Editorial: Gallo and his grip

Mayor Shayne Gallo. (Phyllis McCabe)

Mayor Shayne Gallo. (Phyllis McCabe)

Like many of us here in town, we at the Kingston Times have watched the events regarding the mayor and his conduct unfold with a mix of shock, embarrassment, frustration and concern.

We’ve been behind the mayor editorially and support pretty much everything he’s accomplished so far except firing Jen Fuentes. His emphasis on Midtown issues has been particularly admirable; he’s right in thinking that the fate of the whole city is tied to the welfare of its worst-off citizens.

I still believe he has a lot of potential to do good here. But that potential will be squandered and his effectiveness nullified if he does not get some kind of grip on his emotions and how he expresses them. As those close to the mayor and local politics know all too well, what he was caught on mp3 saying to Jeremy Blaber and the way he said it is not unique to Blaber’s situation.

Advertisement

Further, it is simply not a rational act for the mayor of a city to pull drivers over, whether they run stop signs or not. What if the driver was a wanted man and started a dangerous high-speed chase? What if he had a gun, freaked out and shot Gallo in the face? Lacking the training, ability to call in license plate numbers, body armor and backup the police enjoy, the encounter could have gone a hell of a lot worse than it did. Leave police work to the police. That’s what they’re paid for.

In the coverage of these incidents, there’s been some blowback to the effect of the media should shut the hell up and let the man do his job, because the coverage makes the city look bad. I would argue that it is the mayor himself who is making the city look bad with his barely hinged conduct of late and, more importantly, not talking about a problem doesn’t make it go away. Rather, silence and covering up just enables and intensifies it.

There’s also been some sentiment to the effect of it’s OK for a boss to yell at an employee. That sort of thing may have been acceptable in a Kingston of 100 or 50 years ago, but it’s 2013 — you simply cannot talk to people like that and retain their respect and cooperation. Exhibiting that kind of abusive and threatening behavior toward employees opens the city, and its taxpayers, to potentially costly litigation. And don’t get on the Common Council’s case. It’s just doing its job in exercising some oversight — the only oversight as neither state law nor the city charter has any provision whatsoever for a recall election. (This is yet another example of how this state deliberately minimizes and declaws the public and ensures power stays in the hands of the elite, but I digress.)

Speaking of un-democratic behavior, the mayor’s comments about the multi-ward meeting were every bit as bad as what he said to Blaber. Such talk, that the Common Council has no business in citywide affairs and those should be left to him, is the talk of tyrants, not democratically elected officials. If that is truly what he thinks, the city has made a grave mistake in voting him into office and he should resign immediately.

The mayor has issued an apology, though he almost ruined it with a lame excuse of being “passionate” and then inappropriately trumpeted his own achievements and agenda. (Wrong place for that kind of talk.) The apology is a decent enough start, but Shayne Gallo needs to get some help with whatever issues drive his explosive temper, for both his own good and the good of Kingston as a whole. I suggest he take a leave of absence, or maybe even just a vacation, to de-stress and re-evaluate. (May is Mental Health Month, after all.) If you can’t successfully manage your own anger, how can you ever hope to successfully manage a city?

There are 18 comments

  1. gberke

    I hardly think engaging another driver is some sign of anything except a strong sense of authority and responsibility… as the “what if!” worries are misplaced and excessive: to go from a reasonable confrontation with a person that was perceived to dangerously ignore a stop sign, distracted by this cell phone, to getting shot in the face? Really. And what if a second shot missed and struck an oil truck which struck a nun before ramming a school bus…
    This is the mayor and this is his city… as many other citizens feel their own personal responsibility for their neighborhood, their school… he was greatly offended as another might be with someone running up on their driveway….
    His letting loose on Blaber? I’m sure if Gallo knew his communication was to be broadcast, he would have been appropriately more circumspect. And if the citizens who chatter anonymously put their names to their opinions, they too might be a bit more calm and thoughtful. And whatever the relationship, employment and work and service are not arms length transactions but in small operations and intimate exchanges…. this was not an employer wantonly and with mean cause abusing an employee, but a close working friend that had sorely and repeatedly disappointed another. Some of that harsh talk might have served the city well had Sottile confronted his DPW friends with their brutal harassement of the women.
    The mayor has apologized. If there are some people that want more, please state explicitly what if anything would satisfy you, how well that might satisfy you, not that it would be done. But let’s see it. “Individuals who would do good must do so in minute particulars…”
    Journalistically, this kind of criticism is way too easy… let the lessor papers write this stuff and let the KIngston Times display it’s real talent.

  2. K'TOWNER

    Nicely written, Dan, but it’s not all about “his emotions and how he expresses them.” It’s also about WHAT is being expressed: I am the mayor, I control the police, I control the city, what’s in my best interest personally is by definition what’s in the city’s best interest, and I can and will use my power to hurt you if you don’t toe the line. Forget the f-bombs. Everything he says on the Blaber tape and is alleged to have said in the road-rage encounter would actually be more chilling if he’d said it in a calm and measured tone.

