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Brouhaha Erupts at Croton Village Meeting After Resolutions are Introduced

March 7, 2006


Option: Download and watch this video clip of “Brouhaha Erupts at Croton Village Meeting After Resolution Introduced” in Quicktime format (18:49 mins. | 27.2 mb).

A full-fledged brouhaha erupted last night during the regularly scheduled Village of Croton-on-Hudson Board of Trustees meeting after Trustee Charlie Kane publicly introduced two last-minute resolutions for consideration. The first resolution suggested that an eminent domain resident advisory committee be formed, while the second urged the board to consider hiring additional outside counsel that specializes in eminent domain proceedings for the former Metro Enviro site at 1A Croton Point Avenue.

In response to Mr. Kane’s proposed legislation, civil conduct, common courtesy and the rules governing discussion during the meeting were quickly abandoned as Dr. Mayor Gregory Schmidt and Trustee Jim Steinberg made it regular practice to cut-off resident-speakers at the podium and to continually interrupt fellow trustees as they spoke.

Though Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt refused to publicly discuss Trustee Kane’s proposals, the discussion did, however turn into a referendum on the legal performance and qualifications of Village Attorney Marianne Stecich, who was left to defend herself numerous times.

On March 12, 2006 3:27 PM, waffels said:

watching the video of the meeting I am struck by how quickly Mr. Steinberg jumped all over Mrs. Grant when she “suggested” that “maybe” the village consult an attorney that specializes in eminant domain. This seems like a very reasonable idea considering what is at stake. I didn’t see her questioning whether Ms. Stecich is qualified it was a suggestion to get someone who specializes in this field, plain and simple. His move obviously entertained his peanut gallery chuckling in the audience. It’s embarrasing for the village. This guy is on a power trip and his honor Dr. Mayor jumps right on board. They both need to go but maybe we’ll get lucky and throw one out this coming election.

On March 11, 2006 11:24 AM, Reality Check said:

Time for another Reality Check.

The take away message of the Steinberg/Schmidt/Stecich implosion at the last Village Board meeting is that our so-called open government is not so open after all. If you have a differing view you are effectively told to sit down and shut up. If you decline to do as you are told then tempers flare and the true nature of those in the majority is displayed for all to see.

This is, I suppose, great theater; but we deserve better.

And a special note to Ms. Barua, who people say is an attorney herself. You are deluding yourself and the public if you truly believe that advance discussion with the majority would have resulted in Mr. Kane’s ideas being given a pubic airing. With this crowd it’s spit it out in public or forever hold your piece. The now well documented Steinberg/Schmidt approach, of squelching all discussion by their opponents, mandates saying what you want to say for the first time in front of the cameras, just as Mr, Kane wisely did here.

The simple truth is that lawyers I have spoken to tell me the entire process of eminent domain, from inception, hearings and consideration of public need, right on through the inevitable appeals, is a chess game. Each step must be carefully thought out and should be guided by an attorney fully familiar not only with all the ins and outs of the process, but with the moves to follow 5 or 6 steps down the line and what will be needed in the record when litigation commences.

Obviously Ms. Stecich is not that attorney. For if she was, she would not have been secretly consulting some unknown lawyer with the requisite knowledge. That is not a personal knock on her, just a statement of fact. Personally, I would still like to know how many contested and litigated condemnation proceedings she has handled over the past 5 or 10 years (not her firm but Ms. Stecich herself). I haven’t been able to find a record of a single one. But, you can bet that Mr. Steinmetz - or whoever is actually calling the shots for the other side - knows exactly what they are doing.

Unfortunately, when we are forced by the frailty of our legal position to finally hire proper counsel (or fold our cards), that new lawyer will forever be playing catch up and will have a hell of a time regaining the initiative which has been lost.

If Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Schmidt were a bit more ‘open’ to begin with, we might be in a better position today and in the future.

And that, my friends, is a Reality Check.

