Administrative Costs For Allocating Federal Funds in Midtown?

Does it strike anyone funny that from an $815,000 grant for Midtown projects, $163,000 is going towards administration costs? We’re assuming that is what it costs to provide Michael Murphy and his staff their yearly salary. That’s a pretty hefty amount if you ask us.

Along the way, there has been mention of additional outside consultants hired by the office. If so, how many throughout the year and how much does it cost taxpayers?

We’d like to understand better what this department does year round for the amount of money they are being paid and think it’s important to look into for the administrative costs used by grant money alone.

* Addendum: This thought process was inspired by today’s article in the Daily Freeman. You can read it HERE

Citizens Share Their Ideas on Building a New Local Economy

When it comes to good ideas there is certainly never a lack of them. The problem is always finding ways to funnel and collect this information so it can make an impact.

With that in mind, we decided to reach out to the citizens of Kingston to learn what it is that they think the city should pursue in the way of building a local economy.

I’d like to keep this going so to hear from more of you.   If you’d like to participate, answer the question below and include your name, occupation and community affiliation (s).  Send it to us at: info@kingstoncitizens.org

Thanks.

– Rebecca Martin

What kind of industry or small business venture would you like to see in the city of Kingston? What incentives could the city of Kingston offer to attract it, and what obstacles are currently in the way?


Diane Reeder
Executive Director, Queens Galley

“In 1987 the entire state was in a recession and Martin Marietta, the community’s major employer, had laid off several thousand employees. There were nearly a million square feet of vacant retail space and downtown vacancies were approaching thirty percent. Kicked off the project in 1989 with the idea that “economic gardening” was a better approach for Littleton (and perhaps for Kingston too!) than “economic hunting”.  Simply grow our own jobs through entrepreneurial activity instead of recruiting them. They have developed a model that WORKS…and at least 14 other communities have used that model successfully. We can too.”

Adam Snyder
Writer/Musician/KMOCA Founder

“A supermarket located right off 9W would draw drive-up as well as neighborhood business. Something less obvious but important would be a place to mail things combined with photocopying and such (The US Post Office is cutting back at the moment which is why I think it would have to be a Mailboxes Inc type thing).  Restaurants alone will never be enough, not even for a seasonal/weekend economy.  If we want small businesses to operate in the Rondout, we need to give them the basic resources to do so. This includes businesses in commercial spaces as well as cottage industries out of nearby homes. Cottage industries may not seem like much, but in an era when it’s hard to attract medium-to-large businesses, a patchwork of smaller businesses may be what sustains us. Rondout isn’t the only neighborhood in Kingston, but what’s good for Rondout is good for Kingston. And more resources downtown means less traffic jams along Broadway.”

Melissa Everett, Ph. D.
Excecutive Director, Sustainable Hudson Valley

“Kingston could distinguish itself by developing a green building materials and products cluster, with appropriate manufacturing and assembly as well as distribution, sales and marketing, installation and support. Green building is a vast, fast-moving industry. From structural materials to windows to paints to roofing to lighting to landscaping materials, the industry is developing new technologies with reduced carbon footprints, less toxic emissions, greater materials and water efficiency and use of recycled materials, and lower impacts on the surrounding site. LEED, the primary industry standard, also gives points for sourcing supplies within a 500 mile radius of a job site. As New York and the Hudson Valley strengthen their commitment to green building codes within the state’s energy and climate action plans, opportunities to supply the construction and renovation industries will grow. Kingston has a solid cluster of relevant businesses already, including lighting, appliance, electronics and masonry supply outlets, solar installers, and a flagship publication, New York House. It has a local commitment to the “green corridor” along Broadway, where bike racks will soon be installed on every block. It also has complementary clusters in arts and the digital/ creative economy. Green alternatives in building move into the marketplace when consumers find them not only practical but beautiful. The potential for marrying green building with artistic and creative applications from furniture and interior design to landscape architecture, could give Kingston an enormous advantage in developing a green building cluster.”

K.J. McIntyre
Realtor and Co-Founder, Kingston Digital Corridor

“Years ago, George Allen suggested an architectural collete, maybe part of SUNY, based in Kingston. We really do have a great inventory of American architecture, a little weak on the contemporary but that’s within easy reach”.

Paul Joffe
Entrepreneur, Selling and Renovating, slowly.
– Read Paul’s article “Tourism In Kingston” from 2008.

“Kingston needs to make residency a 6 month process to avoid new residents who can not support themselves without local taxpayer assistance for six months. Kingston needs to hire a lobbyist in albany to advocate and promote itself. Crime is a quality of life deal-breaker, a dis-incentive to investment and settlement, and will lead to a spiral that can not be turned around. The city police are a valuable resource led by a competent, responsible chief and one of the best investments that can be made in the short term with the limited funds available. contracts with other city employees must be re-negotiated however possible. those who contribute their time and enthusiasm towards the improvement of the city should be recognized and given jobs. where salary is not available, real power to make change is often a sufficient substitute. those who agree on 90% should not spend any of their time arguing about the other ten. in a crisis only clear basic changes can be made, energy should go to consensus. by law, the subject and time of all meetings must be made public and easily available well in advance (1 week or more). those who schedule unannounced public meetings should be fined substantially. the subject of public meetings must be determined a week in advance and not be changed within a week of the meeting. notices must be unavoidable so that even the busiest citizen is informed. that means all forms of media must be notified and all public meetings should be scheduled such that working people are able to attend. the object is to have the greatest number of attendees under strict parliamentary rules limiting speaking time and relevancy to the subject of the meeting.”

