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VIEW:  Trump Administration Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policies and Laws

Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency of local government. By providing citizens with timely and factual information, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education, and advocacy.

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A More Democratic Approach to Public Meeting Discussions in the City of Kingston.

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) recently chose to change its format to allow the public an opportunity to participate on applications in real time, creating a more democratic format for both the applicant and the public. The changes provide a model of a more participatory meeting format that all City of Kingston boards, committees and commissions  might consider applying.

Currently, in the City of Kingston, the majority of committees and subcommittees offer public speaking at the discretion of the committee chair.  It is possible to reach out to the chair ahead of a meeting to let him/her know that citizens would like time to present comments or questions.

During the April 6th HLPC meeting, it was decided that the meeting’s format would be updated.  Now, at the beginning of each meeting, there is a public comment period where the public can address general comments to the Commission.  On each agenda item, the applicant and the Commission discuss the application.  Then, the Chair opens the agenda item up to public discussion where attending citizens have the opportunity to submit oral comments and questions.  The floor is then closed to public discussion, and the applicant and Commission discuss the comments and questions raised by the public before the Commission deliberates and votes.  VIEW @ minutes 6:33-32

In discussing what meeting format the HLPC should take, at minute 8:00 of the video, HLPC Vice Chair Marissa Marvelli said, “If it’s related to applications, I would rather that [the public] speak at the time that we’re reviewing the applications.”  She said other boards take this approach.

Concerns were raised that it would open the board up to unwieldy debate around controversial agenda items.  Marvelli suggested guidelines to this meeting format to help the board maintain control of the meetings.

At minute 10:16, Marvelli said, “The reason I say this is because if something is presented…which obviously happened here tonight where we presented something that wasn’t really spelled out on the application…it’s not fair that the public is speaking with insufficient information prior to what’s being presented.”

The Planning Board’s format was suggested as the ideal format, though we at KingstonCitizens.org do not agree.  When an application is on the agenda for the Planning Board, the first thing that happens is a public hearing.  The floor is opened up to public comment, where anyone may walk up to the podium to speak on the new business agenda item.  The floor is then closed to public comment, and the applicant presents the project to the board.

This is generally the first opportunity for the public to learn about the application.  The public is not allowed to ask any further questions or raise any further concerns at that meeting, but can do so at the following month’s meeting during the open speaking period at the beginning of the meeting.  There are no more public hearings on the application unless the Planning Board decides to hold a special one.

There is a method of learning about a project prior to that initial public hearing at the Planning Board meeting, however.  Citizens can go into the Planning Department office during regular business hours (making an appointment ahead of time is ideal), and look at the file for an application.  Usually, questions can be asked of Planning staff in the office.  In any application before the Planning Board which interests citizens, this is an ideal first step.  A Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) form can be filled out, and the paperwork can be photographed with a smart phone or Planning Department staff will make photocopies for a small per page fee. Using that information, more informed questions and concerns can be raised at that first public hearing at the Planning Board meeting.

Recently, this was done on an application around a mixed-use development project slated for East Strand Street.  Yet, it still felt to participants problematic and difficult to be fully engaged in the discussion when asking questions prior to hearing the applicants’ presentation.  There is more explained in a presentation than one can glean from sifting through paperwork in a file.  VIEW  minute 52 and beginning of VIEW

What Happened?

At the April 6th Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission discussion on meeting format, objections to the new format idea centered around concerns for the applicant. At minute 30:30, the Chief Deputy said, “You have to allow time for the applicant to rebut whatever the public says. The applicant is the one before you, not the public.”

The meeting format proposed by Marvelli did pass, however.  While there has been a learning curve as the Commission puts it into practice (sometimes the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting is forgotten; sometimes both citizens and applicants need to be reminded of the guidelines for that participation), it does function to promote a more informative and diplomatic discussion of project applications.  This is evident in the July 13th meeting of the HLPC where after 54 minutes of presentation, and questions and comments from the board, an application discussion was opened up to the public for additional comments and questions.  VIEW  and  VIEW

We’re grateful for the HLPC board members’ forward-thinking leadership on this.

Call to Action

Attend the August 4th meeting of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission to see this meeting format in action when the Irish Cultural Center comes back to present visibility studies for their proposed new building in the Rondout skyline.  6:30p at Kingston’s City Hall, 420 Broadway, Conference Room 1.  Catch up on the ICC project HERE

 

Hillary Harvey is a photographer and writer, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly VIEW, a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

 

A First Look at the City of Kingston’s Charter.


We had an informative educational panel on July 13 with Dr. Gerald Benjamin of  The Benjamin Center and Jennifer Schwartz Berky, principal of Hone Strategic and District 7 Ulster County Legislator discussing Charters and Charter Reform.

To our delight, Dr. Benjamin took the time to mark up Kingston’s current charter which we felt was most important for the public to review.  You will find his power point, frame by frame with video that is marked so that you can follow along.  The audio isn’t great, but you can still hear. We do recommend headphones.

For those who wish to also see Dr. Benjamin’s power point on Charters, click on the following link HERE where you will be taken to a KingstonCitizens.org page. Then, click on the blue hyper link and the power point will download to your computer.

We think charter reform in Kingston at this time is key in order to bring more clarity to local government.  The last time it was done was back in 1994, where the process was anything but transparent.   READ ON “How the City of Kingston Got It’s Strong Mayor Form of Government   (This post was from 2013).

 

 

FRAME ONE
WATCH:  1:05 – 1:55

“You don’t need the city’s annexation any longer because it occurred in the 19th century.”

 

 

FRAME TWO
WATCH: 1:56 – 3:45

“Elections are governed by state law, they don’t have to be described in your charter….the ‘Organization of Common Council’ should be moved to a Legislative Article. It’s interesting that your Legislative Article is so far back in your charter. It should be moved to the front….it is also strange to me that all items that have to do with your council are not all in one place.”

 

Read more…

(Amended) GUIDANCE FOR TESTIMONY: Proposed Central Hudson Gas Regulating Substation in Kingston, NY

WHAT
Kingston Planning Board

WHERE
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway
Top floor

WHEN
Monday, July 10th
6:00pm

WHY
A public hearing on Central Hudson gas regulating station at 245 Washington Avenue in Kingston, New York.

Item #7: #245 Washington Avenue SPECIAL PERMIT to install a gas regulating station. SBL 56.90-6-20. SEQR Determination. Zone R-1. Ward 3. Central Hudson Gas & Electric; Applicant/owner

By Rebecca Martin

Recently, a citizen of the City of Kingston who lives near a new proposed Gas Regulating System to be located at 245 Washington Avenue by Central Hudson contacted us with some concerns.  Gas and Electric Magnetic Field (EMF) Substations are a part of our landscape in Kingston, given the need for gas and electric in our daily lives.

But process is key, and it was the process that peeked my interest.

According to Suzanne Cahill, the City of Kingston’s Planning Coordinator, the site plan became available 1 1/2 weeks ago.  How was any concerned citizen to know that the site plan was available for review, and then the heavier lift, how might they be expected to speak to process?

