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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TAKE ACTION: Print Materials for Public Distribution on the Niagara Bottling Co. Proposal.

Here are print materials for public distribution in both English and Spanish on the Niagara Bottling Co. and how you can help to get the word out for more citizen input on the proposed use/purchase of Kingston City Water.

Print out and make copies for your neighbors who do not have a computer. Help us to fill Common Council Chambers on October 7th at 7:30pm to speak, listen and support during Public Comment.

 

IN ENGLISH:

DOWNLOAD: KingstonCitizens.org: Page One

DOWNLOAD: KingstonCitizens.org: Page Two

Jobs and the Promise of Urban Agriculture

IN SPANISH:

DOWNLOAD: KingstonCitizens.org: Page One (Spanish)

DOWNLOAD: KingstonCitizens.org: Page Two (Spanish)

Jobs: Urban Agriculture and Niagara Bottling Co.

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By Rebecca Martin


Niagara Bottling Co. wants to come to the area (tax free) to bottle and to sell 1.75 million gallons of Kingston City Water (Cooper Lake) per day. The Water may be tax free too. It is unclear whether or not that to be the case at this time.

The City of Kingston’s Water Department has provided a ‘will share’ letter to the project, but has not yet negotiated a rate (probably because they can’t without the Common Council’s permission).

With an estimated 260 trucks per day coming and going out of the site! That’s a lot of trucks.

According to their proposal, ALL FOR 160 JOBS when the facility is working at full capacity.

LOOK HERE. Based on an Urban Agriculture study that was created specifically for Kingston, the City of Kingston has approximately 800 acres of zoned ‘vacant’ land in Kingston. With just 35 acres working for us inside the city, we would create approximately 156 jobs. Kingston is way ahead of the curve on the Urban Ag front in the Hudson Valley, too.

We can do this, Kingston

READ THE REPORT
ON URBAN AG IN KINGSTON

Kingston Citizens: Niagara Bottling Company Project. YOUR WATER IS IN PLAY.

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Click on the image to view the film “tapped” that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil.

 

By Rebecca Martin

We have recently created a Facebook invitation for the next Common Council meeting on Tuesday, October 7th.  Please consider coming to speak during public comment (at the beginning of the meeting) on the proposed Niagara Bottling Co. plan to bottle and sell Kingston City Water.

The timing here is crucial, given that the group has apparently been in private talks with City officials for several months. Media reports say that they are planning to get moving as early as 2015.

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION:

The City of Kingston’s water source COOPER LAKE had its last drought conditions in September of 2012. 

Kingston citizens are encouraged to attend the next Common Council Meeting on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7th at 7:30pm.

If you wish to speak out during the public comment portion of the evening (which is first) to:

*  REQUEST THAT THE COMMON COUNCIL ORGANIZE A PUBLIC MEETING ON THE NIAGARA BOTTLING COMPANY’S PROPOSAL TO USE KINGSTON CITIZENS WATER SUPPLY TO BOTTLE AND TO SELL.

*  Furthermore, to ASK THAT A RESOLUTION BE DRAFTED TO PROTECT KINGSTON’S WATER SOURCE BY CLARIFYING THAT IT BE USED FOR TAXPAYING RESIDENT CONSUMPTION AND NOT FOR USE BY PRIVATE COMPANIES TO BOTTLE AND TO SELL.

 

If public speaking isn’t your thing, but you want to help: 

* CALL THE MAYOR’S OFFICE AND YOUR ALDERMAN.

* WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR (if you do this, please send us a copy at rebbytunes@gmail.com)

* SHARE THIS INFORMATION. LETS PACK CITY HALL ON OCTOBER 7th. RESIDENTS CAN SPEAK, OR JUST BE PRESENT TO WITNESS AND TO SUPPORT A COMMUNICATIVE PROCESS.

 

HERE’S WHY:

“Start Up New York” is an initiative created by Governor Cuomo to attract new business to NY State. As an incentive, they are forgiving taxes of all sorts for ten years.

To take advantage of this, it was recently announced that Niagara Bottling Company out of Irvine California was interested in opening a production facility in the Town of Ulster, where the TOU Planning Board would take a lead role.

For Niagara to come to the area, however, they would need a local water source and are looking to the City of Kingston’s Cooper Lake to bottle and to sell.

