Statement from Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster on Rules to Protect Residents' Rights to Speak

Mayor Foster says that one group's political agenda has intimidated others who want to speak at Council meetings.

Editor's note: What follows is a Patch reader-generated announcement. For instructions on how to create your own, click  here.

Dear Peekskill Resident,

Over the last several weeks, dozens upon dozens of Peekskill residents have voiced concerns to members of the Peekskill Common Council regarding the behavior of a small group who attend Common Council meetings. Many residents who have spoken at the podium at Council meetings have contacted us to complain they have felt intimidated, and in some cases, threatened by the same group. Other residents have said that they do not feel safe coming to council meetings because of the arguments that occur between this group and other members of the audience. We deeply regret that our residents do not feel that they can attend Council meetings to bring their issues forth to the Council. We believe strongly that everyone, resident and non-resident, has a right for their voice to be heard without intimidation and that no one should be heckled or have insults hurled at them.

The common council believes strongly that one group's political agenda should not inhibit the ability of others to participate in their government.

Heckling, cat calls, refusal to cede the microphone, and racially charged outbursts have all too often obstructed the ability of the city to conduct the taxpayer's business. In response, the common council instituted clear rules of participation and decorum to enable public participation that is open to everyone. We believe these rules will make residents more comfortable participating in their government and will protect them from the increasingly charged rhetoric. We have copied the resolution establishing the new rules below for your review.

While those who have attempted to disrupt common council meetings have suggested these rules ban "clapping," that is simply not the case. In fact, we think clapping is a great expression of support an encouragement. But clapping should not be used as an attempt to silence or intimidate residents of Peekskill from speaking before their local government. The rules of decorum we have established prohibit clapping as an attempt to silence and intimidate speakers at the podium. Nothing more.

It's our hope that the new rules we implemented for common council meetings will make residents of Peekskill feel more comfortable attending the business of their government. We also hope that all individuals express their views in a manner that is respectful to the citizens of Peekskill and does not impinge on the right of others to be heard. The residents of Peekskill have accommodated the rights of others to express their opinions. It's our goal to make sure the residents of Peekskill are able to express their opinions in the same manner, without intimidation. We encourage you, your family, and your neighbors to attend a common council meeting and be heard and we commit to you that we will continue to work toward making the environment as comfortable as we possibly can. This is your City and you have a right to be heard.



