A First Look at the City of Kingston’s Charter.


By Rebecca Martin

We had an informative educational panel on July 13 with Dr. Gerald Benjamin of  The Benjamin Center and Jennifer Schwartz Berky, principal of Hone Strategic and District 7 Ulster County Legislator discussing Charters and Charter Reform.

To our delight, Dr. Benjamin took the time to mark up Kingston's current charter which we felt was most important for the public to review.  You will find his power point, frame by frame with video that is marked so that you can follow along.  The audio isn't great, but you can still hear. We do recommend headphones.

For those who wish to also see Dr. Benjamin's power point on Charters, click on the following link HERE where you will be taken to a KingstonCitizens.org page. Then, click on the blue hyper link and the power point will download to your computer.

We think charter reform in Kingston at this time is key in order to bring more clarity to local government.  The last time it was done was back in 1994, where the process was anything but transparent.   READ ON "How the City of Kingston Got It's Strong Mayor Form of Government   (This post was from 2013).

 

 

FRAME ONE
WATCH:  1:05 - 1:55

"You don't need the city's annexation any longer because it occurred in the 19th century."

 

 

FRAME TWO
WATCH: 1:56 - 3:45

"Elections are governed by state law, they don't have to be described in your charter....the 'Organization of Common Council' should be moved to a Legislative Article. It's interesting that your Legislative Article is so far back in your charter. It should be moved to the front....it is also strange to me that all items that have to do with your council are not all in one place."

 

FRAME THREE
WATCH: 3:46 - 5:05 

"They encourage intergovernmental relations in the Constitution. It's not a bad thing to repeat it per se. It's only bad if you think that's the source of your power. It's not."

 

 

FRAME FOUR
WATCH: 5:06 - 6:45

"You talk about the inability of an acting Mayor, but you don't talk about how you know when someone is unable to do the job. They may not know if they are not performing."

 

 

FRAME FIVE
WATCH: 6:46 - 7:19

"...often you have a provision adopted one day, and another another day and those making the changes don't see the contradictions or have the patience to change it or they want to get through the process."

 

FRAME SIX
WATCH: 7:20 - 10:07

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of substance for the Aldermen section....they are supposed to report misconduct. What does that mean? Someone must have been bad and no one told anyone about it....alot of law has to do with solving problems in the moment."

 

 

FRAME SEVEN
WATCH: 10:08 - 10:37

"There is a lot of detail about a few jobs. Assessor, PW and WB. Sometimes the detail can be put into code, or left out because it's covered by state law.

 

 

FRAME EIGHT
WATCH: 10:38 -11:54

"The legislature is without staff. The ambiguity of the relationship between City Clerk and the legislature, since they are hired by the Mayor, needs to be thought through."

 

FRAME NINE
WATCH:  11:55 - 13:02 

"Comptroller is an auditor so you are calling your fiscal official a comptroller but you are empowering them as a comptroller.  It's an interesting thing that the comptroller who is thought of as an oversight officer helps to create the Kingston budget."


 

FRAME TEN
WATCH:  13:03 - 16:42

"You have the separation of power system...but if the lawyer works for the Mayor but the council disagrees with the Mayor and the council needs legal advice, can they go to the person the Mayor appointed with confidence?"

 

FRAME ELEVEN
WATCH:  16:43 - 21:29

"Why do you have a water board? In modern government, the integration of departments in cities suggests that this independent structure might be more of a hindrance."

 

 

FRAME TWELVE
WATCH:  21:30 - 21:51 

"There is probably a Fire Department provision because some are volunteer and some are paid. I don't know why that is. It's an interesting question."

 

FRAME THIRTEEN
WATCH:  21:52 - 22:28

"There is a lot about the common council article that I found to be in need of attention."

 

 

FRAME FOURTEEN
WATCH:  22:29 - 23:14

"The detail in the public works department is not necessary for a charter. One thing that happens when you create a charter change, people in government are worried about  "you're going to try to abolish my department" or '"they are going to take my powers away."  So what they do,  is take the powers and throw them in the charter and say  "look, don't vote against the charter. You see? You're protected."  Historically, I know this happens alot. The detail here suggests that there was some political reason to keep the public work detail."

 

 

FRAME FIFTEEN
WATCH:  23:15 - 25:26

"You have no land use in your charter....You are more apt to be in line for grants with sustainbility and resiliancy in your charter."

 

 

FRAME SIXTEEN
WATCH: 25:27 - 29:50

"The budget process is a distinct process...and it's a process that is political that involves the preparation of the budget...it should be separated in the charter from tax collection."

FRAME SEVENTEEN
WATCH:  29:51 - 30:36 


FRAME EIGHTEEN
WATCH: 30:37 - 32:51

"Some ideas that I have had such an ethics provision, which are not punitive. they are directive...you don't have a redistricting provision and you should, especially as the minority population is a significant population....periodic charter review and, training for elected officials for those coming into government without any background."

Council Votes Tonight. Support the City of Kingston 2017 Municipal Budget.

By Rebecca Martin

The 2017 City of Kingston Budget passes unanimously out of Finance Committee on 11/28. Those in favor include Doug Koop, Rennie Scott-Childress, Tony Davis, Steven Schabot and Deborah Brown.
The 2017 City of Kingston Budget passes unanimously out of Finance Committee on 11/28. Those in favor include Doug Koop, Rennie Scott-Childress, Tony Davis, Steven Schabot and Deborah Brown.

This year, we have witnessed many unprecedented, positive changes in the city of Kingston. One of which was a whole new way of engaging the community with a budget forum held at Kingston City Hall in August as well as an online survey where citizens had the opportunity to voice in on the Mayor's 2017 municipal budget.

Soon after, the finance committee met on a weekly basis for about six weeks to interview department heads who unveiled their department's needs.  To be thorough, Kingston Mayor Noble also requested a special committee meeting to discuss special events, fees and to respond to any other concerns raised about the budget. I can't recall a time when I have seen such transparent and collaborative efforts made between all elected and appointed officials in the City of Kingston.

After hours upon hours of research and discussion, the finance passed the city's 2017 budget out of committee and on to last evening's council caucus (12/5). Its fate is now in the hands of our entire common council who will vote to pass the budget or not this evening (12/6).