The short answer is that they really couldn’t.

The role of city planning and zoning is to provide the public with “the legal basis for all land use regulation to police power of the city to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of its residents” (Berman v. Parker, 1954).  I’ve been doing this a long time, and over the years, I have lost confidence in the Kingston Planning Department. That’s why I hired a consultant to take a closer look at this.

GUIDANCE FOR TESTIMONY: Proposed Central Hudson Gas Regulating Substation in Kingston, NY.   VIEW (AMENDED)

Relevant considerations that the Kingston Planning Board is required to consider include:

  1. Compatibility of various land uses with one another.
  2. Protection of community character as regards to predominant land uses, population density and relation between residential and non-residential areas
  3. Community appearance
  4. Such other matters as may relate to the public convenience, to governmental efficiency and to the achieving and maintaining of a satisfactory community environment.

Recommendations: Maintaining Safety at Regulator Stations 

The Central Hudson audit reveals that significant monitoring does exist.  This background reveals that the existence of monitoring by New York State. Citizens should require that:

  1. The need for ongoing monitoring to reduce such risks.
  2. Residents and others concerned with the safety of gas regulating stations should request that Central Hudson Gas & Electric (CHGE) provide detailed maintenance programs and written assurance of frequent monitoring as outlined in this example (above), including “monthly calibration” in conformance with current CHGE Gas Operating and Maintenance Procedures (in this example, Number 220, Calibration, Servicing, and Inspection of Gas Test, Detection and Monitoring Equipment).  In the case of Service Regulator, Vent, and Valve, this example suggest a “combined inspection shall be performed on the following occasions:  A) Each time a new service regulator and/or meter is installed and activated;  B) Any time a meter is changed;  C) Any time a service that has been inactive for a period of two or more years is reactivated; and  D) At least once every 20 years on the regulator in a multiple meter set.  There are numerous examples of the proper maintenance and inspection in the documents linked in Appendix B.  These are just a few examples to cite.
  3. Gas utility operators should inform and advise affected communities, schools, businesses / commercial facilities, and residents about the potential hazards presented by gas infrastructure. Gas distribution system operators should establish an emergency preparedness and response plan and communicate this plan to the public as necessary.

What are Gas Regulation Stations?

Natural gas moves through a community’s distribution system in pipelines of varying diameters and at varying pressures.  Gas regulating stations protect the pipeline system and ensure it operates safely by reducing the pressure as the gas flows further into the system, similar to the way an electric transformer steps down voltage to a level suitable for residential use.

Generally speaking, the closer natural gas gets to a customer, the smaller the pipe diameter is, and the lower the pressure. Every regulator station contains safety devices to ensure that the pipe downstream (closer to homes and end users) cannot be over pressured. These safety devices can include additional regulators, relief valves and remote monitoring equipment, all of which require ongoing maintenance by Central Hudson.

Gas regulating stations supply pressure gas downstream to mains that ultimately deliver gas to each user.  As the gas moves through the service line, it passes through a regulator at the meter to reduce pressure so that when a gas furnace or stove is turned on, the gas safely ignites in its familiar clean, blue flame.

Regulator stations are a necessary part of the pipeline system that brings gas safely to the end users for household equipment such as stoves, appliances and heating units.  Utilities are required by federal regulation to inspect and test these stations throughout the year to verify they are:

In good mechanical condition; Adequate in capacity and reliability of operation; Set to function at the correct pressure; and

Properly installed and protected from vehicular traffic, dirt, liquids, icing and other conditions that might prevent proper operation.

VIEW:  GUIDANCE FOR TESTIMONY: Proposed Central Hudson Gas Regulating Substation in Kingston, NY. Written by Hone Strategic, LLC  (AMENDED)

 

 

Clarity on process. 300 Flatbush Ave. (RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal)

By Rebecca Martin

For some time, there has been much furor over the sale of 300 Flatbush Ave. (aka RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal),  a property owned by Ulster County.

Lets cut to the chase on a few critical items.

– To be clear, the City of Kingston hasn’t any say as to who the county sells its property to.

– After being on the market for a little over a year, RUPCO made an offer at the listed price for a project they want to create in that location called ‘The Alms House”.  Their goal is for it to become  “66 units that would comprise of 14 studio and 20 one-bedroom apartments in the approximately 28,000-square-foot 1870s landmark building at the site and 32 one-bedroom units for people ages 55 and older in the new 42,000-square-foot building.”

– The proposal went in front of the Kingston Planning Board where they determined the project to have a negative declaration in SEQR. In other words, they found it to have no environmental impacts that would require further study.

As part of Kingston’s code, the Kingston Common Council had 90 days to determine a zoning change that started months ago, with a request for it to be changed from single family to multi-family use. Whether multi-family or commercial, a zoning change will have to be determined in order for it to be placed back into any real use.

– In this case, once a zone change is made, the project site plan can be reviewed by the Kingston Planning Board, and the public will have more opportunities to help to shape the project.

These are the facts, and this is the process.

So where are we now?

SEQR Determination.
Citizens were concerned both with traffic and sewer issues for this project as well as having questions about taxes and public funding.

It is illegal for the state to award funding to a proposal that is undergoing a SEQR review, as is the Alms House project.  A positive declaration (or pos dec), is a determination that means a project may result in one or more significant environmental impacts that require further study.  A negative declaration (or neg dec), is a determination that the project will not result in any significant negative environmental impacts and therefore, no further study is required.    The Alms House project received a negative declaration in SEQR and so, the project goes directly to its site plan and, state funding can be awarded.

Whatever citizens were led to believe, those concerned about state funding as it pertains to this project missed an opportunity for there to be more time to review all sources by not making a legitimate case on environmental issues.  To me, for all the energy placed towards rhetoric and lawn signs, this single decision that they were not able to influence was the end game. 

The Wrong Message.
All the while, those in opposition were led by several council members, elected into office to protect all of our best interests, apparently used discriminatory language captured on record. By doing so, they might have violated the Fair Housing Act,  and that could lead to a very expensive lawsuit against the City of Kingston.

Claiming it is their first amendment right to speak as they did in representing some of their constituents, they are not completely wrong.  The first amendment allows us freedom of speech. There are laws in place, however, that create boundaries in that department.  To illustrate the point, the second amendment allows citizens to bear arms. That doesn’t mean you can go out and shoot someone.

If you are disenchanted with the sale of 300 Flatbush Avenue, then submit letters to the Ulster County Legislature. Even though a neg dec has been determined, if you have concerns about sewer overflows or other environmental factors as it pertains to this project,  it’s something to take up with the Planning Department.

Going after the Kingston Common Council now is a simple scapegoat during an already contentious political season. It’s all politics. and politics are mainly a game of smoke and mirrors.  Council members voting on a zone change, who choose to take a public position for or against the Alms House project have taken the bait. To place council members at the center of this controversy is misguided. As a zoning change is not commentary on whether or not the Alms House proposal is a good or bad project.  A zoning change is inevitable.

