WHAT TO EXPECT: Amending Firearms Law and Kingston Common Council Next Week. 

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As you are aware, last week at Kingston's Laws and Rules Committee meeting, an amended version of Kingston's Firearms Law (Chapter 223-3 in Kingston City Code) drafted by Ward 9 Alderwoman Deb Brown (that had been looked over by Kingston Corporation Council) was presented to vote to pass it through committee to council. The amended version states that "No person, other than in self defense or in the discharge of official duties, willfully discharge any species of firearms within the city limits of the City of Kingston, NY except an indoor facility designed and constructed as a shooting range, pursuant to a site plan approved by the City of Kingston Planning Board and operated in compliance with the laws and regulations of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Division of Safety and Health of the New York Department of Labor"

The amended law, however, was rejected by the committee with a 2-3 outcome. In favor was Ward 9 Alderwoman Deb Brown and Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills. Opposed was Ward 1 Alderwoman (and committee chair) Lynn Eckert, Ward 2 Alderman Doug Koop and Ward 5 Alderman (and Majority Leader) Bill Carey.

The law now moves out of committee and on to the Common Council next week (as a rejected item from committee) for a full council vote. Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis, who works as a teacher for the Kingston City School District, must abstain and is considered a 'no' vote to whatever the outcome is next Tuesday due to the Board of Education's resolution issued in early December of 2015.

A little refresher on how this all works.

The council meets on the first Monday of each month (this month, the date falls on May 2nd at 7:00pm) for their caucus where each of the parties have the opportunity to look over the draft agenda and legislation that will be placed in front of them to discuss. Generally at this meeting, council members debate each item and typically, the direction of the vote during the common council meeting is decided. This meeting is always open to the public. However, it is held in a small conference room which limits its capacity and generally, the public is not given the opportunity to speak.

On the first Tuesday of each month (this month, the date falls on May 3rd at 7:30pm), the Kingston Common Council hold their monthly meeting, where legislation and other items are put to a vote. This meeting is held in council chambers where hundreds of citizens can be easily seated.  Up front, there is always a public comment period where anyone can speak on matters that are on the agenda or otherwise. Generally, the public comment period is 30 minutes in length, and citizens are asked to keep their testimony to 2-3 minutes in length to allow for as many comments as possible.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Monday, May 2nd, 2016  7:00pm  Conference Room #1    VIEW CALENDAR ITEM
Members of the Kingston Common Council will discuss the Amended Firearms Law that was rejected out of the Laws and Rules Committee and other agenda items.  This is an opportunity for the public to witness their council in action discussing the matter, and all other items on the agenda that evening.    THIS EVENT WILL BE FILMED.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016   7:30PM  Council Chambers   VIEW CALENDAR ITEM
Members of the Kingston Common Council will cast their vote on the Amended Firearms Law and other agenda items. There is public comment up front starting at 7:30pm. Citizens wishing to speak should arrive at 7:15pm to sign- up at the podium and to secure a seat in council chambers.  THIS EVENT WILL BE FILMED.


THE FOCUS:

We request that the public support the council to send the amended Firearms Law back to the Laws and Rules committee for the text to be further vetted. This is in everyone's best interest. The spirit of this law is a public safety and health issue, and there is no way around the fact that the law leaves out many critical features that should be in place to protect our community's best interests.

WHAT CITIZENS CAN DO:

If you are only able to attend one of the two meetings, then we encourage citizens to attend the Kingston Common Council meeting that will take place on Tuesday, May 3rd at 7:30pm where the council will vote on the amended law. If you are comfortable to speak, then we request that you do so encouraging the council to move the amended law back to the Laws and Rules committee for further vetting. Citizens can also encourage or discourage the location of the shooting range/gun store - however, this discussion is more appropriate for the planning board and not the common council this evening. Changing the law is in their purview. Planning and zoning next week is not.

Residents can also submit a letter on the subject to the Kingston City Clerk
Carly Winnie at: cwinnie@kingston-ny.gov and request that she submit your letter to record, and to distribute to the entire common council and council president.

