Proceedings of Council Meeting August 8
August 14th 2012 · 4 Comments
Utica Common Council Extends Moratorium on Hydrofracking
On Wednesday, August 8, the Utica Common Council extended the moratorium on hydrofracking that was passed several months ago to until December 31, 2013. Earlier in the meeting former candidate for Mayor, Bob Clemente of the Green Party had spoken in support of this legislation. This was passed a week after about 70 people rallied in front of the State Office Building urging an outright ban in New York State against this highly destructive process of extracting natural gas that poses huge threats to groundwater and road infrastructure in areas where it is proposed.
This continues to show that locally many of our elected public officials understand the great concerns the public has on this controversial issue, and Utica joins many other town and village boards in Oneida County and across the state that have supported similar legislation.
With a plan of divide and conquer, it does not yet appear that the NYS Legislature, Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Governor yet understand the depth of opposition to this highly destructive process that threatens the water supply, air, road infrastructure, health, and way of life across New York State. With the proposal of allowing limited drilling in counties in the Southern Tier, this issue remains a major issue across New York State with opposition likely to intensify in coming months.
While the Common Council may be in agreement in a largely symbolic way on this issue, they remain strongly divided on many other issues. While differences of opinion on political issues are expected, theatrical antics and often-personal attacks were sprinkled throughout the meeting on other issues.
District 6 Councilperson Samantha Colosimo-Testa wanted a change in order to discuss three specific pieces of legislation, which ultimately were sent to committee. This included a lengthy and nearly incoherent reading of the items in question, written by someone else in longhand. One of the issues included a call to censure fellow Councilperson Frank Vescera, District 1, for using his cell phone placed on a table for videotaping procedures in the caucus room prior to the general meeting as being highly distracting. This led to Vescera calling this manner of proceeding “unprofessional,” which led Council President Morehouse to remark, “Unprofessional is an interesting word for you [Vescera] to use.”
Jim Zecca, Council Member-at-Large said he wanted his name removed from this proposal.
This episode highlighted continued confusion over just what items should be sent to or remain in committee instead of being discussed openly on the floor of public meetings.
On the investigation of GroWest for abuses of federal monies that remains rather secretive with FBI involvement, the Council voted five to four to keep it in Committee. This was a heated exchange, with Councilpersons Meola, Colosimo-Testa, Marino, McKinsey, and Bucciero voting to keep it in committee. Councilmen Vescera and Zecca have been pushing for the Council “to renew its request to ask the State Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau to now investigate this matter and for the state Comptroller’s office to conduct a comprehensive audit of all city agencies revealed in the Hage and Hage Report,” and forward the resolution and report to the NYS Attorney General’s and Comptroller’s office as well as local State representatives. This controversy over alleged corruption will undoubtedly continue.
Another resolution with unanimous support was to call on Governor Cuomo to find a permanent replacement for Commissioner Michael Shamma who left as regional director of the State Department of Transportation in May. DOT District 2 includes Oneida and five other counties. Councilmen Ed Bucciero and Joe Marino expressed concerns that this position has been left vacant and the State may have plans on consolidation of DOT that would be detrimental to the area.
Morehouse did apologize at the end of the meeting for expressing his personal opinion of Council persons, noting that it had no place in Council meetings. However, all Council persons should try to be more professional in their exchanges, sticking to the facts rather than cheap personal attacks. This would likely improve the Council’s credibility and effectiveness when addressing hydrofracking, regional representation in the DOT, or other regional issues that involve local relations with various offices and agencies of New York State.
By Mark Ziobro