Mayor Steve Noble gave excellent testimony at Thursday evening’s Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency’s (UCRRA) public hearing on Single Stream Recycling and rate increases. You may click on the image to view his testimony, or following along here: VIEW
The public can submit comments for the next 10 days (through June 24th) to UCRRA@ucrra.org
“I could come before you this evening to talk about how the city of Kingston began its single stream operation. I could talk to you about how the Research Recovery Agency blessed the city of Kingston’s transition to single stream recycling. I could talk to you this evening about how much money the city has spent with both local funds and state grant dollars purchasing recycling bins for the city of Kingston residents.
I could also talk to you at length about the amount of money spent on mechanizing our equipment to have the single stream recycling trucks that we purchased with state dollars. I could also speak to you this evening about how our recycling rates have almost doubled in the city of Kingston since we implemented this new recycling program. But in five minutes, I can’t do that. I also don’t believe I can do that in the month in a half that we’ve had since UCRRA announced its plans to discontinue single stream recycling.
This is viewed as something that, as you all have indicated, has been happening because of China. But I would say that the issue of recycling has been happening around our country and around New York for decades, trying to get people to recycle. And it has not been easy. And it’s been something that we’ve all struggled with.
Whether we’re single stream or dual stream, people still don’t know how to recycle correctly. People still put plastic bags in dual stream recycling just like they do in single stream recycling. They still don’t know where to put shredded paper. And whether it can be recycled or it can’t be recycled. And I think the same issue is here. This is an important decision. What do we charge? How do we manage it? Is it dual stream? Is it single stream?
The agency is shifting course and deciding, again, that dual stream is the only way that Ulster County should operate. Then that should be a public discussion, and it should involve the county legislature. It should involve the recycling oversight committee. It should involve a whole lot more meetings like this, and it should involve the stake holders that will be directly implemented and impacted by these decisions. That should include the large haulers like Waste Management and County Waste. And it should involve the residents of the city of Kingston that don’t speak English.
It should involve all of our residents. And the agency needs to step up and engage with our communities and really decide how can we build a better, more sustainable and also more resilient recycling industry here in Ulster County. And there is no way that that can happen before December 31st of 2018 before the proposed switch that you’re asking us to do.
We need to be able to spend that time working together to decide once and for all how we do this. As many of you know, it’s taken the city of Kingston four years to completely implement single stream recycling in just the residential neighborhoods. On Tuesdays, we still have dual stream recycling, for the most part, on our business commercial districts in the city. And so we still haven’t gone fully single stream.
I do think that it’s important that this decision not being made in haste. I think that the board has created a crisis, and made this seem like a crisis, making it seem that our agency is stockpiling single stream recycling. Making it seem that we have no place to put it. Making it seem that there is an emergency happening here in Ulster County, and it’s just not true.
And yes, we all recognize that the market is changing, and that we have a huge issue that we all have to tackle together. But again, I don’t believe it needs to be done in six months. I don’t believe it needs to be done like this. I encourage all of you to consider that when you’re deciding on how the board is voting on these next two resolutions. And so with that said, I just want to say thank you again for letting me speak this evening.”
CITIZEN REQUEST. Please request that the UCRRA board postpone its vote on Resolution No. 2446 that proposes a single-stream recycling fee increase (intended to begin on July 1st) to allow time for discussion, to budget appropriately and consider alternative options.
You can also call your City of Kingston Ulster County Legislator representatives to request that the county reinstate the Recycling Oversight Committee:
On Thursday, June 14th at 5:00 pm, the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) will host a public hearing at the Ulster County Legislative Chambers located at 244 Fair Street, 6th floor (VIEWour Facebook Event) on the following resolutions:
Resolution No. 2445 states that UCRRA will no longer accept single-stream recyclables effective at the close of business December 31, 2018.
Resolution No. 2446 authorizes and approves the modification of the 2018 Tipping Fees and other Charges, to take effect July 1, 2018.
