HUDSON — A group of citizens recently launched a website where they are posting public records that they say show "how disconnected some of those in power at City Hall have become from the wants and needs of the majority of citizens."
Members of the Hudson Community Coalition have initiated The Hudson Files (www.thehudsonfiles.com), a new website that organizers say features public documents related to city issues. The group’s spokespersons, Rhonda Grainger and Jessie Obert, said the coalition is a "broad-based, non-partisan partnership of organizations" working "to advance transparency and civic engagement" in the city.
"The coalition was formed out of a growing concern among residents about the plan/vision/actions of a few in power at the city who repeatedly ignore the will of Hudson residents," said Grainger and Obert in a joint statement.
Coalition members say documents posted on the website so far show that an environmental cleanup was needed for the Downtown Phase II project site, a city council member was using his government email account for political campaigning and "city hall [was] using taxpayer dollars to support the pro-[Downtown] Phase II campaign in May of 2019."
Hudson City Manager Jane Howington observed there are many social media forums and websites "with varying degrees of accuracy or advocacy."
"The city always urges our citizens to fact check and do their own research before deciding if a website or social media post is accurate?," stated Howington.
Grainger and Obert noted that the records posted on www.thehudsonfiles.com "are being presented in full so that the reader can evaluate this material and make his or her own judgements about the actions of the individuals involved."
How it got started
The Hudson Community Coalition includes members of Hudson Environmental Council LLC and Hudson’s Voice LLC.
The Hudson Environmental Council was formed to "promote and advocate for healthy land, air, and water" in the city, according to information provided by the coalition. Grainger, Todd Zedak and Celeste Fland are the group’s co-founders.
Hudson’s Voice campaigned against passage of a May 2019 ballot issue pertaining to the Downtown Phase II project. Rebecca Leiter serves as president, Obert is vice president and Ed Stein is treasurer. Hudson’s Voice was formed to "promote and advance the common good and general welfare of the Hudson … community through a social community movement designed to be an effective resource to the city and its city council," according to information from the coalition.
Grainger and Obert said coalition members were "concerned about [government] decisions being made behind closed doors," and sought public records to understand what is happening. Various citizens have, through records requests, secured more than 3,000 pages of documents from the city, county and state during the past year.
Grainger and Obert said the coalition members were concerned about what they learned from the records they obtained.
"The emerging picture we’ve seen is that without citizen involvement and oversight of … city government, those in power at City Hall have become increasingly disconnected from the community and do whatever they want," stated Grainger and Obert. "Examples include: the Downtown Phase II Project, the new City Hall, Velocity Broadband, our bumpy, ill-maintained roads and the YDC property."
Grainger and Obert said the coalition decided to post documents after they felt the records "demonstrated what we believed were apparent violations of city policies." They added their group is publicizing the records to show residents what leaders are doing to shape Hudson’s future.
"The Hudson Files demonstrate that the people in control of Hudson’s destiny have their own vision of Hudson’s future, and are determined to push their agenda forward, despite the fact that the community has clearly expressed their wishes to the contrary at the polls, at council meetings, and in other public forums," stated Grainger and Obert.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.