If your testimony includes support or opposition to the location of the range, please send it also to the City of Kingston Planning Department addressed to the Director of Planning Suzanne Cahill at: planning@kingston-ny.gov  requesting that it go on record and be distributed to all members of the Kingston Planning Board.

NOT FEAR. JUST THE FACTS.

KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on increasing citizen engagement in local government and we've been at it for a decade. Regardless of how we have been portrayed, this platform does not take personal positions on issues.  We simply point out the law and process, and in light of which, make recommendations based on both.

We also work hard to provide information to help Kingston citizens be more informed on issues that are of grave concern. Because we are a citizen run organization reliant on volunteers, we cannot take on every issue that comes down the pike, though we wish we could. We do, however, use each issue selected by members of our advisory committee to illustrate the concerns of the public and, to expose any disconnects that might be present on any of the subjects in the way of transparency and process. We believe that when both are intact, than a more fair outcome is possible.

What we have found is that on any issue we are focused on, many of the same concerns we raise are re-occurring elsewhere.  It takes a village as they say, and hopefully, this work helps to encourage more citizen engagement in Kingston on all issues both large and small.   Being civic minded is the public's responsibility, after all.

In light of which, in a recent article, Ward 5 Alderman (and Majority Leader) Bill Carey is quoted as saying “I think the fear is unfounded” regarding the location of the shooting range and gun shop being proposed for Prince Street in Midtown Kingston.

This point of view should be challenged. It is important to point out the Kingston Board of Education, in their resolution signed on December 9th, 2015 states that:  "...in the interest of safety and welfare of the students, faculty, employees and others present at the Kingston High School, hereby expresses its opposition to the establishing of a shooting range and gun store in close proximity to the Kingston High School campus..."

Here are several reasons why that on the public safety, health and economic development front (and given much of the public testimony), that concerns are indeed fact and not fear based:

Proximity of schools and childcare center.  The proposed shooting range and gun shop will be located at 92 Prince Street in Midtown, Kingston. This is close to the Kingston High School (within 655 feet).  The high school serves almost 3,000 students, and employs more than one hundred teachers and staff members. Further, the high school serves other students both within and outside of Kingston through after school activities such as sporting events, theater productions, and musical performances. The shooting range and gun shop is within 375 feet of the YMCA.   The YMCA serves thousands of children and parents, not only in Kingston but throughout Ulster County.

Public safety: prevalence of guns in a densely populated area. According to the Brady Center, where there is a concentration of guns, there is a concentration of gun violence.

Public health and welfare:  Despite guidelines about lead contamination for shooting ranges, recent research from the CDC shows elevated blood lead levels in ranges’ employees and customers. In Sacremento, an indoor shooting range was closed because of high levels of lead contamination inside and on the roof; lead levels were 70 times higher than the state hazard threshold.  One of the world's leading safety engineering firms Tetra Tech said that increased attention to lead contamination and human health exposure “has put range owners and operators into areas outside of their expertise.”

Also, although the district is zoned for commercial use, it is in a “Mixed-Use Overlay” district, which allows residential.  The range is also next to a residential block.  The rear wall of the proposed range -- and direction of the firing -- is 70 feet from the nearest residence and residential block.

Public awareness: The public needs to understand how public business is conducted. Laws are not amended only on the basis of public opinion. They must be vetted for public safety, health and welfare. It is important for the public to participate with full knowledge of what constitutes and is acceptable process under the law.

Economic Development and Kingston Comprehensive Plan: Kingston 2025 appropriately envisions “a new core” in Midtown Kingston where the creative economy can take root and businesses can grow. It aspires to create a mixed-use center in Midtown, “with multi-family residential incorporated with ground floor retail; pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets; active use of sidewalks; traditional architecture and historic identity.”

“These nodes will be connected not only by a network of streets supporting slow-speed/high-capacity vehicular travel, but by a network of on-road and off-road bicycle paths, and by public transit ranging from shuttle bus to trolley.”  Prince Street and the intersecting network of streets are at the heart of this district.

At the last Kingston Laws and Rules Committee meeting, residents and neighbors spoke in support and against the amended law and, the location of the range. We encourage you to VIEW this video for your information.