On March 9, 2006 12:38 PM, dors said:

We have such a huge task in front of us as a village. The arguing and finger pointing is only distracting from the work ahead. I wish I could watch and/or attend the village board meetings more often but I get such a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach from the snickering, whispering, and immaturity of the gallery that I can’t do it!

Blog comments of partisanship shows how stuck we are on this very serious problem. For example, SilverOnes comment that a pro waste station vote by the previous administration was taken in the wee hours of the morning show how mired we are in this thing. How does that help with the present situation? BTW SilverOne, do you think that a “wee hour” vote could indicate extremely long and difficult work sessions of fact finding?

Forward, people….keep moving forward! We must find a real workable solution to the troubling situation for our village. Dems/Republicans/Independents alike! This is not going away. In a democracy people are allowed to agree to disagree. Laughing at someone making a comment on a dais or making rude comments makes for silly theater. Politics must be taken out of this equation. Move forward and find real solutions. That’s what we all must do!

On March 8, 2006 2:39 PM, Just The Facts said:

SilverOne,

honestly there is no reason to lash out and paint big brush strokes against all of the Democrats. In doing so, you are only proving — contrary to your assertions — that you are completely partisan.

Now, for the facts, at no time whatsoever has Charlie Kane or Anne Galleli indicated that they “want to bring a waste station back to Croton”. That is just a complete distortion of the facts, and you know it.

What was said was that we need to be careful here and understand is that there are considerable risks involved here. If we take that property and there is even a 10% chance that it will end up costing the village FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS ($50,000,000.00) are we prepared to take that risk? If you are a property owner in town, are you prepared to pay double or more of your current taxes and simultaneously face cut back of village services? Are you prepared to see your property values plummet — just ask a real estate broker what will happen to real estate prices with such a large unknown contingent liability out there. Do you really think that prospective buyers of your home will want to buy into such a large potential liability. CERTAINLY NOT.

What percisely is the level of risk we are willing to take that this costs us an amount of the magnitude? I certainly don’t have the answer, but I do know that I want this risk to be discussed by EVERYONE (Dems and Repubs) and subjected to an open debate in PUBLIC. I see nothing wrong with pointing out that we may want to slow this process a bit and carefully think these issued through (isn’t this what you wish Mr. Watkins et al had done back in 1997?)

These really are important questions and they really demand the involvement on an inclusive basis of everyone in the village — not a rubber stamp of decisions made by what Mr. Steinberg refers to as “our administration”.

On March 8, 2006 2:26 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

Silverone, Do you honestly think that anyone wants a waste transfer station here? There was a waste station down there for many years before the Dems took office and what they did, was done on the advice of counsel and many experts in the field who worked as a bipartisan group to examine the situation. Had the previous administration denied a permit to allied waste I think it was then, we would have been in court in seconds AND there would have been no record to produce to back up the non permitting of the station as there was when Schmidt et.al. went to court earlier last year. If it had been as simple as saying NO back then, don’t you think it would have been said?

On March 8, 2006 12:07 PM, SilverOne1997 said:

i have a hard time handing out compliments to people who want to bring a waste station back to croton. that’s what this election should still be about. the village isn’t out of the woods yet. for proof that the democrats ticket this year is again pro waste station, look no further than candidate sam watkins who, in 1998 as a trustee voted with then mayor elliott and then trustee georgianna ‘weewill’ grant to give a special permit to metro enviro. this vote was taken in the wee hours of the morning and was pushed through despite public outcry. that’s just the facts and that is why i cannot support the croton democrats until they come out against any future waste station on that property.

On March 8, 2006 11:41 AM, Just The Facts said:

SilverOne - what does Leo Wiegman have to do with this discussion here? It seems clear that you are the one being partisan here by bringing in another democrat that isn’t even part of the discussion here.

Furthermore, lets look at the facts.

Despite your “claim” that you are a liberal, where is there any indication of the fact?

Despite your “claim” that the Democrats are partisan hacks you provide absolutely no support for such statment. Mere disagreement is not partisanship. If that was the case, then one could just as easily label the republicans as “partisan hacks” because they consistently fail to agree with the democrats. Makes no sense!

