The Mayor at the Bridge: Press Conference or Campaign Event?

Mayor Bill Hallenbeck's so-called Ferry Street Bridge press conference more resembled a campaign event (photo courtesy Carole Osterink/Gossips of Rivertown)

Mayor Bill Hallenbeck’s so-called Ferry Street Bridge press conference more resembled a campaign event (photo courtesy Carole Osterink/Gossips of Rivertown)

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Last Friday, August 28, Hudson Mayor Bill Hallenbeck Jr. had his office send out a press release announcing that he would be holding a press conference in front of the Ferry Street Bridge, which has been closed since August 2014, when it was deemed unsafe. The pre-release statement alluded to the presence of federal, state, and local officials at the event, which seemed to foretell some sort of announcement of the sort that was issued earlier last week about federal and state funds being released to other Hudson Valley municipalities to rebuild their own decaying bridges.

According to news reports in the Register-Star and Gossips of Rivertown, the closest thing to an officeholder in attendance who wasn’t a city or county official was Jeff Cleary, a staffer from State Senator Kathy Marchione’s office. No actual federal or state officials were on hand to hear Hallenbeck say, basically, what everyone already knows and what hardly justified trotting out a lectern for a press conference – that the bridge is broken, that it needs fixing, and that funding needs to come from somewhere – ideally some combination of federal, state and county grants.

It’s hard to quantify the city resources that went into this non-event. They included law enforcement to direct traffic, public works employees to set the stage for the mayoral press conference, and time spent by city staffers organizing the non-event and then attending the non-event, including the mayor himself, all of whose time could have presumably been spent actually doing something.

The mayor is standing for re-election this November, which is of course his right. And he has every right to stage campaign events, which could include speeches with promises as vague or specific as he wants them to be.

But in this case, what was defined as an official action of the mayor was a thinly disguised campaign event – and not a very effective one at that – wherein the mayor used the trappings of his office, complete with the official staging and backdrop and hustling up the press to report on something which wound up really being nothing.

The voters of Hudson presumably will see right through this transparent act of desperation on the part of the mayor to make it seem like he is taking action on a serious issue. However, the mayor offered nothing in terms of a specific plan of action about how the bridge can be fixed and who will pay for it; he never has. He offered no news of any substance. He merely got his picture taken in front of a bridge in dire need of repair of replacement, one for which the only action he has taken in his nearly four years in office has been to shut it down, with no plan for reopening this vital gateway to the city’s waterfront.

Hudson needs less pomp and more circumstance. The emperor, in this case, wore no clothes to the press conference, which was merely a pitiful, poorly attended campaign rally.





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