Finally, we'd also like to clarify, that in the spirt of Democracy,  KingstonCitizens.org respects all points of view. It is important to understand that a shooting range and gun shop inside of Midtown, Kingston - a Kingston specific issue - is far different than that of the Niagara Bottling proposal - one that had regional implications and that would impact communities in different ways that included Kingston, Woodstock, Town of Ulster, Saugerties, Port Ewen and Esopus.

In this case, Kingston’s Common Council needs to hear from Kingston citizens, and especially those who live, work and attend public schools, youth activities and child care in the Midtown area. Although public comment is open, we request that citizens living outside of the area respect those living in Kingston first. Specifically those in Midtown, which is the heart of Kingston. A good amount of investment has been poured into this area, and a lot more is known to be coming. That mustn’t be lost in this debate.

 

FURTHER READING:

Kingston Times: Gun Shooting Law Amendment Likely to be Revised.

PILGRIM PIPELINE UPDATE: Kingston Public Safety Committee Passes Resolution in Support of Bill A9831a

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By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, the Kingston Public Safety Committee passed a resolution to support Bill A9831a sponsored by Assemblyman Skartados, "an act to prevent the construction of pipelines to transport hazardous substances or petroleum on property under the jurisdiction of the New York Thruway Authority."  

Kate Hudson of Riverkeeper gave a presentation of the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline project as well as an explanation of the bill and the timeliness of its passing.

The committee's swift action was in part to act in time to send Kingston's support to the NYS Legislature before their 2016 session ends in June. The resolution will come up for a full council vote next week.

In a memorandum from his office, the justification for the bill states that:

"An oil or refined petroleum pipeline constructed to longitudinally occupy the New York State Thruway would present a significant danger to the state’s natural lands, waters, population, economy, and tourism. A pipeline incident along the Thruway resulting in the leakage of oil or refined petroleum would have a significant and costly impact on adjacent residential communities, endangered habitats, open spaces, forests, farmlands, streams, aquifers, wetlands, scenic vistas, and water sources, including the Delaware and Catskill Aqueducts that supply water to New York City.  An incident would pose a threat to drinking water and thereby impact businesses, local economies, and the health and quality of life of the people in the affected area.  A pipeline incident would harm the endangered and threatened species that live along the Thruway, which include the red shouldered hawk, wood turtle, barred owl, bobcat, and Indiana bat. "


Kingston Public Safety Committee reads resolution text and votes 
unanimously to pass it through to council vote that will occur next week.
Video Credit:  Clark Richters of Kingston News.

"Pipelines can cause more damage than trains transporting crude oil. A rail car’s capacity limits the amount of petroleum it can transport, and incidents involving trains are discovered quickly. Pipelines, on the other hand, can leak for an indefinite period of time, and pipeline accidents are often discovered only after their effects have been felt.

Leaks go undetected. Even sophisticated leak detection systems, such as those that might be used in an underground pipeline, cannot guarantee the prevention of a serious incident. According to the Leak Detection Study performed by Kiefner & Associates, published on December 12, 2012, advanced pressure-sensitive systems (from Computational Pipeline Monitoring) detected just 17 of 87 incidents. The consequences of an undetected leak are dire, as quart of oil can contaminate up to a quarter million gallons of drinking water.

Oil pipelines have a history of accidents.  Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) indicate that more than 2,000 significant accidents involving crude oil and refined petroleum pipelines have occurred between 1995 and 2015, averaging 100 per year and resulting in about $3 billion in property damage.  Over time even a well-constructed pipeline becomes vulnerable to an incident caused by accidental impact, deterioration and corrosion, vandalism, terrorism, and natural disasters such as earthquakes. A poorly constructed pipeline is especially vulnerable to leakage from normal system stress and operation."


Kate Hudson of Riverkeeper at Kingston's Public Safety Committee
meeting explains the nature and importance of the bill.
Video Credit:  Clark Richters of Kingston News.

