WHAT TO EXPECT: Kingston Common Council Caucus (6/1) and Kingston Common Council Meeting (6/2)


Monday, June 1st, 2015
Kingston Common Council Caucus
Conference Room #1
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Kingston Common Council
Council Chambers
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston

Both meetings will be filmed. 


By Rebecca Martin

At last week’s Public Safety/General Government Committee meeting, a resolution for a referendum to be placed on the ballot in November passed unanimously through to the Common Council. The referendum, if approved by a full Council vote, would give the public the opportunity to vote on whether or not to amend the charter to include the Common Council for “Water Supply Outside of City”.

In Section C11-5C (Water Supply Outside of City), it says: (C) Such sales or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission” (the NYS Water Power and Control Commission today is the Department of Environmental Conservation aka DEC).  The referendum would ask the public to approve or not the inclusion of the Common Council,  “and the common council.”   That simple amendment would give the public a say as to water sales outside of Kingston’s city limits.  Additionally, Kingston would automatically be an “Involved” agency in SEQR in the case one were ever triggered again.

In the meantime, the public’s water would have a layer of protection that would allow for thoughtful policy to be developed for sustainable growth and economic development using this precious public resource.

This is one of many steps that need to be taken in order to help protect Cooper Lake and our watershed as a whole.  But by assuring that the sale of water outside of our small, local municipality includes our Common Council – it is a significant one.


Caucus (Monday, 6/1), which is a public meeting of supporters and members of a specific political party (in Kingston, our nine alderpersons are made up of eight democrats and one republican), occurs each month the evening before the full Common Council meetings. Much discussion is generally had on all agenda items, as well as often, conclusions as to which way council members will cast their vote the following evening. There isn’t a sign-up for public comment during Caucus, however you may contact Matt Dunn, the Council Majority Leader (see email address below), if you wish to be added to the agenda. For those who can attend caucus,  it is always enlightening and in this case, and if added to the agenda, will help you to better understand the dynamics that surround this issue.



It is very important that the public plan to attend the Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 2nd to speak in support of the public referendum as described above if you are in favor of it.  Please consider to thank the Public Safety/General Government Committee for their leadership role here and on passing the resolution for referendum through to Council. Request that the City take any necessary steps to make a referendum possible for the November, 2015 ballot.  A public comment period begins shortly after 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to sign-up to speak.   Keep your comments succinct, respectful and no longer than 3 minutes in length.

If you cannot be in attendance next week but wish to share your thoughts with city officials regarding this matter, with “REFERENDUM:  Water Supply Powers” in the subject.


Mayor Shayne Gallo
(845) 334-3902

Alderman-at-Large James Noble
(845) 331-4696

Matt Dunn, Ward 1 and Majority Leader
(845) 541-8880

Brian Seche, Ward 2 
(845) 335-5971

Brad Will, Ward 3
(845) 616-8664

Nina Dawson, Ward 4
(845) 616-8592

Bill Carey,  Ward 5 
(845) 339-1361

Elisa Ball, Ward 6
(845) 430-8521

Maryann Mills, Ward 7
(845) 331-7682

Steven Shabot, Ward 8
(845) 338-5060

Deb Brown, Ward 9 and Minority Leader
(845) 338-0763

Additional Reading from KingstonCitizens.org:

Resolution for Referendum Passes Unanimously Through Kingston Public Safety Committee

Moving Towards a Referendum

Powers for Sale of Water Outside of Kingston Put to Referendum? We Say Yes!

Checks and Balances. Amend Charter to Include Kingston Common Council in Certain Water Sales.

Niagara Bottling Proposal Timeline: 116 Events


Resolution for Referendum Passes Unanimously Through Kingston Public Safety Committee.


By Rebecca Martin

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” – Jacques Cousteau

Tonight, Kingston’s Public Safety/General Government Committee passed a resolution unanimously for a referendum that would include the Kingston Common Council for any water sales outside of Kingston’s City Limits.


Why is this important?

First,  a referendum would allow the City of Kingston residents to vote on whether or not it should have a voice in water sales outside of our community. Cooper Lake, our reservoir that resides in the Town of Woodstock, is Kingston’s responsibility to manage for its residents and our neighboring communities.