Some say that the 2017 COK budget is the first in decades where a balanced budget has been achieved that also includes a tax cut.  It's a forward thinking document; one that places the COK on solid footing for the future.

The highlights include a tax levy of $17,650,940, which is a $0 increase from 2016. What's really exciting is that it slowly addresses the long-standing issue of the homestead / non-homestead, decreasing the homestead tax rate from $10.16 per thousand to $10.10 per thousand and the non-homestead tax rate from $18.31 per thousand to $18.13 per thousand.  Items such as raises were determined through a multi-member committee. It was a long and well-vetted analysis, using comparable salaries from similar communities. The result moves toward fair pay for all (for both male and female employees alike) and gives Kingston a competitive edge when openings become available in attracting the best and the brightest.

The city will continue to provide extensive services at a cost effective rate, too. You'd be hard pressed to find a private hauler for the price that most are paying through the City of Kingston's Department of Public Works. We know how important that is to Kingstonians.

BRINGING SOME CLARITY AND UNDERSTANDING TO POTENTIAL DEBATE THIS EVENING. 

With ample time for discussion throughout the estimated three-month process, we still expect several items to come to the floor this evening for debate. Below, we've tried to pull together a little background to help citizens follow along.

Hiring a part-time clerk for Kingston's Common Council.

A part time common council clerk position was implemented to assist the council in their administrative needs. This would include creating timely agendas, minutes and even audio recordings of all caucus and council meetings.  It's the sort of thing that we have been advocating for since we began this work in 2006. It's an exciting prospect for all citizens. 

1) In the City of Kingston's charter, the city clerk (who is appointed by the mayor) manages all "records, documents and other papers for the city".  Their role also includes being the council's clerk without any detail outside of going to monthly council meetings.  In other words, a single position is to maintain the needs of both the executive and legislative branches of government, the latter to a degree.

2) Some believe that it makes sense for our common council (legislative branch) to have its own PT clerk that can work independently of our city clerk (executive branch).  It may avoid any potential conflicts as to how much time is applied where given that the city clerk position is appointed by Kingston's Mayor.

What are some of the concerns? 

As we understand it, Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills wants the council to move the $16,000 allotted amount towards an asset management 'manager' position.

1) To date, the City of Kingston is awaiting recommendations from Barton and Loguidice, LLC, the consultant hired to provide the city with an asset management gap assessment several years ago. In 2015, recommendations in three phases were made to move Kingston toward adopting a citywide asset management software system. Long term maintenance and sustainability may be part of phase three, which could give the city a better understanding of the role an asset management 'manager' could play, including their qualifications and pay.  Some say that without this critical information, making any determinations on what and how to fund this position is premature.

2) There are also other key variables that would come into play, such as a grant that was written to cover a fleet manager position and that would manage all vehicles in the city. Kingston should learn if they have secured this grant soon and if so, the position might reduce the responsibilities of a future asset manager.

Making Kingston's Corporation Council a full-time position. 

Historically, Kingston's Corporation Council has been a part-time position, allowing those appointments to work for the City of Kingston while also maintaining a private practice. Although at a glance, none of which is reflected in Kingston's charter.

1) Kingston's Corporation Council is another appointment made by the mayor, serving at his/her pleasure. In the charter, it states that: "The Corporation Counsel shall be the primary legal advisor to the Mayor, Common Council and of all commissions, departments and other offices of the city. The Corporation Counsel shall conduct, supervise or monitor, as required, the prosecution and defense of all actions or proceedings brought by or against the city or by or against any of its officers in their official capacity and appeal from all such orders, decisions and judgments as he or she deems advisable."

That's a pretty large list of responsibilities for part-time council. As a side note, and if their position is indeed 20 hours, what happens when/if they have not choice but to go over their allotment of time?

2) Some believe that it isn't realistic or fair to expect corporation council's full attention to city matters when they are also being pulled by a necessary private practice.  Others suggest that in addition, maintaining both private and public work in tandem could open up the possibility of conflicts of interest (especially in a small city such as Kingston).

We support the 2017 City of Kingston Municipal Budget. 

We appreciate the mayor, common council, all Kingston city departments and citizens for their hard work since the summer to craft such an exemplary budget for Kingston. Their efforts deserve our wholehearted support.  We encourage citizens to sign-up to speak tonight at Kingston City Hall (420 Broadway, Council Chambers at 7:30 pm) in favor of passing the 2017 City of Kingston municipal budget through council. In doing so, we are placing our best foot forward as we go into the new year.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Why Does Passing The Water Referendum on November 3rd Matter?

Referendum

By Rebecca Martin

As part of our ongoing effort to educate citizens on the upcoming Water Referendum that will appear on the November 3rd  ballot,  we are happy to present this piece, "In their own words" to share insight from residents who live and work inside and out of the City of Kingston.

Our lives are intimately impacted by the decisions made by our elected and appointed officials on all fronts.  In this case, regarding water, by voting 'YES' to include the Common Council on all sales of water outside Kingston's corporate limits, we have a real opportunity to assure better decisions to be made.

Please take note. The Water Sales Referendum will be on the BACK OF THE BALLOT on November 3rd.

QUESTION:  Why do you wish to see the Water Referendum pass through this fall during the general election? 

“Our government is based on elected officials representing the people.  The fact that there is currently a disconnect and the residents of Kingston have no representation when it comes to selling our most vital resource outside of our community is a dangerous flaw in our charter. Passing this referendum provides a safety net for Kingstonians, so that we can be represented and our voices can be heard if future proposals that may compromise our water supply should occur. I am very proud to have been a part of the solution to keep the Niagara bottling project away from our water, but this referendum is equally important so the future leaders of our city have a system in place to be at the table from the very beginning.”
Bill Carey, Kingston Resident
Ward 5 Alderman