According to reports – as a starting point, Niagara would purchase one million gallons of our water per day (GPD) with up to 50 trucks moving out of the facility 24/7. At full capacity, their requirement would be 1.75 million GPD of our water, requiring an additional pipe line that they would install (concerning), with up to 260 trucks in and out of the facility 24/7.

It looks as though some or all of the 342,500 gallons of good drinking water per day, based on their proposal, would be used to cool new plastic bottles during production. They call this “non-biologic waste” that they ‘envision’ being disposed of into the Esopus Creek.

The City of Kingston’s Water Board is independent. Probably left over from our long ago ‘Commissioner’ form of government. The current members include Joseph DeCicco (President), Al Radel, Robert Niedzielski, Raymond McSpirit, Dennis Croswell and the City of Kingston’s Mayor Shayne Gallo.

Kingston's Cooper Lake reservoir in drought in 2012, where the water levels were down 12.7 feet.

Kingston’s Cooper Lake reservoir in drought in 2012, where the water levels were down 12.7 feet.

The City of Kingston’s Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen (with what we can only assume had Board approval, including the Mayor of Kingston who sits on the board) has issued a “Will share” agreement without the knowledge or approval of the Common Council. (Ward 2 Alderman Brian Seche is council liaison to the Water Department. It isn’t known at this time if he was aware of the proposal or had attended any of the meetings). “Will share” means that the board is confident that Kingston can provide the requested amount of water to Niagara to bottle and to sell and still service the needs of the community.  They have not yet negotiated the water rate.

The project appears to have been on the table for some time, and according to this week’s Kingston Times, in order to not “kill” the project they kept it quiet until their presentation on Tuesday September 16th in front of the Town of Ulster’s Planning Board. The presentation, by the way, was not the Planning Board’s agenda. The announcement of the Town of Ulster’s leading role was released two days later in the media.

Here are some items to consider.

According to Kingston’s Charter it states that:

1. Section C11-5 speaks of Kingston being able to supply water to ‘other inhabitants of the City of Kingston and outside the corporate limits, etc”. This indicates residents. Not private companies.

2. The common council must “assent in the way of constructing and maintaining waterworks for supplying said city and its inhabitants with pure and wholesome water; exercise such powers as are necessary and proper to accomplish such purpose and shall proceed in the manner hereinafter prescribed.” What does that mean here? That any transaction must move through council, as selling our water – particularly in the midst of climate change and drought – has got to be weighed cautiously.

We are not certain if Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen has the authority to issue a ‘Will Serve’ agreement as she has done. The council is the last word in gauging what may or may not jeopardize Kingston citizens in receiving water in the future in any way.

They have not yet had the opportunity to voice in.

In the way of jobs – they offer some and it’s attractive. We all want them. However, we must counter the benefit with what may be the future costs of potentially needing a new water source and its infrastructure in the case we are drained dry. Might a business with a home base in California be concerned if we were ever in that boat who comes to the area for 10 years tax free? It’s reasonable to be skeptical.

Cooper Lake is not an aquifer. It’s a man made lake fed by a very small stream. Is it going to have the capacity to fill their need and ours over the course of 10 years?

Work with your elected officials to identify the pros and cons of this deal. Future generations of Kingstonians are counting on us all to make sound decisions.

The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee Meeting 9/18/14

Attached is the recent Comprehensive Steering Committee meeting held at Kingston’s City Hall led by Consultant Shuster Associates. A new 85 page Comprehensive Plan draft was distributed to the committee (according to some, about a week ago). It is not available at this time for the public.

The Steering Committee is now set to read the document and make new comments by October 3rd. Shuster Associates hope to pass off a final pass to the Committee to present to the public by years end.

As Deb Brown (Ward 9 Alderwoman) is the Liaison from the Common Council to both the CP Steering and Zoning Committee, it is reasonable to request that any interested public have access to the draft plan to review accessibly on the City of Kingston’s website.

We’ll be updating this page to highlight important moments for the public.

Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Filmed by Kingston News.

@ 33:05
Alderman at Large James Noble: Any other questions? If not…
Emilie Hauser: Is there public comment?
AAL James Noble: Public comment?

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?

Kingston Times 3

“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.”