Plattsburgh’s mayor berated city councilors during their weekly meeting Thursday evening for what he says are their constant attempts to micro-manage city affairs.
An entirely new Plattsburgh City Council was sworn in at the beginning of the year and of the six, only one has previous governing experience.
Thursday evening the panel began to discuss a revised resolution from their previous meeting. It involves a contract for mold mitigation of a small lakeside snack bar damaged in the 2011 flood. As they considered yet another revision and whether they should approve a mold mitigation study, rebuild the snack shack, destroy it, or just install bathrooms, a frustrated Mayor James Calnon, an Independent, lashed out at his rookie panel. “I’m not sure that I’m the mayor of this damn city. I have to tell you I take great objection to this entire conversation because what I hear in this is the council does not trust my judgment. They don’t think that when I’m given authorization to spend money that I will have the sense not to spend it if we don’t need it. I sat in the council chair for seven years. Six years as budget officer. And I protected the taxpayer’s money now. To believe that I have to come back every moment to this council for authorization is offensive. And yes, I am angry. So approve it all you want.”
The only councilor with previous experience supported the mayor in berating his peers, although Ward Four Councilor Democrat Paul O’Connell was more subdued—attempting to diffuse the tension. “You have every right to be angry. I am totally confident in your abilities. I am sorry you feel that way, I would probably feel the same way in your shoes.” Mayor Calnon then asked if there was further discussion. With no response, he proceeded to a roll call vote.
Following the meeting, Mayor Calnon noted that it’s not just the marina zombie property that led to his outburst. Part of it is the council understanding their role in government . “I want the council to do their jobs and I want them to let me do my job. I think it’s not a question of inexperience. I just think it’s not having a realistic view of what they were elected to do. It is micro-managing. There isn’t any question that it’s micro-managing.”
Most councilors left very quickly once the meeting adjourned. Ward Two Councilor Democrat Mike Kelly didn’t talk about the mayor’s outburst and focused on his survey of constituents that he says don’t want any money spent on the marina building. “I personally wish we would put as much energy and as much time into making sure that this is a city where you can earn a living wage, and that you can have decent housing, and that your family can have decent recreational opportunities on the land, than I care about a marina. Marina’s for people with money. I say the taxpayers are right to be upset, unhappy or indifferent about this.”
Mayor Calnon says while the building isn’t particularly important, it represents an investment in the marina. “We spent $400,000 building that building. Should we just toss that away to spend another $400,000 to build something else in its place? That seems a little ridiculous to me. In fact, it’ll probably cost $100,000 if we wanted to tear it down. We’ve got to stop talking about it. We’ve got to stop trying to run the city by committee. The administration is here to do things. The legislature is here to enable things. And that’s my yank with tonight.”
The councilors rejected the initial proposal to authorize the mayor to contract with an engineering firm for design and construction support services associated with mold removal from the building on Dock Street. It passed a revised item limiting funding for a testing laboratory to conduct a mold assessment and provide recommendations for remediation.
Early in the meeting department liaison positions were approved for the city councilors. Mayor Calnon had to explain to a questioning councilor the role of a liaison and what oversight they have.