Andrea Perrino
Student

“We need to extend Technology jobs and consulting jobs into the Hudson Valley/Kingston area and get away from Retail/Medical industry. SUNY NP has a program and contest in the Business program on Business Plans (I’m currently working on one). They have great ideas”.

Gerald Berke
Founder, KingstonCorridor.com

“We recently lost to the town of ulster a food packaging company. That, and others like solar manufacturing.  I don’t know what the city did in the way of offering either business incentives to be in Kingston or why we might have lost.  Some years ago, a random thing, a business man was telling me about his considerations for Midtown.  He said, to my surprise, it was hard for people to find the place, hard to give directions. We need better signage in the city inside and out! The idea about a KIngston Corridor struck me about then, and I’ve been poking at it for some years, rather ineffectively.  I brought the idea and some drawings to the city a long time ago, but there were no ears.  That seems to be changing now.  We have kingstoncitizens.org which is making a huge difference as there is someone observing and encouraging.

Some public celebration of new business: I know of none. This city does nothing, no welcome, no publicity, no thanks.  I would think having the mayor or a city committee,  meeting and greeting new business and getting that in the paper would help a lot to show we are friendly. What we see, surely, is that we are not.  For instance, there is no guidance on the web site for new business out reach.  One lady who recently bought a house from the city and has repaired and improved it gloriously had reached out to me to help her get through delays that threatened her ability to close the deal.

Andi Turco-Levin
Realtor and City of Kingston Ward 1 Alderman

“A historic preservation program associated with the college, perhaps to offer some sort of degree at the end. Somewhere in the mix, the City of Kingston could work with targeted neighborhoods to restore the blocks of vintage Queen Anne architecture (like Downs or Elmendorf Sts for example) There is grant money for historic preservation in some places. Perhaps the program would draw young people looking to learn about historic preservation (which is a growing industry) to live in Kingston while studying. We need to recognize how important this is to the future of the historic neighborhoods of Kingston. This city has a gold mine of potential preservation projects.”

Barbara Sarah and Jennifer Schwartz-Berky
Mother/Daughter
Barbara is founder of the Oncology Support Program at Benedictine Hospital and the director of Third Opinion. Jennifer is Deputy Director, Ulster County Planning Board and Visiting Lecturer in Environmental and Urban Studies at Bard College.


“Kingston should create “cultural districts,” which is something that over 100 cities across the US have done in the last decade.  Many of these communities have successfully positioned the arts at the center of their revitalization strategies.  A number of well-documented studies demonstrate a very high return on local governments’ investments in such a strategy.  This “place-based” policy typically involves tax credits and other incentives for artists and arts-related businesses to support their work and the improvement of spaces within specific mixed-use areas of the city that are targeted for revitalization.  According to a study by the Americans for the Arts, “Cultural districts boost urban revitalization in many ways: beautify and animate cities, provide employment, attract residents and tourists to the city, complement adjacent businesses, enhance property values, expand the tax base, attract well-educated employees, and contribute to creative, innovative environment.” The New York State Department of Labor reports that Ulster County has nearly twice the number of artists (1.9 times the average) of any place in the country, which is high even compared to our neighboring counties (which average 1.3 times the average). Kingston is the perfect candidate for a successful cultural districts strategy.”

Arthur Zaczkiewicz
Freelance Writer and Editor and Garden Committee Co-chair, Kingston Land Trust

“Bicycle (repairs and rentals) and Fishing Tackle shop in the Rondout. During the warmer months, bikes and fishing is the merchandising focus while snowshoes and snowboards are sold and rented during the winter. A recent Sea Grant Study revealed that the number one natured-based activity for tourists and residents of Kingston, Beacon and Cold Spring was bicycling. The number one water recreation activity was fishing. And the number one cultural activity was visiting the waterfront to dine and shop.

Urban Organic and Hyrdoponic Farming Industry. Take the old Kings’ Inn and convert it to a hyrdoponic farm, which sells vegetables year-round to the community. Can employ between 10 and 15 people, perhaps in a co-op profit sharing model. The roof can be modified with solar panels to help offset the energy costs.

Redevelopment Initiative of Existing Commercial and Industrial Space. Here, new businesses would be encouraged to participate in this program with tax abatements and other incentives. They would relocate into existing buildings in Kingston that are refurbished by Kingston-based contractors who hire local helpers who may have been under or unemployed. This helps local contractors as well as local people while making use of preexisting buildings (green) instead of building new, which is not green or sustainable. Tax breaks would be big enough to discourage new construction.

Incentives: City-awarded tax abatements and tax breaks — especially for small businesses or start ups.

Obstacles: A lack of creative thinking.”