Moving Forward.
I am supportive of RUPCO’s mission, but I also believe that when it comes to projects where public funding is concerned,  it’s healthy and important to investigate and to ask questions.

What concerns me most is how the narrative is being led by several of our elected officials, with what appears to me to be a good amount of misinformation that creates more confusion.  I expect our elected officials to weigh factual information so to legitimately govern and to keep the public informed.   This populist way of doing things, of pleasing the crowd, is like the tail wagging the dog.

Running for the Kingston Common Council is a generous act, but it’s important to remember that it is not high office or intended to bec0me a career position.  It’s a common person’s role, a lot like jury duty.  Often, those who run have never run for office before, and their needs to be some form of training to avoid making unnecessary mistakes that cost us.

Some suggestions, to better avoid Council whoppers in the future could include:

Yearly Council Training Sessions
Did you know, that Kingston Common Council members, once sworn into office, are not required to take any formal training on how to govern? No background or history of Kingston city government:  our charter, code, form of government or any policies that exist. Maybe they get a packet, but that would be all.  In other words, they learn on the job.  There is a difference between an opposing opinion and going rogue. On more than one occasion, the latter has wasted time, capital, energy and creates…lawsuits?    A yearly mandatory training should be in order.

Council Representation
Kingston’s Corporation Council serves at the pleasure of the mayor.  With the executive and legislative branches being independent of one another, it makes sense that the Mayor and the Common Council have their own legal advisor.

Council Rules
The Kingston Common Council have rules that have not been amended for at least a decade. It’s time that the council take them up for review and make changes to improve any necessary items that can help to govern better during their short tenure. Without proper procedure and boundaries,  those who step up to serve are likely to be burdened, as is the public at large.

Understanding the Latest Changes to the Irish Cultural Center by Hillary Harvey

WHAT
Come to the public hearing at City Hall, Council Chambers, on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed  Irish Cultural Center (ICC) project.

WHERE
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY
Council Chambers (top floor)

WHEN
Monday, July 10th
6:00 pm
Sign-up to speak at 5:45pm

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have. The email will go directly to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.

Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

WHY
Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.

 

 

By Hillary Harvey 

The Irish Cultural Center proposed for Abeel Street on the Rondout in Kingston has just come back to the Planning Board with the latest in a series of updates to their project site plan.

ICC Site Plans, March 8, 2017     VIEW
Floor Plans, March 2, 2017      VIEW

Included are responses to the State Historic Preservation Office, the City of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Ulster County Planning Board, all of which were presented at the June 12th City of Kingston Planning Board meeting.

VIDEO: Planning Board Meeting 6/12/2017   VIEW

 

What the ICC Looks Like Now.

The Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley is proposed to be a 16,213 square foot newly constructed building on a 0.43-acre parcel at 32 Abeel Street with rights, granted by the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to follow the zoning for West Strand Street.  New designs indicate a red, brick building of three stories measuring 49.5′ from the Company Hill Path side (South Elevation), with one story underground on the Abeel Street side (North Elevation).  There would also be an elevator accessible roof garden, with outdoor seating and a 12’ tall room that rises above the height of the building.  On the Company Hill Path side, there would be three full balconies with exterior gathering space that each run the width of the building.  The building would be a “community center” with a 171-seat theater, exhibition space, commercial kitchen, 70-seat pub/restaurant, flex space, offices for the ICC and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (the ICC’s parent organization), radio station, map room, etc.  The project would have 8 on-site parking spots and seek a parking waiver from the Planning Board for 47 parking spaces.

There will be a public hearing on these changes at the City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting on July 10th, during their regular meeting, and comments can be made via email to the Planning Board before July 7th.  We encourage everyone to weigh in.

 

What still needs to be addressed.

1.  Size and Scale
The Irish Cultural Center cites the D&H Canal Offices as their inspiration, which stood at the top of Company Hill Path before being demolished long ago. Their latest updates show the building to rise 49.5′ from the South Elevation grade, which exceeds the maximum allowable height for a new construction building for the R-T zone by 12.5’ and ½ story.  VIEW

In their December 9th, 2016, comment, the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission wrote, “A visibility study using multiple vantage points along public thoroughfares would illustrate how the building’s scale and massing will impact sightlines.  The West Strand from the waterfront is arguably our most cherished panorama in Kingston.  Any new development affecting this vista must be carefully scrutinized.”  

CONCERN:  These visibility studies were not included in the latest materials submitted, but are needed in order to fully understand how the ICC would appear in relationship to its surrounds. We anticipate the ICC will return to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 13th in City Hall’s Conference Room 1 at 6:30p.

 

2. Parking and Traffic
While the new inclusion of landscaping for a parking lot on the Abeel Street side of the ICC’s proposed building mimics the driveways on this residential block, this means that the parking capacity for the center has been further reduced.  The new changes increase the parking waiver being requested of the Planning Board to 47 spaces. A comparative study of the YMCA and UPAC, both in Midtown, and BSP (Backstage Productions bar/concert space) in Uptown is provided, none of which relate geographically or functionally to the Rondout Historic District or the proposed ICC. The City of Kingston Planning Board is requiring parking based upon square footage for a community center. The Ulster County Planning Board disagreed with that decision, saying that there is no definition of community center in the zoning, so parking requirements should be based upon uses, which would mean a greater number of spots are needed.

In their response to the UCPB, the ICC argues that they have provided adequate traffic and parking analyses, and state: “It is unreasonable to expect literal compliance with parking requirements for this particular ‘desired’ project…”  VIEW

The Rondout Historic District is a neighborhood hard hit by urban renewal in the 1960s and ‘70s, making it vulnerable and in need of protection. Thus, parking regulations are more particular for new construction in the historic district.  The zoning laws are specifically in place to protect the welfare of residents and should apply equally to everyone in the city. A parking waiver is not a parking solution.

CONCERN:  A professional analysis of shared parking in the Rondout, including known future development and cumulative effect, is needed.

 

3. Blasting
In their May 24th, 2017, response to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, the ICC wrote, “Geotechnical analysis for the site suggests that excavated rock can be removed using a rock hammer. If by chance blasting would be required, all applicable permits and precautions would be conducted in accordance with the City of Kingston regulations.” VIEW

In their original comments, the Ulster County Planning Board made the following Required Modification: “The planning board should require the applicant to determine if blasting will be required and what alternatives may be available.”

CONCERN:  Nearby historic structures date to the 1800s.  The ICC should be required to conduct further study to determine definitively whether blasting will be part of their construction, prior to any potential site plan approval.

 

4.  Noise
While noise concerning industrial trash pickup has been mitigated by proposing curbside trash pick-up, with the changes comes the addition of four HVAC units on the roof.  The sound implications of this need to be studied.  Additionally, sound from the three terraces, particularly during high-occupancy events, will be heard over Gallo Park and the Rondout Creek.  Rondout dwellers and visitors know from experience how this direction of noise echoes and reverberates throughout the neighborhood.