I have claimed that I am not partisan, but just calling it according to the facts. Support for that can be found in several posts I have made in recent days that have complemented Mr. Gonzalez for statements he has made. I have yet to find anything complementary from you regading the democrats from your posts.

On March 8, 2006 8:04 AM, Mrs. Smith said:

And I hope you will vote for Ann G again this year!!! It is funny to me how people see that, because Kane and Weigman do not agree with what Scmidt and his fellow Reps. are espousing, they are automatically partisan. I know Charlie Kane well and the last thing you could say about him is that he would ever do anything to gain votes. He is a most serious and earnest person, who only does what he thinks is best for the general good. If you took the time to talk with him, he would explain his no votes and they are born out of genuine disagreement on the course being pursued, not to be partisan. Besides all of which, knowing that Dr. Schmidt appears to need to control everything that happens at a meeting, Kane and Weigman may well feel that submission in advance might lead to their resolution never reaching the floor.

On March 8, 2006 12:57 AM, notorc said:

Please define “you all” as I voted for Ann G, Leo W and Tom B last election…

Why? I thought Ann G works best with groups I am affilated with in Croton. Tom B reminds me of my Dad and Leo is a gentleman who I see at 10:30am mass every Sunday.

Let’s keep small town politics simple.

Who did y’all vote for?

On March 8, 2006 12:52 AM, SilverOne1997 said:

that should be ‘just the facts according to leo wiegman’

the democrats are by far more partisan in this village, and rarely work as a team. i like the way mr. steinberg put it at the debate.

‘the question could be, is the sky blue and the vote would still be 3-2’

it’s almost odd that liberals like me and others are voting for republicans in croton. that should be a wake up call to the croton democrats that something has got to change.

why is it that the minority of the board feels that they have to be against everything and for nothing?

these guys actually voted against public hearings!

they are a bunch of partisan hacks and don’t go calling partisan because if i saw it on the other side i would point it out in a minute…

i actually, embarrassingly so, struggled to vote for the republican team last year at the village level because i tied them to the bush crowd so i managed to vote for them on the other line.

this go around i will not only be again voting against metro-enviro but i will be voting for steinberg because he has our best interests at heart.

it’s time to stop the bickering, stop the politicaly motivated game-playing on the board, and the manipulations.

it’s time to move forward for croton’s sake.

On March 8, 2006 12:22 AM, Just The Facts said:

Pleeeeeeeze!!!!!

Notorc, do you honestly believe Steinberg is working as a team. His attacking closing statement (the only one of the four) makes it clear who is playing parisanship. The voters will not be fooled and Mr. W., Ms. C. and even Mr. Di. knows it and that’s why you all are trying to label the Dems partisan before the label sticks on the Repubs — but guess what it is too late!

On March 7, 2006 11:36 PM, notorc said:

Simply pathetic…Mr. Kane should be ashamed of himself. What happened to the concept of working as a team? To broadside your fellow trustee members is simply a shame. I guess March madness makes it to Croton….all in the interest of politics.

Funny how a registered Republican, elected as a Democrat is taking a stand against a registered Democrat elected as a Republican.

We need concrete ideas and a board that can lead the village. Give the partisan politics a rest, get back to thinking on your own and focus as to what is best for the village…not your ballot line.

On March 7, 2006 4:47 PM, Pat Barua said:

I have to disagree with the Blog’s editorial accompanying its video montage on last night’s meeting, as well as the subsequent posts. Maybe as a litigator my tolerance level for conflict is a little high, but I thought the Mayor and others actually showed restraint, under the circumstances!

The evidence suggests that Trustee Kane intentionally tried to create a public conflict last night. Mr. Kauderer made the exact same proposals that were the subject of Trustee Kane’s resolutions a month ago. If Trustee Kane wanted to advance these proposals, there was no reason to suddenly “spring” these resolutions on the rest of the Board and the public in this manner without warning. Instead, they should have been included in the agenda or otherwise publicly noticed. That way, the full Board and village counsel could have had time to review them, evaluate any legal pitfalls in presenting and discussing them, and possibly vote on them in an orderly, noncontroversial manner. In addition, members of the public beyond Trustee Kane’s inner circle could have made it a point to attend the meeting if they wished to weigh in on the subject.