The event will be followed by UCRRA’s regular board meeting to vote on the proposed changes less than two weeks from their public hearing on Wednesday, June 27th at 12:00 pm at their offices located at 999 Flatbush Road in Kingston (VIEWour Facebook Event).
According to Resolution No. 2446, “…the Agency hereby approves the modification of the 2018 schedule of the tipping fee and other charges as it relates to single stream recyclables raising the tipping fee for single stream recyclables from $20.00 per ton to an amount set each month by the Executive Director, by calculating the average rate the Agency was charged to remove single stream recyclables in the previous month, plus a $15.00 per ton fee reflecting the Agency’s cost of storing and handling such material….for single stream recyclables will be adjusted the first day of each month commencing July 1, 2018 based on the rate calculated by the Executive Director.”
A fluctuating increase in single-stream recycling tipping fees from month to month would make it a real challenge for our community to know what to anticipate. Given Kingston is in the midst of its already adopted 2017/2018 working budget with recycling tipping costs accounted for, how is this change mid-year in the best interest of 24,000 Ulster County residents who will bear the brunt?
“What is the financial impact on the taxpayers of Ulster county?” – City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble
“We can’t pass laws, there’s no flow control on recycling. The vast majority doesn’t come to us. The impact on taxpayers, hardly any difference at all.” – Timothy Rose, Executive Director, UCRRA
“Just us.” – City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble
From UCRRA’s Informational Meeting, May 2018 VIEW Mayor Steve Noble’s Quote begins at 34:23
How did we get here? There is still much that is not understood, such as:
1. During UCRRA’s Informational Meeting last month, board members stated that a change in the Single-Stream market was known in or around October of 2017. In April, an article in the local paper announced UCRRA’s plans to discontinue single stream by 12/31/18 and to also raise rates to take effect on 7/1 until single-stream would conclude at the end of the year. If the Ulster County Legislature has oversight of UCRRA, at what point were they notified of this change?
2. The Ulster County Legislature has a “Recycling Oversight Committee” that is charged to look at the changes in recycling trends and materials for the county has been inactive having “…only met a few times over the past decade.” according to Manna Jo Greene . Without it, how has the legislature used its oversight responsibilities to make any recommendations to UCRRA or impacted communities prior to proposed legislation being drafted?
3. Were there any communication made by UCCRA and the UC Legislature to the City of Kingston regarding these proposed changes prior to April, 2018?
There will be many questions posed during the public hearing on Thursday afternoon. The public deserves time for all parties to respond, discuss and deliberate before changes are made to UCRRA’s single-stream system or rate changes are made. A postponement of Resolution No. 2446 is a reasonable request.
In what might might very well be in my top 10 most perplexing processes I’ve witnessed in 12 years at KingstonCitizens.org, good sense prevailed and Resolution #107 of 2018 “Common Council of the City of Kingston Establishing a Public Hearing Regarding the Possible Merger of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission” (with accompanying legislation from 5/16/18 to be sent out to Involved Agencies) was referred back to the Laws and Rules Committee for proper vetting with a 7 / 2 vote.
The good news is that I think Kingston is venturing into a new kind of conversation to better understand Historic Preservation in Kingston with a secondary goal to identify best practices so to make the review process for development more efficient.
Thanks to council members for a thoughtful and robust debate.
It’s also a moment for the executive branch to contemplate better boundaries for its corporation counsel. I hope that the Kingston Common Council will also consider advocating for a budget line to provide its own council on retainer for second opinions. With a new budget cycle coming up, it’s the perfect time to be putting that forward. I think the public might readily support that this year given this flub. The council should have staff, too. What happened to the council clerk position that began last summer and ended in the fall?
A refreshed value may be placed on the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), with the council allocating a council liaison and/or, assigning the HLPC to a council committee (perhaps Laws and Rules) for an ongoing dialogue to allow relationships to be built and for council members to have the opportunity to get to know Historic Preservation items and issues in real time, as well as to come to a new appreciation of the work that our commission is doing on Kingston’s behalf. That seems entirely possible to me now.