“As Niagara Bottling Company’s recent proposal to begin bottling water from our area highlighted, our water - one of our most precious, shared natural resources - is currently very vulnerable. As the vagaries of climate change increase, water will become even more threatened and precious both in the Hudson Valley and across the world. We cannot afford to leave this essential natural element that literally sustains all of us to be unprotected or privatized.  This Water Referendum is a crucial step in the process of ensuring that our water remains available to all residents in our area – in the City of Kingston as well as other municipalities with shared watersheds and water rights – both now and in the future.  Requiring Mayoral and Common Council approvals for water sales outside the City of Kingston is a sensible step to improve transparency and sound process  – which was lacking with Niagara – to ensure that future water sale proposals are carefully and fully vetted and in the best long term interests of Kingston's residents and water customers.  Cooper Lake & Mink Hollow are the source waters for the City of Kingston's drinking water supply. Woodstock is Kingston's watershed community. Woodstock also has shared water rights in Mink Hollow Stream and to the waters flowing from Cooper Lake, should the Town ever need to access them in the future. Residents of the Town of Ulster and Town of Kingston rely on the water supply from Cooper Lake as well, through long-term water purchase contracts with the Kingston Water Department. And Mink Hollow is in the New York City water shed. For all these reasons the Land Conservancy is committed to doing what we can to help protect the long term integrity and viability of these critical natural resources in our community."
Kevin Smith, Chairman, Woodstock Land Conservancy
Eve Fox, Advisory Council Member, Woodstock Land Conservancy

“Passage of this referendum is important, but not necessarily for me. It is important for my child, and future generations. To insure that our precious, natural resources are not commercialized or squandered should be the top priority of all communities. And it should be up to the entire community to decide how to utilize these resources -- and not left to a handful of people behind closed doors to decide. What I learned from the Niagara Bottling Plant proposal and the subsequent community reaction is that the needs of the community should be considered first, and not be trumped by corporate interests. Economic development is much more than job creation, it includes fostering community wellness. That means creating a place to live that is not only safe and has a high quality of life, but has essential services to include abundant and clean water for all residents.”
Arthur Zaczkiewicz, Kingston Resident
MSW

"In today's world water is now a precious commodity and a resource to be protected. We all have  read of droughts across certain areas in North America and their communities hunt for clean water along with their ongoing conservation efforts. We here in the City of Kingston are fortunate to have a clean and safe water supply readily available for our citizens. As representatives of the people  it makes sense that the Common Council  have a say in what companies, who are outside city limits, can purchase the water, for what purpose and how much they purchase. Currently the Council does not have that right based on the charter written almost a hundred years ago. That power was given to members of a  Water Board to oversee all water matters which worked for those times. They could never have imagined the future with water being bottled and sold for a profit.  It is now time to rectify it.   All living creatures, all plants, need water to sustain life and we need to protect our natural resource from abuse or profiteering.  It is essential for the life and survival  of the City of Kingston and for its future generations. As I have said in the past, Water is now the new "oil"."
Deb Brown
Alderwoman, 9th ward
Minority Leader

“Kingston's water supply is a crucial pillar of our public commons. It's understanding that we cannot exist apart from the web of nature whose very source is water. So of course, the sale of our water for a commercial purpose threatens our public commons and cannot be allowed.”
David Bruner, Kingston Resident
Kingston Transition

nestle-ceo-says-water-is-not-a-human-right-we-say-no-to-water-privatization-36837

“Why does the Water Referendum matter?  Because when Kingston was faced with a decision last year that would have affected our economic and environmental future, you didn’t have a choice.  You didn’t have a voice.   The City Charter is Kingston’s “constitution.” It is the fundamental structure of our government.  New York State Law says that YOUR VOTE MATTERS on any change to our city charter.  The way the Charter is currently structured, the Common Council that YOU elected to represent our community has no say regarding the Water Board’s decision to sell our water.  This simply doesn’t make sense.  It is not how democracy should work.  The Water Board should be accountable to the public and the Council should have the “balance of power” regarding the significant decisions that govern our City’s future.   In other words, during the Niagara Bottling proposal last year:

  • You had no say about whether to sell our limited supply of safe, high quality drinking water to a billion-dollar corporation for a fraction of the rate you pay.
  • You had no say about the use of your tax dollars going toward the attraction of a polluting industry.
  • You had no say about how this would limit further residential and commercial development in Kingston.
  • You had no say regarding whether this was environmentally detrimental to our community.

If you vote “yes” for the Water Referendum, you will have a say!  Say “yes!” to include Council - and the public – in the sale of our precious water.”
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Kingston Resident
District 7 Ulster County Legislature Democratic Candidate

“I want to see this water referendum pass because the people must have a say about how this most precious resource is used.  Water is vital to life, and we are blessed to live in an area that has an abundance of water today.  But times are changing, and water shortages are a reality in many parts of the world.  We are also vulnerable to that possibility in the future.  We need to think carefully - and many generations ahead - about protecting our water for the future.  Until now,  a small group of appointed (not elected) officials had the power to make all decisions about the water that Kingston citizens depend on.  The passing of this referendum will ensure that officials elected by the citizens of Kingston will have a say in what happens to the city's water supply.  And the people should have a say in this important matter.  It was only a year ago this month that the citizens of the area found out that the water of Kingston had been offered up for sale to Niagara Bottling Company - these negotiations started in April of 2014 with Kingston’s Water Department and were kept out of the public eye until September!  I urge everyone who is eligible to vote to pass this referendum so that in the future the citizens will be aware of - and represented in - all decisions about their water supply.”
Karin Wolf
Sierra Club and Neetopk Keetopk

“Water is our most important resource. We cannot live without it. Kingston residents, visitors, and businesses all need access to clean, fresh water in times of plentiful rainfall, and in times of drought. We need to protect and conserve our water, and to plan its use wisely. It’s no longer appropriate for decisions about the potential sale of Kingston water to be made by a group of 5 Water Board members, plus the Mayor. A decision to sell our water has far-reaching consequences, and should only be undertaken after informed and careful thought,  and only if approved by a majority of Kingston citizens through their representatives on the Common Council.”
Lynn Johnson, Kingston Resident
Democratic Candidate for Alderman, Ward 9
Member, Kingston Conservation Advisory Council