CONCERN:  The implications of the rooftop HVAC units and the four proposed outdoor areas for noise disturbance on businesses on West Strand Street and Broadway, as well as on the neighboring family residences, need to be studied.

 

5.  Company Hill Path

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office are both in support of the ICC’s proposal to remove and replace a bluestone retaining wall that has been damaged by erosion and runoff after the ICC removed all the trees on the property in 2013.

In response to the Ulster County Planning Board’s comment that Company Hill Path would not make a suitable primary entrance for large-scale traffic, the ICC is now proposing to use permeable pavers, accent lighting, and a railing on the portion of the Path leading up to their entrance.  VIEW 

If the City of Kingston were to allow the ICC to make these alterations to this National Historic Register Site, it would leave the majority of the Path undeveloped in this way, and create a non-cohesive look.  The City needs to have a full understanding of the lasting impacts this decision could have for the other properties adjacent to Company Hill Path.  Will those property owners be required to pay for the city to do the same to their part of the Path?  Will property owners adjacent to the Path now be required to maintain the Path?

CONCERN:  The decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to allow the ICC to use Company Hill Path as a sidewalk changed the essential nature of the historic Path, and any further allowances to alter the Path need to fully assess lasting implications.

 

CALL TO ACTION – WHAT THE PUBLIC CAN DO.


Come to the public hearing at Kingston City Hall, located at 420 Broadway (Council Chambers), on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed Irish Cultural Center project.

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have, to be delivered to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.  Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.

For the complete set of updated documents, VISIT and scroll down to ‘Irish Cultural Center – Abeel Street.’  To research further into the history of the ICC application, VISIT and scroll through the posts.  Read more about Hillary Harvey’s experience with the Irish Cultural Center application VISIT

Hillary Harvey is a photographer and writer, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly,  a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

VIDEO: KingstonCitizens.org 2017 Educational Series “On Public Education”

                                         Click on image to view video

 

By Rebecca Martin

We are just about half way through our educational series this year, with this recent panel on “Public Education” that was so enlightening.  Did you know that every summer, the Kingston City School District re-writes curriculum to supplement “Engage NY” by selected teachers in the district? Or that only 1% of the school district’s budget is federal dollars?

A special thanks to Robin Jacobowitz and James Shaugnessy for their time and service to our community.  As always, to Julie, Peter, Matthew and staff at “Church Des Artistes” for hosting us.

 

00:00 –  1:45  
About Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D.: Robin Jacobowitz is the director of education projects at the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz. She taught for many years as an adjunct in SUNY New Paltz’s School of Education. Previously, Jacobowitz worked at New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy, where her research centered on the growth and development of charter schools in New York State, the organizational structures that facilitate teaching and learning in New York City small high schools, and leadership transitions in new schools in New York City. She also worked with the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children, where her research focused on the relationship between constituency building and policy work in affecting systemic school reform in New York State. Prior to beginning her career in research, Jacobowitz worked with the Public Education Network in Washington D.C., where she provided technical assistance to local education funds around the country on issues of school governance, school health, and public engagement. Jacobowitz holds an M.Ed. in education policy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. She is currently a trustee on the Kingston City School District Board of Education and a member of the executive committee of the Ulster County School Boards Association.

About James F. Shaugnessy, Jr.: James joined the Kingston City School District’s Board of Education because he felt he could make a positive contribution. “I have a daughter who attends school in the District. I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable with the School Board leadership of the District and that the philosophies practiced would be compatible with an environment I would want for my daughter.” In addition, James believes, “The Board also has a responsibility for looking forward to the future needs of the District.”  If James could achieve any educational goal while serving as a Board of Education member, it would be to see excellent programs implemented for all students so that each student can reach his or her maximum potential.  Current Board committee involvement includes serving Chair of the Audit Committee, as well as a member of the Jefferson Committee and the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan Committee.

 

 

1:46 – 5:45 
An explanation of how public education works.

5:46 – 8:19
Can you explain how local elections are organized as it pertains to the board of education? How is it different from a local government election?

8:20 – 9:15
How are districts in the City of Kingston determined? What is the history?

9:15 – 18:25
About School Board Elections, voter turn-out and May elections.

18:26 – 24:02
Can you explain how the funding for capital projects, such as the Kingston High School, impacts the public’s tax bill?

24:03 – 
About the Board of Education and school closures, populations and the tax cap.

 

27:23 – 32:56
Clarifying terms and what the public pays for.

32:57 – 37:42
What items are covered for children in the Kingston City School District who choose to attend a school outside of the district? Transportation? Special services?

 


37:42 – 38:52

Education as a State function and the 14th amendment.

38:53 – 43:02
An explanation of Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954

43:06 – 44:30
An explanation of Education Amendments of 1972.

44:31 – 48:25
Would magnet schools be beneficial in the City of Kingston?

48:28 – 49:15
An explanation of Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

 


49:16 – 55:35

An explanation of all recent Federal education efforts and how they impact us on a State and local level.

55:36 – 57:26
The public’s ability to reform local public education in NYS.

57:27 – 1:00:00
How does accepting funds through the federal government for public schools impact our decision-making on a local level?

1:00:04 – 1:04:24
Every summer, the Kingston City School District ‘re-writes’ curriculum to supplement “Engage NY”.  Teachers who are interested apply and are selected by the district.  Other district initiatives.

1:04:27 – 1:12:52
How might parent groups be supported by the BOE to do more advocacy for the School District?

1:12:53 – 1:24:54
Why is the district decreasing in size and what might be done to increase parent involvement in district initiatives such as re-writing curriculum, a county school district concept and more.

1:24:55 – 1:28:29
More on what federal dollars means on a local level.  Federal dollars reflects 1% of Kingston City School District, just under $2 million. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning: How Are They Related and What’s Happening With Them Right Now?

By Hillary Harvey

“A comprehensive plan is known as a general plan, master plan or land-use plan, and is a document designed to engage the public and to guide the future actions of a community. It presents a vision for the future, with long-range goals and objectives for all activities that affect the local government.”

Local politics can be a bit daunting.  Various officials play different roles, and multiple boards are responsible for various capacities and processes. All of these interrelated elements differ for each locality.  When it comes to learning about local politics, all you have to do is start somewhere.

I started in November 2015, as I sought to catch up on the Irish Cultural Center’s development proposal for my neighborhood, the Rondout.

In trying to understand a specific development proposal, I learned about all the various boards and their roles in the process.  In studying the zoning codes of my block in downtown Kingston, and then my neighborhood and the city, I learned that zoning codes are meant to serve as an important protection for residents and home-owners in any community.

So when I first heard about “Kingston 2025,” the city’s Comprehensive Plan efforts to update the city’s original Comprehensive Plan from 1961, I was curious about how it would impact the development proposal I was already studying as it involves a re-evaluation of the city’s zoning codes along with other planning processes.