The Chronogram Nominated For an Utne Independent Press Award

Dear Readers,

If you’re like me, then you can hardly wait for the 1st of the month to pick-up your new edition of the Chronogram. They are truly one of the best publications in the Hudson Valley – and have set up shop in the city of Kingston. Not only are they are a great publication, but they are the first to step forward to support any initiative that is arts related or in helping any number of organizations who are making a big difference in the lives of many all throughout the Hudson Valley.

Join me now in congratulating them on being nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award.

A big shout out to Jason, Amara, Brian and the entire staff for their dedication in reporting on real issues and by helping to put Kingston on the map.  I’m one of your many fans.

Let’s celebrate!

– Rebecca Martin

Contact: Brian K. Mahoney, (845) 334-8600×103, bmahoney@chronogram.com

Chronogram magazine nominated for Utne Independent Press Award
Kingston, New York
3/24/10

Chronogram magazine has been recognized by Utne Reader for editorial
excellence for 2009 in the Health and Wellness category. In the past year,
Chronogram has covered health and wellness topics as diverse as: the
efficacy of the swine flu vaccine, women’s reproductive health, a two-part
investigation into Lyme Disease diagnoses and treatments, mentoring for
young women and young men, lifelong learning, debunking myths about calcium
supplements, and thriving and surviving through serious illness.

Chronogram is in good company with the other nominees. The 21st Annual
Independent Press Awards nominees include The New Republic, Orion,
Mother Jones, Columbia Journalism Review, The Believer, Audubon, The
Chronicle of Higher Education, and 30 other titles. The finalists were
chosen from a pool of 1,300 independent publications. The winners will be
announced on April 25 at the Magazine Publishers of America-Independent
Magazine Advisory Group (IMAG) conference in Washington, D.C.

The Utne Independent Press Awards recognize the excellence and vitality of
alternative and independent publishing. Nominees in 10 categories represent
the best in independent political, social/cultural, arts, science/tech,
health/wellness, environmental, international and spiritual coverage, as
well as best writing, and general excellence.

Utne Reader’s editors select nominee publications through an extensive
reading process and careful, yearlong examination, rather than via a
competition with entry forms and fees. In this way, the magazine honors the
efforts of small, sometimes unnoticed publications that provide innovative,
thought-provoking perspectives often ignored or overlooked by mass media.

Chronogram Editorial Director Brian K. Mahoney believes that the
nomination just goes to show that the magazine has been on the right track
for the past 16 years. “We’re thrilled to be honored in this way,” he says.
“This nomination reinforces our conviction that quality editorial—putting
real information into the hands of readers—is an end in itself. And while
our mission is to nuture and support the creative and cultural life of the
Hudson Valley, there’s no question that the material we’re producing
transcends the region. Readers, no matter where they live, are hungry for
honest, insightful editorial. It has always been our goal to provide that.
And kudos to our Lorrie Klosterman, our health and wellness editor.
Lorrie’s engaging and insightful writing and editing has elevated our coverage to
national prominence.”

Luminary Publishing, founded in 1993, is a multimedia company headquartered
at 314 Wall Street in Kingston. Its flagship publication, _Chronogram_, is
distributed free every month at 750 locations across the Hudson Valley.
Luminary Publishing’s mission is to nourish and support the creative and
cultural life of the Hudson Valley.

The Meagher Elementary School Garden Need Volunteers

The Meagher Elementary School is seeking a few volunteers to help turn soil in two garden beds next week while school is on recess. Anyone interested in helping should contact Jen Farmer at jenfarmer23@gmail.com. Volunteers need to bring shovels and gloves.

Farmer said the Kiwanis Club has offerd to build the raised bed boxes. “We can still use more help maintaining the garden over the summer as well as harvesting food for donation,” Farmer said in a recent update note to officials adding that Nell Donovan, Meagher librarian, has “volunteered to house and catalog garden related books for students and resources for teachers in the school library.”

Farmer said the garden site is “on a flat, grassy patch behind the school.  There is plenty of room for a few beds and room to expand in the future. We have also discussed putting in a pumpkin patch on the hill, next to the flower garden.”

Julie Noble, environmental educator for the City of Kingston and co-chair of the Community and School Garden Committee, will be coming to Meagher in early April to meet with staff interested in working on the garden.

Citizens Submit! On Growing a Local Economy in Kingston

KingstonCitizens.org is creating a piece by compiling the ideas of Kingston citizens on what the city of Kingston could do to help improve and grow its local economy. In a paragraph, please share with us and be sure to include your name, occupation and current local endeavors/affiliation.

Send it off to me, Rebecca Martin at: info@kingstoncitizens.org

“What kind of industry or small business venture would you like to see in the city of Kingston?  What incentives could the city of Kingston offer to attract it, and what obstacles are currently in the way?”

UCRRA Collects Pharmaceutical Waste in April

The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency is hosting its annual April collection on the 17th. This year they will be collecting Pharmaceutical waste in an effort to keep residents from flushing them where pharmaceuticals end up in streams, wells, and other waterways.

Here is an article from the New York Times titled “Drugs In The Water. Does It Matter?” to give our readers a bit of insight on the problem.

