“Happy days are here again!” sang former mayor Jim Sottile as he danced out of City Hall following the inauguration of Mayor Steve Noble on New Year’s Day. It was an expression not only of joy and achievement, but also of relief.
The bad old days of Shayne Gallo were officially over. Winners write history. Long live the king!
With the possible exception of Frank Koenig‘s first inaugural in 1970, this was to my long memory the biggest crowd to attend this annual city event. By fire code, Council Chambers seats about 225 people. Every seat was filled and they were standing three-deep around the edges. The well between the podium and the aldermen’s seats’ rail was filled with relatives and officials. Media agreed that “well over 300” was fairly accurate.
Most outgoing mayors stay away in deference to the incoming chief executive, but if Gallo had attended what is the premier civic event of the year in Kingston, he would have been stunned. In a rare moment of honest self-evaluation he might even have thought, “This is what I was up against?” The Japanese probably had the same reaction when they signed the surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
It was Gallo’s contention that a small cadre of zealots, hipsters and newbies brought him down. It hadn’t started that way.
“We had to convince a lot of people,” said Alderman-at-Large Jim Noble as he gazed upon his nephew accepting congratulations after his mayor’s address.
“You mean Steve?” I said, thinking he meant the challenger might have developed cold toes as the incumbent lacerated him during the campaign.
“No,” he said. “Steve was committed from the start. It was a lot of other people. It wasn’t easy, either.”
He didn’t have to paint me any pictures. Kingstonians do not idly embrace regime change, especially if it’s an incumbent Democrat with a name like Gallo. And if that challenge comes from what is supposed to be a loyal city worker like Noble, all the worse.
As noted, Gallo wasn’t in the house his late brother rebuilt in 1998-2000, but he had taken the sign for the mayor’s parking place outside City Hall. Noble, more bemused than annoyed, said he didn’t have a problem with that. He doesn’t plan to order himself a parking spot. Let’s see what he says the next time he’s cruising the always-crowded City Hall parking lot with VIPs waiting in his office.
I noticed they still hadn’t repaired the water damage over the city seal in the front of council chambers. T.R. Gallo ran out of money on City Hall’s restoration 15 years ago and cut some corners. They’re beginning to show.
Vindictive on bad days, Shayne Gallo took everything but the furniture from his former office. There wasn’t a filing cabinet in sight or a scrap of paper anywhere. Every shelf was cleaned out and dusted. (I checked.) Nobody seemed eager to open a suspicious-looking travel case in one corner. At least it wasn’t ticking.
Got the picture?
For some reason yet unclear, Gallo took his brother’s official portrait down from the hall of mayors in the adjacent mayor’s conference room. By a chance juxtaposition, the brothers’ portraits will hang adjacent to each other for eternity, or at least until the next City Hall fire.
Analyzing the former mayor is a popular Kingston parlor game. Some suspected a suppressed sibling rivalry too long unresolved. Gallo defenders said the frames were just being matched up for posterity. Maybe the intent was to hang uniquely different frames for the two Gallos. Ironically, the late Gallo, who had an eye for detail, ordered the same-sizing of mayoral portraits and new frames in conjunction with the City Hall restoration. All are exactly alike.
While he can’t appreciate it now, the good news for the ex-mayor is that like most other mayors he will become more popular in time as people forget and forgive.
The Rev. Johann Christoph Arnold of the Bruderhof, always close to Gallo, might have started that process at the opening of his benediction when he thanked the former mayor (to scattered grumbles). “He gave the best of everything,” Arnold said. “I know Mayor Noble will continue this tradition.”
Supreme Court Justice Jim Gilpatric, who administered the oath to Gallo four years ago, also paid tribute to the former mayor, perhaps with tongue in cheek. “I didn’t think this many people would show up for Shayne’s farewell address,” he quipped, fingering the lucky green tie he wore in 2012 when he administered the oath of office to Gallo.
Mayor Noble opened his formal remarks on a light note. “I can’t believe we gave out this many parking tickets yesterday,” he said, referring obliquely to one of Gallo’s last unpopular acts in office, the reinstitution of paid parking during the holidays.
I suspect the fine hand of party scribe and former alderman Tom Hoffay in the Noble speech. He wound up where he had begun. Concluded the mayor, to thunderous applause, “I welcome you back to City Hall in the future, and not just to pay your parking tickets! Now, let’s get to work.”
I’ll leave reporting for the record to my esteemed colleague, Jesse Smith, with perhaps some editorial insight from editor Dan Barton. What I look for at these events are applause lines, crowd reaction, old friends. Noble, by my count, delivered seven applause lines, not including intros and exits, in a 2,200-word address.
Here’s a few:
“Time for a change,” though hackneyed, almost always draws huzzahs, especially when the recently departed is held in less than widespread affection.
Noble’s call for a “respectful and productive dialogue” is of course every administration’s goal, though not always achieved.
The city’s new compressive plan that Alderman-at-Large Noble chaired got a nice hand, though after awhile it was apparent the same people were clapping for similar things. This was, after all, a New Kingston crowd, albeit older establishment types were well-represented.
In something of a paradox, Gallo usually got good marks for outreach. Without mention of his predecessor, Noble pledged even more. While Noble seems to lack the vengeance gene so common to politicians, in this case a bow to the ex-mayor would have ennobled both.
He used the word “respectfully” quite a lot, which rings true. He seems a good listener.
Some, after attending more than a few of these inaugurals, might conclude they’d heard it all before, or at least some variant. There remains some angst about this young mayor, the feeling that his New Kingston progressive agenda might portend something new and strange. There’s stop signs on almost every street corner in town for a reason, you know.
While more detail would have been appreciated, I found this mayor’s address one of the better ones in its statements of principles and broad goals. Now the hard, frustrating work of governance begins. As Robert Redford‘s character said to Peter Boyle‘s in The Candidate after they had won, “What do we do now?”
Eight of nine aldermen were sworn in New Year’s Day, with freshman Doug Koop of the Second Ward excused by Jim Noble. What was the excuse, I asked Noble after the mayor’s address.
“He told us when he was nominated that he had made plans to be out of the country on New Year’s Day,” Noble said. Pressed, the council president revealed, “He’s in Russia, but he’s not a communist.” Could Koop have booked a room in Moscow at the fashionable Putin on the Ritz? The one with the T-34 tanks parked in front?
With one alderman absent, Noble generated some confusion in the audience by announcing council votes of 8-1 and then later, 8-0. Under council rules, abstentions, but not absences, are counted as no votes. Noble got back on track after a while, though he didn’t explain the gear-shift to the audience. Unlike Koop, Lynn Eckert (Ward 1) and Tony Davis (Ward 6), Noble is no rookie, this being his 14th year in the catbird seat.
It was a nice touch for the council president and the mayor to shake hands with each of the aldermen. Talk about happy days. For now.
Mayor Noble restored a long-standing Kingston tradition by holding his inaugural on New Year’s Day. T.R. Gallo, in deference to his hard-partying inner circle and pals, had moved the inaugural to the first Common Council meeting of the month back in the 1990s.