"Pipelines are not currently inspected to a degree at which the safety of New Yorkers can be guaranteed. Currently, 135 federal inspectors oversee 2.6 million miles of pipeline. Each inspector is thus responsible for supervising almost enough pipe to circle the Earth. While PHMSA officials may be aided by state inspectors, there has been no guarantee that this will occur in New York State. Furthermore, an analysis of inspection records obtained by the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) indicates that only a fifth of the nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipeline have been inspected by the PHMSA or its state partners since 2006. 

Local fire departments are not equipped to handle pipeline-related incidents. Preparation for an adequate response to such occurrences would necessitate a significant amount of funding and training.  Without proper training and equipment, our local firefighters would be put at great risk when called to duty. 

A pipeline along the Thruway would be aesthetically disruptive to the natural scenic views we have enjoyed for years and have relied upon for tourism. A pipeline would require numerous maintenance access roads. Moreover, large and noticeable shut-off valves would be frequently placed above ground along the route, with a higher concentration at environmentally sensitive locations such as wetlands and waterways. A typical pipeline shutoff valve associated with a 36-inch diameter pipeline requires stands over five meters tall and weighs approximately eight metric tons. 

Furthermore, it is entirely conceivable that a project along the Thruway might utilize two pipelines: one transporting crude oil south to refineries, and another transporting refined products north. Such a plan would significantly increase the risks and impacts of a single line. 

In the 2016 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo declared that by 2030, fifty percent of the state’s energy must come from renewable sources, and that protecting the environment should always be one of our top priorities. To fulfill the governor’s plan, we must refrain from investing in hazardous sources of energy like petroleum and crude oil. Disallowing the construction of dangerous pipelines is essential to this effort."

VIDEO: Laws and Rules Meeting 4/19/16. Public Comment on Amending Kingston Firearms Law.

We are pleased to share video from last nights meeting, and we apologize in the case we have misspelled your name. If you wish to have changes made to it, please contact us at ourcitizens@gmail.com

Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org and filmed by Clark Richters

Thank you.

 

12:10 - 14:00
Ward 1 Alderwoman Lynn Eckert, Chair Laws and Rules Committee shares ground rules.

14:29 - 17:00
Mark Girstle, Hurley NY

17:04 - 18:23
Diane Bonavita, Kingston NY

18:29 - 20:20
Timothy Ivory, Kingston, NY

20:39 - 22:14
Rebecca Martin, Kingston NY

22:17 - 25:46
Jeanne Edwards, Kingston NY

25:52 - 27:27
Bill Forte, Kingston NY

27:38 - 30:53
Art Perry, Kingston NY

31:00 - 33:19
Matt Colangelo, Kingston NY

33:25 - 34:50
Gwen Sorenson, Owner of Stone Soup, Midtown Kingston

34:56 - 37:20
Hillary Harvey, Kingston NY
Reading testimony from Michael and Therese Drapkin
Residents and business owners in Kingston, NY

37:22 - 39:12
Owen Harvey, Kingston NY

39:15 - 40:37
Pam Blum, Kingston NY
Views reflect many of their neighbors

41:00 - 44:32
Richard Frumess, Resident (Rondout) and Business Owner (Midtown, Kingston)

44:36 - 45:16
Joanne Myers, Kingston NY

45:20 - 46:26
Lynn Johnson, Kingston NY

46:40 - 48:20
Ken Gruber, Kingston NY

48:21 - 50:35
John Grosswald, Kingston NY

50:40 - 54:08
Joe Leoni, Tillson, NY

54:18 - 58:37
Dr. Adam Soyer, Kingston NY

58: 38 - End of Video
Renate Soyer, Kingston NY

00:00 - 3:10
Renate Soyer, Kingston NY
(Continued from Video #1)