  3. Anonymous

    Very good points, Dan. The mayor’s behavior is frightening and should be of concern to all of the citizens. It is abuse of power, and even more frightening, because he can’t recognize that he is abusing his power … that he thinks it is his right. I agree. The mayor needs to address his anger issues.

    1. gerald berke

      It. Is. All. Hearsay.
      And. You. Are. All. Anonymous.
      And the Kingston Times ought not to allow anonymous comments… the industry knows that it greatly boosts participation at the same time it greatly lowers standards…

      1. Maddie

        Quit being an apologist for this abuser, Gerald. It is not “his” city. He was elected because people believed he was stable enough to lead the city. He has since proven their trust was unfounded. Recall him, now.

  4. anonymous

    Hearsay? Come on. Hearsay is defined as information received from other people that cannot be adequately substantiated or rumor. Nothing in this editorial or comments have been hearsay. We all heard the tape. We read both police reports. There is no hearsay, and there are no “rumors” reported here.

    And it is not gossip either. Gossip is defined as casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. Again, we all heard the tape. We read the police reports. We saw the truck parked on the train tracks. All of which have been confirmed as true.

    I remain anonymous to protect myself. In my opinion, the mayor is not to be trusted.

    1. gberke

      You remain anonymous so you can write irresponsibly and not be accountable. You remain anonymous to so you can rumor monger and protect yourself from people quite like yourself 🙂
      The media is complicit in this degrading of civic communication by letting a print forum be misused for fun and profit.

      Use your name: I’m sure you’ll find a lot less to say;

      Enuff. I am tired of this stuff.

  5. The Red Dog Party

    Mr. Barton: well done, very rational. I believe there’s more to this story. We may only have reached the tip of the iceberg, and the public, as it has indicated, is clamoring for the entire story. I have never, ever seen more people commenting here, or in any of the other journals.

    1. gerald berke

      The notion of this being the “tip of the iceberg” is in itself excessive… we seem to consider the volume of the conversation to be paramount, and the content secondary… ah, but from experience, don’t we actually take ti that was (see fast thinking vs slow thinking)… we are free to say some rather preposterous things if we say them softly and maybe with a British accent 🙂
      http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0374275637

  6. Cityhaller

    Mr. Berke,
    The whole idea that as Mayor, you can take the law into your own hands, verbally and/or threaten violence to anyone, and conduct yourself in a manner that is questionable at best, and dangerous art worst is ridiculous. The Mayor has exhibited behavior that has been brought into question for good reason. He is charged with representing Kingston for all of its citizens, not just those who think it is OK for him to scream, yell, threaten, and act foolishly.
    He has to slow down, put his position and responsibilities in perspective and act like a dignified leader and not an out of control thug drunk with power.

    1. gerald berke

      cityhaller: anonymous… you work at city hall.?.. but notice that being anonymous, you are quite intemperate… “out of control thug drunk with power”… how about deeply offended and hurt and embarrassed?

      But so long as you hide and write to hurt and punish, I can’t take your comments seriously… A working relationship in an intimate, trusted relationship with both parties involved and the closer the direct connection to each other, the more intimate and trusted is the relationship.

      When that is a job in public service, that relationship is further butressed: it is a public trust with both parties recognizing that the customer for both is the citizen, the city. It certainly carries some aspect of being a higher calling, like teaching or police work. The public expects more, and the job in public service carries an extra measure of trust and esteem.

      The public expects all involved, employee, employer and union representative to work with that in mind. We do not want our government to exploit its workers for our tax benefit, we do not expect the worker or the union to exploit or take advantage of the government..

      A parking attendant violated a public trust, the government was sympathetic and helpful to a good degree, but the matter went beyond that and government determined job had to end.

      Mr Blaber, having violated the trust and Mayor Gallo decided that termination was in order. Mr. Blaber, furthur violating public trust pushed for more and Mr. Gallo, I suggest, found himself personally and professionally embarrassed: he was strongly committed to good government and found he had supported the employment of a person that did not serve his city well.

      A “not obviously concealed recording device” and a few F-bombs later, we have further erosion of the public trust by legalistic maneuvering by Mr. Blaber and then the exploitation of the event and Mr. Blaberss misfortune of bad behavior by the Freeman, another violation of public trust: citizens have a reasonable expectation that news serve the public… like Blaber, a drowning man is a dangerous save and the Freeman, a drowning newspaper is a public risk.

  7. L. Humphrey

    Both the Mayor and attorney Zweben have displayed total disregard for common courtesy, respect for city employees/elected officials and lack of knowledge of union contract provisions. They both should resign.

