Tuesday, June 6, 2023

VIDEO: City Council Meeting Erupts into Screaming Match when Politicians Turn Good News into Negative

Last night’s City of Newburgh Council meeting started off with positive news until some politicians went on soapboxes and filled the meeting with long-winded, negative rants. The embattled Council continued to blame many others for their ongoing troubles. One citizen took offense and was attempting to voice his rebuttal when a councilman engaged him in a screaming match.

Police Commissioner Jose Gomerez started off the meeting by recapping the 2022 crime statistics, claiming violent crime was down throughout the City of Newburgh. In comparison to 2021, he said robberies were down 20%, burglaries were down 17%, violent crimes were down 9%, aggravated assaults were down 8%, and shooting victims were down 6%.

Councilman Anthony Grice spoke of his support of the police leadership and requested increased enforcement of domestic violence, narcotics, and traffic violations in order to keep crime down. Councilwoman Giselle Martinez also expressed her support of the police leadership and suggested a drug court for the future.

Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde was the first to break the positive streak. “In the news, there are some journalists who are, you know, putting out some, uh, lies,” she said, before oddly stopping to laugh.

Monteverde then went on a long ramble, “Or, you know, not true statistics I would say, um, just I guess trying to shake things up because the City of Newburgh is doing a tremendous job, um, you know, since we started the reforms, um, which I remember sitting on that group and you took very seriously and started to implement changes in the department and I have to say, you know, you’re doing a, you know, a great job, um, just, you know, creating a working, uh, safe working environment, um, for our police officers, um, and I think that, you know, it really does show now, you know, the, um, the changes that you made, although I know that it’s been quite challenging at times, um, and in particular it’s challenging and, you know, you have the negative, um, news stories out there trying to spin these stories, right, um, but, you know, this is fantastic, um, and again, I’m, I’m happy to see that, you know, crime has dropped by, uh, according to the Manager, you know, 64 percent, percent, drop, um, and a 22% overall drop in violent crimes in the City of Newburgh, so, you know, I think it’s the Mayor, he’s always saying, you know, what is it?”

Two Council members also took apparent jabs at Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, who recently stated during a televised interview that city managers are not as accessible as they had been in the past (story here). The City Council and City Manager Todd Venning bizarrely took that to mean Hoovler was accusing them of falsifying arrest data to the state and federal government.

Councilman Robert Sklarz complained, “It just baffles me how members of the news media and professional law enforcement personnel, um, somehow fail to grasp that there’s a direct coordination, uh, correlation between, uh, arresting folks and a crime drop.”

Monteverde later complained about the “naysayers” of the City of Newburgh, the “negative people,” and “the County,” seeming referring to Hoovler.

At one point, Monteverde also whined about the public’s criticism on a blog site. “You know, lately what I’ve been seeing on, um, you know, this awful, uh, blog, um, that, you know, somebody who lives down the street is the administrator has been saying some pretty nasty and negative things about this Council, um, and the Mayor in particular, you know, and they’re cowards.”

Mayor Torrance Harvey then went on a long rant of complaints.

“There are people who want to continue a nasty, negative narrative for Newburgh and, and, you know, there are people who thrive on this negative narrative for Newburgh, uh, and oftentimes are not residents of Newburgh. The City, not the Town, the City,” Harvey said. “Oftentimes they perpetuate this narrative to profit from it.”

Council members have also continuously bashed the media for making profits from paid advertisements, although this has been the backbone supporting the publication of newspapers for centuries.

Harvey continued, “Poverty pimps people who profit off of the poverty of others.” He accused non-profit organizations and a “long list of people who profit off of the poverty, the data, the statistics, the demographics in Newburgh, who want to continue the old narrative” of the City of Newburgh. He said the new narrative is filled with “hopes, dreams, and aspirations”

“We’re sick of the old narrative and people that want to spin these journalistic questions with their sensationalized writing,” Harvey complained. “When you interview with them, they spin it! They spin the story to go back to that old narrative and we reject that!”

Council members have previously stated they will “control the narrative” of the city’s image. For the next five months, city leaders stopped issuing press releases about crime even as a shooting and stabbings occurred (see a series of articles here). Most recently, a person was stabbed at the Newburgh Waterfront during crowded St. Patrick’s Day celebrations amid a hellish crime night across the city (story here), but no press releases were issued.

Jason Morganfield, an entrepreneur and lifelong resident of the City of Newburgh, took exception to Harvey’s criticism of non-profit organizations profiting from poverty.

“I just feel like, I don’t feel invited,” Morganfield explained. “I don’t feel welcome and I’ve never done anything to indicate that I have an ulterior motive. I have never made a dime from Newburgh for any non-profit.”

Morganfield wants to host a Juneteenth celebration this year but explained his lengthy battles with the City of Newburgh government. He attempted to explain to Council members that the holiday weekend “shouldn’t be a monopoly.”

Councilman Omari Shakur spoke out of turn and provoked an argument with Morganfield. Council members typically remain silent during the public comments section and refrain from speaking until the Council’s own comments section later in the meeting.

Shakur complained that Morganfield did not hold a Juneteenth celebration last year, to which Morganfield explained that he was attending a wedding. A screaming match then ensued (see the full video below). The police commissioner then stood up, seemingly prepared to intervene if needed.

Shakur was not ejected from the meeting.

“So it’s a personal thing, right?” asked Morganfield.

City of Newburgh Councilman Omari Shakur argues with a citizen voicing his concerns about the city government.

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