Commission deadlocks on city charter

ALBANY -- Tuesday night, Christopher Pike celebrated his election victory over former Albany commissioner Arthur Williams for the City Commission's Ward 3 seat. Wednesday morning, he found himself at the center of an unexpected plan to amend the city's charter.

Attending his first commission meeting since winning the seat handily Tuesday night -- official elections results had Pike with 476 votes to Williams' 214 -- Pike and the Ward 3 seat he will claim officially in January were the topic of discussion of a proposed resolution that would amend the city's charter as it pertains to the annual naming of a mayor pro tempore.

According to the charter, the position, which obligates its holder to preside over meetings in the mayor's absence, rotates among the commission districts numerically and carries a one-year term.

For the last 11 months, Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard, the city's representative from Ward 2, has held the job. Under the the city's charter, the Ward 3 commissioner in place in January would take over as mayor pro tem.

Since this is Pike's first exposure to city politics, Ward 6 commissioner Tommie Postell offered a resolution saying that a first-time commissioner shouldn't immediately be bestowed with the responsibility of running the commission in the mayor's absence.

"It's nothing personal to him. I'd be saying this if he or Arthur had won that race, but we don't need someone stepping into the commissioner's chair and becoming the mayor pro tem the first day," Postell said.

The measure met with stiff resistance, specifically from current Ward 3 Commissioner Morris Gurr, who said the residents of his ward should not be deprived of that designation.

"It's about the constituents of Ward 3," Gurr said. "They don't deserve to go another seven years without it. Pike is a very intelligent man. He hasn't been sleeping; he's aware of what happens and what the responsibilities are. I don't want my ward being left out; I don't want my ward being left out; I don't want my ward to be left out."

Under Postell's suggestion, the Ward 3 seat would be essentially skipped, and Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta would be named mayor pro tem.

Postell offered the motion for a tentative vote, with Howard seconding. The vote was 3-3, with Mayor Willie Adams out of town and unable to break the tie.

In instances where there is a tie, no change is made. Postell, Howard and Hubbard voted for the change to the charter while Gurr, Marietta and Langstaff voted against.

Hubbard, who was presiding over Wednesday's commission meeting, said that serving the mayor's absence was tough work and carries more responsibility than people might think.

"It's a lot of hard work and I know when I came to commission that I was almost over my head just doing the normal commission preparation," she said. "I'm not sure if someone new should be thrust right into that."

Pike commented briefly about the discussion.

"It's just like the mayor," he said. "When he takes office there isn't someone standing there to do that job until he figures it out. He just does it."

Postell said that he would bring the issue back before the commission when the mayor was present to break a tie vote.