A little back history.  The Comprehensive Plan process began in 2011 as the City of Kingston faced a problem.  According to the Comprehensive Plan, known locally as “Kingston 2025,” which was adopted on March 15th, 2016, “Since 1961, the City has made a number of changes to its land use regulations, some proactive based on study and planning, others reactive based on certain evolving trends or in response to specific development proposals.”

There were multiple plans and a ton of documents to cull through, and the city’s planning and zoning policies were no longer holistic.

Shuster-Turner Planning Consultants is the firm hired by the city to do the work involved.  Daniel Shuster worked with the City of Kingston on the 1961 Comprehensive Plan, which helped secure money for Urban Renewal in the 1960s,  and more recently was a consultant on the plan to build Hudson Landing on the Hudson River waterfront, a project which has not yet been realized. 

The city convened two committees, which met to discuss existing planning studies and issues confronting the city, and they reached out for public input.  The process culminated with a vision for the City of Kingston.

The Brownfield Opportunity Area study was initiated after the adoption of this vision, to further identify opportunity areas and considerations for future plan updates.   In “Kingston 2025” they write, “At its core, a comprehensive plan is a document that sets a destination for a community and maps a course to get there.”

A necessary part of process to realize “Kingston 2025” was to establish a Comprehensive Plan Zoning Subcommittee, which would revise the city’s zoning and align it with “Kingston 2025.”  Those meetings, which are scheduled approximately monthly at the convenience of the committee members, are open, public meetings.  In the summer of 2016, some of us began attending them in order to learn more about the process and what changes would be made.  We learned the logistics of where and when the next meeting will be held by regularly checking the city’s meeting calendar.

A major goal of “Kingston 2025” is to focus on three core areas of the city: Uptown, Rondout/Hudson River Waterfront, and Midtown.  In the first two, the work is mostly to consolidate and make sense of previously enacted plans. With the last, the goal is to create a Midtown Overlay district that would articulate new policies to revitalize the neighborhood.

VIEW:  Watch the Kingston Comprehensive Plan Zoning Committee

Our understanding is that the consultants are revising the zoning codes to make them more “user-friendly.”  We’re not clear yet on how that will be achieved.  It’s been said that they will completely rewrite the existing zoning codes, but there also doesn’t appear to be enough money to do that.  At the meetings, there has been talk of creating a revised zoning code framework from where further adjustments can be made.

Specific changes discussed to date include the following:

  • The eight residential districts in the City of Kingston will be consolidated into three, with resulting changes in allowable uses within those districts.
  • The Comprehensive Plan Zoning Subcommittee is currently in the process of streamlining the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission, to consolidate those historic preservation boards into one, and they have assured those Chairmen, the public, and the State Historic Preservation Office (who is affiliated with the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission) that there will be no loss of power to either commission.  VIEW “Combined Historic Preservation/Landmarks Commission Memo”  The Kingston News filmed many of the February and March 2017 discussions on this topic.   WATCH Comprehensive Plan Zoning Committee and Subgroup Meetings
  • While parking is a major discussion point throughout the city, there isn’t much conversation around it at the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Committee.  Recently, the Mayor appointed a Parking Work Group to study the city’s needs and goals, which does not seem to be affiliated with the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Subcommittee.
  • An important element of the “Kingston 2025” vision is about equalizing access to Kingston’s attributes.  One focus is to protect Kingston’s sensitive public areas, like the waterfront which is prone to flooding and threatened by sea level rise.  Another is to improve housing choices for residents of all incomes.  So far, discussion of the city’s sensitive areas has focused more on encouraging development, including streamlining a developer’s process for ease and swiftness and reducing restrictions on development.  Affordable housing has not yet been much of a part of the discussion.  Workgroups established at a recent equitable development workshop exposed some of these of missing key values in the current Comprehensive Plan Draft Zoning.
  • At the most recent Comprehensive Plan Zoning Subcommittee meeting in April, at the suggestion of Assistant Corporation Counsel, they voted 5-3 to create a local appeals process within the new zoning codes where the city would have the authority to over-ride the city’s regulatory boards in favor of developers in order to avoid the city’s involvement in Article 78 legal actions.  The local appeals process will either be decided by the Mayor or by a separate board created for this purpose and comprised of members of all the city’s boards.  (It wasn’t clear at the end of the meeting, which method had been decided upon.)    Considering the Zoning Board of Appeals already has its own appeals process, we assume this will primarily impact the Planning Board’s decisions and the city’s historic preservation commissions’ decisions.

Minutes and agendas from a few (but not all) of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Subcommittee meetings are available on the city’s website.  Regular notes on meetings of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Subcommittee have not been kept.  We have been told that the City Planner is working to piece together notes from Subcommittee meetings held in the past, however it has not yet been added to the city’s website.

This is an important issue that will affect the city’s planning process and development for years to come.  Citizens can have a huge impact right now by following the process and participating in these public discussions.  There will be a public hearing in the beginning of this summer where the public can weigh in.

Hillary Harvey is a photographer and writer, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly, a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

VIDEO: “On Immigration” – A Public Educational Forum in April

By Rebecca Martin

Our recent educational forum “On Immigration” was focused around the Ulster County Legislature’s Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government to Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health,  And Well- Being Of All Persons In Ulster County” structured around ACLU guidelines. VIEW

With guest panelists District #7 Ulster County Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum, it was my favorite educational panel discussion so far this year, where we had the opportunity to focus on a single piece of local legislation with at times two opposing points of view.

Resolution No. 138 is important and worthy, but it doesn’t have the support it needs to pass through committee to the legislative floor. It also doesn’t have the Sheriff’s support for reasons you might not suspect.

Empowered by New York State law and the County charter, the Sheriff’s office is independent in the way of policy making and procedure (though in reviewing the county CHARTER, it does state that “the Sheriff shall have and exercise all the powers and duties heretofore or hereafter lawfully granted or imposed by the Charter, Administrative Code, local law or resolution of the County Legislature“. My interpretation is that the Legislature would have oversight in some cases). In the resolution, there are several points in the model language that the Sheriff feels would infringe upon his office.

I wish that the Ulster County Legislature would have taken its time with this, starting with a small item that they and the Sheriff’s office could agree to.  For instance, sensitivity training on immigration by all county officers was something that was brought up on Sunday by a community member.  All the while, building support both internally and externally for a Resolution as important as No. 138 to have a fighting chance.

RESOURCES:

VIEW: Ulster County Resolution No. 138
VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky Powerpoint on Immigration
VIEW:  ACLU Model State and Local Law Enforcement Policies and Rules
VIEW:  “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions”
VIEW:  10th Amendment
VIEW:  Ulster County Charter Article XX “Sheriff”

PART 1: Click on image to review. 

 

 

3:04 – What empowers the work of the UC Legislature and UC Sheriff’s office?

5:50  – “Sanctuary” is a term that has come up this year, that many hadn’t thought of or even have known about before the Trump administration. What is the difference between a community, city or county that speaks of itself as a “Sanctuary” and one that is “Welcoming and Inclusive”? 