As we learned with the Niagara Bottling proposal, the water department that was organized in 1895 designed to keep politics out of water couldn’t have imagined the politics that would emerge through the interpretation of their original intention. Or climate change. Or water bottling companies. Or fracking. Or any other large extractions of water that would bring great profits to some while potentially decimating the locals ability to grow and to prosper.

Today, we are living in a very different time with the opportunity to reform the way our natural resources are managed. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to municipalities who are also impacted by our decisions and counting on Kingston to be good stewards as we proceed into the future.

Second, throughout the Niagara Bottling proposal, we were told that the City of Kingston hadn’t a seat at the table in the SEQR process because of the Charter. The Town of Ulster, who was hoping to attract Niagara to their community, relied on Kingston’s water in order for them to do so. It took many months of hard work to make the SEQR process a public one and even then, the city of Kingston had no right to be an ‘Involved’ agency.

We will support our Common Council to correct that in November and are pleased to speak more on the subject here all summer long to help the public to make an informed decision.

While we are all at it – the Kingston Water Department needs to do an up-to-date safe yield using climate change modeling.  Simply put, a safe or dependable yield projection is the amount that you can safely remove from a reservoir that can be naturally replenished within a certain amount of time.   6.1 million GPD (gallons per day) was what it was over 50 years ago. We are using close to 4.5 million GPD now.  It’s a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and time to apply modern strategies to our knowing.

A big thanks to Common Council members Bill Carey, Deb Brown, Matt Dunn, Brad Will, Steve Schabot and Brian Seche for three months of discussion. Your support tonight as a result is greatly appreciated.

Thanks, too, the Kingston’s Corporation Council for their support in helping us find a way to move this referendum through to the next step.

What’s next? This evening’s vote will result in a public referendum in November provided that the full Common Council votes in favor of the amendment in June, and the Mayor signs the legislation.

Please stay tuned and involved. There is more work to do.



Water Follies by Robert Glennon  (thanks Candace!)


Moving Towards a Referendum.

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CITIZEN ACTION: Attend the Kingston Public Safety/General Government Committee Meeting TUESDAY, MAY 26th at 6:30pm at Kingston City Hall (Conference Room #1) where a Public Referendum will be discussed on Including the Common Council in Municipal Water Sales Outside of Kingston’s City Limits. VIEW FACEBOOK INVITATION and please share.

By Rebecca Martin

In the news now for a couple of months, it has been reported that members of the Common Council led by the Public Safety/General Government Committee that is chaired by Alderman Bill Carey of Ward 5, wish to explore options to include the Common Council in sales of municipal water outside of Kingston’s boundaries.

In this week’s Kingston Times, our own Mayor is called a ‘formidable opponent’ against the work of creating a referendum.

“…the charter change would need approval from State Lawmakers, since they passed the enabling legislation to create the water department. Such approval is unlikely to be granted.” Said Gallo.

He also shares the concerns of the water department’s founders about political interference with a vital resource. 

“They may be well-intended,” said Gallo. “But it would do nothing but politicize the issue, which is what the state legislature was trying to avoid when the created a separate system.”

Kingston Times READ ARTICLE.

What the Mayor is referring to, is how the Water Department was set up in 1895 to protect the public. 120 years ago – and long before water bottling and other enormous water uses that may or may not benefit the people was in their purview.

We’re not asking that a referendum be placed on the ballot to change the organization of the Water Department/Water Board of Commissioners. We are requesting that a referendum be moved forth that simply includes the Kingston Common Council in sales of the PEOPLE OF KINGSTON’S PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY outside of the City of Kingston.  In essence, to allow the residents of Kingston to have a say in how its municipal water is used outside of the community. Reform that would protect the public, in line with adhering to what those long ago intended.

By implementing better checks and balances in this way, that we have all learned are necessary thanks to the Niagara Bottling proposal (a project that wanted to set up in the Town of Ulster using Kingston’s municipal water source from its reservoir located in the Town of Woodstock to bottle and to sell in the NE), the public would have an important seat at the table.