3:38 - 5:05
Mary Cavanagh, New Paltz, NY

5:10 - 7:12
Mark Porter, Kingston NY

7:29 - 14:35
Elmer LaSewr, Kingston NY
Representing neighbors

14:38 - 19:15
Marco Ochoa
Representing Latino Community

19:16 - 24:37
Pat Courtney, Resident and Business Owner, Kingston NY

24:52 - 26:37
Artie Zapell, Kingston NY

26:40 - 27:50
Michelle Hirsch, Kingston NY

27:52 - 29:17
Michelle Whittacker, Kingston, NY

30:00 - 34:30
Jay Martin, Accord NY

34:31 - 36:40
Stephanie Nystrom, Kingston, NY
Resident and Business Owner

36:49 - 38:33
Scott Harrington, Hurley NY
Kingston business owner

38:55 - 40:42
John Reinhardt, Kingston NY

40:50 - 44:33
Joan Horton, Kingston NY

44:39 - 48:50
Lorraine Farina, Kingston NY
(Clarifies Shooting Range info in Albany shared by Dr. Adam Soyer in his early testimony)

49:10 - 51:49
Robert Fancell, Kingston NY

51:50 - 54:12
James Childs, Kingston NY
Representing the Board of Education

54:20 - 57:36
Sue McConachy, Kingston NY
Business Owner

57:38 - End of Video
Nardia Bennett, Kingston NY

00:00 - 2:02
Nardia Bennett, Kingston, NY
(Continued)

2:20 - 5:30
Joe Pugliese, Kingston NY

5:35 - 8:30
Linda Hackett, Kingston NY

9:02 - 12:25
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Kingston NY

12:28 - 13:50
Cassandra Burke

COUNCIL DISCUSSION

14:45 - 17:58
Nina Dawson (Ward 4)
Has concerns about amending the law.  Supports tabling amending the law.

18:02 - 18:22
Dan Gartenstein explains procedure.

18:23 - 20:57
Maryann Mills (Ward 7)
Discussed broken process. If law isn't amended, the city will have to stop ceremonies/events such as memorials or re-enactments.

20:59 - 24:00
Lynn Eckert, Chair and Dan Gartenstein
- Asks for a motion.
- Maryann Mills makes a motion to move on Deb's language to amend the law.
- Lynn Eckert reads the amendment.  VIEW TEXT
- Deb Brown seconds the motion.
- Lynn Eckert opens it up for discussion.

24:00 - End of Video
- Bill Carey brings up Bill Forte's comments regarding ceremonies, etc was not included in Deb Brown's text. There might be issues or exceptions to consider.
- Bill Carey asks Dr. Adam Soyer a question.
- Dr. Adam Soyer's council Michael Moriello speaks.  He believes the current law is unconstitutional "on its face."
- More discussion between Bill Carey and Dan Gartenstein.
- Steve Schabot (Ward 8), what can we expect as a time frame? Dan Gartenstein answers. Month to month.
- Doug Koop clarifies are we amending or tabling? Doug Koop states that he is against amending the law.
- Deb Brown "This is a commercial area. It is not residential."
- Maryann Mills states the city is about to update all of its zoning as per the Comprehensive Plan which was newly adopted.
She states she has read comments such as "If the shooting range were proposed to be in a more affluent part of Kingston, it would never occur." She disagrees.
- Maryann Mills "There is an art of shooting. Where better place for it to be then in our art community. The art of shooting joining our arts area." (33:50 - 34:00)
- Nina Dawson continues debate.  As a mother, she has to look at the other side of things. Sorry that Dr. Soyer has had to wait for an answer, but feels that location is questionable.  How can we not review Jennifer Schwartz Berky's comments?
- Mike Moreillo speaks to his memorandum.
- Dan Gartenstein explains process.
- Nina Dawson "What if some of us don't want to vote on the amendment tonight?"
- Lynn Eckert, Maryann Mills, Dan Gartenstein discusses process.
- Deb Brown "Why did you have me write this, then?"
- Maryann makes another motion to move the amendment through committee.
- Dan advises the committee tables.
- Discussion between Bill Carey, Maryann Mills on items missing from amended text.
- Nina Dawson on the amendment.
- Committee votes. Maryann Mills and Deb Brown in favor.  Bill Carey, Doug Koop and Lynn Eckert are opposed.
- The amendment fails.
- More discussion, confusion on the vote.
- Lynn Eckert "there was an opportunity to table, but noone took it."
- Meeting is adjourned.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: City of Kingston Laws and Rules Committee Meeting Tuesday, 4/19/16 at 7:00pm

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THIS EVENT WILL BE FILMED thanks to Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

