Beacon council to consider alternatives, plus meeting decorum

A group of mental health advocates will be unable to tie ribbons on lampposts along Beacon’s Main Street to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month. 

A NAMI ribbon on a lamppost outside Fishkill Town Hall in 2021 NAMI/Facebook
A NAMI ribbon on a lamppost outside Fishkill Town Hall in 2021 (NAMI/Facebook)

Doing so violates the city code, which prohibits posting flyers, stickers or other items on city buildings, trees or lampposts and utility poles unless authorized. That was news to the Mid-Hudson chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which hung the white ribbons in Beacon from 2014 to 2022. 

Representatives from the organization asked the City Council during its March 18 meeting for permission to tie ribbons and place lawn signs as part of its promotion this year. Doing so reminds passersby of the importance of mental health and helps reduce the stigma around asking for help, said George Czornyj, executive director of the Mid-Hudson chapter. The nonprofit said volunteers would remove the items by the end of May. 

Following NAMI’s presentation, City Administrator Chris White objected, saying the city has undertaken a multi-year campaign to clean up its lampposts. There was no further discussion that night, but during the March 25 workshop several council members said they hoped the city could compromise with NAMI. 

White said on March 25 that, since his hire in 2021, cleaning up visual clutter on Main Street has become one of his signature issues. “We have removed — and this is no exaggeration — thousands of flyers, lawn signs, stickers and other things,” he said. 

The city has already repainted half of the decorative lampposts on Main Street and is about to paint the other half, White said. Sixty traffic signs have been replaced because stickers made them illegible. At the city’s request, Royal Carting also empties Main Street trash cans six days a week instead of four. 

Three years ago, when he permitted NAMI to hang ribbons, White said he was less familiar with the city code, plus “there was no reason to stop it because the poles were full of everything.”

Council Member Jeff Domanski said he appreciates the efforts to clean up Main Street, “but with a public health issue like this one, drawing as much physical attention as you can to it is essential.” 

Domanski, Dan Aymar-Blair and Paloma Wake said they would contact NAMI to see if the group would consider an alternative method of getting its message out. “It’s important to elevate this, to normalize talking about it,” Aymar-Blair said. 

White noted that Beacon spends $80,000 each year to have a behavioral health specialist work with its police department and in 2022 gave NAMI a $3,400 grant for its peer-to-peer counseling program. “I’m glad to do real action that supports mental health,” he said. “Thirty years ago, you had no other way to get the word out. We have so many ways to communicate now that don’t involve putting visual litter all over Main Street.”

White also said he would have to allow other groups to post their materials if he permits NAMI, “so I’ve just said ‘no,’ and your [city] code supports that.” Domanski argued that there’s a distinction between mental health and other issues.

But “the moment you start making distinctions, you’ve already violated the law,” said Mayor Lee Kyriacou. 

Czornyj said Wednesday (March 27) that he is open to working with the city on an alternative. “We want this to be a win-win for all,” he said. 

Meeting decorum

The City Council hasn’t changed its rules on decorum at meetings, but said it may enforce the rules more strictly. 

The council was flooded with public comments in recent weeks as it considered a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. The March 4 meeting began with a 3½-hour public comment session that grew heated at times, including when a woman from Wallkill began shouting at the council after she went over the three minutes allowed for each speaker and White unplugged the microphone. 

Council Member Pam Wetherbee acknowledged on March 25 that many people came from outside Beacon for the March 4 meeting. She asked whether the council could listen to Beacon residents and business owners first and not allow comments from people watching online who do not identify themselves. 

Under state law, the council cannot require speakers to give their names or addresses, City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis said. But the council may ask that speakers volunteer whether they are from Beacon “because it may be germane to that particular issue,” he said. “It’s hard to have a hard-and-fast rule that’s going to apply to all circumstances.”

Kyriacou noted that the council began holding meetings via Zoom during the pandemic shutdown and has continued to allow comments from virtual participants. He suggested it may be time to phase out the practice, but Aymar-Blair objected. 

“It’s hard when we have those long meetings, but I feel like it’s also our responsibility to create that opportunity, and if it’s one or two meetings a year, maximum five a year, I’ll bear it,” Aymar-Blair said. Paloma Wake agreed, saying the virtual option keeps the meetings accessible. 

Kyriacou said he felt the out-of-town attendees had intimidated Beacon residents at the March 4 meeting. When that happens, the mayor may limit public comment to Beacon residents only, Ward-Willis said. 

“What we need to do is set a procedural understanding and set norms,” said Domanski, who added that he is opposed to restrictions on who can speak. “It won’t be perfect but we need to set a decorum and understanding about what we’re trying to achieve.”

Kyriacou countered. “By allowing some of the silliness [on March 4], others didn’t take it as silly,” he said. “They took it as serious and they took it as ‘I don’t feel like I should speak. I feel like I’ll be targeted.’ Those are the comments I heard from people after the meeting. That told me I did this wrong.” 

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

Join the Conversation


  1. Why aren’t the ribbons already authorized? May has long been Mental Health Awareness Month, and the ribbons already a presence. So sad. Thanks, Jeff, for reporting on this.

    BTW, Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou referred to the “silliness” that occurred during the March 4 City Council meeting. Gaza is a real, world-peace issue. Beacon is a real city. It must be able to handle protests attended by outsiders. Time limits on comments are fair; unplug the mic no matter where the person is from. But the March on Washington [in 1963] would not have been very impressive if only residents of the District of Columbia had attended.

  2. The Beacon City Council cares enough about the war in Gaza that it spends hours over a resolution but doesn’t seem to care about mental health. There sure are plenty who need to seek it. [via Instagram]

  3. The city can’t empty overflowing garbage cans on the weekends but draws the line at ribbons? [via Facebook]

  4. Stickers on lamp posts are a signature issue? Not gentrification, poor infrastructure, pollution or proper economic development? [via Instagram]

  5. I was disappointed to learn that the Mid-Hudson chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) was denied permission to tie ribbons around lampposts in Beacon for Mental Health Awareness Month this May, with the ribbons being described as “visual litter.”

    Mental illness is one of the biggest crises facing our community, and we need (and deserve) every bit of exposure and awareness we can get. Are other, newer modes of education available? Yes. But this issue is one that carries immense stigma, where people are still very afraid to talk about it, let alone do something about it. Many of our friends and neighbors are veterans, for example, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for veterans under the age of 45.

    Seeing those ribbons gives struggling people a visual acknowledgment that they exist (and, if you actually look at the ribbons, provides them with resources). They also give parents an opportunity to educate their kids about empathy and the importance of mental health. Of all the things to dismiss as “litter,” mental health awareness is a woefully misguided choice.

Leave a comment

The Current welcomes comments on its coverage and local issues. All online comments are moderated, must include your full name and may appear in print. See our guidelines here.