As to the substance of the resolutions, let’s take them separately.

The first resolution called for the formation of a citizen’s committee “to help us with this project.” This is not a good idea. This project is not like the Community Center or the Comprehensive Plan, where citizen input is vital in determining and balancing what needs the project should address and how best to address them. For 1A Croton Point Avenue, the public use/need issue has already been determined and was the subject of a public hearing on February 6th. Indeed, what Trustee Kane proposed was that the committee be comprised of experts in law, finance, etc – not citizen leaders with competing needs for the property. If we actually need such professional experts, then we should not restrict our talent pool to Croton residents, and the selection process should be free from political considerations.

Further, it is important to remember that a condemnation proceeding is a litigation. David Steinmetz has already indicated property owner Greentree will be fighting us in this action. The Village needs to protect its interests by not broadcasting its strategy, thoughts and deliberations to its adversary. A citizen advisory committee would not necessarily enjoy or observe the requirements of the privilege necessary to ensure confidentiality. To the extent the Board and the advisory committee differed on factual conclusions, what course to take, etc., you can be sure Mr. Steinmetz would look to exploit that difference to Greentree’s advantage.

The second resolution called for the hiring of special counsel on eminent domain. Given the extent of Ms. Stecich’ work on this matter already, it was simply rude to propose this no-confidence resolution without warning to Ms. Stecich on public television. Nevertheless, Ms. Stecich advised the Board and the public that she has in fact been seeking, at no cost to the village, input from an eminent domain specialist, and is hoping to have one speak to the Board. A top-notch candidate was just ruled out due to a conflict of interest, and apparently such specialists are rare. Let Ms. Stecich continue her search process, and then the Board can decide whether to hire that particular person and in what capacity. A resolution calling for the hiring of such a person seems premature under these circumstances – I believe the Village had special counsel already selected when the Village passed comparable resolutions to hire them for Metro Enviro and the Millenium Pipeline litigations.

Trustee Kane reiterated his support last night for the Board’s decision to proceed with eminent domain on the 1A Croton Point property. I am glad to hear that, but as my mom would say, he has a funny way of showing it. If Trustee Kane truly does support the eminent domain proceeding, I urge him to ignore his political advisors and go back to working in his usual quiet but constructive and hardworking manner to achieve all the goals a successful, reasonably priced condemnation could achieve:

1) a centralized, larger DPW facility and cost savings and increased services resulting from it;

2) additional train station parking which would a) produce additional revenue to pay for the project and b) obviate the questionable need to build a $4 million parking garage and make certain related capital improvements at the train station; and

3) the permanent end of the use of 1A Croton Point Avenue for anything associated with non-Croton waste.

If, on the other hand, Trustee Kane now opposes the eminent domain proceeding, he should just come out and say so. Thanks to the wildly speculative and now admittedly unresearched legal assertions of Mr. Kauderer, Trustee Kane would not be alone in this view, and he may pick up a few votes along the way – which I assume is what last night’s show was all about anyway.

On March 7, 2006 4:02 PM, SSmith said:

wow! talk about must see tv…what a board meeting. i’m sorry i didn’t have my tivo revved up last night.

mr. steinberg looked like he was going to slug old charlie kane. and his cohorts brennan and the good doctor were clearly breathing fire. well good for all three of you…..how is little dose of your own medicine tasting today? the smackdown was on and you lost. go deal with it.

i think the board majority is way off base here and is totally mis-reading the wishes of the public in this eminent domain case. this action will indeed severely stretch the financial limits of the village. i for one will be among the first to put my house up for sale if it looks like this will trigger a HUGE hike in property taxes; i for one can not see how it won’t. even a small figure like single digit millions for taking the property will be very very risky to undertake.