For more on this upcoming event and to print a PDF flyer visit this LINK.

The Costs & Savings To Upgrade City Hall’s Building Management System

Eastern Heating and Cooling who has been the “preferred” mechanical service provider to the City of Kingston notes that “Kingston City Hall at 420 Broadway is currently at point where immediate attention is needed in order to prevent further unnecessary spending, possible system failure and capture future Energy savings”. Below is their letter.

So here’s the scoop.

If the city of Kingston were to opt to upgrade our building’s management system, it would cost tax payers $105,000.00 as stated in the papers. At a 2% annual interest rate for a loan that is 10 years in length, the city would pay $11,892.84 each year for ten years until the loan was repaid.

Now let’s look at the savings.

With an upgrade, the savings is estimated to be $5,678.00 in year one. It continues to escalate each year. This actually cuts our annual loan payment in half. Below is an “annual and accumulated savings sheet” which will show the accumulated savings over the course of 20 years as being $152,569.99. I bet it would even be more than that. Keep in mind that after the first ten years, the savings are the city’s to keep.

Read through the documents and be in touch with your alderman to find out more information if you need to.

Seems like a no brainer to me. My vote is to start the bidding process.

– Rebecca Martin

Annual and Accumulated Savings with updated Heating/Cooling at City Hall

Eastern Heating and Cooling, Inc.: Upgrade to Building Management System


Eastern Heating and Cooling, Inc: Upgrade page 2


Eastern Heating and Cooling, Inc.: Upgrade, Page 3

Taking A Closer Look At City Hall’s Heating And Cooling Problems

For years, we have been perplexed as to why City Hall could not get the heating and cooling system working properly. In the summer months, the A/C blows full on creating an overly dramatic icy environment whether it’s a heat wave or not. In late summer/early fall when the heat kicks in, the windows are opened to allow for it to escape…and that’s because it’s an 80 degree day.

Let’s face it. It’s costing citizens an extraordinary amount all year long – and it’s simply a wasteful and careless way for our money to be spent.

In today’s freeman, there was an article showing movement to aid this problem. (“Kingston CIty Hall Awaits Heat/Air Repair”) What was missing, was more information to help citizens understand why something had to be done. Was there an energy audit? Over what amount of time would the expense be repaid in energy savings, and how much more would citizens save over time once the initial expense was recouped? We’re pretty confident it’s a bundle.

We have requested copies of this important documentation and will be posting it as soon as it arrives. It will be helpful to understand the big picture here. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass us. If what is currently being proposed isn’t the answer, then we have to work towards one.

– Rebecca Martin

More On a Council-Manager Form Of Government and Term Limits

It’s empowering to learn more on the Council-Manager form of government. Below was taken from the ICMA’s website. Visit this LINK to get resources and to learn more on the subject.

Certainly, if this is too radical for some then we should at least begin a discussion on term limits (see: Rotation in office) on all elected positions in Kingston right away.

It’s up to the citizens now to move towards a government that works. What do you want to do that is productive and helpful?

I suggest we begin at the core right here at home.

– Rebecca Martin

The collection of articles, statistics, and other information—grouped below as ICMA’s Council-Manager Form Resource Packet—will assist you in helping residents, elected officials, and business leaders within your community gain a better understanding of the value that professional management brings to our cities and towns.

ICMA’s origins lie in the council-manager form of local government, which combines the strong political leadership of elected officials (in the form of a council, board, or other governing body) with the strong professional experience of an appointed local government manager or administrator. Under this form, power is concentrated in the elected council, which hires a professional administrator to implement its policies. These highly-trained, experienced individuals serve at the pleasure of the elected governing body and have responsibility for preparing the budget, directing day-to-day operations, hiring and firing personnel, and serving as the council’s chief policy advisor.

Although ICMA actively promotes the council-manager form as the preferred structure, the organization also supports professional management in all forms of local government.

We invite you to use these materials as part of your council-manager form adoption and retention efforts. Click on the link to the packet components and you will be taken to ICMA’s Resource Center, where you will find a description of the material and one or more downloads. In addition to the materials contained in the Council-Manager Form Resource packet, scroll further down this page for a list of other resources, or contact Jared Dailey, assistant program manager, at jdailey@icma.org, for more information on form-of-government issues.

Launching an educational or promotional effort in support of the council-manager form can be difficult, but we hope you find these materials useful. Thank you for helping ICMA advocate the value of professional local government management and good luck with your efforts

Making Citywide Composting Profitable

In today’s Daily Freeman, Andi Turco-Levin announces her desire to get behind a citywide composting program for the city of Kingston.

There are many components to discuss on the subject such as residents doing more of it themselves (by mulching leaves and composting bigger pieces of yard waste) and mandatory leaf bagging (a source of controversial discussion).

But whether it’s left curbside, bagged, bundled – whatever – the fact remains that the city is scrambling to find a place for yard waste, as we no longer have a place for it as we have in the past. So what to do?

Take a look at the City of Palo Alto, CA’s model. Interesting indeed. (Taken from the KingstonCitizens.org facebook page. Thanks Brad Will)

What can you do in the meantime?

Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston! Leaf Mulching
Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston! Composting Yard Waste

Thoughts On A New Form Of Government in Kingston?

Is the city of Kingston ready for a slightly different form of government?

We have been doing some research and would like to share and open a discussion on the ‘Weak’ Mayor/City Council/City Manager option.  In this LINK, please scroll down to read one definition of “Weak Mayor/Council” and “Council/Manager.  We invite you to do a little research on your own and report back here. With everything seemingly on the table these days, we figure – why not?  Having a highly qualified city manager on board might be a very welcome change.

Part Three: Q & A with Ward 9’s Hayes Clement

Ward 9 Alderman Hayes Clement

Dear Readers,

This is the third of three pieces to help residents get to know their incoming Alderman with insight on those helping to shape our neighborhoods and common council in 2010.

Get active!

- RM

Arthur Zackziewicz: What do you see as the top, long-term challenges facing the City of Kingston?

Hayes Clement:  An unsustainable tax burden – on both homeowners and businesses. We’ve got to fundamentally reorient the mindset of local governments – city, school and county — from their current holy grail, keeping your annual tax increase as small as possible, to one that actually plots a path toward reducing your taxes, as difficult as that is in New York State.

City Hall, for one, has made real progress on the budget front this past year, but still more discipline, creativity and tough decisions are going to be required to bring spending into line with the simple economic realities of where we stand today: a declining population, shrinking household income levels and very shaky employment and housing markets. Old news? Not if you were a stranger to Kingston and had been ordered to describe the city using only our annual budget as your guide. Some of our expenses, particularly in the realm of employee benefits and pensions (fully $11 million of a $35 million annual budget), are truly sobering. And that’s before you even get to the “real” money – the equivalent tabs for public schools and county government. At the end of the day, when potential newcomers consider the total tax burden attached to setting up home or shop in Kingston, the results of the exercise too often shout “no way” – especially for prospective business investors.

Our “homestead/non-homestead” tax policy, which taxes commercial properties at significantly higher rates than homes, is in dire need of rethinking. It is steadily eroding the city’s commercial tax base and private-sector job market – literally emptying entire blocks of storefronts — and practically begs business owners to consider greener pastures, an especially dangerous gambit when that greener pasture might be found just a few hundred feet down Albany Avenue in the Town of Ulster.

The immediate source of distress for many tax payers remains, of course, the citywide property revaluation conducted by the city and GAR Associates several years ago. While serious flaws and inequities are apparent in the results produced so far, I consider this a near-term, not long-term, problem and one that has to be fixed, also in the near-term, in favor of over-assessed property owners.

A disproportionate share of poverty and its related problems. For years, we’ve all heard or read the complaint that indigent families in need of public assistance are routinely “dumped” in Ulster County by other less charitable (and less law-abiding) communities, from as far away as Pennsylvania. Based on my own conversations with veteran social-service and law-enforcement professionals in the area, I think the accusation is a credible one — certainly credible enough to warrant a full investigation by County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach and local Department of Social Services officials. If an investigation yields substantive evidence of the illegal practice, the county should forward the matter to the state Attorney General or other officials for help in halting the practice and seeking financial redress. If an investigation yields nothing, a finding to that effect might at least help dispel a pervasive local suspicion.
One thing is indisputable, though, in terms of poverty’s migration: Once here, the great majority of Ulster County “safety net” recipients settle in Kingston, for obvious reasons (public transportation, proximity to service agencies, etc.) but with serious financial consequences for Kingston tax payers. Alone among 62 counties in New York State, Ulster County requires that the home city or township of a safety-net recipient bear half the cost of those benefits, with the state providing the other half. In every other county, the funding formula splits the cost 50-50 between the state and the county, regardless of the recipient’s city of residence. The consequences of this for Kingston start with a sizable and growing financial burden — $1.2 million in safety net spending this year, up from $400,000 seven years ago — that by every right should be spread county-wide but, instead, is borne solely by Kingston tax payers. Not only do we take in the county’s disadvantaged, we take on the entire local portion of the bill, solo, for meeting that challenge. For Kingston at this stage, the money, the jobs and the sheer tally of local lives all caught up in the safety net are of such a scale that “poverty” is not just a local problem anymore, it’s a local industry, too . . . . and a growing one. Many of its enterprises are well-respected and successful; its “executive ranks” include some of the best and brightest leaders in Kingston; and most of its clients are deserving and law-abiding neighbors, no doubt. But none of that obliges Kingston to politely ignore the obvious: “Poverty, the industry” also reaches deep into the city’s real-estate market, driving demand for subdivided houses, changing the character of entire neighborhoods, and often undermining public safety, quality of life and, ultimately, our ability to attract other new residents and businesses. In the wake of recent and disturbing street crimes, the plainly visible deterioration of more Kingston neighborhoods, and Ulster County’s continued refusal to do the right thing and cover its safety net obligations, it’s time for Kingston to take a compassionate but clear-headed new look at local poverty, and confront a delicate but urgent question: How big a burden can one struggling city be expected to bear on behalf of other communities, and at what cost to its own quality of life and its own future?