“While I live in Woodstock, I am a KingstonCitizens.org committee Chair, and I have continued to work with this amazing team to so to stay civically engaged in the protection of our collective public safety, way of life, and our water.   It is encouraging to see that the Kingston Common Council has taken this action.   This Referendum is extremely valuable to the region, because the systems that are in place, in the City of Kingston, for the governance of water that lie in Woodstock township are not currently set up to give the people a voice.   Judging by recent events, it is clear that if we do not take the necessary steps to safeguard the community from similar threats, we could find ourselves in the middle of a nightmare we can’t wake up from.   About one year ago to the day, I was alerted to the plan to the privatization of a small lake in the Woodstock community. My immediate reaction was “Not in my back yard!!” And then I began to understand that it was far more than just my lake that lie vulnerable.   The plan that Niagara Bottling Company, Kingston Water Board and The Town of Ulster Supervisor had for the region was obscenely dangerous to the health and safety of the people in our community and threatened to add billions of gallons of potential waste overtime to the Hudson River via the Esopus Creek and innumerable plastic bottles to the sea of plastic we continue to create and throw “away”.   This is not the kind of decision that should be left in the hands of a few people. Public water should be governed with the inclusion of the people whom the sources serve.  While the plan was never able to see itself to manifestation, it did shed light on vulnerabilities as well as create stress on inter-municipal relationships, and we have been left with much more than leaky pipes to repair.   I see this referendum as the first step of many that can be taken to protect the City of Kingston’s water supply, those who are served by it and those who live in the watershed from which it comes.”
Rachel Marco-Havens, Woodstock Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Communications Committee
Founder, Earth Guardians NY

“Many years ago, I saw a documentary that showed Bolivian people who were facing legal penalties for collecting rainwater--apparently, the water that fell from the sky legally "belonged" to a private corporation and the Bolivian people were accused of stealing their property. This struck me as absurd and monstrous, but the years since I have seen that attitude creeping into the U.S. system. Water should not be treated as a commodity to be traded on Wall Street and owned by private entities. It is a natural resource and a public right. It belongs to all of us, and that's why it matters deeply to me that the people of Kingston have the final say in how our water is managed.”
Sara Eckel, Kingston Resident

“I would like to see the Water Referendum pass this Fall because it will bring the public's voice into decisions about Kingston's most precious natural resource -- drinking water.  Kingston's citizens are smart, well informed and ready to help plan for a future of clean, abundant fresh water.  The Referendum will help make sure they have the power to do just that.”
Paul Gallay, Executive Director
Hudson Riverkeeper

“I plan to vote in support of the Water Referendum and I urge my fellow Kingstonians to vote “yes” on the water referendum too. The referendum requires Common Council approval on any sale of water rights outside of Kingston's corporate limits. Currently, the Water Board stands as an independent agency with members appointed for set terms by the Mayor of Kingston.  Long ago, those establishing an independent Water Board intended that the agency operate above politics without the potential for graft, cronyism, and the short term thinking often associated with the rough and tumble of policymaking. Yet, an independent agency insulated from and unaccountable to the citizens it represents breeds its own kind of potential problems. Given the way Water Board members are appointed, politics isn’t eliminated from the process. Instead, the politics take place behind closed doors in the Mayor’s office without a transparent, public discussion of the appointee’s values, commitments, and philosophy. A good mayor will seek Board members from a variety of different and competing perspectives. A problematic mayor will stuff the Board with likeminded friends and political allies. The quality of the Board depends upon the ethics of the mayor.    In a 21st century full of drought conditions brought on by climate change, water has become a crucial resource. The City of Kingston cannot thrive economically without a stable water supply. The people who, in the final analysis, own that water should make any decision that potentially endangers its watershed. If the referendum passes, the Water Board will retain many of the features that have historically accompanied its independent agency status. It will continue to function the way the progenitors of the Water Board intended – free from the short term compromise and deal making characterizing many political decisions with one crucial exception. When considering whether to sell Kingston’s water outside of our community where the public hasn't any jurisdiction, the Water Board must seek the approval of the Common Council, the most representative branch of Kingston government. If selling Kingston’s water to a corporation like Niagara Bottling Company is truly in the best interests of the community, surely the people will see the wisdom in such a policy. If the selling of Kingston’s water is detrimental to the community, then the Water Board will have to reconsider whether its commitments align with the public good. “
Lynn Eckert, Kingston Resident
Democratic Candidate for Ward 1 Alderwoman

FOTO-CARTEL-NO-A-PRIVATIZACIÓN-DEL-AGUA

“Having the Common Council involved in all decisions as important as the sale of our water is critical to Kingston's future. Hopefully, our next Mayor will observe "transparency, accountability and informed public engagement" in all decision making, but ensuring that all 11 of our elected representatives have the information upon which important decisions are made and and a voice in those decisions is fundamental to protecting the public interest and furthering open government in Kingston.”
Kitty McCullough, Kingston Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Economic Development Committee

“Access to clean water is a precious, life-sustaining human right which we cannot take for granted. Multi-national corporations know that water is the new oil, the new gold, the new hot "commodity", according to companies like NESTLE and NIAGARA, who are actively engaged in turbo charged water grabs, pollution of streams, rivers, oceans, and the economic exploitation of local water supplies across the country. Ulster County has recently experienced such heinous activities first hand in our victorious fight to prevent NIAGARA plastic water bottling company from setting up shop in our communities. It is vitally important that the Kingston, NY Water Referendum pass on Election Day 2015. We have seen the future and it requires that the citizens of Ulster County protect our water, now and in the long term. If we blink, our water may be compromised. Our relatively pristine watershed provides water to local communities and to New York City. It is beyond valuable. The people of Ulster County deserve the right to protect our water, and the right to determine our watershed's healthy future. I am forever grateful to the heroic work of all at Kingstoncitizens.org, and everyone involved in making sure that Kingston, NY has the opportunity to vote "YES" on the Water Referendumon on Election Day, November 3, 2015.”
Anne Hemenway
Earth Guardians NY
Kingstoncitizens.org Events Committee

"We need the decision makers to be forward minded people who think about our children's children and sustainability especially during the times of depleting resources on our planet."
Jorge Nelson
Lake Hill Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Events Committee

"I was very active with KingstonCitizens.org during the Niagara Bottling proposal crisis. From September 2014 to February 13, 2015, the date when Niagara withdrew their proposal to buy a large portion of our limited municipal water supply, I stopped taking our water for granted. I learned too much to continue to be complacent about our water. I now understand that we, the people, should all be good stewards of our water. I want Kingston’s Water Referendum to pass because I believe that the power to make decisions about selling our municipal water supply should be shared among appointed (Water Department staff/board) and elected officials (our Common Council members), and that any such decisions must be weighted in favor of our common good. The world is a very different place now than it was in 1895, when the City of Kingston’s Charter first defined who had the power and responsibility to protect our municipal water supply. 120 years ago, people could not have imagined plastic water bottling plants or corporate grabs of our natural resources. Today, these are real and present dangers. Amending our City Charter to empower the Common Council to represent the public and to be actively involved in decisions related to water sales outside of the City is the right course to take."
Debra Bresnan, Kingston Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Communications Committee

"Catskill Mountainkeeper supports this referendum because it insures greater participation of affected communities in decision making about their water resources. Vital drinking water resources are increasingly coming under threat from human activities and the consequences of human activities, and our ability to protect water resources is enhanced through improved transparency and inclusiveness."
Dr. Kathy Nolan
Catskill Mountainkeeper

Water Powers Public Hearing on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:00am

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A great day. The Kingston Common Council sends the Water Powers legislation to the Mayor's office for a final signature. The decision to do so was unanimous after each reading (there were two).

