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Utica council hopes to repair image with rules

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Utica council hopes to repair image with rules
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Utica's common council started the year with long meetings and hot tempers. Even some invited guests to those meetings commented on the shouting matches and the image it was giving the city. But as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, some people in city hall are hoping a few new rules will help them turn things around.

UTICA, N.Y. -- If you ask Utica's Common Council Majority Leader Frank Meola if things could be going more smoothly in the council, his answer is "Absolutely."

He added, "Streamlining some procedures would be great. Some of the issues for emails, I mean, we have bigger things to worry about instead of worrying about when an email comes to the table."

Over the last year, meetings and even emails between members throughout each week, have been littered with bickering, sometimes dragging proceedings on for hours.

"The majority of the council is working together," said Meola. "There are problems with some issues pertaining to procedures."

Some council members agree that procedures, not politics, are behind the infighting and they say they're trying to solve it.

"The last council meeting would not have been chaotic if members of the council learned to follow the rules and follow the order of business the way it's written in our charter," said council member Samantha Colosimo-Testa.

Colosimo-Testa and Meola point to the new committee system that makes legislation flow more smoothly and new rules for keeping public comment to the public and not allowing common council members to use that time.

But at least one other member says they're acting against the mayor's calls for transparency, so the fighting continues.

"The rhetoric sounds good but the council's actions have proved totally the opposite and have contradicted his vision on that a number of times," said Frank Vescera.

Frank Vescera feels he should be allowed to speak as a member of the public and a member of the council. He's also faced criticism for using his camera during meetings, which others call "distracting."

While the issues can be certainly taxing for anyone who has ever watched the proceedings, the man who has to deal with the legislation coming out of this chamber says he's only got one major concern with the way things are going.

"I get a little bit frustrated," said Mayor Robert Palmieri. "And not so much with the council, but just the image sometimes of what people may feel about Utica."

Some members agree that image is the biggest casualty, as fewer items are being held up. They're hoping the new rules will eventually improve that image.

Council members say the latest rule on public comment should be going forward within a week. They hope it will clarify when council members have time to voice their opinions and when it's the public's turn to do so.

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