JSB: “Sanctuary”  is not a legal term. It refers to the “spirit” of the statement they are making. There is a range of statements having to do with the concept to limit cooperation of government, whether we call it “sanctuary” or not.

PVB: “Sanctuary” is not a law, just a suggestion.

13:10 – The City of Kingston worked with the Kingston Police Department to craft their resolution. Given the confusion and fear currently, in being a supportive community, what might you suggest could help our County regarding this matter?

PVB:  Education.

14:37 –  What is the process of the Ulster County Sheriff’s department in how it handles members of our community who are undocumented?

PVB:  People think there is no process, and there is… you are not going to be deported because you are undocumented.

16:08 –  Are you seeing any changes in how you manage immigration issues in ulster county from one administration to another?

PVB:  No. Nothing has changed since I began this work in 1976 in Ulster County.

16:25 –  On the subject of fear, there are those who speak about members of our community who are undocumented as being ‘criminals’ or ‘illegals’ that has heightened since Trump took office.  

PVB:  The public doesn’t have to worry about being deported by local police agencies because they are undocumented. We will not allow members of the public to be targeted by their heritage.

18:00 – What is the difference between INS and ICE? 

22:50: The PEW center states that there are 1.15 million classified undocumented citizens in NYS.  How many of these estimates are in Ulster County? 

PVB (26:45) –  If you are undocumented and you have police contact, you will not be deported….it’s important for people to know that and to not be afraid.

27:30 –  The Ulster County Legislature and Ulster County Sheriff’s office did not speak at the inception of Resolution No. 138. Why? 

34:17  – After meeting a week ago, were any amendments made to it? 

36:40 – What aspects of the resolution might keep the Ulster County Sheriff’s office from supporting it? 

VIEW:  ACLU Model State and Local Law Enforcement Policies and Rules

#3) Defined Access/Interview Rule: Unless acting pursuant to a court order or a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law, no [County/City/State] official shall permit ICE or CBP agents access to [County/City/State] facilities or any person in [County/City/State] custody for investigative interviews or other investigative purposes.

38:37 –  Can you explain what is problematic with #3 in your opinion?

#6) Privacy Protection Rule: No [County/City/State] official shall voluntarily release personally identifiable data or information to ICE or CBP regarding an inmate’s custody status, release date or home address, or information that may be used to ascertain an individual’s religion, ethnicity or race, unless for a law enforcement purpose unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law.

VIEW:  “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions”

VIEW:  10th Amendment

46:21 –  If a community or county are only stating the laws as they are and as they have always been, why do some portray that there will be some form of punishment for doing so?   How might you address that?

PVB (47:06) –  “For sure it is a miscommunication, a misunderstanding. None of which ever happened before Trump was elected into office. The president can’t restrict funding on his own. Laws would have to be changed, and they are not going to change the law. You will not be deported unless you have done something terribly wrong.”

47:55 – Sheriff, you speak about education as being key here. Could the current resolution be seen as an educational tool?  

PVB:  The legislature here wants to set policy for the Ulster County Sheriff’s office. which I don’t believe that they can and if they can, and they do, how does the sheriff’s office follow these restrictions?

JSB: We would prefer that you agree not to volunteer information.

51:50 –  Let’s discuss #5 of the ACLU Guidelines.     

Don’t Ask Rule: [County/City/State] officials shall not inquire into the immigration or citizenship status of an individual, except where the inquiry relates to a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law, or where required by state or federal law to verify eligibility for a benefit, service, or license conditioned on verification of certain status.

JSB: In the intake form when you are being processed, it asks where you were born.

SVB: We don’t ask anyone your status of origin is ever. If you are locked up, the question on the booking form are given to us by the COC. We ask the questions they want us to ask.  It’s in our rules and regulations forms that we don’t ask origin.

Read more…

PARTICIPATE! Attend Regular Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Council Meetings.

By Rebecca Martin

How can we improve local government? By becoming more civic-minded rather than a single issue participant and attending regular, monthly meetings of both the Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Common Council.  That’s a potent and simple place to start.

To help you to get on your way, KingstonCitizens.org has put together a schedule of 2017  for both elected bodies.   “Many hands make light work” as they say. If each of us attended one or two meetings a year and shared what we witnessed – the landscape would look and feel very different.

Here are simple steps you can take to become a more engaged, local citizen.

  1. Sign up for the dates and times that are most convenient for your schedule (see below)
  2. Attend meetings. Make sure you check the calendar prior to attending, as all dates/times are subject to change (see below).  Make sure you add the dates to your personal calendar so you are reminded of your commitments.
  3. Write a one-page (or more) summation of your experience.  What happened that evening? How many citizens were present? Did you speak during public comment? What issues were discussed?  What significant decisions were made?  What did you learn and what outcome would you like to see on the issues that were discussed that evening?
  4. Submit your piece to KingstonCitizens.org:  rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org to be shared in our “Citizen Opinions” section (rules apply).
  5. We can help you to identify your council and legislative representatives and will encourage you to send a copy of your report directly to them as well.

 

Get Started. 

  1. Ulster County Legislature:  Dem/Rep Caucus and Regular Legislative Session
    1. VIEW:  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW:   Check the Ulster County Legislature Calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change.  You can also access an agenda at the legislative site.
  2. Kingston Common Council: Caucus and Regular Meeting
    1. VIEW  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW: Check the City of Kingston municipal calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change. You can also access an agenda at the City of Kingston website.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Join us in becoming familiar with local government.

VIDEO: The Ulster County Legislature Bans Memorializing Resolutions.

 

By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, with a 13/9 vote, the Ulster County Legislature banned memorializing resolutions.   Although our group is deeply disappointed in the outcome,  we will apply our new knowledge  about the legislature to our work throughout the remainder of the year and beyond.

Outside of a ban on memorializing resolutions, we learned that Local Law 18 from 2016 (Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity) had been held back in the Laws and Rules Committee for over a year. In other words, a simple public hearing on transgender rights was stalled and in essence, denied.

In other news, what appeared to be a dozen or so members of a local sportsman club in attendance,  the group appeared to mostly be there to oppose Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government And Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health, And Well-Being Of All Persons In Ulster County“.  Illustrating the law as Ulster County becoming a ‘sanctuary county’, at one point during public testimony, a member of the group stated, “…We know you will do the right thing. #138 has to go down. We have your back. Thank you very much”  (VIEW Tape #2 @ 21:00)

It was an evening that left me questioning motives. Why would our elected officials wish to limit free speech? Or deny the public a chance for public comment on gender equality? Or, be opposed to wanting to ensure “protection, order, conduct safety, health and well-being of all persons living in Ulster County”?  I haven’t any answers, only a sense. Control and fear. Both will wreck havoc, too. The public must remain diligent.

