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Mayor: Power play is holding the city back

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - Updated: 10:25 AM


Mayor Ann Thane says the power struggle between her and the new Amsterdam Common Council is holding the city back.

"This grasping for control rather than dealing with the challenges this city experiences is not good for any of us," Thane said.

Diane Hatzenbuhler, 4th Ward alderwoman, said she doesn't know if there is a power struggle between the council and mayor "per se," but does acknowledge there is some tension.

"I think this is the first time the mayor has been challenged in five years," Hatzenbuhler said. "She's not used to it. We're a different council. I think we're more mature, more educated. Certainly not Mr. [David] Dybas, but some of the other individuals took no interest. We have taken a genuine interest. We ran on trying to straighten out these problems."

To start off their terms, the council introduced eight consent resolutions that had not been seen by Thane until the Jan. 1 organizational meeting. Two of those resolutions concerned contracts between the former Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course professional Joseph Merendo and concessionaire Laura Elmendorf and were vetoed by Thane.

The former council worked with the Golf Commission to release requests for proposal as Merendo's and Elmendorf's contracts expired. The goal was to find new people to run and revitalize the course, because membership has drastically declined over the years.

Because of the Muni's "underperformance" -- and alleged conduct by Merendo, according to a report released by the commission -- both the city and the commission thought it was time for a change.

Five people, including Merendo, offered proposals, with the commission recommending Richard Scott, the current pro at the Fox Run Golf Club in Johnstown.

Thane issued a written reasoning behind her decision to veto the resolutions, explaining the contracts do not support the taxpayers or the golfers at the course.

But the council members prepared overrides, which were passed unanimously, before they read her reasoning.

Still unsatisfied, Thane created a compromise statement she read and hoped to discuss at the last council meeting.

Thane's compromise suggests a dual system at Muni. She proposed to hire Merendo as a city-employed golf pro, and instead contract with Golf Commission choice Scott as general manager.

The council decided against a discussion during that meeting and postponed it for a committee meeting Wednesday.

Following the last council meeting, Hatzenbuhler wrote a letter to the editor explaining the council's override and postponed compromise discussion on behalf of the council.

The lengthy piece explained why they chose to override the mayor's vetoes. Hatzenbuhler wrote that the mayor's compromise is a "sham."

Thane said she didn't agree with the statement.

"Is it just me, or does Diane's very public derision of my compromise offer indicate a lack of willingness to work together toward an amicable solution?" Thane asked. "Shouldn't she have waited to at least pretend she was sincere about wanting to work collaboratively?"

Thane said Hatzenbuhler wrote "on behalf of others" and wondered if the other councilmen were aware of what she was writing before she submitted it.

"Shouldn't Joe Merendo have been consulted before flatly labeling this a 'sham?'" Thane asked.

Hatzenbuhler said the same of Thane.

"You cannot sit and digest something of that nature and not discuss it with the individuals involved and make a decision right then and there," Hatzenbuhler said. "We chose to table it and it's on the agenda for Wednesday night."

Thane also wondered whether the aldermen came to the meeting with their minds already made up, as they had during the first meeting of the year.

"It seems, in the very least, Ms. Hatzenbuhler has been acting precipitously," Thane said. "She indicated before the meeting that they would have a prepared statement. I came expecting that they would read [the compromise]. This is not cooperation at any level and is poor governance."

Last week, Ronald J. Barone Sr., 3rd Ward alderman, said that if the mayor continues to veto the council's unanimous decisions, they will continue to override them.

Thane said she continues to extend a hand and offer "workable solutions," but she doesn't know how much can be done if the council is "committed to ignoring [her] attempted detente."

She suggested that if the council is offering solutions to the underperformance of the golf course, an "actual strategy to building audience and revenues," or "operating in a transparent fashion," it would be easier to understand.

Hatzenbuhler said it's going to take give and take on both parts.

"That's going to require that she respect our decisions as much as we respect hers," Hatzenbuhler said. "The fact that she has basically had her own way for the past five or six years, she has been challenged very little. The previous councils gave her everything she wanted."

Hatzenbuhler said the mayor should have known the new council did not intend to ignore the issues at the golf course.

"The bottom line is she's being challenged," Hatzenbuhler said. "The public made it clear they don't like her policies and it's contributed to where we are today."


Comments made about this article - 1 Total

Posted By: Mike Dailey On: 1/28/2014

Title: What happened to the Big Issue?

It appears that the Mayor & the Council collectively have forgotten or perhaps even chosen to forget the State Comptroller's report on the City's finances. Unless the Recorder's reporter has overlooked a discussion occurring since January 1st, it appears the questions like "Can the City pay it's bills?" and "Was the $1.3 million discrepancy just a bookkeeping error or was it something worse?" and "How is the money borrowed for capital projects but used for general fund expenses going to be paid back?" have been ignored. These questions ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE GOLF COURSE!

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