Poughkeepsie council chair cuts mayor out of sessions

POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie Common Council Chairperson Sarah Salem broke with a years’ long policy of providing time for the mayor to make comments during regular sessions by unilaterally announcing Monday night that Mayor Rob Rolison may address the council only when he is summoned.

Salem equated the decision to the state legislature that does not provide for comments from the governor.

The chair’s decision is seen by some as being partisan as the council majority is Democrat and Rolison is a Republican.

Mayor Rob Rolison and Council Chair Sarah Salem.

He was totally baffled by the decision.

“In these trying times of a pandemic, in a fiscal crisis, ‘we don’t want the mayor’,” he recounted. “I think they think they are just going to summon people before their body, which they can do, but it’s almost like they are trying to create, in some respects, the same gridlock and partisanship that exists on other levels of government.”

Even though the council members adopted the format of meetings in January, which includes comments from the mayor, Salem said it is the prerogative of the chair to structure the agendas.

Rolison questioned if he were a Democrat, would Salem have taken the same action. 

The refusal to allow Mayor Rolison to speak at the meeting was attempted to be overridden by Councilmembers McNamara and Cherry but was denied by Salem, Vice-chair Sarah Brannen, and second ward member Evan Menist.

The removal of the mayor’s comments was also addressed recently by Councilman Chris Petsas. “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.”  He called Salem’s decision “petty politics.”

City of Poughkeepsie GOP Chairwoman Kara Bucher was critical of Salem’s decision, saying “Council Chair Salem’s unilateral decision to remove our mayor’s comments from the council’s agenda is nothing short of petty and childish. Time and again, Ms. Salem demonstrates her inability to set her Socialistic tendencies aside, for the greater good of Poughkeepsie’s residents. There is broad, non-partisan support from members of her own council, who vehemently disagree with this decision.”

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