By Rebecca Martin

This week, many anticipate the scheduled public hearing on the Water Powers legislation on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:00am at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers (this event will be filmed).

It is the final step in the process that would include both "the Common Council and the Mayor of Kingston for any water sales outside of the City of Kingston's corporate boundaries."   It is expected that the mayor will sign off on the legislation on Thursday, sending it to the ballot as a referendum in November for the public to decide.

It's our water. We are INVOLVED.

As it is currently written, Water Powers in the City of Kingston's charter excludes an elected body (although the Mayor of Kingston does sit on the water board of commissioners)  in decision making on how the public's water supply is sold outside of the city of Kingston. The public's most valuable resource therefore is in the hands of about five-six people.

If the public votes in favor of the referendum this November,  water sales outside of our corporate boundary will be made with the inclusion of Kingston's common council. This action will allow the City of Kingston a 'seat at the table'  in the case of a SEQR review, something that we did not have and that was terribly frustrating last year.

The inclusion of the common council for water sales would give our  community a 'discretionary decision' to make as an involved agency in SEQR (we were only an 'interested agency' last fall and as you might recall, we had to fight tooth and nail for it.  That hard won status still gave us little to no authority).  As an 'involved agency' we would have a say in determining who the 'lead agency' in SEQR would be, creating an important opportunity for the collective community voice.

Taken from the SEQR handbook:

As an 'involved' agency, the City of Kingston would be allowed to 

  • Make certain the lead agency understands the extent of the involved agency's jurisdiction; and
  • Provide the lead agency with observations and concerns about the proposed action and its potential environmental impact so the lead agency may consider them in making a determination of significance.

When a lead agency has made a negative determination of significance (negative declaration) each remaining involved agency may make its final decision on the action after completing any other required procedures.

When a lead agency has made a positive declaration each involved agency could:

  • Participate in scoping, making the lead agency aware of that agency's concerns and technical requirements identify potential significant environmental impacts and suggest alternatives and mitigation;
  • Assist the lead agency in reviewing a draft EIS for adequacy, if requested;
  • Participate in any hearings, as appropriate;
  • Provide formal agency comments during the public review period;
  • Assist the lead agency in responding to substantive comments on the final EIS, if requested; and
  • Prepare the involved agency's own separate SEQR findings before making its final decision.

An involved agency can also influence the determination of significance by the lead agency.  All involved agencies are encouraged to submit comments during the coordination period. Comments that deal with an agency's specific area of interest or jurisdiction are especially appropriate. 

It's an important safeguard, particularly when municipal water is involved.

Oversight and Transparency. 

The City of Kingston is fortunate for many reasons - one of which is that it has its own water source.  In amending the charter and including the common council as a determining body in water powers, some are concerned of political antics intruding upon their sales.  But this inclusion isn't about personalities,  as council members and those in executive office come and go.  This is about making certain that policy and the law are applied for decision making as it pertains to our water and water infrastructure.

In the spirit of community and in seeing our region prosper, with proper oversight, good science, climate change modeling and all other matters we can help to support sustainable economic development while placing the health of our watershed and the impacted communities first.

In less than a year from the time that we first heard and spoke out on our concerns of the Niagara Bottling Company's proposal in the Town of Ulster, the public will have the opportunity to make itself  'involved'  in water sales outside of our ever changing community, a voice in the protection of our water supply today and for future generations.

We've come a very long way.

UPDATE: Council Caucus “Water Powers” Referendum Discussion Shows Full Council Support. Mayor Gallo Agrees to Sign off on Local Law Amendment for Referendum if Passes.

By Rebecca Martin

At last night's Common Council Caucus, Council members discussed Resolution #134 to "Amend Charter to Authorize Public Referendum re: Water Powers". Alderman-at-Large James Noble and Corporation Council Andrew Zweben were in attendance.

It appears to have been determined that the Charter amendment of Water Powers would be a local law change, which would require two readings and a public hearing to be set by the Mayor within 10 days after the first reading. The first reading would take place tomorrow night if the Council votes to approve the referendum.  A public hearing would occur sometime in or around June 12th. The second reading would then be read at the July 7th Common Council meeting with a full council vote to follow to pass (or not) the referendum through to the November ballot.

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On May 28th, the Water Department Board of Commission Chair Joe DeCicco issued a press release cautioning the public to 'think carefully before you agree to change the governance (of water sales outside the city of Kingston)'   The press release was issued on Kingston Water Department letterhead, that included all the names of the Water Board of Commissioners,  Superintendent Judith Hansen and Mayor Shayne Gallo.

At last evening's meeting, Corporation Council Andy Zweben clarified that "The press release that was issued by the Water Department was not authorized by the Mayor, or the other members of the Water Department to the best of his knowledge and does not represent how he feels on this issue."  Andy Zweeben also relayed that speaking to the Mayor today, he stated that "...if the local law is passed, he will sign it.  They'll be a referendum and the voters will decide."

Zweeben also expressed his discomfort with "the speed in which the referendum was moving" (* Please see below). But the Public Safety/General Government Committee has been working on this since March of this year where his office has been in attendance. That's three months of discussion and it being on the Corporation Council's radar.   Regardless, we appreciate Corporation Council's efforts here. Whether willingly or not, they provided the council with the information that they needed to move this ahead.

In order now for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, the council will need to pass through the resolution for referendum tomorrow, and a public process as described above must take place. All of which needs to be accomplished by the end of August in order for it to be submitted to the Board of Elections.

