The Plattsburgh City Council held its first meeting of the year last night. The organizational session was intended to choose a mayor pro-tem for the year. But antagonisms between councilors flared and a final vote was postponed.
Mayor Colin Read offered opening comments noting the difficult decisions made over the past year and the challenges the city still faces. “We still obviously have a great city and a great set of people and employees that we’re going to work with to provide the services that the city demands. And we went through a very difficult year last year and hopefully we’re on, pointing in a little more sound financial direction. But this is going to be a difficult year as well.”
The annual selection of a mayor pro-tem is usually a routine vote. But as Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly nominated Ward 1 Democrat Rachelle Armstrong for the position, he began criticizing another planned nomination. “Last year the four of you put up Josh Kretzer as mayor pro-tem. That was not the mayor’s choice. You did this because of your dislike of the mayor. You’ve expressed that openly several times. If we’re going to move forward as a city this disruption and this drama has to end. What you’re doing is disruptive and once again is an effort to create division in our ranks.”
Ward 5 Democrat Becky Kasper took umbrage. “I really have a problem with you characterizing the democratic process as being so disruptive as to be morally wrong. Certainly the democratic process is disruptive. But it’s not morally wrong. And if we stop exercising it then we’re just giving in. So Rachelle with all respect but Mike with no respect to your comments I would ask you not to point a finger at me any longer when you have something to say.”
Kelly: “Oh I’m going to point fingers Becky as long as you keep being a divisive…”
Kelly: “…force in this council then I’m going to point fingers. You can count on that.”
Kasper: “You can you can say what you want but please don’t lift your finger at me.”
Meanwhile, Councilor Armstrong tried to mediate the argument. “I fully appreciate any members’ ability and right to speak their mind at the council table. The thing that we have before us is a formidable task. We need to explore, to research together new ways of doing business.”
Republican Ward 3 Dale Dowdle also tried to moderate the argument by reading from the city charter the duties of the pro-tem. He was nominated for pro-tem after a vote for Armstrong failed. The vote for Dowdle also failed.
There must be four affirmative votes from the six councilors to approve the Plattsburgh mayor pro-tem. One member was absent due to a medical procedure he was undergoing in Boston.
The selection will be revisited at next week’s meeting.