i think the resolutions put forth by mr. kane were not out of line. i think the fierce and uncivil response he received was what was out of line. i think the mayor and that consummate gentleman mr. steinberg owe all of the commenters and mr. kane a public apology for their childish behavior in cutting them off.

i also think that many in the village, and i have said this before here, have very little to zero confidence in ms. stecich to “lead this village” as the good doctor says. she just does not project herself as being very sharp and confident. she seems like she is always grasping for the details on everything…..and in an attorney that is bad news.

i also think that the current board majority has indeed become legends in their own minds in the sense that they seem to have adopted a hostility toward all who question them. IS THIS THE OPEN GOVERNMENT THEY SO OPENLY ESPOUSE TO ALL OF US???? or is it just campaign hogwash that looks good in the bold type in the gazzette and journal news? you decide. i would have thought that openly discussing the resolutions brought by mr. kane would have been the purest form of open government.

we citizens, or commonfolk as it where, would like to see more roll up your sleeves work being done by this board on camera. in the end it is our tax money they will be pissing away to satisfy some narcissistic need to take on the garbage industry and prove themselves mightier than the rest. is the cost to we the taxpayers really worth satisfying the egos of three amateur politicians and their unofficial strategist — maria cudequest? they and ms. stecich are way way way out of their league here, it is painfully obvious.

i was comforted to see the spinstress herself, maria cudequest, finally re-appear last night and bless the work of ms. stecich. that was a big deal for all of us…afterall we all know how unbiased and above board ms. cudequest is when she operates. don’t we?

THE MARCH 21 ELECTION IS COMING MY DEAR NEIGHBORS….

LET’S END THIS LUNACY WITH GIVING THE POWER BACK TO THE PEOPLE IN THE FORM OF A DEMOCRATIC BOARD OF TRUSTEES PROVIDING NATURAL CHECKS AND BALANCES TO OUR REPUBLICAN MAYOR. OUR FUTURE HERE DEPENDS ON IT…..LITERALLY.

On March 7, 2006 11:34 AM, weewill said:

It appears clear from last night’s VB meeting that both Mayor Schmidt and Mr. Steinberg think all they have to do is preface any comment “with all due respect” and that excuses whatever insults they wish to hurl.

They are then free to be snide and sarcastic at will. They interrupt their fellow board members, cut off discussions they don’t want to engage in and silence any criticism of their closed door mentality and behind the scene machinations.

Mayor Schmidt tries to dictate what is to be and gets angry and defensive when any board member or citizen dares to question his “wisdom.” Jim Steinberg prefers not to let the public know what’s going on simply because we might question his maneuvers. His behind the scenes and secretive stealth of the Independence line in this election process is but one example of his “manipulation.” His arrogance and rudeness when questioned about any activity speaks volumes about his unwillingness to engage in open discussion.

I have not known Jim Steinberg except in his capacity as an appointed Trustee and I don’t like what I see.

I’ve known Greg Schmidt for many years and am surprised and disappointed at his changed demeanor since becoming Mayor.

Georgianna Grant X Trustee

On March 7, 2006 11:32 AM, Mrs. Smith said:

That was an stunning twenty minutes. For years, Greg Schmidt accused former Mayor bob Elliott of being rude to the public and stiffling comment - perhaps he ought to take a look at the video and see what he looks like himself, cutting people off and not allowing trustees to make resolutions. And Steinberg acts more arrogantly and high-handed than anyone on the podium in many years. Also cutting people off, telling them off, sneering at comments made. Ms. Stechich hardly looked like the consummate professional they all describe sitting there pouting like a child. Don’t forget that Schmidt along with his partner Deb Mc Carthy were much more insulting to Seymour Waldman when they insisted on hiring Mike Gerrard in circumstances that are almost exactly the same. If it was ok to suggest that Seymour Waldman needed some expert help, it is OK to suggest that Ms. Stecich get some expert help - I might add that Mr. Waldman was much more gracious in his acceptance of this situation. All that is being requested is that someone who specializes in Eminent Domain law be hired to advise on this VERY complicated process we are embarking on, a process which has the potential to bankrupt our wonderful village.



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