An aging infrastructure. It’s awful to contemplate, but today’s woes might pale in comparison to the fiscal challenges coming at us in the next decade, with millions of dollars in capital improvements required to make over crumbling streets and sidewalks and, more ominously, rebuild much of our century-old sewer system. Getting through it all, at the lowest possible cost, will require, for starters, that the mayor and Common Council maintain both our strong municipal bond rating and the credibility with lenders that comes from setting conservative annual spending plans and sticking to them.

Embarrassingly low standards – when it comes to so many aspects of our shared civic life: the quality of services we demand for our tax dollars, the caliber of behavior we’re willing to tolerate on public streets, the general appearance and cleanliness of entire blocks and neighborhoods, to name but a few. I’m always struck by an insight you often hear from plugged-in Kingstonians, the very people you would call the city’s boosters. It goes like this: “Sure that’s a problem here, but we’re in far better shape on that score than Newburgh.” (or Poughkeepsie, or Middletown – take your pick) It’s a response that’s accurate for just about any problem being discussed, no doubt, and let’s hope it remains so. But if “not-as-bad-as-over-THERE” is going to be our benchmark for survival, let alone success, we’re all in deep trouble.

Upstate New York has enormous challenges on many fronts, but Kingston has unique assets that set it far apart from other cities in the region. We lose sight of this all too quickly, especially in an economic climate that serves up setbacks and disappointments on a weekly basis. It’s a mistake. The best-laid plans for more prosperous times are usually laid well ahead of their arrival. We need to focus on getting our act together now, ahead of an economic upturn, by re-focusing on the basics: cleaning up the city, cracking down on crime and blight, and cutting back on a cost structure that’s outgrown our ability to pay for it. If we do this, and steadily raise our expectations to better match our gifts, we can lay the foundation for a safer, more affordable and more attractive Kingston that can very logically become the gotta-visit, the gotta-move-to community in the Hudson Valley, a Kingston that legitimately plays in the same league as a Savannah, Ga., or a Burlington, Vt., or an Asheville, N.C. – take your pick — when it comes to luring new investment, not a Kingston that measures itself by the yardstick of Newburgh.

AZ: Despite the challenges, Kingston is often described as a “vibrant city” that has much potential. Do you agree? What are some of the city’s most promising opportunities?

HC: Of the many opportunities open to Kingston, I think a few stand out as particularly plausible over the next 2-3 years:

• We can make better strategic use of UPAC as the potential economic anchor for Midtown, ensuring that its doors remain open and able to deliver 1,200 regular concert-goers to new and existing restaurants and bars throughout the calendar year. Redevelopment of the adjacent King’s Inn site as a large mixed-use live/work loft-style complex for artists, musicians and production technologists would bring a healthy new sense of life and activity to the area and help drive awareness of an already significant, but hidden, professional music scene in Kingston.

• We can leverage the experience and hard work of the KingstonDigitalCorridor.org initiative in other fields of potential economic growth, using local entrepreneurs to sell Kingston peer to peer within their industries. One example: a targeted, grass-roots effort aimed at luring select art-supply manufacturers and working artists from Brooklyn or other locales, drawing on the embedded experience and customer traffic of R&F Paints, Bailey Ceramics and the Shirt Factory.

• We can devise a “green” strategy that focuses on job creation. Ongoing efforts by City Hall and the Conservation Advisory Council continue to help reduce our collective impact on the environment. That’s great. But we should give equal priority to devising a front-and-center role for Kingston in the region’s Solar Energy Consortium, both as a pilot site for solar installations on public buildings and, better yet, as a target locale for consortium-backed startups, via tax breaks and other incentives. What better way to demonstrate the urban applications for solar power or the benefits of recycling on a mammoth scale than through the conversion of empty commercial buildings into manufacturing sites for solar technology?

• We can finally develop a new comprehensive plan for Kingston, one that untangles, updates and spells out zoning laws, zoning overlays, historic designations and reasonable design standards for Midtown and Uptown, much as we’ve recently done for Downtown. This is essential not only to protect the heritage, charm and integrity of our neighborhoods (the biggest and best currency we’ve got when it comes to economic development!) but also to attract new investment. The developers who reject Kingston as a place to invest don’t do so because we’re overly fussy about historic preservation; they by-pass Kingston because our planning process is perceived as non-transparent, unpredictable and ad hoc. Making it less so will only help preserve our heritage and grow our tax base.

• We can radically improve the first impression we make with visitors — by easily extending the popular U.S. 209 rail trail from Hurley all the way into Uptown, and further remaking the Washington Avenue corridor with open green space and proper landscaping in place of abandoned gas stations. (Our own civic pride could use the visual boost, too.)

AZ: Some residents have expressed a need for Kingston to file for bankruptcy as a way to get some fiscal breathing room and allow contracts to be renegotiated. Do you support such a move? Why or why not?

HC:   Bankruptcy is probably not an option for Kingston, practically speaking, since taking that route would require approval by the state legislature and only after our “taxing capacity” was exhausted. By the predictable logic of Albany, Kingston’s municipal tax levy is still well below what we could legally force property owners to cough up in order to remain solvent, so until taxes are raised to Mt. Everest levels and we’re scrounging for the last nickels and dimes beneath homeowners’ sofa cushions, don’t count on Albany to entertain the notion of a Kingston bankruptcy.

