Important Message from Councilwoman Drew Claxton

Councilwoman Drew Claxton
Councilwoman Drew Claxton

Dear Peekskill Democrats,

On Wednesday, the final votes were counted and the Democrats retained a 4-3 majority on the Peekskill Common Council. Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan fell just three votes short of re-election. However, Vivian Cyndi McKenzie, the Democrat currently filling Don Bennett's seat by appointment, easily won the special election to retain that seat. I am confident that Vivian and I , along with sitting Councilmembers Darren Rigger and Kathie Talbot, will be able to continue the progress we have made in Peekskill over these many years.

It is important to note that Peekskill has a City Manager form of government and, while the Mayor plays an important symbolic role on the Common Council, he or she has but one vote. All governing decisions must be made by a majority vote of the Common Council. Democrats hold the majority. The management of City Hall personnel, which includes hiring and firing, is solely within the purview of the City Manager. All other decisions concerning budget, contracts, appointments, and development must be approved by a majority of the Common Council.  These important matters will have to be debated and discussed in full view of the public, not in private conversations with staff or developers. As Democrats, we believe in open and transparent government. We take this charge seriously and plan to uphold the commitment.

I remember that, in 2001, when I was elected the lone Democrat on the Peekskill Common Council, my Republican Colleagues, rather than working collaboratively with me, sidelined me and excluded me from having a real voice in the decision-making process. It wasn't right then, it won't be right in 2014. I assure you that as the majority party in City Hall we will make sure every council member has a voice and we expect the incoming mayor to ensure the same.

These are uncharted waters in Peekskill. We have never before had a mayor from one party and a majority of council members from the other. In order to make this bipartisan government work, my fellow Democrats have asked me to serve as the Majority Leader on the Common Council and to act as the day-to-day negotiating partner with the new mayor. Additionally, Democrats have selected Councilwoman Vivian Cindy McKenzie to serve as the Deputy Majority Leader. I am hopeful that Mayor-elect Catalina will work with us in a collaborative fashion.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Mayor Mary Foster, Councilman Andy Torres, and Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan for their dedication and service. They have put their blood, sweat and tears into this community and have been tremendously successful in moving this City forward. Six years ago, when Mayor Foster was first elected, she set forth a vision for this city that has, in large part, been realized. Peekskill has become a Hudson Valley destination for music, arts and dining, a place where people from throughout the region want to come to live, work, and play.

We have a lot of work to do before the end of the year and as always, we will all continue to work in the best interest of the City and its residents from now until inauguration day, and beyond.

Thank you very much for your support. I promise to be a Majority Leader you can be proud of.