As to politicizing the issue,  do some of our elected officials not trust the public to choose what is right for their community?  We don’t agree with the Mayor’s take here. His opinion is but one, and although it is important, it should not trump all else. Lets get the language right, and let the people decide. That is democratic.

It is disingenuous for the Mayor to suggest that the process isn’t already political. What about appointees to the Water Board of Commissioners? Did you know that the Mayor has the sole discretion to appoint members without any oversight? Not only could the Mayor’s appointments be considered political, without full fair and open discussions about the appointments with the public, the lack of transparency and direct Democratic accountability could also be viewed as unethical.

Please see the Niagara Bottling TIMELINE for a refresher on exactly how politics in this case were used to work against the public good in our opinion.  Thankfully, we learned our rights and implemented them.   We will do the very same thing in this case.

You can also view a video from early in the Niagara effort where the Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley gives an Oscar winning performance.  (No politics at work here)


In ‘Revising City Charters in NYS’ it lays out the requirements for ‘Charter Revision by Initiative and Referendum’.   You can read the document by clicking on this LINK.

On Tuesday, May 26th at 7:00pm (Kingston City Hall, Conference Room #1) the Public Safety/General Government Committee will meet to discuss such a referendum. Members of the council have requested our Corporation Council to be prepared with information on the steps the Council must take.

This is another one of those moments where we are asking the public to attend and witness.  Committee meetings do not have a public comment period like the council meeting does. Your presence next Tuesday will be meaningful in support of our council members as they work to move the referendum out of committee and on to the next step.



Powers for Sale of Water Outside of Kingston Put to Referendum? We Say Yes.

Checks and Balances: Amend Charter to Include Kingston Common Council in Certain Water Sales.




Powers for Sale of Water Outside of Kingston Put to Referendum? We Say Yes!


During the Niagara Bottling proposal, Kingston citizens and the Kingston Common Council came up close and personal to a glaring problem that it had not ever contemplated.

The Town of Ulster, a neighboring municipality,  wanted to bring a national bottling company to set up shop in Ulster using Start-Up NY tax abatements (and at least one other grant source) to bottle and to sell municipal water that, ironically, was not theirs.

Cooper Lake – the water body in the midst of the debate – is a reservoir owned by the City of Kingston located in the Town of Woodstock. The proposal didn’t just involve the forementioned,  but a hand full of other municipalities due to proposed wastewater discharges from the site into the Esopus Creek.

As for Kingston, outside of the Kingston Water Department (KWD), the residents (whose water and infrastructure it was) were not an ‘Involved’ agency in the SEQR process due to the KWD being independent and the charter being worded as it currently is.  It took months of hard work to simply be included as ‘Interested’ agency which in the end, gave us all little to no say at all (particularly in determining  ‘Lead Agency’ where you must be ‘Involved’ to be included in making that decision). A tremendous effort ensued, and the public prevailed.

Recently, we created a post called CHECKS AND BALANCES: AMEND CHARTER TO INCLUDE KINGSTON COMMON COUNCIL IN CERTAIN WATER SALES.  Since that time, we have learned that an amendment to the charter would require a referendum. If the council and citizens can swing it, by the fall of this year.

In Section C11-5C (Water Supply Outside of City), it says: (C) Such sales or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission.” (that today is the DEC).  What may be proposed in a referendum are to include four simple words to this section:  “and the common council.”  That right there, would give the public a say as to its water supply outside of Kingston’s city limits.  Additionally, Kingston would be an “Involved” agency in SEQR in the case one were triggered. In the meantime, the public’s water would have a layer of protection that would allow for thoughtful policy to be developed over time for sustainable growth and economic development using this precious public resource.

VIEW our event page to stay informed on the upcoming Water Referendum.


Better Late Than Never. Niagara Bottling CFA Application

Click on the image to review the Niagara Bottling CFA Application.
Click on the image to review the Niagara Bottling CFA Application.

By Rebecca Martin

On November 26th, 2014, KingstonCitizens.org FOILED the Empire State Development office requesting a copy of Niagara Bottling’s Consolidated Funding Application for review. Month after month, we were contacted and told that the request was being worked on and that we would receive it shortly.