Below is video from the recent council caucus and meeting with excerpts. Thanks to my partner Clark Richters of the Kingston News for his great work in recording video for this, and all of the meetings that we cover. I couldn’t do it without him.
City of Kingston Common Council Caucus 6/4/18
Andrea Shaut, Ward 9 Alderwoman
“It’s been presented, but there hasn’t been any formal discussion about it. I think that we as a committee need to answer questions and we’ll have a stronger document to send out to a public hearing….if we go to the public hearing in June, we make no amendments, which means we’re not actually listening to the public we’re just passing it through, we have a first reading and second reading. That gets us to August and means we are all content with everything…I don’t think any of you are perfectly content with how it is now. We’re not going to get this done by August (as per Corporation Council’s suggestion)…if we pass it on now, then the public has to do the legwork and I think that’s our job.”
City of Kingston Kingston Common Council Meeting 6/5/18
“There’s only one way to keep the historic architecture that you have for the basis of Kingston’s future, and that is to take actions to preserve it by making a strong commitment to support the city’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission. Unfortunately, a revision of the city’s landmarks law has been proposed that did not involve the people most likely to be understand the process of the two commissions that are supposed to be combined, or the insight of the state agencies…the proposed revision undermines the purpose of the preservation landmarks review…”
“There hasn’t been any request made to the Planning Department to provide a map matrix of the current city process for projects both in and outside of historic districts. Without that, there is no way to know whether or not streamlining the HLPC and HAC is the best solution for efficiency or, whether changing the steps in the sequence or a coordinated review is our best foot forward.”
23:46 – 31:04. Owen Harvey
“If timing is no longer an issue, then the legislation should be sent back to committee for proper vetting before it’s sent out to the public and involved agencies. The public hearing is being framed as being about ‘just getting additional information’, but the public needs to trust that the council has done its work in assuring that the legislation has been carefully considered. The Laws and Rules committee has admitted that they have not had the chance to do that because of a false claim of urgency that was presented by Kingston’s Corporation Council at the Laws and Rules committee meeting last month (NOTE: see below)…and that there were issues related to timing that his “office is not comfortable talking about in a public session.” If the council doesn’t know what he was referring to, then it would behoove you not to approve Resolution #107…and if you do know what the Assistant Corporation Council was referring to and it relates to my article 78 petition around the HLPC’s appeals process, then voting in favor of the resolution is allowing Corporation Council an abuse of power to use this council to change a law that could impact the outcome of pending litigation. What concerns me is that the proposed legislation actually changes the current HLPC appeals process and creates a different appeals process for the new commission.”
31:23 – 32:00 Giovanna Righini, Vice Chair of the CoK’s Heritage Area Commission
“The legislation should be sent back for further review and vetting in order to assure that we don’t lose valuable checks and balances in protecting our architectural heritage.”
“We are eager to work with the Laws and Rules committee to draft legislation that improves the review process and improves the language and the clarity of the legislation. We’ve been speaking with the Mayor at our own public meetings before this legislation came out, and it was my understanding we would have that opporutnity….this legislation came out of left field and we’ve been working in overdrive to get information to the Laws and Rules committee that we felt they needed to consider when looking at this legislation. It goes beyond just merging two commissions. I think the corporation council office tinkered with other parts of the ordinance while the hood was up. That’s not how legislation should be crafted in our community….I urge the council to send this back to Laws and Rules for further development with the people who live and breathe this stuff.”
34:16 – 42:00 Leslie Melvin, Member, HLPC
“I thought I understood the intent behind combining commissions, though given the variety and types of responsibilities of them including the Coastal Consistency Review, Overlying District Design and Historic Preservation Ordinances, I’m not so certain it’s feasible. Many of my colleagues across both commissions feel the same. Just ask us. Noone’s really asked us. What we keep hearing feels true. This could work, but the Devil is in the details. I’m troubled by this process, we’re told to change quick…there will be time to improve the Preservation code in the future. But I’m not sure it’s that easy…triage to unclear and fragmented Preservation code will only result in slightly more clear and still fragmented Preservation code. To be certain, fast tracking piecemeal Preservation code only serves short-term goals. How often have you heard – if you’d going to do it, do it right? We have an opportunity to be really thoughtful.”