And I’m fine with that. I didn’t seek a seat on the Common Council in order to help preside at a municipal bankruptcy. And I think every member of the Council would consider that particular outcome a singular mark of failure on his or her resume.

That said, the financial situation we face is extraordinarily serious. Correcting it will depend, in large part, on how we approach the renegotiation of union contracts for police, fire and DPW and City Hall professionals set to expire at the end of 2011. The mayor has indicated he plans to include members of the Common Council in various stages of discussion and negotiation with the three unions, and I think that’s the right approach, particularly since contract wage and benefits agreements for city employees and retirees represent fully 75% of the city’s $35 million annual budget. Whatever terms finally emerge from the negotiation process, it won’t qualify as a success overall, in my book, unless several key “wins” are achieved for tax payers:

• New flexibility on the part of both union members and management in the way departments are manned and job responsibilities are defined, with a particular emphasis on putting more police officers on the street at critical times each day, and cross-training more firefighters to act as building-code enforcement teams during otherwise idle periods.

• Realistic contributions by employees toward their health-care plans

• Salary and pension schedules, going forward, that recognize and respect hard – often hazardous – work performed by professionals, but also bear some semblance to the realities of the typical Kingston tax payer who’s struggling to foot the bill.

AZ: Residents have expressed publicly and privately that your election into office reflects a need for new thinking and new perspectives in city government. Do you agree with this? If yes, how do you implement some of that fresh perspective?

HC:  * I certainly like to think my election signals openness to new approaches on the part of voters. I’m sure my two other fellow freshmen on the Council agree. Delivering on that promise will depend, in large part, on our powers of resistance – namely the ability to resist giving in to conventional wisdom and the accepted pattern of how things are, once we’ve been on the Council a few more months. Complacency, or even abundant patience, are not what you want in a Council member these days.

AZ:  Could you list three of the best reasons to live and work in Kingston?

HC:   Small businesses that give great service, break the generic cookie-cutter mold and prove, despite all the challenges, that Kingston can attract and sustain entrepreneurs. My list of favorites includes Eng’s, Seven21 Media, Oxclove, Signature Fitness, Fleisher’s, Tonner Doll, Madden’s Wine & Spirits, Savonna’s, Monkey Joe’s, Stone Soup, Smith Printing and BestPlaces2Move.com.

* Our proximity to the Hudson River, the Catskills and New York City – for my money, perhaps the three most extraordinary features of the North American landscape.

* The quality and variety of our amazing – and reasonably priced — housing stock. Where else but in Kingston could you visit one street, Fair, and in the space of a 10-minute walk observe at least one example of every single significant period in American architecture, starting in the late 1600s with a stone meeting house and proceeding through all the great design eras — Gothic, Greek Revival, Victorian, Italianate, Colonial Revival, Tudor, and other more obscure styles – all the way to a 1960s ranch house?

KingstonCitizens.org Catches Up With Kingston Library Director Margie Menard

When I learned that the Kingston Library was offering a tour of it’s facility on Tuesday, March 9th at 6:00pm by Margie Menard (the Director herself),  I simply couldn’t wait to share the news.

Margie took a moment to answer a few of our questions. We hope that some of you can make the tour tomorrow night and that even more of you will consider becoming a member if you are not one already.

Kingston, NY Public Library. Become a member!


Rebecca Martin:  How long have you worked at the Kingston Library?

Margie Menard: I started working at Kingston Library as the Reference Librarian in November of 2004. I was later promoted to Assistant Director and took my current position as Director in April 2008

RM: Could you give us an overview of your programs in 2010?

MM: We have some really terrific programs lined up for 2010. We will be continuing some of our longstanding, popular programs as well as adding some new programs. Continuing programs include our literary discussion group which meets on the 4th Monday of every month at noon. This group discusses a broad range of literature from classics to contemporary novels and poetry. We also have an extremely popular Classics in Religion discussion group that meets Wednesday mornings.  For one hour each week, local religious leaders make selections for reading aloud and discussion. Over the years, this group has studied across a broad range of faith traditions and spiritual practices. Also on Wednesdays in the evening, a devoted group of Bridge players meet for cards and fellowship in our community room. For young children we have twice weekly story hours on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings which include stories, crafts and music. Kingston Library will also continue to host the monthly Super Saturdays programs for families which have included puppetry, science demonstrations, live animal shows, music, dance, magic and story telling. The library also plans a broad range of activities for kids to keep them engaged in reading over the summer as part of our Summer Reading Program. This year we will be continuing and expanding on our summer program for teens that was begun last year thanks in part to a generous grant from Ulster Savings Bank. In addition, we have occasional programs throughout the year for all ages that in the past have included gardening, readings by local authors, kayaking, financial planning, meditation, music, local history and more. There is also much to enjoy in rotating exhibits of artwork and information on the library’s walls and in display cases.

RM:  What do you feel is the greatest challenge in providing this community service?