Drew A. Claxton

Majority Leader, Peekskill Common Council


Karen O November 23, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Honestly Drew, this letter does not seem like much of a fig leaf. I really don’t like the tone of this at all. I am a democrat and the only candidate I supported this year was Marybeth. The fact is that democrats were not pleased with the direction of the council and that’s why the party took such a shellacking despite a substantial advantage in registered voters. What you all did with the Peekskill Celebration, the Paramount, the Kiley Center, the methadone clinic, etc. did not feel like “open and transparent” government at all. I was hoping for a conciliatory tone, some self reflection but the hubris required to create a self appointed title of “Majority Leader” proves this is not the case. It makes a mockery of the office of Mayor just as Peekskill so desperately needs to be taken seriously. The additional step of creating a “Deputy Majority Leader” (like Deputy Mayor) is almost infantile. A lot of us crossed party lines this year for a reason. I’m not familiar with the nuances of the City Manager system but I can say that I thought I voted for more then a “symbolic” Mayor and it’s an insult to your constituents to suggest otherwise. Please stop politicking, jockeying for power and respect the voters by working together and getting our City going in a productive direction.
Mary Jane November 24, 2013 at 07:48 AM
Well, Karen O, maybe your should familiarize yourself with the "nuances of the City Manager system" and then you'd have a much better comprehension of what she's presented. The City of Peekskill, by virtue of its own Charter, has a City Manager form of government, whereby the City Manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of this City. You can refer to the Charter, available on the City's website, for reference. You will further see that the Mayor is a part-time position and the Mayor's vote is one of seven required to pass resolutions to effect policy. So in actuality, no matter who you voted for, the Mayor is a symbolic, sometimes referred to a ceremonial, mayor. Mr. Catalina obviously couldn't wait to get his hands on power that the charter doesn't even bestow upon him. He tells us in his statement that he's "directed" the city manager. Really. THAT's infantile and THAT's jockeying for power. The charter doesn't provide for him to "direct" anyone. THAT's disrespectful to the voters and to the taxpaying citizens of this city. We will remind him of such rest assured.
Ed Cummins November 24, 2013 at 10:58 AM
It looks to me that Councilwoman Claxton has fired the opening salvo in what is headed toward a cantankerous relationship with the newly elected mayor. Nowhere in her "Important Message" did I see a congratulatory mention about the incoming Republican members. So much for bipartisanship! Also, there must have been a reason why the voters rejected the "visions" the 3-term mayor and her two sitting council members had for our city. Think about it, Drew.
Tina Bongar November 24, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Well, it seems the Majority Leader is setting up the Minority Mayor to look bad -- if he's serious about bringing change then his first steps into office will be about that and bringing in sorely needed business for our tax base (what elected representatives do), versus blaming Mary Foster and the Dem's for everything (political grandstanding). The majority wants to see a change of leadership in Peekskill was the message of the election and the "vision" of "organically growing" the riverfront and business voters didn't buy because, frankly, it was private small business ownership that has brought changes downtown. (I'm really angry at the two party system, as it left behind two candidates I think would have been good and have experience -- Chris Hanzlik and Mary Beth McGowan...) I hope the Dems are listening, because their party is not inclusive and far from transparent, I'm so disillusioned with them as the first comment here noted. Moving forward: rezoning downtown, better business vision at City Hall (hey what about applying a few of those principles outlined in the retail study since we paid for it already!). If the new Mayor and the GOP play their typical personal political routine, don't let go of all their political animosities of the election and blame game, they'll be out in 2 years (although everyone gave Foster 2 tries). We should all help the city bring in new, creative entrepreneurs downtown for our tax base, it's best for all.
donaldo November 24, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Congratulations to all those recently elected here in Peekskill! Hopefully, things will go well for all of us that you represent. Citizens should keep in mind that our City Charter may be altered by a process known as Charter Revision by Initiative and Referendum. My understanding is that this process, albeit cumbersome, requires no input from Council members.
Tina Bongar November 24, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Donaldo -- can you direct me to where this in the City Charter? By initiative, would this be something that residents could bring to the city manager is another question your comment brings up
donaldo November 24, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Thank you, Tina. It's in section 37 of the Municipal Home Rule Law. Let's hope things work out before we start thinking too much about this though. Good Luck to everyone and Happy Holidays!
ted bitter November 25, 2013 at 07:47 AM
Honestly people under our form of Government, a divided Government works best. I was not at all comfortable when the GOP was the only party in control in Peekskill for 25 yrs neither was I comfortable with total Dem control for the past 6 yrs. now we have a divided Govt. this is how it should work for the benefit of all. So if anyone thinks the opposition should roll over and play dead then you being naive. Many of you as I recall, accused the previous administration of Rubber Stamping. Now it appears that you expect that. A healthy and fair debate on the issues is needed. The Election is over. We have a new Mayor and new members of the Council. Things will change. The only thing that I see that has not changed is the level of negativity and hate spewing from some folks. I for one wants Mr Catalina to be Successful. I think working with this Council in a Bipartisan fashion, will make Peekskill a better place. My advise is ignore the Chatter and get to work.
JM November 25, 2013 at 09:04 AM
Was this important message in response to the mayor-elect meeting privately with city employees? I can appreciate his high level of energy to get started, but also think such a planning session with strategic goals being set with the city manager and others at city hall could have been done with the new common council at his side. Or at least he could have invited them ... if they declined, that is their choice. Neither party can afford two city councils, each doing their own thing...
donaldo November 25, 2013 at 09:04 AM
So, the de facto leader here in Peekskill is now Ted Bitter?
george coniglio November 25, 2013 at 09:08 AM
Thank you for this important clarification Councilwomen Claxton. There was hope that the GOP would perhaps end their campaign of deception once the election was over. This was the group that invaded Mayor Foster's home with unauthorized photos which had nothing to do with improving Peekskill. They refused a fair debate. They found the most unflattering photos of Mary Foster they could find, while at the same time re-running obviously retouch photos of themselves. There was the false claim that the Swimmer Statue was paid for my Peekskill residents when in fact it was not. Lastly the public was subject to GOP Cyberbullies who attacked anyone calling for facts. Most of these Shrills hid behind false names while at the same time using Facebook pages to get personal with those who had different viewpoints for our great City. Presently the Mayor Elect continues a path of deception by implying a false range of authority in contrast to the official powers of his position. Like many, it is hoped that come January those who employed such tactics can step up their game which calls for dedicating themselves to the betterment of Peekskill. A word to the Patch; Thank you for providing this forum. BUT.... a policy banning profanity and personal attacks is much needed to prevent cyber-bullies especially by those to stay in the shadows of false names.
ted bitter November 25, 2013 at 09:42 AM
Well Donaldo I'm a Veteran, I pay taxes, I do Volunteer services in my Community (Peekskill) (Westchester Striders.org) I vote and just like everyone in our Great Country I have a Constitutional right to speak and have an opinion. I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday and a prosperous future.
donaldo November 25, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Congratulations, Ted. I wish the same for yourself and Drew.
Tina Bongar November 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Thank you so much Ted for your comments here, always. As far as Donaldo's comment, I would be honored to have you elected for anything you ran for. You always bring principle to your statements, vision and passion, and I'm very grateful to live in the community with you. Thank you for continuing to endure personal attacks, join the discussion and it means a lot to me every time I read one of your comments. I think if we all continue to have the same kind of position about politics, that it should be a discussion of principle over personality, we'll bring Peekskill farther and sooner. Thanks again.
ted bitter November 25, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Thanks Tina! Like many others including yourself we have put soo much into this little town on the Hudson. We have a right to expect more. We are entitled to the best. I don't believe in settling for any less. So let's continue to hold our elected officials feet to the fire to do what's in everybody's best interests. There is something very powerful and right about civil discourse. Tip Oneil said all politics is Local and right now in Peekskill it's very important. Thanks for all you do.
Silent Majority November 25, 2013 at 10:34 PM
ted bitter November 26, 2013 at 07:07 AM
Well Mr/ms Silent majority when the rains falls, it don't fall on one mans house. To haul the Garbage is only $5.00 and recyclables are free. If we were getting 100.000 visitors it seems the Celebration would have been highly successful and the private group that ran it would not have to close it. I enjoy going to the Barber shop and getting my hair cut even though I'm half bald, I like to support local businesses. You need to get the facts about Fords and Hugo's from the business men who own them. Stop spewing negativity and some angry falsehoods, it's not helpful. The Glassj is not always half empty. I am grateful to be in Peekskill in Hesse tough times. I have travelled to many upstate and NJ towns similar to
ted bitter November 26, 2013 at 07:12 AM
Peekskill and believe Me i wouldn't want to be there. It's just awful. Today I give thanks for what I have rather than complain about what I don't have. So take a deep breath relax. Stop writing in all CAPS too much anger is not good for you. Thank God you only represent you and not the "Silent Majority"
Silent Majority November 26, 2013 at 12:20 PM
I guess I did speak on behalf of some of the "silent majority" since a new mayor and 2 others were elected and 3 dens were put it to dry. Now don't get me wrong, I am not a Catalina lackey not a fan of ms foster. However, I will give credit where it's due, ms foster got us through a rough patch, however she made some mistakes and missteps and that's why she's not there any more. She also six not have a vision that as clearly put forth to the public. I am not sure Mr Catalina will be able to make all of those dreams he has a reality. I'm a realist. However, I do know that Peekskill was on a path to economic prosperity before and it slowed down drastically. I know my taxes have gone up immensely over the past few years and I lost services as did many others. That sir is what the reality is. Yes I am angry about paying more taxes and receiving less service.
ted bitter November 26, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Believe me SM I feel your pain. I chose to take my life inheritance and my wife's life savings o open a Business in Peekskill . But alas the year I opened we hit the worst Recession since the Great Depression. It has been tough. Prices rise utilities rise cost of food rises. I can't raise prices to offset those increases because I will lose my client base. So I pay my Staff, pay my Bills keep the doors open and hope for better days to come. In my lifetime I may never get a real return on my investment, but you know something I'm providing a service to my community and that's priceless. I could have lost it all in Wall Street to the Banks.
leesther brown November 30, 2013 at 02:24 PM
@Bob you are exactly right...now you have learned a valuable lesson.....all that smile in your face ain't your friend,and all that kiss you don't love you....
leesther brown November 30, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Hold it...Ted and Drew are married?!..lol....
leesther brown November 30, 2013 at 03:12 PM
What happened to Hechlers comment?!
donaldo November 30, 2013 at 05:59 PM
I don't really know if thy are married. My understanding is that Ted has been together with the Deputy Mayor, now Majority Leader for some number of years now and that in itself makes him one of the most if not the most influential men in Peekskill. He has every right to speak out and we should regard what he tells us as important.
leesther brown November 30, 2013 at 10:11 PM
@Hechler..slow your roll there Queenie...I simply responded to the post,and whoever posted it is exactly right..Now as far as your cooment about what I am you need to hope I dont jump on your arse punk....
leesther brown November 30, 2013 at 10:48 PM
@Hechler.you on here talking all that BS.you aren't going to link ish to me so Im not worried about that..but trust and believe it will be your soft arse that will need the pity...stop with your mess......#watchoutforthatbumblebee


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