Welcome to KingstonCitizens.org!

KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on relevant and current issues about Kingston, N.Y.

Our aim is to help to foster transparent communication via citizen participation. Check out our archives for past stories and insights about New York’s first capital.

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A New Draft of Kingston Comprehensive Plan Effort “2025″ Revealed on September 18th at 6:00pm.

By Rebecca Martin

A new draft of the City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan will be revealed at a public meeting scheduled for THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18th at 6:00pm in Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall.  Kingston News will stream the meeting live and make it available online made possible by KingstonCitizens.org

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

What is a comprehensive plan? According to a Land Use series written by Iowa State University’s University extension, it is:

“A comprehensive plan, also known as a master or general plan, is a collection of information and materials designed to guide the future development of a city or county. Such a plan can provide a community with a firm foundation for policy and action that will allow it to function more efficiently and effectively. It can strengthen communities’ policies and legislation, and it also can promote a more certain future.

Although a comprehensive plan can do all of this and more, many places have outdated plans that serve little function. Some cities have more current plans but fail to rely on them in making development decisions.”

Next to a good consultant, the most critical part in how a Comprehensive Plan is created is through ‘significant public participation.’ 

“The creation of a useful comprehensive plan involves a great deal of research, calculation, and discussion. The development of many of the plan elements requires a high degree of technical knowledge. For this reason, the process is best guided by trained professionals. Even cities with a planning department often hire a consultant to create their comprehensive plan. Either way, the plan should include significant public participation. Numerous public meetings should be arranged and special effort should be made to encourage attendance and disseminate information about the process.

The entire process can take years to complete. Once the plan is finished, the planning commission and the city council should formally approve the document. Although the comprehensive plan does not contain actual laws or regulations, this formal approval will lend strength to future legislation that is based upon the plan. Likewise, future work by any city agency or body should be compared to the comprehensive plan and should be consistent with it.

Finally, it is important to realize that once in place, the comprehensive plan is not an infallible or unchange- able document. Times and conditions change, and some of the forecasts the plan was based on may prove inaccurate. The plan should not be changed out of convenience but can be updated when necessary so that it continues to provide an accurate picture of how the community wishes to progress.”

Kingston 2025

The City of Kingston last created  a citywide master plan in 1961 led by the consultant Raymond & May and that also included the work of a young Daniel Shuster as project planner.

In today’s world, generally a citywide Comprehensive Plan can conservatively costs upwards to $200,000.00 or more with many years of strategic public outreach depending on the size of the community.

In 2010 towards the end of then Mayor James Sottile’s second term,  the City of Kingston’s planning office found an opportunity to bond monies that resulted in $96,000 to undertake a citywide Comprehensive Plan for Kingston. It passed unanimously through city council.

After sending out an RFP (Request for Proposal) the city received around sixteen (16) proposals from consultants all around the area and beyond. After whittling it down to just four (4),  do you know who was selected? Shuster and Associates led by an older Daniel Shuster!  The same consultant that the city hired back in 1961 on the cusp of urban renewal when a great portion of the Rondout was allowed to be torn down.

A Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee was created early in the process and community members selected were either professionals in their field or community members by Alderman-at-Large James Noble and City Planning Director Suzanne Cahill.   Since then, there has been what some consider a very light effort to engage the pubic with a single online survey and public visioning event . Several committee meetings over the years have taken place, also open to the public (though the public was encouraged to attend and listen rather than participate).

A citywide plan is a whole lot to do for $96,000. Luckily (and not surprisingly to all of us watching) the meat of the plan was supplemented by the hard work of dedicated citizens on subjects that encompass: Historic Preservation, Urban Agriculture, Bluestone surveys, Rail Trails, City Parks, Complete Streets, Climate Action Plan, Flooding Task Force and more. Some of which were not funded at all by the City of Kingston. They were gifts to you and me.  You can find all of these studies on the Kingston 2025 webpage.

I believe the initial proposal for the consultant was two years which we are well over by now with the plan not complete and, there is still zoning to do. Currently, a volunteer group has been assembled to take on this enormous and critical task. Who are they and how were they selected? When do they meet?  

Though perhaps unpopular, maybe we should have a conversation with our elected officials about the prospect of leveraging this effort for further funding so to get it right.  After all, what’s another couple of years? We’ve waited this long.

