It has come to this, the mayoralty of Shayne Gallo, this sad and funny juncture where the mayor doesn’t want to give a state of the city address and no one can make him. Say what now? Oh, say nothing. That’s the deal now, that’s where we’re at. Let them eat silence.
Hard to know where to begin with this highly irregular and even more highly disrespectful — to the Common Council, yes, but more importantly to the people of the city who chose Gallo to be their mayor — turn of events. It’s in the charter that he has to do this, in no uncertain language. The charter that his own brother worked his butt off to get the citizens of Kingston to approve so he could be a “strong mayor.” For a “strong mayor” to punk out on a duty stipulated in the city’s constitution is weak sauce.
It’s been tradition for as far back as anyone can remember for the mayor to give this speech and we presume that prior to now it’s been no big deal. Certainly the ones I’ve seen did not come off as traumatic to the deliverer or the audience. It really doesn’t have to be a big deal. It’s a fine opportunity for whoever’s in charge to talk about the city, what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong, and what’s planned for the coming year. It’s a photo op and soundbite fest which a leader with any canniness at all can easily use to cheerlead, boost others and, if he or she is so inclined, self-promote. It’s an opportunity to step into a pre-arranged spotlight and say good things about the city, county, state or country of which one is in charge. Mike Hein uses the opportunity pretty well, in my opinion: he cheerleads for Ulster, sets a course for the coming year and takes a victory lap. If done well, people should come away from such a speech with pride and optimism.
Is it the biggest deal in the world? No, certainly not — the city will still run, the trash will still be collected, the KPD will still arrest people. Is it a squandered opportunity? It most certainly is and certainly not the kind of thing that happens in a “model city.” Is it a sign of trouble at City Hall? Hard to see it any other way.
What could possibly be behind this baffling refusal? His behavior has been very often erratic, vindictive, tenuously attached to reason and centered much more on ego, anger and creating rifts than being the kind of leader who brings people together to work toward a common goal. Maybe it’s all starting to catch up with him inside. Maybe he can’t be trusted to be stood up before a lectern, for fear of what might come out of his mouth. (If this is the case, he can just write something up and e-mail it.) Or maybe he is so angry at the city he runs that he can’t think of anything he really wants to say to us. Or maybe he just doesn’t give a crap about what other people think his responsibilities should be, or what his responsibilities actually are. Maybe it’s a case of Gallo thinking the public and government exists to serve him, rather than the other way around, and he’ll do exactly as he pleases. Maybe Gallo thinks it’s beneath his dignity to address the legislative branch of the city, a branch he has pilloried almost from the first days of being in office. Since he offers virtually nothing in the way of explanation, all I have, all the people of Kingston have, is speculation.
It shouldn’t have to be that way. There’s nothing special about Shayne Gallo that should get him off the hook for this. We presume the mayor’s paychecks, made of taxpayers’ money, clear. Nobody forced him be the mayor. He wanted the job, worked for it and now he has it. If he doesn’t want to do it anymore, fine — he can not run again, or if it’s really that hard, he can resign. This isn’t Russia.
If he does want to be the mayor, then Gallo should do it as it’s supposed to be done, as it says right there in the city charter: “The Mayor shall prepare and present during the first month of each fiscal year of the City an annual message to the Common Council. The annual message shall describe the condition and state of the city and shall identify matters and issues the Mayor believes should be addressed by the Council in the ensuing year.” ‘Nuff said. Except for this: Seems a bit of sour grapes and junior-high cattiness for Brian Seche to speech-block Matt Dunn like he did. Grow up, man.