* Clarification:   Watching for many months in this case, we have seen the Water Powers change go from a local law change, to a referendum to a combination of the two. As citizens, we depend on the good advice of our elected and appointed officials to understand the proper process. 

We received a communication from Corporation Council Andrew Zweeben who said that we had misrepresented what he said at the last Public Safety/General Government committee meeting (see above and below).  On the subject of the speed of the referendum,  what he was referring to was that it was quick to draft an amended local law in just one week (5 days) which is true and he would have preferred more time to do so.  Given the tight deadline to get this passed and onto the ballot in November, it is the case. We apologize for the misunderstanding. 

 

You can view video from last evening's meeting:
11:16 - 17:08   Resolution 134
"Amend charter to authorize public referendum re: Water Powers"

Tonight (June 2nd),  the Common Council will vote on whether or not to pass a resolution for a referendum. If it does, the first reading of the proposed amendment will take place for the clock to start ticking.

Citizens are encouraged to speak tonight to support (or not) of a referendum for the November ballot.  Public Comment will begin tonight at 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to secure a seat and to sign-up.  This event will be filmed thanks to Kingston News.

Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY

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

 

Monday, June 1st, 2015
Kingston Common Council Caucus
7:00pm
Conference Room #1
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Kingston Common Council
7:30pm
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.

WHAT TO EXPECT: June 1st 

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.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: June 2nd

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
sgallo@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 334-3902

Alderman-at-Large James Noble
jnoble39@aol.com
(845) 331-4696

Matt Dunn, Ward 1 and Majority Leader
ward1@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 541-8880

Brian Seche, Ward 2 
brian@seche.net
(845) 335-5971

Brad Will, Ward 3
bbieber693@gmail.com
(845) 616-8664

Nina Dawson, Ward 4
ward4@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 616-8592

Bill Carey,  Ward 5 
kingstoncarey5@yahoo.com
(845) 339-1361

Elisa Ball, Ward 6
ward6@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 430-8521

Maryann Mills, Ward 7
mmills1299@aol.com
(845) 331-7682

Steven Shabot, Ward 8
ward8@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 338-5060

Deb Brown, Ward 9 and Minority Leader
djbrown72@hotmail.com
(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.

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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.

WATCH VIDEO OF LAST NIGHT'S REFERENDUM DISCUSSION

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.

 

RECOMMENDED READING:

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)

 VIDEO  / TRANSCRIPT

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.

 

ADDITIONAL READING FROM KINGSTONCITIZENS.ORG

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!

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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.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand United To Problem Solve.

CEHeader2

 

By Rebecca Martin

The Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) recent denial of significant incentive funding for the proposed Niagara Bottling facility is now well known. Although we do not know at this time how their decision will impact the outcome of Niagara in the Town of Ulster, we continue on in our effort for a proper, thorough SEQRA process.

CITIZEN REQUEST
Please send this crafted letter (and add text of your own) to request "60 Day Public Comment Period and Additional Hearings to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope"

IMPORTANT CITIZEN SEQR INFORMATION
SEQR Positive Declaration Review Timeline. Sign-on to be kept up-to-date

 

Start-Up NY and Niagara Water Bottling Facility

The REDC effort foreshadows further actions to come. Our united citizen effort to influence the REDC will no doubt seek the same outcome of tax incentives offered by the Start-Up NY program. There is much more to say about why Niagara Bottling is not a good match for Start-Up NY  which we will get to in much greater detail shortly. 

KingstonCitizens.org as well as the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club (a group populated by SUNY Ulster students) will be presenting to the SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees on Tuesday, December 16th.  Their petition requesting SUNY Ulster Community College to "rescind their proposed partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company" regarding Start-Up NY will be part of their presentation.

Let us lift the students by boosting the numbers of this important petition.  I'd like to see it over 1000 by the time Tuesday rolls around:

SUNY ULSTER STUDENTS PETITION DONALD KATT, PRES OF SUNY ULSTER
"
We request SUNY Ulster Community College Rescind Their Proposed Partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company"

 

Stand United to Problem Solve 

What is certain at this point is that the political leadership around the County has listened to the concerns of the larger community. It is proof that citizens carry a great deal of influence as we should.

The Niagara proposal had an initial appeal to some of our elected and appointed officials; it would help the Kingston Water Board finance much needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and begin to address a troubled underutilized property in the Town of Ulster that also carries a regional impact. These are not small problems. But the Niagara proposal, with its request to consume over 25% of a finite resource ended up not to be the best solution to them as perhaps reflected by the REDC's change of heart.

It has been made crystal clear how the public felt about it.

So while we maintain our vigilance, we must also recognize the serious problems that we face that include Kingston's aging infrastructure. The current water rate structure and it being updated to reflect sustainable (and perhaps more lucrative) measures (currently, the more you use, the less you pay. The less you use the more you pay).  The Kingston Charter being updated.  The health and protection of an important water body and the land that surrounds it. Providing support in ways to utilize the Tech City property for sustainable enterprises.  

It is our aim to stand united to problem solve and to support our elected and appointed officials to do the same.  We have been heard, and for as long as that continues we offer a positive attitude and collaborative approach toward the political leadership that seeks real solutions for the problems affecting the region.

 

READ

Village of Red Hook Receives $3.8 Million Loan for Water Repairs from Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill.

Insightful Letter to the DEC from Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber

By Rebecca Martin

The attached letter was written by Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber who shares solid arguments as to why the DEC should be Lead Agency in SEQR for the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project.  In contrast for me,  it raises more concerns as to Kingston Corporation Council Andy Zweben's recent letter also to the DEC. Where are his loyalties placed?

Luckily, Kingston's Common Council are asking the same questions and will vote on a Memoralizing resolution in support of the COK being an 'Involved Agency' in SEQR on Tuesday, November 4th.

Also fortunate for the people is that Natural Law is on our side.  We haven't yet even begun to apply the Public Trust  Doctrine that will certainly come into play in the future.

