Some Plattsburgh common councilors are concerned that a move by the mayor may indicate an impending veto of a 4-2 council vote. A trio issued a letter warning that deferring his decision threatens the current council’s override authority.
On Christmas Eve, three of the six Plattsburgh common councilors issued a statement calling on Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read to uphold a vote taken by the council at their meeting last Thursday.
They refer to an item of new business introduced by Ward 3 Republican Dale Dowdle. “I’d like to offer for initial consideration that the city of Plattsburgh accept the Plattsburgh City School District resolution dated December 12, 2018 with an amendment.”
The city and school district have been debating what to do about the Webb Island Footbridge, which is used extensively by high school students. Owned by the school district and maintained by the city, it was closed in November 2017 due to structural deficiencies. After months of negotiations, the resolution offered by Dowdle would transfer ownership to the city. Mayor Read felt it was inappropriate for the council to vote on its initial motion. “I think it would be very hasty to simply decide this tonight. Normally we agree to not bring things up especially with this kind of gravity in this sort of short notice without even informing our colleagues in advance.”
But Dowdle says one of their issues is that the city school board’s proposal was made earlier in December, unbeknownst to councilors. “On December 12th that resolution that was more-or-less crafted by the school board was hand-delivered by courier to the mayor’s office addressed to the mayor and to the council. We never saw that until it was brought to our attention the day before the last meeting. We were asked, or at least one us, and we said we hadn’t seen it. So then the school board provided it directly to the councilors. So to say that this was sudden we thought it could have been acted on sooner had it been distributed to council members.”
Councilors voted 4 to 2 to accept the City School District’s terms for the city to acquire the bridge. As the last councilor voted, the mayor expressed his city charter authority that allows him to delay by five business days whether he will veto or approve the council’s decision. “Per C3-11B of the Charter I hereby state my intention to divert certain on approval or disapproval of the measure. Next item.”
According to the charter if the mayor had not immediately weighed in the measure would be “…conclusively presumed to have been approved.” The statement released this week from Councilors Rachelle Armstrong, Dale Dowdle and Peter Ensel notes that if Mayor Read issues a veto, it will be a new council that will determine whether to override.
Mayor Read is taking time off for the holidays, but emailed WAMC that “…our legal counsel is looking at some problematic procedural aspects of the resolution passed on Thursday. That is the reason why I deferred approval.”