PS – Lets make certain that in the new CP it is required that the city stay current with this document and update it at least every 5 years where necessary. Doing so will not only keep Kingston current, but save taxpayers a great deal of money to not have to orchestrate an overhaul as we are now in the foreseeable future. 

A new draft of the City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan will be revealed at a public meeting scheduled on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18th at 6:00pm in Council Chambers at Kingston City Hall. Kingston News will stream the meeting live and make it available later online 

Other relevant articles on KC.org

On a Comprehensive Plan in Kingston

KC.org Founder Rebecca Martin Interviewed on Vantage Points with Calvin Carter

Unknown KingstonCitizens.org founder Rebecca Martin was recently interviewed by Calvin Carter of Vantage Points. The discussion touched upon KC.org’s beginnings, civics, Kingston’s common council, recent educational panels including city manager and the COK’s  comprehensive planning process.

Part One: KC.org’s beginnings, city charter and strong mayor and city manager forms of government.

Part Two: More on Kingston’s city charter and Kingston’s common council.

Part Three: Kingston’s comprehensive planning process (Coming Soon)

KingstonCitizens.org presents “Exploring the Role of Kingston’s Common Council” on May 28th at 6:00pm.

 

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KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion, the second in its series, called “Exploring the Role of Kingston’s Common Council” on Wednesday, May 28th at the Kingston Public Library 55 Franklin Street, in Kingston NY from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.  Panel guests include Alderman-at-Large James Noble, Majority Leader and Ward One (1)  Alderman Matt Dunn and Minority Leader and Ward Nine (9) Alderwoman Deb Brown.

Kingston, NY -  The city of Kingston has a total of nine wards, each having a single representative to act on their behalf. The “Alderwoman or Alderman” (the role of the ‘common man’) carries a two year term and collectively, acts as the city of Kingston’s legislative body that is also as the  “Common Council”.

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present, the second in an ongoing educational series on civics in Kingston, a public forum discussion called “Exploring the Role of Kingston’s Common Council” on, Wednesday, May 28th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY.  All are invited to attend.

Guest panelists include James Noble, Alderman-at-Large; Matt Dunn, Majority Leader (Democrat) and Ward 1 Alderman; and Deb Brown, Minority Leader (Republican) and Ward 9 Alderwoman. The group will discuss their roles and relationship to their ward, constituents, council and collaboration with those at Kingston City Hall.

The evening will be co-moderated by Rebecca Martin, founder of KingstonCitizens.org and Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Principal at Hone Strategic, LLC and the former Deputy Director of Planning at Ulster County.

This event will be streamed courtesy of Kingston News.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at: rebbytunes@earthlink.net

VIEW: “Lessons in Civics” by KC.org:  What are City Manager / City Administrator Forms of Government? 

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Our Moderators

About KingstonCitizens.org: KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on relevant and current issues about Kingston, N.Y and working to foster transparent communication by encouraging growing citizen participation.  The founder of KC.org and evening co-moderator Rebecca Martin is a world renowned and critically acclaimed musician who has 25 years of experience as a manager, community organizer and activist.

About Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Principal at Hone Strategic, LLC:  Berky, the evening’s co-moderator, has over 25 twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, conservation, economic development, and urban planning in the non-profit, government, academic and private sectors. Prior to launching Hone Strategic, she served as Deputy Director of Ulster County Planning for over seven years, where she was the lead researcher and liaison to the Ulster County Charter Commission. Before moving to Ulster County, she worked in Washington, DC at the World Bank and Urban Institute, at the University of Rome (Italy) and as a project manager of design and construction for New York City’s major cultural institutions. Berky has lived for extended periods in Argentina, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. She earned a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning (M.Phil.) and Real Estate Development (M.S.) at Columbia University, where she is also currently completing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning on the subject of environmental economics.

 

 

HOLD THE DATE! “Exploring the Role of Kingston’s Common Council” on May 28th.

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We are pleased to announce our next Educational Forum to occur on Wednesday, May 28th at the Kingston Public Library from 6:00pm -8:00pm. Our topic that evening will be: “Exploring the role of Kingston’s Common Council” with special guests Alderman at Large James Noble, Majority Leader Matt Dunn and Minority Leader Deb Brown.

Kingston Times: Mayor or Manager?

