By ALISSA SCOTT
After election season winds down, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane has historically invited each alderman-elect to her office for a one-on-one meeting to discuss their goals. This year's group has decided to take it into their own hands.
"We had set up some individual meetings with the new council and evidently they met yesterday and have decided not to meet with me individually," Thane said. "They said that they would let me know when they want to meet. They will meet as a group with me."
Absentee ballots confirmed the election of Republican Ronald Barone to the 3rd Ward Common Council seat. He will join Republicans Edward W. Russo in the 1st Ward, Diane Hatzenbuh-ler in the 4th Ward and Richard Leggiero in the 5th Ward to create a GOP supermajority on the council.
Hatzenbuhler said their decision to meet as a group has nothing to do with the influx of Republican councilmen, however she hadn't thought to invite 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beek-man, the lone Democrat.
"It's not that way at all," Hatzenbuhler said. "It's just that three of us are new and coming in, and we just asked Richie since he's Richie and he's been there for six years already. We just wanted it to be us new people. No intention of leaving Val out at all. Hadn't even thought about it to be honest with you."
Thane said Hatzenbuhler missed her meeting completely because of "phone number confusion," but when Thane called her, Hatzenbuhler said the "new kids on the block" will not be meeting separately.
"We're just going to meet at one time so that way [Thane] doesn't have to give us all a spiel," Hatzenbuhler said. "We all get the same spiel at the same time. It's going to be a spiel. She's just going to [say] welcome aboard and we're all going to work together ... basically that's what it's going to be, I would assume."
Thane said she had wanted to clue each alderman-elect into the city's current projects and her long-term goals, however, she isn't upset that they would rather meet as a group.
"Maybe that will be better, and maybe instead of doing three tap dances, I'll get to do one," Thane said. "And we can brainstorm as a group. So maybe it's a positive thing."
She said she hopes this is not a sign of uncooperative behavior from the majority of the council.
"I would hope that they are sincere about working with this administration," Thane said. "Because we really have made so much progress on all fronts. It's easy to stand outside of the animal and think about what you'd like to do, but I would hope that they really take the time to speak with department heads, to review budgets, to talk about operational efficiencies and departmental needs before making any decisions about where they're going to go."
Barone said they're just taking advantage of the fact that the group has not yet been sworn in and do not have to follow certain rules.
Once there is a quorum, or three out of five aldermen present for a meeting, the public and press have to be invited, he said.
"This is a time for us to air out our ideas," Barone said. "What are we looking at? In what direction? Instead of going somewhere half-cocked in a meeting, when you've got press and everyone saying, 'That's kind of stupid.' I think it's a lot better for us so that we can air out our ideas and see where we are with things."
"That's why we can meet with different city officials in a group," Hatzenbuhler said. "Surely, it's going to make it easier for them than to have to give them the same spiel to three people."
Barone said the Republicans just using their right to caucus.
"We're allowed to have a caucus at any time," Barone said. "There's no agenda. There's four different people here. Beekman is a part of it. Just because she's a Democrat, that doesn't mean anything."
Thane said she hopes this isn't a slight toward Beekman and she hopes the GOP aldermen will invite her to their mass meeting. The meeting has not been scheduled yet, but Hatzenbuhler said it could be next week or it could be in December.
Thane also sent an email to the incoming council seeking measurable goals from the group.
"In anticipation of our meeting to discuss the work you wish to tackle, I would appreciate you sharing your thoughts as to what you'd like to focus on over the next two years," Thane wrote. "Please consider goals that are necessary, measurable and achievable. Articulating these goals will help us to work collaboratively to meet the needs of our community."
Barone said his main concern right now is the annual update document. Though it has been filed, he said it "puzzles" him and doesn't balance. He said he wants to speak with deputy Controller David Mitchell about it.
When asked if she would be complying with the mayor's goals request, Hatzenbuhler said as of now, the newcomers' goal is to analyze the AUD and "take a look at the money."
"Frankly, I'd like to see all the spending stopped except for the payroll and all the bills we're committed to. No new spending until we know what's going on," Hatzenbuhler said.