MM: One of our greatest challenges is getting the word out to people that the library is probably so much more than they think it is. Often, people stop visiting the library when they leave school and don’t realize that we have something to offer everyone, at every stage in their lives. In addition to outstanding books and dozens of magazine and newspaper subscriptions, we have graphic novels and comics, popular music CDs, current feature films on DVD, audio books on tape and CD as well as downloadable books that can be downloaded to your iPod or MP3 players. The library provides dozens of public internet computers and free wifi access. We also provide a  broad range of online resources that can be used from any internet accessible computer in your home or office. These resources include homework support and early literacy resources for kids, language learning instruction for those wishing to learn languages from Arabic to Vietnamese and English as a second language instruction, job finding resources, test prep for civil service and academic tests like the SAT and GED. The library is also just a great place to meet your neighbors and see what’s going on in the community. Community groups are invited to make use of our meeting spaces and we have had groups ranging from local service agencies and neighborhood groups to 4H clubs and crafters meet here.

RM: The tour of the facility is a great idea! What do you hope participants will walk away with and will you continue to give tours of the Library?

MM: I hope that as many people as possible come to tour our building. The idea is to give participants a complete picture of the library from children’s and adult services to administrative activities and the physical plant. Even those of us who use the library aren’t always aware of everything that goes into providing this invaluable community resource. Kingston residents have a long history of supporting their library. I’d like to give people an opportunity to see the whole library from a new perspective so they can feel proud of this remarkable resource that their tax dollars support. We will continue to do tours of the facility as long as people are interested in learning more about it.

RM: Can you name one really special aspect of Kingston’s library that perhaps most people wouldn’t know?

MM: One of the most special aspects of Kingston Library is that it’s function is to serve the residents of Kingston and it’s resources are available to everyone–no exceptions. We want the library to be a meaningful part of of our community and we want everyone to know that no matter what point you’re at in life, the library has something to offer you. Whether you’re looking for education, information or recreation, you can find it at the library. Come sign up for a library card and discover what special things the library has to offer you.

RM: What’s the best way for a person to be in touch if they wish to volunteer?

MM: The best way for someone to be in touch if they want to volunteer at the library is to come in and use the resources, see what’s happening, chat with the staff and see where they would like to participate. Join the Friends of Kingston Library and become part of a great group of smart, friendly, interesting people dedicated to serving their community by supporting their library. FOKL will be having their annual meeting starting at 7:00 on Tuesday March 9th at the library. Come at 6:00 for refreshments and a tour. We are also looking for dedicated people interested in serving on the Kingston Library Board of Trustees. Library trustees are a bridge between the library and the community and serving in this capacity can make a significant contribution to the community. Join us at a board meeting on the third Thursday of the month at 7:00 at the library. There are opportunities from high tech to low tech, with ages from children to seniors, working directly with people to behind the scenes support work. Come in and see what’s happening!

Get Your Tickets to The Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet

The Queens Galley Logo

Not a single member of our community should ever go hungry, and if Diane Reeder has her way no one will.  Her tireless efforts and creative ideas fuel what is The Queens Galley, an organization that began back in 2003 and “provides awareness, education, relief and prevention of food insecurity in America. The Queens Galley supports, creates and implements programs dedicated to the affordable nutritional education of children, families and seniors”.  It also happens to be one of the more unique soup kitchens in the State if not beyond. Since she launched it back in 2006, Diane provides three meals a day to anyone in need, no questions asked. No paperwork to fill and file. What’s more is it’s restaurant style, where folks are served what look like gourmet meals table side. With a focus on local and sustainable foods, Diane collaborates with local farms and farmers incorporating nutritious and seasonal items into each meal that the Galley creates.

As meaningful as the work is in our community, it is really just the tip of the iceberg of what this powerhouse of a gal accomplishes on the food security front.

One of her upcoming events, the “Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet” is an impressive effort. On Sunday, March 28, twelve hunger relief organizations in the Hudson Valley will come together to host the first collaborative hunger event, a Hunger Banquet at Backstage Productions. Few experiences bring to life the inequalities in our world more powerfully than an Oxfam Hunger Banquetevent.  Unique and memorable, The Hunger Banquet event allows participants to experience firsthand how our decisions affect others in the world.

Upon arrival at the event guests draw tickets at random that assign them each to either a high-, middle-, or low-income tier-based on the latest statistics about the number of people living in poverty.   Each income level receives a corresponding meal.  The 15 percent in the high- income tier are served a sumptous meal catered by celebrated chef Samir Hrichi of Ship to Shore; the 35 percent in the middle-income section will dine on an offering from the Kingston Consolidated school lunch menu; and the 50 percent in the low-income tier help themselves to small portions of rice and water.

Chef Sarah Copeland

Their guest speaker, Chef Sarah Copeland (writer, blog author of edible living, recipe developer for the Food Network Magazine, spokesperson for the Food Network and Share Our Strength’s fight against childhood hunger, and a co-founder of our Good Food Gardens initiative).

Queens Galley, Family of Woodstock, Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Ulster Corps, Angel Food East, Saint James Food Pantry, Rosendale Food Pantry, People’s Place, Chiz’s Heart Street, God Given Bread Food Pantry and Libertyview Farm.

Click on this link to purchase tickets.