KingstonCitizens.org is seeking volunteers who are interested in attending monthly Ulster County Legislature meetings and report back to the public via KingstonCitizens.org. It’s our goal to build a larger base of public participation and, as always, encourage new potential candidates.  All legislature seats are up for election in November, 2017.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Special thanks to Clark Richters of the Kingston News for helping us to document the evening.

###

 

Those in favor of a ban on memorializing resolutions were (RED: Republican, Conservative, etc;  BLUE: Democrat):

District 1 (Town of Saugerties)   Mary Wawro
District 3 (Town of Saugerties/Town of Ulster)  Dean Fabiano
District 4 (Town of Ulster/Town of Kingston) James Maloney
District 8 (Town of Esopus)  Carl Belfiglio
District 9 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Plattekill)  Herbert Litts III
District 10 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Marlboro)  Mary Beth Maio
District 11 (Town of Marlboro)  Richard Gerentine
District 12 (Town of Plattekill)  Kevin Roberts
District 13 (Town of Shawangunk) Ken Ronk
District 14 (Town of Shawangunk/Town of Wawarsing)  Craig Lopez
District 18 (Town of Hurley/Town of Marbletown)  Richard Parete
District 21 (Town of Rochester/Town of Wawarsing) Ronald G. Lapp
District 22 (Town of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive, and Shandaken)  John Parete

Those opposed:

District 2 (Town of Saugerties/Village of Saugerties)  Chris Allen
District 5 (City of Kingston) Peter Loughran
District 6 (City of Kingston)  Dave Donaldson
District 7 (City of Kingston)  Jennifer Schwartz Berky
District 16 (Town of Gardiner/Town of Shawangunk) Tracey Bartels
District 17 (Town of Esopus/Town of New Paltz)  Jim Delaune
District 19 (Town of Marbletown/Town of Rosendale)  Manna Jo Greene
District 20 (Town of New Paltz/Village of New Paltz) Hector Rodriguez
District 23 (Town of Woodstock)  Jonathan Heppner

Absent:
District 15 (Town of Wawarsing, Town of Ellenville)  Thomas Briggs


VIDEO: Resolution No. 91 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW:  Legislative Discussion/Debate


Legislator Highlights
:

VIEW:  Ken Ronk and David Donaldson

VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky

Public Comment Highlights:

VIEW: Amy Fradon, Ban on Memorializing Resolution

VIEW:  County GOP Chair Roger Rascoe, Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

VIEW: Andrea Callan,  Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity (Local Law 18 of 2016) 

VIEW:  Candace Teetsel and Friend, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW: Jeff Rindler, ED of HV LGBTQ, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW:  Evie Starr, Local Law 18 of 2016

 

To view all public comment:
VIDEO #1   Starts at 36:30

 

 

 

 

FAQ Sheet and Call To Action: Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions Vote April 18.

CALL TO ACTION.

Legislative Members  VIEW

Please call your Ulster County Legislator today and ask that they reject Resolution No. 91 “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions” on April 18th.     “It is important to me that you do not support a ban on the memorializing resolution process. A ban is undemocratic and infringes on my first amendment right to petition.”

Plan to attend the next Ulster County regular legislative meeting on Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00 pm at the Ulster County Office Building located at 244 Fair Street, 6th Floor in Kingston, NY.  Arrive at 6:30 pm to sign-up to speak and to get a seat.  Citizens are encouraged to create a two (2) minute testimony that is respectful and succinct.

###

In March of 2017, Resolution No. 91, a proposed ban on memorializing resolutions,  had its first reading (see video below).  In order to change a local law, that’s step one in the process.  On April 18th, the resolution will be read a final time before it goes to vote.

Here are the facts. (**)

Is a letter from the legislature as effective as a memorializing resolution?

No. Memorializing resolutions must be submitted to the Clerk of the Legislature by the sponsor(s), along with all other business of the session, by a specific deadline.  The appropriate standing committee is chosen based on the issue.  It is placed on the committee agenda and discussed at the regularly scheduled meeting, which is open to the public.  The members of the committee have the opportunity to discuss the MR in committee before voting to send it to the “floor” of the legislature for a vote in the upcoming session.  A letter is not an act of the legislature that invites group discussion in committee, requires a vote by that committee to be sent to the floor, and is then a part of the public process where the public sees the memorializing resolution and can attend the session to weigh in.

Why do proponents of the ban on Memorializing Resolutions claim that they take up too much time during regular legislative sessions?

In 2016, the rules were changed prohibiting discussion on Memorializing Resolutions during the legislative session.  However, procedure allows for members to call for a “long roll” (i.e., a one-by-one vote) so that they may speak on the issue.  KingstonCitizens.org believes that engaging in debate in a way that represents and involves the public is the legislature’s business. They are protecting our “right to petition” by creating an opportunity for our voices to be heard and for our petitions to have a real forum. A ban on memorializing resolutions discredits public participation, civic dialogue, due process and the First Amendment.

Why are memorializing resolutions important? 

Memorializing resolutions are statements of principles that do not become a local law or policy. They are “non-binding”. It is, effectively, a petition by one legislative body to other legislative bodies and lawmakers to provide a mechanism that allow citizens and the legislature to take a stand on important issues.

Why do the ban’s sponsors claim that Memorializing Resolutions have been used as a political tool? 

The sponsors have said that memorializing resolutions were used recently by the Democratic Caucus to polarize the legislative body over issues we have no control over.  Memorializing resolutions are a governing tool. Governing tools are non-partisan.

Two controversial memorializing resolutions were recently sponsored by Republicans and passed by the majority of the Ulster County Legislature. One, in fact,  just occurred in March of this year.  It was Resolution No. 92 “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05” (March 22, 2017). The other was  Resolution No. 253  “Opposing The Process Of Enactment And Certain Provisions Contained Within The New York SAFE Act”  (June 16th, 2015).

 

SOURCES  (**)

VIEW  “Commentary:  Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic” by Jennifer Schwartz Berky (Kingston Times, March 22, 2017)

VIDEO:  Ulster County Laws and Rules Committee Discuss Prohibiting Memorializing Resolutions Legislative Session

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17: First Reading of Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

VIDEO: “On Climate Change, Energy and Infrastructure” with Kate Hudson of Waterkeeper.

“It’s difficult to overstate the seriousness of the environmental threats coming from this administration. We have never had a head of the EPA so hostile towards the mission of the agency, and never had a President so unwilling to make decisions based on science and law.”
– Kate Hudson, Waterkeeper Alliance

KingstonCitizens.org’s recent community educational forum “PART II:  On Climate Change, Energy and Infrastructure” was at capacity.  Our special guest Kate Hudson of Waterkeeper helped participants understand better what was a stake today and what citizens can do.

VIEW video from the event.

Please be sure to visit our upcoming SCHEDULE to learn more about future community educational forums.

Special thanks to Kate Hudson for her generosity in sharing her knowledge as our guest panelist; Peter and Julie at Church des Artists for their space, kindness, and for making this video; and, to all of our KingstonCitizens.org volunteers for their assistance.

