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Seth Davis Strikes Back at Croton's Mayor Schmidt

April 25, 2008

Because of widespread interest in the Mayor’s high-handed suppression of a citizen’s constitutional right to freedom of expression at a public meeting, Crotonblog is publishing the following communication and attachment from Seth Davis to the Committee on Open Government in Albany:

“Dear Mayor and Trustees:

I have been traveling on business since Sunday and have finally forced myself to watch the video of Monday night’s meeting.

Please know that I consider Mayor Schmidt’s treatment of my son Kevin to be not only shockingly rude but unlawful. The videotape of the meeting clearly shows that the Mayor asked Kevin to “sit down” less than 5 minutes after Kevin began to speak. Moreover, it is beyond the realm of comprehension for a public official even to suggest that members of the public be barred from speaking at open meetings of a governmental body because they participate in a particular exchange of information in a public medium. While you may not agree with a certain blog, you must recognize that we live and have lived for over 200 years under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees every citizen not only the right to post his opinions wherever he may please, but also to be heard before his representative bodies.

I have filed a request with the New York State Committee on Open Government for an advisory opinion on the legality of Mayor Schmidt’s actions. A copy is included.

For the record, I have ceased posting anything on Crotonblog almost a year ago because of my various disagreements with their mode of operation. Kevin, who is of legal age and able to make such decisions for himself, continues to post there, in what I believe to be a reasoned and respectful manner. Each of us has always signed all postings by name.

Please read this message into the minutes of your next Board meeting.

I believe the Mayor owes a full, formal, public apology to my son, and to the entire community.

Respectfully,

Seth A. Davis, 17 Wolf Road, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520

PS. I have been informed that some of you don’t read email. If so, may I respectfully ask (1) why are email addresses for each of you prominently displayed on the Village’s web page and (2) how is it, since you don’t read email, that you find Crotonblog to be so troubling?”


To the New York State Committee on Open Government

Sirs:

I am requesting an advisory opinion on actions taken and statements made by Gregory Schmidt, Mayor of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, at a meeting of the Village Board of Trustees on April 21, 2008. A videotape of the meeting may be found at http://www.webcasting.com/croton/04.21.2008croton.html

The Village has a policy of permitting citizens to speak for periods of 5 minutes during a regular “public participation” period at public meetings of the Board of Trustees. This period of 5 minutes is regularly enforced strictly against speakers who are critical of the Mayor, and extended freely for speakers who speak in favor of the Mayor.

On April 21 my son Kevin Davis, age 18, attempted to address the Board, but was interrupted, rudely and vociferously by the Mayor, and not permitted to finish his prepared remarks. Kevin begins to speak at 49:11 on the video, and at 53:333, Mayor Schmidt, after having interrupted him repeatedly, asked him to sit down, stating “you’ve gone on long enough with this.”

At the conclusion of the meeting the Mayor made a statement that persons who frequent a certain online “blog” that has been critical of him should not be allowed to address Village Board meetings. The Mayor’s comments begin at 1:17:47 of the videotape, and include, in relevant part, the following statements:

“I take umbrage that somebody who participates in Crotonblog… If you’re going to participate in that blog, and destroy this community, I’m not sure that you can really come here and criticize us for the work that we are doing… It is not something I am going to tolerate any more. If you’re going to come to me and talk about it you’re not going to come to this podium and talk about it.”

For the record, Kevin posts comments on Crotonblog (which can be found at www.crotonblog.com) and always identifies himself. I have ceased posting comments on that blog several months ago.

Your advisory opinion is requested on the following points:

  1. Is Mayor Schmidt violating the law by allowing speakers who agree with him to speak longer than speakers who disagree with him?

  2. Is Mayor Schmidt violating the law by interrupting critical speakers and then cutting short their time period for addressing the Board?

  3. Is Mayor Schmidt violating the law by barring citizens the right to speak at public meetings by reason of their participating in a public, online “blog”?

Thank you for your attention.

Seth A. Davis
17 Wolf Road
Croton-on-Hudson, New York 10520

On July 2, 2008 9:56 AM, Kate said:

Has the Mayor not heard to Citysearch, Yelp, localpages etc? The “internets” is full of information, Mr. Mayor, on businesses in communities across the nation. We simply do not live in the day and age where community leaders can “schmooze” with prospective business owners and not expect those business owners to do independent research online. Further, this mayor would do himself and Croton a favor if he got with the program and embraced technology. Viral internet campaigns and community run blogs are, perhaps, the most effective way to sell Croton to prospective business owners.

On June 7, 2008 8:09 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Someone at village hall needs to call the nearest funny farm for a pick-up—and fast. Seriously, in KWilly’s latest video, Mayor Schmidt declared that Crotonblog’s editors are “just as egregious as dictators around the world who have destroyed countries and nations.”

On June 7, 2008 7:19 PM, TeaDrinker said:

In another routine Internet search for the keyword phrase, “Croton Mayor Greg Schmidt,” I discovered a new video clip (a funny Star Wars parody in fact)—posted just two days.

Video clip:

Video description:

“June 2, 2008 was not an ordinary day, it was a day when the Croton on Hudson, NY Village Board Of Trustees met for their Bi-Monthly Meeting. During the citizen participation segment of the meeting, Michael Goetz talks to the Village Board about the business climate in this village. This is when the Republicans who control the Village Board decided to change the subject to CrotonBlog.”