  8. gerald berke

    Dear Mr Humphrey…

    I think “total disregard for common courtesy” is excessive, I think a lot of embarrassment and personal hurt comes into play… Mr Blaber certainly benefitted from his close personal connection to Mr Gallo and I would wonder that he is shocked! when it goes both ways… This mayor is a very competent and hardworking, a rare individual but I suspect that the distrust Mr Blaber has sown will hurt the city as much than his drug abuse damaged his professional and personal life. I truly hope this mayor can regain your confidence and support.

    yours truly

    A working relationship in an intimate, trusted relationship with both parties involved and the closer the direct connection to each other, the more intimate and trusted is the relationship.

    When that is a job in public service, that relationship is further butressed: it is a public trust with both parties recognizing that the customer for both is the citizen, the city. It certainly carries some aspect of being a higher calling, like teaching or police work. The public expects more, and the job in public service carries an extra measure of trust and esteem.

    The public expects all involved, employee, employer and union representative to work with that in mind. We do not want our government to exploit its workers for our tax benefit, we do not expect the worker or the union to exploit or take advantage of the government..

    A parking attendant violated a public trust, the government was sympathetic and helpful to a good degree, but the matter went beyond that and government determined job had to end.

    Mr Blaber, having violated the trust and Mayor Gallo decided that termination was in order. Mr. Blaber, furthur violating public trust pushed for more and Mr. Gallo, I suggest, found himself personally and professionally embarrassed: he was strongly committed to good government and found he had supported the employment of a person that did not serve his city well.

    A “not obviously concealed recording device” and a few F-bombs later, we have further erosion of the public trust by legalistic maneuvering by Mr. Blaber and then the exploitation of the event and Mr. Blaberss misfortune of bad behavior by the Freeman, another violation of public trust: citizens have a reasonable expectation that news serve the public… like Blaber, a drowning man is a dangerous save and the Freeman, a drowning newspaper is a public risk.

  9. LHumphrey

    The fact that an elected official used such vile language and threatened a low level ($17,000 a year) employee in the presence of an attorney who never suggested that the mayor should tone it down is a sure sign of an unbalanced personality and a dictatorial attitude. A simple “You are fired. Here is a letter containing the reasons for this action. If you disagree, take it up with the union.” would have been appropriate. The Mayor and Mr. Zweben were so far out of line on this one that it casts a shadow on their judgement as well as their ability to lead. Perhaps if he changed his attitude he could get cooperation from his own party.

    1. gerald berke

      Dear Mr Humphrey:

      Thanks for your reply. We disagree.
      I’ll leave the last word with you.
      We can continue this off line if you’d like.

      regards

  10. Tammy

    He is now Emperor Gallo. The city of Kingston is his domain. We are all serfs in his wake. All hail our mighty chief!

  11. CityHaller

    Mr. Berke,
    I honestly don’t care if you take me seriously or not. You also seem to ignore the road rage incident which to me, exemplifies the “thug, drunk with power” mentality. The Mayor needs to act like the Mayor, that is all I am saying. How anyone could disagree with that is beyond my comprehension. Apologist like you do not help Kingston. Who in their right mind would want to deal with a Mayor who has acted as Gallo has recently?

    PS: City Hall or any other part of the City is not a fun place to work these days. Read into that what you want.

    1. gerald berke

      I wasn’t there. And your comments here are taken seriously “city hall is not a fun place to work”… that is serious. (I assume you found it was good under Sottile? Did you find it bad the moment Gallo stepped into office?”
      My experience was different. I found a man voluble and engaged in the workings of the city, a visible affection for the city, a man putting in huge hours and who could speak authoritatively on plans, status and history. And I thought that would make City Hall THE place to work, THE place to be at the start of a city revival, covering art and public space and exemplary race relations, education, on and on…
      If in your experience this has been Gallo’s demeanor with his staff, with others at city hall, outbursts with a raise voice, yeah, that would be very unsettling…
      Again, I wasn’t there. But then, up until this, there was nothing in the paper… Hoffay, Dunn, too shots at hime, and there was some very unhappy stuff with the work of the prior administration, the fire department, block grants… on and on. That would surely mess with a man’s temper.
      City Hall ought to be a fabulous place to work… that needs a whole lot more information, work… when, where, why, who and what is to be done… Andi, Hayes… those people drew me in to the city…Hoffay, Whitlock, Senor, Sottile… they surely did not.
      Gallo is one man that seriously draws me in… not for his own sake, but what I think he has done and will do for the city of Kingston… I don’t expect universal agreement although that would really be nice… but I surely hope things are not as black as you might paint it…. say more. But I think the tone needs to be towards remedy, what and how and we improve… ad hominem attacks are destructive and really not interesting: they have no real content.
      And if you are a person to be taken seriously, I’m sure you care and measure people by the accuracy of their perception.

Post Your Thoughts