(HUDSON, N.Y., October 14, 2015) – Two-term mayor William Hallenbeck Jr. was happy to take all the credit for whatever strides the city of Hudson has made over the last four years while restating his strong opposition to gentrification at a debate with his challenger, Tiffany Martin Hamilton, that attracted a standing-room-only crowd at the John Edwards Elementary School.
Hallenbeck emphasized the need for building affordable housing projects in the city – something that hasn’t been proposed or acted upon in his four years in office — and once again supported the rights of truck drivers to earn their living by driving 18-wheelers over Hudson’s crumbling streets unfettered by law officers who could discourage them by writing them up for actual violations, terming such a strategy “profiling.”
Hallenbeck also defended his administration’s support of the Warren Street business community, stating that “We do as much as we can to keep the streets clean.” Hamilton, on the other hand, stressed the need for an active partnership between city hall and a business coalition, and said that out of 35 business-owners who attended a recent roundtable, not a single one reported ever being visited by the mayor.
Hallenbeck also chided Hudson businesses for not hiring locally, saying, “I’d like to see local small businesses hire people who live in Hudson first.” His comment was presumably not intended to be ironic, since these businesses that may or may not be hiring locally are in fact the very engine of gentrification that Hallenbeck so vehemently opposes. “We need a developer to build affordable housing to stall if not stop gentrification,” he said. It’s unclear what his vision of Hudson would be without gentrification, and at the same time, he hails the progress that has been made in the city over the last few years.
On the pressing issue of crime in the city, the mayor stressed that “crime is down across the board,” insinuating that it’s not really an issue. In response to Hamilton’s call for more community policing, getting officers out of their cars and walking the beat, getting to know people in the community in order to build trust and break down the “us vs. them” feeling that many citizens hold toward Hudson’s men in blue, Hallenbeck said, “Practically the whole department is now on bikes and not driving around in cars,” provoking quite a sense of befuddlement among those who regularly walk the streets of the city – unlike the mayor, who is mostly seen driving around in a big white SUV – and never encounter an officer on the sidewalk, much less on a bicycle.
Hallenbeck praised police chief Ed Moore for devoting “precious time” to meeting with the citizens of Hudson, while Hamilton pointed out that the chief’s “precious time is our time as taxpayers – it’s not a privilege to meet with the chief, it’s a right.” Hamilton said she would support a police community review board, as many people currently feel “disrespected and ignored.” Hallenbeck said, “I’d have to look into the makeup of that board.”
While Hamilton spoke eloquently about the benefits of citywide contracts for services such as sidewalk repair – enumerating the cost efficiencies, the uniformity of style and quality, the compliance with ADA code, and the ability of homeowners to afford payments over time that such a citywide arrangement would allow – Hallenbeck reiterated that it is the building owner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk in front of his or her building or home. “I don’t make the laws,” said Hallenbeck. “The code says homeowners are responsible.”
The two candidates for mayor disagreed over the city’s fiscal planning and strategy. The mayor applauded his administration for allegedly keeping taxes low – his closing remarks began with the mantra, “Low, low, low” – and building fund balances in the millions (raising the question of why are taxes being raised to fill the city’s coffers), stating that “We continue to create our revenue stream.”
Hallenbeck also scoffed at the idea that the city could plan for contingencies four or five years out, a proposal that Hamilton backs, saying that the future of the city and its finances lie in the now abused and disused waterfront, “the heartbeat of Hudson.” She called for getting the Ferry Street Bridge fixed and plans for the smart development of the waterfront, which could be a primary source of revenue in four or five years.
As he is fond of saying, the mayor reiterated, “Gentrification is an issue I’m not in favor of,” while Hamilton pointed out that gentrification is a phenomenon that happens as a result of other forces, and not something you can actually be for or against. Her approach, she said, will be to find ways of dealing with changes taking place within the community.
In closing remarks, Hamilton said that in nearly four years in office, Hallenbeck has achieved virtually none of the goals he set out at his priorities at the beginning of both his first and second terms in office. “All we are getting is a continuing litany of excuses,” said Hamilton.
“Low, low, low,” said Hallenbeck.