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsgbFEdUPhU

On May 8, 2008 10:34 PM, supersilver322 said:

As someone who has recently turned 18, I know exactly who I’m not voting for. The mayor will now learn that it wasn’t a good idea to assume he could disrespect a younger member of the Croton community without any consequences. As an 18 year old, I can almost promise a record voter turnout in the next local election from Croton’s youth (above 18).

I guess I can understand why Shmidt was so pissed about Croton blog. After all, Croton blog destroys the community by publishing garbage like this!
“on April 23 at 12:20 AM:There was a report from a resident of Olcott Avenue about a loud group of youths in the area. Patrol responded to the scene, and after locating the group in question, asked them to be more quiet.” sarcasm

On May 5, 2008 9:03 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Nice try, Seth.

As it turns out, Mayor Schmidt didn’t allow your letter to be read into the minutes during the Board of Trustees meeting held on May 5, 2008, as you had requested.

On April 28, 2008 12:58 PM, Seth Davis said:

I will breach my vow of silence here to respond to my “friend”:

How do you know what I have or have not done?

Stay tuned.

Seth

On April 28, 2008 10:21 AM, TeaDrinker said:

My friend Seth Davis is such a limp banana when it comes to nasty, vengeful types like The Mad Mayor. Maybe that’s because his specialty is environmental law. His son has bigger cojones than he has. Why is he wasting his time writing to the Committee on Open Government in Albany, a truly toothless tiger? He should be calling the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union to this travesty of a mayoral ruling that flouts the very basis of our democratic system.

The ACLU, which defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, in 1977 would welcome the opportunity to tangle with Mayor Schmidt over this tyrannical edict. What are you waiting for, Seth? You know the drill. Forget about being Mr. Nice Guy. Take off those kid gloves, and hit Mayor Schmidt with every legal club at your disposal.

On April 26, 2008 11:43 AM, waffels said:

“I may not agree with what you say or do but I will defend with my life your right to say it”….I know the statement well but not the author..someone?…..my father spent 4 years ducking bullets to defend this statement…..mayor schmidt, you need to spin your chair around take a good hard look at the Rockwell painting……

On April 26, 2008 10:08 AM, dors said:

Wow! Who would have thought the Crotonblog had such powers to bring down a whole community? I’m not sure why our mayor is so fearful of free speech and the sharing of ideas. He’s “not going to stand for it”; Interesting. I had to chuckle when he kept saying Ross’ name over and over like he was letting us all in on a secret. We have finally found the source of the ‘axis of evil’ everyone is talking about.

Since our mayor does not answer emails or handwritten letters sent to him personally it’s rather hard to share ideas with him. Short of attending board meetings where the mayor is forced to respond to his constituents one wonders what his preferred method of communication would be. Seeing how reprehensibly Mr. Davis was treated at the podium I will continue to write editorials, letters, and blog on this site to get our mayors attention. If he doesn’t read this blog like he has said there is someone in his inner circle who does. How else would he know the Crotonblog is “trying to bring down this whole community”?

On April 26, 2008 9:41 AM, TeaDrinker said:

On a recent Internet search, using the query “Mayor Greg Schmidt,” (http://www.google.com/search?q=mayor+greg+schmidt), I found a result for the video clip in question, titled, “Croton Mayor Greg Schmidt (R) Loses Temper,” posted on AOL Video.

Watch:

Link.

On April 25, 2008 10:59 PM, waffels said:

I say bloggers rise up and practice our right to free speech. Let’s storm the next meeting and reference the blog time and again and let mein mayor try and shut us down…..pick a subject, reference the blog as the source….see what happens…..cyber organization….what do you say?……

On April 25, 2008 2:23 PM, weewill said:

The comment below may well be unpleasant to read but it needs to be said. The Mayor’s recent outburst and verbal attack directed at this young speaker and Crotonblog was certainly rude and unprofessional and it may have been “in violation”. I was extremely disappointed and offended by the Mayor’s public confrontation and verbal retaliation toward a young man who unquestionably “pushed the Mayor’s buttons” during citizen participation. This is a time set aside for our elected officials to listen and learn, not to be used as a bully pulpit from which to abuse and insult a speaker.

In my opinion, the Mayor, displayed a complete lack of control and professionalism, inappropriate and offensive from one who is supposed to set the mood and civility of discussions. He berated and interrupted this young man as well as the owner/editor of Crotonblog and all its users. He accused all participants of the Blog of damaging life in the village and of being nasty and divisive. Even worse, he further declared that anyone who associated or posted on that Blog would lose his or her right to speak before the board at public meetings. This is a surprising statement coming from an official who promised to deliver open government and to represent all the people.

Perhaps board members who allegedly refuse to read the Blog, should re-evaluate. They might become better informed about what a huge segment of the population thinks about. It’s pretty apparent that more people read the Crotonblog than the Gazette or the Journal News. Why do you suppose this is? Maybe it’s because the Blog carries Croton posts, written by Croton folks, about Croton events and expressing opinions and concerns of Croton residents.

Another thing to think about. Do these restrictions apply to the Mayor’s supporters who consume time considerably over any 5-minute limit at televised board meeting. And what about authors of the ugly cartoons and letters published in the Gazette? Do the same ground rules and restrictions apply to them?

On April 25, 2008 1:48 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Schmidtie, you’re doing a heckuva job!



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