamara said “There should always be time for mayor’s comments. It seems like she is declaring all out war on the mayor.”
In an email to the City Chamberlain, Salem says the bylaws give her the discretion on whether or not the mayor can speak. Salem included the section of the bylaws to substantiate her argument to the Chamberlain. The section cited reads “RULE XIX. The Mayor may be invited to comment to and address the Council and the public on any issues of public concern raised by Councilmembers at the Council‘s regular meetings each month, prior to motions and resolutions being heard and at any time thereafter at the discretion of the Council chairperson.”
Salem did not respond to requests from Mid Hudson News seeking an explanation of her decision.
City Administrator Marc Nelson said “I’m surprised to see that the mayor’s comments do not appear on the agenda. To the best of my knowledge, our city’s mayors have provided these brief but important updates at council meetings for many years. I do not understand this change.”