What:
Laws and Rules Committee

Where:
Kingston City Hall   420 Broadway  Kingston, NY
Council Chambers

When:
Tuesday, April 19th 2016
Sign-up to speak at 6:45pm.
Public Comment starts at 7:00pm

Why:
The Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee will start the discussion on amending the City of Kingston's Firearms Law  (Section 223-3) that prohibits the discharge of guns within the City limits for any purposes other than self-defense or the discharge of official duties.   Those members of committee who are in favor of an amendment are likely to want to include "Indoor Shooting Ranges" as a new condition, in light of a proposal to create
a Shooting Range and Gun Shop on Prince Street in Midtown, Kingston.

Please arrive at 6:45pm to sign-up to speak. Public comment will begin at 7:00pm.

Residents should prepare a statement in advance that includes stating their name, where they are from and be no more than 3 minutes in length. Please show respect to your fellow neighbors and elected officials this evening.

If you are a Kingston resident, consider calling your elected officials beforehand to share your opinions, concerns, etc.

LAWS AND RULES COMMITTEE

Lynn Eckert, Ward 1 Alderwoman and Committee Chair
(845) 392-3205

Deb Brown, Ward 9 Alderwoman
(845) 338-0763

Maryann Mills, Ward 7 Alderwoman
(845) 331-7682

Bill Carey, Ward 5 Alderman and Majority Leader
(845) 339-1361

Doug Koop, Ward 2 Alderman
(845) 706-5053


COUNCIL NOTABLES ON THE SUBJECT

Jim Noble, President common council
(845) 331-4696

Nina Dawson, Ward 4 Alderwoman
(845) 616-8592

If you do not see your ward noted here, please visit this LINK for more information.

Additional Reading from KingstonCitizens.org

On Process and Transparency: The Proposed Shooting Range in Midtown Kingston

Is Proposed Shooting Range in Midtown Kingston Illegal Under City Code?

 

 

On Process and Transparency: The Proposed Shooting Range in Midtown Kingston.

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Editorial 

Yesterday, we learned that the proposed shooting range proposal slated for Midtown, Kingston was to be placed on the Finance Committee agenda for discussion today (Wednesday, 4/13).   If you are like us, that's barely enough time to plan to attend for an issue that might be of interest. All of our schedules are thrown to get there within 24 hours. But this is the way our council has outwardly communicated with the public for as long as we can remember, making it very hard for citizens to engage.

At last March's Public Safety/General Committee meeting, the shooting range proposal was also placed on the agenda. But unlike today, the agenda was never made public which means, citizens couldn't plan to attend at all.  Dr. Adam Soyer, however, who is proposing the shooting range along with his supporters were in attendance. The discussion therefore, had only the potential of being one-sided.

In addition, although New York's Open Meeting Law requires it, there has never been council or committee minutes provided to the public. There isn't audio or video made available by the city either, leaving no way for the public to track what happens on their behalf by their elected or appointed officials. Anything that might have occurred - and that did not make it into the local papers - would have to be relayed second hand unless someone happened to be present to film the meeting. This is not a terribly effective way to advocate for either side.

Anyone who follows this stuff as closely as we do knows that amending a law should be placed in front of the Laws and Rules Committee for discussion and debate once a communication is submitted.

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The list of Communications for April that appeared on the Common Council's agenda. There was no mention of the shooting range item being referred to committee in April.

Looking at April's council communications, there is no evidence that we could find of the shooting range as an item and being referred to committee.  Since citizens rely on their elected officials and clerks office for relevant information on city matters,  it is fair to assume that the issue was not on the table at this time.

But in fact, Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills had requested 'a discussion' on the shooting range for both Public Safety in March (where a communication has been obtained however, the agenda for the meeting was never made public) and Finance in April (that according to Ward 2 Alderman and Finance Committee chair Doug Koop will "strike at the beginning of (tonights) meeting...as this item more appropriately belongs to the Laws and Rules Committee."
(UPDATE: Tonight's agenda has since been updated and the item removed)

Because the shooting range being placed on the Finance Committee agenda was only uploaded to the city of Kingston's website yesterday, this is brand new information to us.  To understand how the decision to place this item over to Finance (and given that there were not any communications on the shooting range listed in April's council agenda), we requested a copy.  Alderwoman Mills responded, stating that "This is ongoing and did not necessitate a new communication. It will be presented in Laws and Rules or Public Safety if needed." 