42:07 – 45:25 Ellen DiFalco
“Much to my dismay, I have attempted to review why time is of the essence to streamline the process for applicants appearing before these commissions…there are many concerns and red flags that have popped up for the inquiring public to question…I ask that you gather as much information as you can and then present it to the public for review and comments.”
45:34 – 50:03. Jennifer Berky, former member of the HLPC
“…What makes a good law? We consider all the factors that shape the physical economic and social features of our built environment. I have never seen such a significant decision that could affect land use in one of the States most valuable resources move so quickly to a public hearing. When we look at model law as best practices and consider economic impacts, we consult broadly with leaders in our field. We also meet with many community stakeholders prior to public hearings about local laws.”
50:15 – 54:35 Lynn Woods
“As one of the partners who made the documentary film ‘The Lost Rondout’, a story of urban removal, I learned of the misguided polices of the 1960’s that led to the destruction of most of Kingston’s commercial downtown and also how it was Preservation that halted the destruction by creating the Rondout Historic District and subsequently the three other historic districts, City Hall, and other buildings slated for destruction…the importance of holding and strengthening our Historic Preservation laws can not be overstated. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation written by Kingston’s Corporation Counsel to merge commissions does the opposite.”
54:52 – End Tanya Garment
“(Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader) Rennie Scott Childress was talking last night (in caucus) about having the opportunity to hear as much public feedback and not just the experts as possible, and we should do it in a two-part way…in a public hearing and also sending it out to the Involved Agencies separately. We should not send it out to the Involved Agencies because there are parts left out of the legislation (it is incomplete). If it goes out tonight, it will go to Involved Agencies and you’ll lose your chance for the important missing parts that are not included here to give feedback later on.” (NOTE: Involved Agencies look at legislation during a public hearing for a local law only one time).
Resolution #107 of 2018: Common Council of the City of Kingston Establishing a Public Hearing Regarding the Possible Merger of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission (with accompanying legislation from 5/16/18 to be sent out to Involved Agencies)
7:43 – 26:18 Vote to refer back streamline commissions legislation and to committee adopted 7 / 2.
Ward 9 Andrea Shaut makes a motion.
“I believe we do not have a piece of legislation before us that the council stands behind, as we have not had enough time. This is also true fo rate L/R committee. We have heard from experts and have reached out to us who want to voice in here.I appreciate Alderman who want a public hearing to learn more. But to send it back to committee, we do not lost the public hearing. We gain time to hear from experts, and to make sure this is what we want to send out to the public that we can stand behind this. I’d like to request to send this back to committee.
Seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Morell.
9:06 – 10:33 Ward 5 Alderman Bill Carey Send back to Committee
10:36 – 13:35 Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader Rennie Scott Childress In favor of public hearing
13:37 – 16:51 Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis Send back to Committee
16:54 – 17:56 Ward 4 Alderwoman RIta Worthington Send back to Committee
17:58 – 19:58 Ward 2 Alderman Doug Koop In favor of public hearing
20:05 -22:02 Ward 8 Alderman Steve Schabot Send back to committee
22:03 – 22:37 Ward 7 Alderman Patrick O’Reillly Send back to committee
22:38 – 23:28 Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Morrell Send back to committee
Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut Send back to committee
VIDEO: The Common Council Laws and Rules Committee Meeting from 5/16/18 regarding streamlining commissions and legislation. (starts at 1:28 and I encourage you to watch the whole discussion to witness the breadth, in my opinion, of the council being misled as it turns out. The pivotal moment in the conversation for a swift local law process can be viewed at 40:44 – 42:32. A transcription of the meeting can be downloaded HERE.
“The Proposed Legislation to Merge Kingston’s Historic Commissions is not Ready for a Public Hearing.” VIEW
VIDEO: “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process”