The Plattsburgh Common Council held its first meeting of 2020 on Thursday evening. There are two new councilors on the six-member panel and they immediately began work on the city’s agenda.
Ward 1 Democrat Ira Barbell was sworn-in during the last Common Council meeting in 2019. Ward 4 Democrat Paul DeDominicas opted for a private swearing-in prior to Thursday’s meeting. The organizational meeting began with a unanimous vote approving a veteran councilor as mayor pro tem.
Ward 6 Democrat Jeff Moore: "I'd like to nominate Mike Kelly."
Elizabeth Gibbs: "I'll second that nomination."
Mayor Colin Read also handed down committee assignments. The council then approved annual contracts for the council’s lawyer, official newspaper, bank and the rules and dates for the Common Council meetings. Councilor Barbell questioned a clause in the rules that states “…when a public comment topic is voted on by the Common Council, the topic may not be the subject of public comment for 6 months from the date of the vote…” "What does that mean?"
Mayor Read: "It's always been here, but we've never had that question."
Barbell: "I don't know exactly how that plays out. It seems to shut off the ability to have a conversation with somebody if you took a vote on something already. I'd make a motion to it to adopt all but Section 13 on this on this issue, and we can come back and talk about that later if there's a rationale that's underneath this that we don't have right now. And so I would, I would make that motion."
Ward 2 Democrt Mike Kelly: "I'll second that."
Mayor Read: "Any further discussion on that amendment? All in favor?"
Mayor: "Opposed? Passed."
During the informal work session following the organizational meeting, Barbell noted that he would like to learn more about the city police department’s use of the asset forfeiture program. Ward 3 Democrat Elizabeth Gibbs urged the new councilors to tour all the city departments. “I would love at some point to learn more about the asset forfeiture program and how it's working in the city.”
Councilor Gibbs: “And I would also encourage both you and Paul, because Jeff and I did this last year, we did facilities tours. And I would encourage you both to do that because that is exceptionally helpful and you can have a better view of how things are run.”
Paul DeDominicas is a former Community Development Director for the city who retired in early 2018 during a rash of resignations that included late city Councilor Becky Kasper. At the time, Kasper said Mayor Read was the reason for her departure. DeDominicas submitted his retirement letter on the same day writing that he was “…unable to continue to work in a hostile work environment...” He calls the current council a good group of people. "I thought it would be weirder and it's actually, it's actually okay. You know, I think the experience has been helpful and you know, I'm not coming in unclear as to what expectations are and how to operate. So I think that is a good foundation to start on.”
A priority of the council will be the city budget and Pro Tem Mike Kelly said during the meeting it is important to get the new councilors on board with their five-year budget planning process. Councilor Barbell wants the panel to rethink some of the ways they approach that long-term planning. “My concern and what I'm hoping to push for in this, as I'm on here, is beginning to work also to say what are the objectives that we have five years out? What are the goals that we have for the city five years out? And then is that budget aligned in a way that's moving us forward on those and how do we measure that as we're going forward? So that's missing right now in my opinion from the budget and it's something I will push very hard to see this council grapple with.”
The Plattsburgh City Council meets weekly on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m.