Then, in today's paper, Council president James Noble announced that an amendment to the proposed Firearms law would be placed in front of the Laws and Rules Committee on April 19th at 7pm. That's next week. To know this, you would have had to be reading the paper.  Although we appreciate our papers very much (and believe every citizen should have a subscription to them all), city government needs to take responsibly in getting this information out to the public in a concerted way that doesn't waver prior to or at least at the same time that a newspaper does. What do other communities with good policy for open government do?

On the subject, Kingston has taken a great step in hiring its very first Director of Communications and Community Engagement. This thoughtful addition will go a long way in helping to improve policy and how information moves out into the community.

A little history on the proposal is in order.

For those new to this issue, an indoor shooting range called "SafeShoot" is being proposed on Prince Street in Midtown, Kingston. It is a densely populated area of residents and business, directly behind Monkey Joe's Coffee shop and around the corner from Kingston's City Hall, the Kingston High School, the YMCA and the Center for Creative Education. Dr. Adam Soyer is proposing the indoor shooting range in a location that he owns and where his practice had once been (and maybe even still is at this time).  The new range would provide "a 15 yard target shooting area with five shooting lanes, as well as classrooms and a gun shop."

Last year, when the item came up in the city of Kingston, residents with concerns requested that the planning board, who was reviewing the proposal at that time, schedule a public hearing.  "the board opted against a formal hearing" and then later reversed its "earlier decision"   READ "In Reversal, Kingston Planning Board Sets Public Hearing on Proposed Midtown Shooting Range. 

Prior to the Planning Board changing its mind on scheduling a public hearing, the Board of Education took immediate action and expressed unanimous opposition to a shooting range and gun shop at that location, "in the interest of the safety to students, faculty, employees and others present at the Kingston High School" on December 9th.

After their statement and further pressing by citizens,  the public hearing was scheduled and well attended on December 14th.

Throughout much of the opinions and information shared by the public, the most revealing of testimonies for an indoor shooting range in Kingston were the ones pointing to laws that exist and that appeared to have been missed by the planning department. They included both a special use permit for a 'membership club' under city rules in order to operate (which would have required a public hearing anyway) and, a firearms law that clearly states 'No person, other than in self-defense or in the discharge of official duties, shall willfully discharge any species of firearm within the city limits of the city of Kingston."

VIEW:  Public Hearing Testimony from 12/14/15

At this past April's common council meeting, Dr. Soyer spoke during public comment (starts at 1:25 in the attached link) stating that “There is certainly an outspoken minority of people who are against this project, and I believe it’s from lack of education on understanding the industry and the project itself,” Soyer said. “But also, a lot of the arguments really have no statistical basis, and I think that’s important to understand.”    The minority that Dr. Soyer refers to here actually made up the majority of those who spoke at the public hearing in December that were not in favor of the indoor shooting range at that location and who also happened to be...city of Kingston residents.  Most who favored the location on the other hand, were not.

With the amendment to the Firearms law now on the Laws and Rules Committee agenda for April 19th, council members will  need to take a lot into account including Kingston's newly adopted Comprehensive Plan, an imminent overhaul of Kingston's zoning and, whether or not amending a law to support a proposal that is currently on the table is even legal.  As a change to the law to accommodate the goals of an individual project is a very slippery slope and in our opinion, reflects undue influence on the system.

We came to this proposal last December, after learning that a group of citizens (mentioned above) had organized (on their own and without any affiliation with KingstonCitizens.org) to request a public hearing so that their voices could be heard on an issue that mattered to them.

What we have found since that time is a whole host of issues that probably would have been avoided had there been better communications and clear guidelines and policy to uphold proper process in our community. That is the focus of KingstonCitizens.org's advocacy.  When process is clear and followed on any issue, the chance for all to be heard and protected is possible.