Mayor Mary F. Foster and the Common Council

Leslie Lawler September 30, 2011 at 09:46 PM
I just read through all the posts in this thread and found their contents all too revealing. To John Q. Public: you defend Darrell Davis and his cohorts' behavior, you plug his girlfriend's videos, you cite MLK, you're playing to Leesther Brown and you imply that WE are the problem because WE don't ignore the bully. Let me tell you something. I was confronted by one of Davis' bullies subsequent to speaking at a meeting one evening. I was alone in the stairwell on my way home when I was followed by one of his goons and challenged by this bully. I'm sick and tired of watching good people in this City -- my neighbors, friends, associates -- get trashed in the name of nothing more than THEIR version of justice. Give me a break. You hate people in power who are hypocrites. Ditto for those trying to get into power who are hypocrites. My name is Leslie P. Lawler and I am both shocked and completely disappointed with your position.
ted bitter September 30, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Now we see who the real JohnQ is mean spirited and evil then flips to mr niceguy wow what's the term for that? No one defines me and I won't let anyone define this City either. I lived in East NY and Flatbush for over 30yrs I did not let that define me.
Peekskill Honey September 30, 2011 at 10:00 PM
You spoke out for Lee Brown? Date, time and place please. I'd love to go back to any forum venue you can provide us with to verify that. Uncle Vinnie needs to reign you in. You've dug quite the hole.
John Q. Public September 30, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Great, Ted. Glad you don't let others define you, though your outrage seemed to suggest that what they said matters, when it doesn't to anyone with a mind. Don't be surprised when Darrell Davis and lunatics try to define you. Don't be offended by their shallow words. Why do you expect more from them? You have labeled me political. All you know about me, if you've read what I've said, is that I dislike hypocrites. I have nothing to do with politics other than voting, talking to public officials, and speaking my mind. I confronted Mary Foster and Drew Claxton about them running Lee Brown out of the PHA. I spoke my opinion. I think Drew agreed with me, but she was weak politically at the time, and she didn't stick out her neck because she has some history with Lee that is irrelevant to what we need to achieve today. That's the problem. This personal stuff. I have said nothing that cannot be traced back to video footage or printed words I have read. You engage in innuendo and labeling. You cannot believe someone like me exists in the world, someone who pays attention and participates but is ignored. That is who I am --John Q Public, the John Doe that public officials have always ignored, but has a good heart and wants the best for all but will not stand for hypocrisy. That's what I've said. If that's mean spirited to you, I'm sorry. My value system is rooted in Christianity, not politics. Think Jesus in Godspell: "Alas for you Lawyers Pharisees Hypocrites.,,"
ted bitter September 30, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Thank you for the good advice I also wish you the best hopefully I can meet u and put a face to JQ
John Q. Public September 30, 2011 at 10:29 PM
Read John Lovett's lawsuit against Foster to begin. Then go back to the council meetings, though the City has made the minutes unsearchable and the video difficult to find. There was an outpouring of support for Brown in the record that Foster suppressed. If you remember she was pretending at the time to be City Manager and had unchecked control over everything, which is why our financial situation is so bad. Also, the Westchester Guardian had a piece about it. Willful blindness on Foster's fans to have ignored it. Many letters were sent to the NCN about it too, but they only published one. Lee Brown has many fans in Peekskill. And she speaks more truth every day she shows up at the podium than any Council Member. She understands the challenges Peekskill faces better than anyone on the Council. ANd she has the courage to speak out week after week. She's a greater asset to our community than any sitting politician on the CC.
Peekskill Honey September 30, 2011 at 10:53 PM
The minutes and videos are still accessible, but then you having been involved as you state you are, would know where to access them, now wouldn't you? You're making this up as you go along and you know it. Neither did Foster have "unchecked control." Councilwoman Pisani made sure the public was made aware of every financial move made. As far as Lee Brown goes, stop exploiting her as if you really care. If she's such an asset, why isn't she on your slate? Why didn't the GOP run her last time? Why didn't the GOP run her this time? Why does the GOP continue to try and stifle her with admonitions of, "Let Darrell do his thing?" She had to create her own party and run, and the fact of the matter is 106 votes didn't get her a seat because voters knew that she doesn't understand the challenges Peekskill faces better. If she did, the voters would have spoken and she'd be sitting where Foster is. "You think Drew agreed with you, but she was weak politically." No kidding? Read up in Leesther's own words. She's got the emails that state otherwise. Lee was removed when there a 6-Dem majority on the Council and that's political weakness? And the hole deepens.
John Q. Public September 30, 2011 at 11:13 PM
I said I spoke at the time. I didn't say I was involved. That's your word. I know where the peekskill city website is. Years ago, the City minutes were indexed and you could google them. Not today. The website after it was redesigned is so unfriendly you can't find all documents citizens should care about in one interface. They are hidden. Even people who care give up. The City website is a mess of dissimulation and evasion. Why are you asking me about the GOP? I have nothing to do with them. Despite what you say, I still believe Lee has a good heart, and she was an appropriate leader for the PHA. She did a much better job than anyone appointed under the current public officials, who removed her wrongly and I believe illegally, but then I care enough to read the City Charter and draw my own conclusions. Darrell Davis frames questions with unreasonable premises and unjustifiable facts just like you. It's no wonder you're in over your head in innuendo, sanctimony, and indignation. The only hole deepening is the one filled with quicksand your unreasonableness should disappear into. Some day maybe you'll reclaim your brain and stand up for what's right. Till then, you're hands, honey, are as sticky as Davis.
Peekskill Honey September 30, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Tell you what. Your comments have flip-flopped back and forth so much I'm just gonna leave your rants out there as the last word and impression for the public, John Q. Well done.
leesther brown October 01, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Sure You Right Ted...You Hit The Nail On The Head...All Of Them CPARC folk...
Katie Schmidt Feder October 01, 2011 at 02:43 AM
John Q. Public, Peekskill Honey, Peekskillresident, MsEqualrights? If you stand by and believe in what you write - why not use your real names? As someone reading this thread - I have to disregard the comments of those who will not put their names on their words, even those with whom I agree. It takes no courage to write under a pseudonym and it only makes the rest of us question your intention and motives. It takes far more courage to step up and give of your time and energy to serve the pubic in office and openly face judgement for every move that you make, than to sit in the comfort of your home and rant, judge and dissect under a screen name.
Peekskill Honey October 01, 2011 at 03:22 AM
So noted, Katie. However, artists and authors put forth their craft under pseudonyms as a regular practice, yet it does not devalue their art. How about actors and actresses that change their names? Is that okay? Where would your art be if everyone disregarded the performances of those actors and actresses that change their names? Dark on Broadway, maybe. How about a married woman who chooses to use her maiden name "for professional purposes?" Should she be disregarded? Just saying.... On a lighter note, I loved your production of "Seussical" last year and hope you're working on more productions with the kids.
John Q. Public October 01, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Easy words ksf. Your name means nothing to me, a creative pseudonym. What is your name address telephone bank account number mother's maiden name? Is that what you want, however unreasonable it is? You either believe what's right because it's right or reject it. Many leaders in Peekskill ilke you reject what is right because they have no conviction no idea what is right. And you reject people on the street like me whose name gives you no political advantage. That's wrong. Ideas matter. What's right or wrong does't depend on who says it -- not to reasonable people. But Kate Who Won't Publish her Social Security Number says this specificity matters. So tell us who you really are, or focus on what matters.
ted bitter October 01, 2011 at 03:56 AM
JohnnyQ take it easy rise above it. Take some of the good advise you gave to me. That can't define you. Your name doesn't matter to me you do have good things to say. Take it in stride Bro!
Eileen Burns October 01, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Whew! I just read through this......I agree. Make public statements and accusations at the level posted here; post your real name.
Katie Schmidt Feder October 01, 2011 at 05:07 AM
PH- to be honest - I think one should put their real name on whatever they create. As for John Q saying I reject people on the street like him- he clearly does not know me :) as- much to my family's embarassment- and a test to the patience of my children - I often strike up lengthy conversations with many people I meet in Peekskill - in a coffee house or on line at the grocery, so we probaby HAVE talked. I have been known to place a phone call those who have viewpionts I want to understand (Leester might remember a call from me a few years back) and I recently called Tracy Breneman to try to understand her point of view as she kept requesting members of our church to join her in protests of City Hall. In both cases we found we found some common ground and hopefully gained mutual respect, even if we still had disagreements or could not understand the others' perspective. To have a dialogue is what matters. But if I don't know your name, how can we even begin to have a dialogue? As for my SS#, mother's maiden name, bank account, huh? I don't get your point- just feels like intimidation. To say I have no conviction and don't know what is right? Wouldn't you need to speak to me & get to know me to make such assertions? To tell you who I really am: I am an artist, a mother, a human-being work-in-progress. PH - glad you liked Seussical. I was also proud of NO CHILD . . .last year's fall play. BTW - most actors on Bwy these days DO use their real names.
ted bitter October 01, 2011 at 11:25 AM
Hey let's not get sidetracked by who is using name or not that's not the issue here. This is abt CPARC Gang coming to Peekskil under the guise of Anti-Racism and Maligning Peekskill and Bullying its Citizens.This abt Davis Breneman Eler et al seeking their 15 minutes of fame at our expense. Their personal agenda obviously comes first without any consideration of the extreme Racism that exists in their own backyard. The names they have leveled at Peekskill and its people is unconscionable. Peekskill and its People r the Victims here not this gang of outsiders. Let's not lose sight of that. We all need to stand up rebuke them and send them packing once and for all.
ted bitter October 01, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Tracy Breneman who comes to our Council meetings with her nose up in the air and her Aura os superiority talking down to the people of Peekskill while her goons in the background attack and demean. She who comes to the Council and tells a story about teaching her daughter not to curse and taking responsibility for her daughter. Five minutes later Mr Johnson an African American Attorney spoke with a differing opinion and the members of her group called him a Tom a House Negroe and anything else they could muster. She took no responsibility then. They even went further as to video his comments put it on UTube and sarcastically label him "The Black Peekskill Democrat" I met a similar fate. Mr Johnson has not been back to many other Council Meetings since that incident. And Ms Brennerman goes to Church? For what, forgiveness I hope.
ted bitter October 01, 2011 at 12:55 PM
As for Clapping in the Chamber, stand in line behind one of the Gang with a differing opinion and hear the clapping and hooting before you speak tell me how intimidating that is. If you want to know how important and intimidating clapping is just watch any NBA or College game and see what happens to the poor guy from the opposing team who has to try to make a free throw. In fact they have now made an indistry out of clapping Balloons. Maybe CPARC can bring some of those into our Council.
Leslie Lawler October 01, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Whether someone gives their real name is irrelevant to the issue at hand. I'm using my legal name as I post this, but my middle name, Phillip and my last name, Lawler, have both been Americanized. Feel free to discredit my comments. Good Morning, Ted. I agree with your point regarding taking responsibility. This group is not about unity by any stretch of the imagination, nor are they interested in solutions. See, once there's a solution and accord, the media loses interest. For all the finger-pointing this crew does, they ought to look where the other fingers on the hand point, which is at themselves.
peekskillresident October 01, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Katie, please be careful not to disagree with Mr. Davis on any particular or you can and will be branded a racist/Uncle Tom/etc. If you are not familiar with what happened to Mr. Bitter, look at the posts to other articles on this website and you'll see what is really going on. The great majority of Peekskill residents would never in a million years touch this debate, because the cost of honest disagreement is to have a whisper campaign - or a very real campaign on youtube as happened to Mr. Bitter - launched against you. If you don't think this is a big deal, try writing under your own name the answer to this question: should the next manager of Bohlmann Towers work with residents to sever the connection between the city's drug trade and the tenants? But actually, I would encourage not doing that - are you aware that Peekskill residents who publicly broach this topic receive death threats? And that trying to improve conditions in Bohlmann is what started this whole mess? I am not asking you to agree with me, I am asking you to please give this matter a couple minutes of real reflection, and then let us know if you think calling people racist/Uncle Toms for taking the time, care and energy to engage in public discussion is helping solve our problems.
ted bitter October 01, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Thank you Leslie. What is that Prayer "Grant me the Serenity"
peekskillresident October 01, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Dr. Edler, you have called Mary Foster a hypocrite, and I ask you to consider the possibility that your actions are themselves deeply hypocritical. Here is a definition of the word: Hypocrite: "a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements." Do you live a multi-cultural life in 95% white Cortlandt, Dr. Edler? Wouldn't it be important to make major life choices consistent with your values BEFORE preaching to others on how to do that? Why do you make branding people, like animals, with unbelievably harmful negative labels a part of your methodology? How is it that your group managed to work in Cortlandt for at least a year before starting in on Peekskill, without finding ANY racism in Cortlandt? Could it be because there are no races left to practice racism on - hence the cottage industry in white guilt? Are you asking Supervisor Puglisi about hiring policies -- and are minorities in positions of real authority in the town's government? Why IS it that Cortandt residents won't let poor people live in Cortlandt? And most importantly of all -- what is your group doing about the near-death experience of Mr. Serrano - would opposing that kind of violence not be a major priority of any group that works for fairness and justice for all? My understanding is that Mr. Serrano suffered permanent brain damage. Why are your he-said/she-saids more important?
John Q. Public October 01, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Ted, the Serenity Prayer is from Reinhold Niebuhr, a brilliant social thinker who could not be pigeonholed into the partisan categories that mere politics is today. His prayer reminds me a rhyme I read my kids: "For every ailment under the sun There is a remedy, or there is none; If there be one, try to find it; If there be none, never mind it." This itself is a clever distillation of the Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30, the parable that says wheat grows alongside of weeds. You can't remove the weeds or you will kill that which sustains life. (At least in the days before sophisticated petrochemicals, but the point stands.) It's a constant challenge, but we have to learn to live with evil, yet try to achieve what is good and right when we can. Here is a link to the parable: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2013:24-30;&version=NIV;
ted bitter October 01, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I do work in many areas to help save lives. An assistant to Legislator Testa could find Sunday Mornings at the BeanRunner a life saver. I appreciate your thoughts.
John Q. Public October 02, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Ted, The pagentry of human weakness is many-colored, great, and vast. We all fail to some degree, depending on changing standards. Yet I believe in redemption, forgiveness etc. And yet as Reinhold Neibuhr says, peace, forgiveness,and justice, but hypocrisy cannot stand.
ted bitter October 02, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Gratitude, Humility, understanding making amends and prayer. Simple not Rocket Science.
leesther brown October 02, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Humility is the strength of the strong and the weapon with whichthe wise conquers their foes.Nothing sets a person so much out of the Devils reach such as Humility..
ted bitter October 02, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Thank you Ms Brown.
John Q. Public October 02, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Thank you too Ms Brown. You are a hero to me. Imagine if Lee Brown and Drew Claxton made peace and took over Peekskill. Eliminate the others, find real people who cared, and they could do a lot for Peekskill. My dream.


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