No matter how busy the Mayor’s office is today, a “State of the City” address isn’t an elective. It’s an obligation.
According to the City of Kingston, NY Charter in Article IV: Mayor, Section C4-4 Annual Message it is written that “The Mayor shall prepare and present during the first month of each fiscal year of the City an annual message to the Common Council. The annual message shall describe the condition and state of the city and shall identify matters and issues the Mayor believes should be addressed by the Council in the ensuing year.”
…and no matter how sympathetic to the Mayor one may be (and in all fairness, I am – as I think it’s far too large a job for only one person – hence, my desire to learn more on City Manager/City Administrator Forms of Government), it may not be legal for an elected official to not follow the charter as written. That certainly should be looked into.
Have a look at “Revising City Charters in NY State” and read the introduction and history of this important document. The charter is “the basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of city government. It is comparable to the State Constitution and to the Constitution of the United States. The charter is, therefore, the most important law of any city“.
The city of Kingston’s Common Council, on the other hand, has its own set of rules outside of Kingston’s charter.
The “Council Rules for Government” is a document that is not currently available on the City of Kingston website (as far as I can tell, and it should be accessible to the public in the same way the Chater is). I am happy to have received a copy and to make it public here.
In the way of the “State of the City Address” for council members, have a look at page 48, Rule XVII State of the City Address. For some reason, the council found it sound to require “…unanimous consent of the Majority (and Minority) party, the Majority (and Minority) Leader may deliver a State of the City Address at the regularly scheduled Febraury Common Council meeting each year.”
What does that mean? If one alderman decides to vote ‘no’ (as what did occur last week with Ward 2 Alderman Brian Seche), the entire opportunity for the public to hear from their council majority/minority leaders is thrown out the window?
Maybe now is the time to look closer at these documents. The public should take the time to read and get to know both the charter and the council rules so that it collectively understands how its city works from the inside out.
Here are some suggestions:
1. OUR MAYOR: Write and call the Mayor’s office and request that the law be respected, and that the annual ‘State of the City Address” be delivered.
Mayor Shayne Gallo 845/334-3902 firstname.lastname@example.org
Assistant, Ellen DiFalco
2. MAJORITY/MINORITY LEADERS: Write to both our Majority Leader Matt Dunn (Ward 1) and Minority Leader Deb Brown (Ward 9) in support of their performing a ‘State of the City Address” whether it be official, or unofficial.
Alderman Matt Dunn email@example.com
Alderwoman Deb Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
3. ALDERMAN-AT-LARGE JIM NOBLE: Write to Alderman-at-Large Jim Noble and ask him to explain the meaning behind the rule that requires a vote for our Majority/Minority leaders to speak to the public annually on the State of the City.
If a vote is necessary, then ask that the council take up the “Council Rules of Government” and change the ‘unanimous’ to ‘majority’.
Given what happened last week, it’s astonishing that one single vote can derail this opportunity for citizens.
– Rebecca Martin
GET TO KNOW Kingston, NY City Charter READ
GET TO KNOW Revising City Charters in New York State READ
GET TO KNOW The Council Rules of Government READ