###### 

October 28, 2014

Dear Martin Brand,

​Within the DEC’s recent decision to not take lead agency in the Niagara Bottling project (the Project) in the Town of Ulster, there is the following note:

#3. Water Service – It appears that the project site is located within the Town of Ulster Water District and will be provided with water purchased from the City of Kingston. Any determination of Significance should address the full build-out of the facility, specifically the source of the estimated 1.75 MGD of water that will be required from the City of Kingston. This is consistent with the SEQR requirement of reviewing the “whole action”. Therefore, DEC suggests that all known or reasonable anticipated phases of the proposed project be considered in the determination of significance. If later phases are uncertain as to design or timing, their likely environmental significance should still be examined as part of the whole action by considering the potential impacts of the total known build-out.

If the proposal causes the City of Kingston to require a change or amendment to any permit condition that is currently in force, including an increase [of the] amount of water to be withdrawn greater than what is currently permitted, in order to prevent over-allocation or use of a water source or to protect the environment and the health, safety and welfare of the public then the City of Kingston will be required to modify its existing Water Withdrawal Permit, pursuant to 6 NYCRR Part 601.

The Town of Woodstock is the watershed that provides water to the City of Kingston, and the sale of 1.75 MGD is of great concern to us. In an earlier communication I provided the DEC with copies of decisions made in 1929 and 1954 by the State authority (State of New York Conservation Department, Division of Water Power and Control) that formally regulated the relationship between the watershed community and the city of Kingston.

In the 1954 decision, CONDITIONS for the sale of up to 1 MGD to the town of Ulster for a planned International Business Machines Corporation began with:

A. Under this decision and approval the city of Kingston is authorized to furnish a water supply to the new plant of International Business Machines Corporation in the town of Ulster. No authority, however, is given hereby to the city for the sale of water to any others from the supply main to be installed to such plant without the further consent and approval of the Commission.

Also in the 1954 decision, under the heading STATUTORY DETERMINATIONS, there is;

Second. That the plans proposed are justified by public necessity.

My questions to the DEC are:

1.  ​It may be debated whether the Town of Woodstock has anything to lose in the proposed 1.75 MGD sale, but it is certain it has nothing to gain. That said, what entity can the Town rely on, without having to rely on its own financial resources, to ensure that all the potential impacts of the Project as described above, to wit; “Any determination of Significance should address the full build-out of the facility, specifically the source of the estimated 1.75 MGD of water that will be required from the City of Kingston.” Will it be the DEC, acting as successor to the State agency that preceded it? If so, please require amendment to the:
NOTICE TO INVOLVED AGENCIES DECLARATION OF INTENT TO BE LEAD AGENCY
NIAGARA WATER BOTTLING FACILITY 605 Boices Lane Town of Ulster, Ulster County, New York
September 22, 2014

that currently reads;

“New York State Department of Conservation Region 3
21 South Putt Corners Road New Paltz, NY 12561-1696

Sanitary/Stormwater and JPA” to include “Full build-out analysis of the facility, specifically the source of the estimated 1.75 MGD of water that will be required from the City of Kingston.” To not do this puts determinations regarding the future of the Woodstock watershed and the health, safety and welfare of its inhabitants entirely in the hands of entities that cannot be expected to be fully cognizant of the watershed’s interests. If the DEC will not be the entity safeguarding the interests of the Woodstock watershed, please advise on what entity will.

2.  Acting as the successor agency to the one that formed the previous decisions regarding the Woodstock watershed and the city of Kingston, will the DEC re-examine the 1954 Statutory Determination that “the plans proposed are justified by public necessity.”? The nature of what is now being planned, 120 jobs or so in exchange for 1.75 MGD, and what was realized in the 1950s, to wit, 4000-5000 jobs (plus the economic multipliers that benefited not the town of Ulster alone, but also many of the neighboring townships including Woodstock) in exchange for 1 MGD is entirely different, and demands a fresh look. If the Project is “justified by public necessity,” please explain how.

3.  Will the DEC lend its offices to the creation of a modern decision for the purpose of re-stating and re-codifying the decisions that are in place regarding the city of Kingston’s taking of water from the Woodstock watershed, and to remove the ambiguities that have been exposed by the recent emergence of the Project? For instance, that Woodstock should have to stand by as an “interested party” and not an “involved agency” seems rather antiquated in a time when a municipality, from where the water does not come, becomes lead agency on a project that will, if accomplished, divert 1.75 MGD from a municipality for whom the water was intended.

A timely response to these questions would be very much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Wilber

Supervisor, Town of Woodstock

Kingston Water Board Commissioners Appointments and Terms

Today, we acquired the appointment and terms of the current City of Kingston Water Board Commissioners Appointments and Terms.

In the City of Kingston's Charter (C11-1) under 'Appointment and Terms' that 'The Water Commissioners in office, and their successors, shall constitute the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of Kingston. Appointments in case of vacancy shall be for the unexpired term, and at the expiration of a term for five years."

We haven't located anything yet that speaks to term limits for the Water Board, and invite citizens to do a little research by going through the Code to find any information alluding to terms (and how many can be served consecutively or otherwise) for Boards and Commissions.

We understand that as it has been in the past, the City of Kingston struggles with capacity to fill these volunteer seats. However, given the current proposed Water sale, we suspect that probably today the Mayor wouldn't have any trouble finding new qualified members.

Click on the image below to view the PDF document of each current members terms. The Chair, for example, has been on the Water Board since 1981. It is not clear if they have been consecutive terms.

 

Joseph J. DeCicco, Chair 
Nominated by Mayor Donald Quick in June, 1981 (term up in May, 1986)
Nominated by Mayor James Sottile in May, 2011 (term up in May, 2016)

Raymond McSpirit
Nominated by Mayor T.R. Gallo in June, 1997 (term up in May, 2002)
Nominated by Mayor Shayne Gallo in June, 2012 (term up in May, 2017)

Alfred Radel
Nominated by Mayor James Sottile in June, 2000 (term up in May, 2005)
Nominated by Mayor James Sottile in June, 2010  (term up in May, 2015)

Robert Niedzielski
Nominated by Mayor T.R. Gallo in May of 2001 (term up in May, 2004)
Nominated by Mayor Shayne Gallo in 2014 (term up in May, 2019)

Dennis Croswell
Nominated by Mayor James Sottile in May 2002 replacing June Diamond (term up in May, 2003)
Nominated by Mayor Shayne Gallo in June, 2013 (term up in May, 2018)

10649779_331967343652604_4287669505760215180_n
Click on image to see all of the documents pertaining to the Kingston Water Board Appointments and Terms.

KingstonCitizens.org Upcoming Educational Panel in the Kingston Times.

Kingston Times 1

 

VIEW: KC.org Presents "What are City Manager and City Administrator Forms of Government?"

Thanks to the Kingston Times for their article today on the upcoming 'educational discussion' that features information on City Manager and City Administrator forms of government.

We are pleased to announce that the event will be streamed live thanks to Kingston News, and that we will hopefully be able to accept your questions via twitter at https://twitter.com/KingCitizens

To clarify, this opportunity IS NOT A DEBATE as written in the article. Our efforts are to offer the public a chance to learn about Beacon, NY's City Administrator form of government (City Administrator/Mayor/Council) and New Rochelle, NY's City Manager form of government (City Manager/Council).

Kingston Times 2

Why Elected Officials Can’t Craft Their Own Job Descriptions.

1920583_250773298438676_1910868062_n"HISTORY (Kingston City Charter): Adopted by the Legislature of the State of New York as Chapter 747 of the Laws of 1896; became a law 5-19-1896 with the approval of the Governor; amended in its entirety by the Common Council of the City of Kingston 11-2-1993 by L.L. No. 5-1993; approved at a general election 11-2-1993; and further amended by the Charter Revision Commission 9-7-1994 and approved at a general election 11-8-1994. Amendments noted where applicable."

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Because we're paying close attention to the Charter and Code right now, here is an example of how not to go about updating an elected official's job description.

Recently (maybe even this past week) the Mayor's office  generated a definition of the Mayor's role and posted it on the City of Kingston's website.   

We're all for updating job descriptions of our elected officials, but there are some glaring problems here that the public should understand.  By having a better sense of these processes, the people can take control of what is theirs  - that being city government and how Kingston is managed.

1. HOW DOES THE MAYOR'S NEW DESCRIPTION RELATE TO THE CHARTER and/or CODE?  The Mayor's text is not what is written in the charter - and based on what he has crafted, one would need to carefully cross reference as to how it relates to aspects of the code.   Take for example his description, "The City Charter names the Mayor as President of the Police, Fire, Public Works and Water Boards".

Here's the tricky part. If you look at the administrative code online, it looks to be so.

However, acccording to this DOCUMENT also provided on the city of Kingston, NY's website (but not reflected in the code), it shows that in fact the President of the Board of Water Commissioners since 2012 as being Joseph DeCicco and not the Mayor of Kingston.

Why is this important?  When an elected official of the highest office doesn't himself know how the city's framework is structured, then how would the average citizen?  That said, to everyone's defense - if the code online isn't up-to-date, then there isn't any way of knowing unless you are a sleuth like me.

The charter is the law.  Text is....well, text.  Do we think the description in the charter is light?  Absolutely. Are we concerned that the code online may not be up-to-date to keep up with the changes that occur from year to year? Even more so.  We support an update of it all for elected city positions so that they are more current and detailed - but done so in the proper manner.

2. THE PROCESS IN UPDATING THE CHARTER.   To undergo Charter revisions is a process that requires a commission, public hearings, a council vote and then a referendum on the general election ballot. The Code, along with the Charter, would have to also be addressed.

Although Charter and Code work together, they function very differently. The Charter is a "..document which delineates the legal boundaries of the city, defines its organization, powers, functions, and procedures. Generally, the Charter is the place where you will find matters of a more permanent and historical nature, such as the composition of city council, the various departments, and the procedure for assessment and collection of taxes. The Charter is the basic framework of the city."

Code is the "...official collection or compendium of laws, rules or regulations of the city consolidated and classified according to subject matter."  Code, therefore, is constantly changing and should be updated on a regular basis for the sake of clarity and transparency.

Unfortunately, I don't think Kingston's code is kept current online - and that's a very large problem that should be addressed by the council immediately.

You'll notice at the top of this post the history of when the Charter was amended.  First in 1896 and then not taken back up until 1993 with further amendments in 1994.

In 1993, a commission of volunteers led by Tom Benton worked hard for two years to update the charter in its entirety, ushering in a City Manager form of government.  It went to a referendum and passed by hundreds of votes - a big deal in Kingston.

But City Manager was not something that then Mayor T. R. Gallo supported.  So in 1994,  we're told that a lawyer out of Poughkeepsie, NY was hired and replaced the term 'City Manager' with 'Mayor'.  The amended document was brought to a new commission that this time, Gallo as Mayor selected who reversed City Manager to a Strong Mayor form of government. This all went down in a five minute meeting with a unanimous vote in favor.  That's stunning. With an election just around the corner, they had little time to get it on the ballot as a referendum. A public hearing was organized within a two week window following the commission meeting,  then swiftly moved through council. The newly amended charter was placed on the ballot where the referendum passed by a slim margin.

Can you imagine the way the volunteers felt, who put so much into this process with thousands of hours of research and public outreach?   Here's hoping that history will teach us something.

READ  Tom Benton's account in a commentary written for the Kingston Times.

3. ELECTED OFFICIALS CAN'T CRAFT THEIR JOB DESCRIPTIONS.   Although it would be convenient, elected officials can't write their job descriptions as law for reasons stated above.   

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Important processes such as this are very public ones.   KingstonCitizens.org will host a second educational forum at the end of April to discuss the in's and out's of the Kingston, NY City Charter and Code.

- Rebecca Martin

REFERENCES

1. GOOD READING: A thorough list of documents to outline  the"Charter/City Manager Committee" in Oneida City.   Transparency here rules!   VIEW PAGE

2. CHARTER DEFINITION - MAYOR: The Kingston, NY City Charter definition of MAYOR. Be sure to cross check it with the Administrative Code.  ASK YOUR ALDERMAN to look into the update process of the city code. When was it last done? Why are there inconsistencies as pointed out in this post?   VIEW PAGE

3. THE MAYOR WRITES HIS OWN?  The current Mayor of Kingston Shayne Gallo recently took a stab at writing his own job description. You'll see some of the charter language here, but there are many liberties taken - which an elected official cannot do.  In addition, there appear to be inconsistencies with what commissions the Mayor is 'president' and which he is not.  When code that is available online isn't up-to-date, one might never know.  VIEW PAGE