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Resources:
VIEW:  KingstonCitizens.org’s “Trump Administration Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws”

8:46 – 11:25
Introduction: On KingstonCitizens.org’s Community Educational Forum Series

Read more…

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17 – Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions. Public Comment and First Reading.

“Why would we want to diminish our voice and power as a legislature? Are our actions any less important than any other legislative body or branch of government to our constituents? If we think so, we should not hold the office.”   –  Jennifer Schwartz Berky,  Ulster County Legislator (Kingston, District 7)   from “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times.   VIEW

On Wednesday night, the Ulster County Legislature held its regular legislative session where the proposed ban on memorializing resolutions had its first reading. Other important items were debated (and adopted) including a memorializing resolution to request the NYS Legislature expand hate crimes (to include first responders and police officers) and, a resolution to prohibit cyber-bullying.

Thanks to all of the citizens who came out to speak that evening on a number of issues. We trust that watching these processes as thoroughly as you are will help to better assist you in speaking to your legislators on these important matters.

Speeches that were made by the Chairman, minority and majority leaders are located at the bottom of this post.

Filmed by Clark Richters of the Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

FOR YOUR REFERENCE:

Resolution #91: “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW: “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times by Jennifer Schwartz Berky, District 7 Legislator

Resolution #92: “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05”

Resolution No. 89  Adopting Proposed Local Law No. 17 of 2016 (A Local Law Prohibiting Cyber-Bullying In Ulster County)”  

 

                     VIDEO ONE:  Public Comment Footage. See names and times below. 

Read more…

VIDEO: UC Laws and Rules Committee Discuss Prohibiting Memorializing Resolutions. Legislative Session Postponed to Wednesday Due to Snow.

Last evening, the Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules Committee had their monthly meeting with one of the items being to discuss Resolution No. 91  “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”.  It passed through committee by a 4 / 3 vote.  We filmed the meeting thanks to The Kingston News (brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org) so that you can see the debate from last night. We also took the liberty to note the legislator’s districts and localities they represent in the case that one of the members represents you and you wish to contact them directly.

Due to today’s snowstorm, the regular legislative session that was to be for this evening was moved to tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 15th at 7:00pm in Legislative Chambers (6th Floor) of the Ulster County Building located at 244 Fair Street in Kingston.  Residents can sign-up to speak when they arrive.

We ask citizens consider coming to speak tomorrow in opposition of the Ulster County Legislature banning memorializing resolutions.  Please keep comments respectful, succinct and no longer than three (3) minutes in length.

In the case that the meeting is moved again, we’ll send out an update.

 

VIEW
Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules Committee Meeting
Video from Tuesday, March 13, 2017

Read more…

PROPOSED BAN ON MEMORIALIZING RESOLUTIONS. Process and Actions in March and April.

Last year, the Ulster County Legislature passed Resolution No. 251 “Amending The Rules Of Order To Set Procedure For Memorializing Resolutions”  In it, it sets some protocols for memorializing resolutions stating that “any resolution which memorializes the New York State Legislature, Congress of the United States, or any other body to take an action which will not require a home rule message, shall be submitted and considered in Committee in accordance with the procedures set forth in these Rules of Order. When presented for consideration at a monthly or special meeting of the Legislature, Memorializing Resolutions shall not be debatable. Memorializing Resolutions shall, however, be amendable, may be referred to a Standing Committee of the Legislature, or may be withdrawn prior to a vote by the Legislative body.”

Only eight months later,  District 18 Republican Legislator Richard A. Parete along with Legislators Dean Fabiano (District 3: Town of Saugerties, Town of Ulster) and Kenneth J. Ronk  (District 13: Town of Shawangunk) have taken it a step further with a new resolution that would prohibit Memorializing Resolutions altogether.

VIEW Resolution No. 32

Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

Many citizens were present at the regular legislative meeting in February to speak during public comment and to encourage the legislature to reject a ban on memorializing resolutions. Only upon arrival did we learn that earlier in the day, the Ulster County Legislature’s Laws and Rules committee tabled the resolution instead of passing it through to the floor as anticipated.

As reported in the Daily Freeman,  Legislator Richard A. Parete stated that  “The main reason [I pulled it] is because the full Legislature wasn’t there, and I don’t know if it had the votes to pass.”  Parete said he would wait until March when he expects more legislators to be in to introduce the measure.”    VIEW The Daily Freeman Article.

How does this appear to the public?  Not only is a ban on memorializing resolutions undemocratic, but tabling proposed legislation due to not having the votes for it to pass lacks transparency.

Thanks for your support and in following this issue through to the end with us. It is not only important for citizens to speak to the issue but to also be a witness.

 

WHAT’S THE PROCESS?

In February of 2017, District 18 (Town of Hurley, Town of Marbletown) Legislator Richard Parate withdrew Resolution No. 32 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions” for the Ulster County Legislature.  

1. LAWS AND RULES.  On Monday, March 13th at 6:30 pm it is anticipated that the UC Legislature Laws and Rules Committee (K.L. Binder Library on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston) will discuss whether or not to pass the resolution out to the floor the following evening.   VIEW Facebook Event.

2. FIRST READING. If approved, the Resolution will have its first reading (though not out loud) on Tuesday, March 14th (Legislative Chambers on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston) at the regular legislative session that begins at 7:05pm.  No action can be taken.  VIEW Facebook Event

3.  SECOND READING AND VOTE.  On Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00pm during its regular Legislative session (Legislative Chambers on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building 244 Fair Street, Kingston), it is anticipated that the legislation will have its second reading and folloing, the full body will vote.   VIEW Facebook Event

 

TAKE ACTION.

 1. CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR.  We encourage citizens to contact their Legislator and request that they reject the ban on memorializing resolutions throughout the months of March and April.    VIEW: Ulster County Legislature Website to Find Your Legislator.

2.  DEMOCRAT LEGISLATOR JOHN R. PARETE SAYS HE SUPPORTS A BAN.  Given this is a Republican supported ban, it is important for citizens to know that District 22 Democratic Legislator John R. Parete has announced that he supports the ban, and could be the swing vote on the matter.

If you live in the Towns of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive or Shandaken, please consider calling or emailing your representative directly to discuss his point of view, and to share yours.   (845) 657-8500 or send an email to  jparete@msn.com

3. SIGN OUR PETITION.  Sign our PETITION where your name and any comments that you make go directly to Legislators Richard Parete, Kenneth Ronk, Dean Fabiano and John Parete.

4. PLAN TO ATTEND UPCOMING MEETINGS.  Please consider:  a)  Attend and speak during public comment at the regular Legislative sessions on Tuesday, March 14th (7:05pm) when it is anticipated the legislation will have its first read. No action will be taken and;   b)  Tuesday, April 18th (7:00pm) when it is anticipated that the Resolution will have its second reading and a vote by the legislature.

5. SHARE WITH FRIENDS!  Please share this post with friends to help us to get the word out. Thank you for your support.

REVIEW:  Tell Ulster County Legislature That a Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions is Undemocratic.

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