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“What the manager doesn’t do – can’t do according to ICMA Ethics Rule – is engage in politics. Strome said that separating politics from day to day city business avoids favoritism – like say when areas represented by the minority party get plowed last after a snowstorm – and creates a stable class of professional city employees who don’t turn over with each new administration.  “Just because somebody worked on somebody’s campaign, somebody might feel like they owe somebody a job,” said Strome. That doesn’t happen in a council- manager system…Ellen Difalco (the Mayor’s personal secretary) said Kingston would be unable to afford a city manager. City Managers, according to the ICMA, make a median salary of about $101,000.”

- An excerpt from “Mayor or Manager” in the Kingston Times this week by Jesse Smith.

But, according to City Administrator of Beacon, NY Meredith Robson during the forum in response to Difalco’s comment reminded the audience this:
(view the VIDEO and listen in at 50:33):

“…There is an expense side of the budget and a revenue side of the budget and you’ve got to look at both sides.  Yes, there might be a salary that you pay that you’re not happy about paying, but what the professional brings into the community may save you so much more…..for example…. I worked with three unions to get an overhaul of our health benefits program estimated in savings of about $300,000 a year….we changed what was comp providers, and saved $125,000 doing that.  After an audit of our electric and telephone bills and got $250,000 back. These are just three quick things….in order to get someone who is really going to do the job you are going to have to pay for it…and what they do for a living and what they will bring to the community I suggest would be well worth it.”

 

Professional Managers: Good Reads for Educational Panel on City Manager/City Administrator Forms of Government

Please enjoy these links that explain the different aspects and functions of professional management (City Manager/ City Administrator Forms of Government).

1. Supporting Elected Officials

http://lifewellrun.org/professional-managers/supporting-elected-officials/#.UzG51jkQfcM

2. Key Facts about Professional Local Government Managers.

http://lifewellrun.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/12-147-LWR-Key-Fact-Sheet2.pdf

3. Description of five forms of local government in the US.

http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/documents/kn/Document/9135/Forms_of_Local_Government_Structure

 

KingstonCitizens.org Upcoming Educational Panel in the Kingston Times.

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VIEW: KC.org Presents “What are City Manager and City Administrator Forms of Government?”

Thanks to the Kingston Times for their article today on the upcoming ‘educational discussion’ that features information on City Manager and City Administrator forms of government.

We are pleased to announce that the event will be streamed live thanks to Kingston News, and that we will hopefully be able to accept your questions via twitter at https://twitter.com/KingCitizens

To clarify, this opportunity IS NOT A DEBATE as written in the article. Our efforts are to offer the public a chance to learn about Beacon, NY’s City Administrator form of government (City Administrator/Mayor/Council) and New Rochelle, NY’s City Manager form of government (City Manager/Council).

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SPREAD THE WORD: Download Flyer for Educational Series and Share.

Help KC.org get out the word on its upcoming public informational event.

Please print and share this flyer. Help more of Kingston Citizens to be in attendance!

DOWNLOAD FLYER: KC.org City Manager/Administrator

Keeping it clean. Who is KC.org and What Are We Doing?

Back in 2006 a group of citizens in Ward 9 started informal meetings for those living in the neighborhood to help educate and inform citizens on relevant topics in Kingston. It was a reaction to wanting to better utilize our alderman, who at the time was Mike Madsen, and our aim was to inspire more citizen input to help him to make decisions on our behalf.  Long before Facebook and Twitter and an onslaught of social media as a way of communicating.

Later on, we created this blog. In 2007 to be exact and since that time, it’s been a whole new ballgame. Its primary role was to create a place for our work in the ward, to encourage other wards to hold discussions online throughout the city and to nurture more citizen journalists.

With all the different  sources today, there is still nothing better than face to face communication. Blogs, social media and that sort of thing are fine, but can be partial to an individual’s point of view.  Who is the author? Supporters? Dissenters? Lurkers?

KC.org retired a few years ago, but is now reinstated because there seems to be a need. In light of transparency as we work to accomplish our ‘face to face’ with upcoming educational forums in a nonpartisan way, we have met with many elected officials and volunteers past and present. We plan on meeting with the Mayor, too, to discuss this work and to get his feedback.  That’s the beauty of KC.org.  No matter what ones personal views are on the issues or on the current colorful personalities on the scene today, it’s a refuge to fall back on so one can focus on education, consensus and ultimately change.

Are you interested in this work?  Don’t be shy.  Get in touch. We’ve got a job for you.

- Rebecca Martin
rebbytunes@earthlink.net