We have created a two part posting to share both the majority and minority leaders state of the city reports for citizens who were not present this evening.
We’ll begin with minority leader and Ward 1 Adlerman Andi Turco-Levin (R). This was her state of the city address presented on Tuesday, April 6th 2010. If you have any thoughts or feedback, please visit the Ward 1 Yahoo! Group where Alderman Turco-Levin is a member.
– Rebecca Martin
Minority Leader’s Report 2010 Efficiency and Planning
Mr. President, my fellow Council Members, and to all of you here tonight, we want to thank you for this opportunity to share our hopes, visions, and recommendations on how we can move our City forward.
Let’s also take a moment to recognize the hard work of our police and firefighters who keep us safe, to the volunteers of this City who keep our kids off the streets and out of harm’s way from gang violence and drug dealers and also to the private citizens who work to unite our communities. A heart felt Thank You.
As you know, we are currently forging through very difficult times, not only from an economic point of view but from a quality of life standpoint. What I hope to outline here tonight is a way for us to recognize how we got here, what we can do to prevent us from continuing in the same direction, and what we can do in order to steer our City towards growth and economic stability. As with any journey, a roadmap is the key for success. It outlines boundaries, and allows you to navigate a course to reach your final destination. We have no roadmap. The fact that Kingston has not had a complete comprehensive plan done since the 1980’s is evidence. From one side we wish to welcome development, yet we get mired down with variables leading to lengthy delays, then ultimately leaving us with nothing as the end result.
From the former uptown parking garage to the scarred waterfront once with promise of the Noah Hotel, now a vacant lot collecting graffiti and trash. Had a long range plan been in place for the City of Kingston some of those hurdles may have been avoided and the outcome much different from what we have today including more super sized drug store chains.
Getting through difficult issues on a day to day basis is not working.
This approach is not successful in life, and it doesn’t work in government either. Shortsighted planning has no benefit, especially for the future of our City and what we leave to the next generation of our children who we hope can stay here, earn a living and raise their families too. It affects every aspect of our City’s well being.
It seems obvious that many of our City’s woes stem from the erosion of our tax base, lack of well paying jobs and the steady decline with quality of life benefits. To turn this trend around I believe the first line of defense would be to ask that a long range planning committee be formed in order for us to identify what is needed to create a 25 – 30 year plan on how our City grows into the next generation. In it we can explore how we grow our business zones, protect historic districts and quaint neighborhoods, all while keeping a healthy balance, and an eye on environmental responsibility. One of the things that people love the most about our City is our heritage, yet we do nothing to protect it, in fact it seems that even the provisions in place are not enforced. Not only is this an important task to insure our City’s character, it is an untapped source of revenue which will strengthen our financial footing as well. Perhaps the Economic & Finance Committee should form a task force designed to look at our City’s Codes and Laws and update them to reflect today’s living standards, incorporating ways to create revenue at the same time. A simple permit fee to remove a shade tree could create funding for much needed sidewalk rehabilitation. As it is now, the $250 fine when a tree is removed without a permit is not enforced…you do the math. Simply enforcing our codes can provide a revenue stream which can help restore many of the services to our residents which seem to dissipate on a daily basis.
Part of this plan needs to include public safety for pedestrians and bicyclists which will also encourage less motor vehicle traffic in our urban areas. This is just one of the many issues that come to mind so let’s move on to the next topic.
Efficiency (and Planning) will be what pulls us through. The current union contracts are crippling our City where ALL parties need to rethink everything from the ground up. This may not happen until contracts are open at the end of next year, but it MUST happen. Looking at how things are done now and how things should be done efficiently in the future, which include the merging of services has to be our plan in order to sustain the City without the unlawful burden on the taxpayers. We ask that union leaders understand the challenges that we face with the budget process in the upcoming months. The unity of working together is the only solution that will keep us stable. Cooperation from every component will make the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
Other departments also need to be realigned in order to reflect tomorrow’s government model. Economic Development needs do more than secure grant money. Instead let’s come up with an outline on how to encourage small business with tax incentives and perhaps outline areas that could benefit from programs that attract these small businesses. Let’s give them a reason to come here.
The last issue that we need to address is crime, quality of life, and the confidence our residents have in us to provide it for them. Our police department works hard fighting to keep our streets safe and gang activity at bay, not an easy task. The City needs to stay on solid ground in order for us to turn this trend around and take back our neighborhoods. Fighting crime is important, just as important is engaging our young people early and giving them something to do instead of getting into trouble. Continually cutting programs that offer these options for them is backwards thinking. Funding police, very important, but we also need to take steps in prevention and this is where the cuts from the Recreation Dept. become the issue. These programs provide a safe place for them to grow, play and learn. Cuts from this department show in the deterioration of our City Parks, their Programs, and the mental well being for all our residents young and old.
There are great things coming with new faces on our Common Council, looking at things with a new perspective for change and expecting accountability. I also want to compliment the Mayor & the City’s Comptroller for uncovering overages in what we spend in Safety Net funding. This action can save us millions of dollars in the future. By working together without party lines getting in the way of progress and compromise we can hopefully turn a corner and see positive change. We also need do a better job of letting the community know what is happening in City Government. Let’s encourage the flow of information by setting up a Kingston311.com information website. It’s based on NYC’s information hotline where residents can ask questions on things ranging from City Codes to Recycling Schedules. We don’t have the funding for a hotline, but a website with vital information would be a welcome resource for our Citizens without much cost and could even become a source of income in the future.
In summary, we need to look at the Big Picture from top to bottom and re-think how things are done with a long range plan. Without it we have nothing, no public safety, no funding for police and fire, no infrastructure, no technology, no youth programs, no business…All of these components lay the foundation for economic stability ending our financial crisis. Planning and Efficiency is our mantra. If done right we will see a stronger community with less spending, more revenue which ultimately leads to lower taxes. We will have a City which offers quality of life for its residents, economic strength for our businesses, and a solid and affordable education for our children.
We look forward to working with all members of the Council and Administration towards this goal. The city of Kingston is the Jewel of the Hudson. Let’s put some polish on her and make her shine.
Alderwoman Ward 1