According to NYS Committee on Open Government, it states that “when an agency receives a request, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) states that it has five business days to grant or deny access in whole or in part, or if more time is needed, to acknowledge the receipt of the request in writing and indicate an approximate date by which the agency will respond to the request, usually not more than 20 additional business days.

The Empire State Development website however vaguely lists exclusions including grants it appears. Perhaps the language provides a loop hole in this case.

At any rate, we finally received the application on April 2nd, 2015. In their letter, they relayed that “Pursuant to section 87, subsection 2, subdivision (d) of FOIL, we have redacted portions of the Consolidated Funding Application that “are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise.

In other words, all of the potential jobs and their salaries promised to the Town of Ulster site were blackened out. To this day, we still can’t get information on what those positions and salaries were to be as you can see in the application. 

In addition, we requested the minutes of all meetings of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council at which the Niagara Bottling proposal was discussed.

They wrote that “pursuant to section 87, subsection2, subdivision (g) FOIL, we are withholding the non-public meeting minutes of the Mid-Hudson Regional Development Counsel that discussed Niagara Bottling’s proposal as they are “inter-agency or intra agency materials which are not (i) statistical or factual tabulations or date; (ii) instructions to staff that affect the public; (iii) final agency policy or determination; (iv) external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller of the federal government.


Perhaps it is truly in their purview not to share the information that we requested. Hard to know. You’d need to a lawyer to confirm that.

It shouldn’t be so difficult to request full transparency when allocating public funding, but apparently it is.  In the end, following the process as we have all along the way, we hope to shed some light and even improve how future funding is allocated.

On Niagara Jobs:

Niagara Bottling Plant a Modern Marvel
Filling, labeling, capping, packaging and loading are done with minimal human involvement.”



Checks and Balances: Amend Charter To Include Kingston Common Council in Certain Water Sales.

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By Rebecca Martin

In yesterday’s Daily Freeman, there was a report on the desire of Council members to have ‘Authority over City of Kingston’s Water Supply” that could be subject to public vote.

At a recent Public Safety/General Government committee meeting, Ward 5 Alderman and chair of the committee Bill Carey introduced a resolution to amend the City Charter.  But City of Kingston Assistant Corporation Council Dan Gartenstein told the Committee that “they could not make the change through a resolution. He said the state’s Municipal Home Rule Law would require a public referendum be held because the council essentially would be expanding its powers.” Currently, the only public official who has any authority in the matter is the mayor, who sits on the city’s Board of Water Commissioners.

What we have learned over the past decade is that Government is more efficient when proper checks and balances are in place. In Kingston, one of the hardships of the Niagara Bottling project was the council not having a voice in the sale of an enormous amount of the community’s municipal water, leaving many questions in the way of science and modeling, climate change, safe yields, economic development and other critical aspects nearly impossible to challenge.

The Public Safety/General Government Committee was looking to explore an avenue that would include the Common Council in future certain sales of water.  Given the time it would take to update the charter in its entirety (which we would advocate for) a simple amendment as we understand it would give the council – and in turn the citizens – a seat at the table as Involved for any large sales of water outside the City of Kingston.

The Steps

1. All that appears to be required that is most minimal, targeted and yet comprehensive would be to adopt a local law to amend Section C11-5C (Water Supply Outside of City) of the Charter in the following way (and only adding four words that are underlined below):

“C:   Such sale or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission (today is known as the DEC) and the Common Council.”

2. We found that based on Section 23 of the Municipal Home Rule Law (that list local laws requiring referendum) that it doesn’t appear that a local law passed by the Common Council to amend the Charter to provide for some form of Council approval of certain sales of water would be subject to a mandatory referendum. Section 23 of the Municipal Home Rule Law has the list of local laws requiring referendum, and we didn’t find anything close.

3. If this is correct, the Public Safety/General Government Committee could request that the Council adopt a local law that would amend the section. Once moved out of Committee, the Council would read the amended local law at their next meeting and vote the following month, giving the public 30 days in between for a chance to weigh in.

VIEW: Laws of 1896 and 1895: