A More Democratic Approach to Public Meeting Discussions in the City of Kingston.

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) recently chose to change its format to allow the public an opportunity to participate on applications in real time, creating a more democratic format for both the applicant and the public. The changes provide a model of a more participatory meeting format that all City of Kingston boards, committees and commissions  might consider applying.

Currently, in the City of Kingston, the majority of committees and subcommittees offer public speaking at the discretion of the committee chair.  It is possible to reach out to the chair ahead of a meeting to let him/her know that citizens would like time to present comments or questions.

During the April 6th HLPC meeting, it was decided that the meeting’s format would be updated.  Now, at the beginning of each meeting, there is a public comment period where the public can address general comments to the Commission.  On each agenda item, the applicant and the Commission discuss the application.  Then, the Chair opens the agenda item up to public discussion where attending citizens have the opportunity to submit oral comments and questions.  The floor is then closed to public discussion, and the applicant and Commission discuss the comments and questions raised by the public before the Commission deliberates and votes.  VIEW @ minutes 6:33-32

In discussing what meeting format the HLPC should take, at minute 8:00 of the video, HLPC Vice Chair Marissa Marvelli said, “If it’s related to applications, I would rather that [the public] speak at the time that we’re reviewing the applications.”  She said other boards take this approach.

Concerns were raised that it would open the board up to unwieldy debate around controversial agenda items.  Marvelli suggested guidelines to this meeting format to help the board maintain control of the meetings.

At minute 10:16, Marvelli said, “The reason I say this is because if something is presented…which obviously happened here tonight where we presented something that wasn’t really spelled out on the application…it’s not fair that the public is speaking with insufficient information prior to what’s being presented.”

The Planning Board’s format was suggested as the ideal format, though we at KingstonCitizens.org do not agree.  When an application is on the agenda for the Planning Board, the first thing that happens is a public hearing.  The floor is opened up to public comment, where anyone may walk up to the podium to speak on the new business agenda item.  The floor is then closed to public comment, and the applicant presents the project to the board.

This is generally the first opportunity for the public to learn about the application.  The public is not allowed to ask any further questions or raise any further concerns at that meeting, but can do so at the following month’s meeting during the open speaking period at the beginning of the meeting.  There are no more public hearings on the application unless the Planning Board decides to hold a special one.

There is a method of learning about a project prior to that initial public hearing at the Planning Board meeting, however.  Citizens can go into the Planning Department office during regular business hours (making an appointment ahead of time is ideal), and look at the file for an application.  Usually, questions can be asked of Planning staff in the office.  In any application before the Planning Board which interests citizens, this is an ideal first step.  A Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) form can be filled out, and the paperwork can be photographed with a smart phone or Planning Department staff will make photocopies for a small per page fee. Using that information, more informed questions and concerns can be raised at that first public hearing at the Planning Board meeting.

Recently, this was done on an application around a mixed-use development project slated for East Strand Street.  Yet, it still felt to participants problematic and difficult to be fully engaged in the discussion when asking questions prior to hearing the applicants’ presentation.  There is more explained in a presentation than one can glean from sifting through paperwork in a file.  VIEW  minute 52 and beginning of VIEW

What Happened?

At the April 6th Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission discussion on meeting format, objections to the new format idea centered around concerns for the applicant. At minute 30:30, the Chief Deputy said, “You have to allow time for the applicant to rebut whatever the public says. The applicant is the one before you, not the public.”

The meeting format proposed by Marvelli did pass, however.  While there has been a learning curve as the Commission puts it into practice (sometimes the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting is forgotten; sometimes both citizens and applicants need to be reminded of the guidelines for that participation), it does function to promote a more informative and diplomatic discussion of project applications.  This is evident in the July 13th meeting of the HLPC where after 54 minutes of presentation, and questions and comments from the board, an application discussion was opened up to the public for additional comments and questions.  VIEW  and  VIEW

We’re grateful for the HLPC board members’ forward-thinking leadership on this.

Call to Action

Attend the August 4th meeting of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission to see this meeting format in action when the Irish Cultural Center comes back to present visibility studies for their proposed new building in the Rondout skyline.  6:30p at Kingston’s City Hall, 420 Broadway, Conference Room 1.  Catch up on the ICC project HERE

 

Hillary Harvey is a photographer and writer, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly VIEW, a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

 

Clarity on process. 300 Flatbush Ave. (RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal)

By Rebecca Martin

For some time, there has been much furor over the sale of 300 Flatbush Ave. (aka RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal),  a property owned by Ulster County.

Lets cut to the chase on a few critical items.

– To be clear, the City of Kingston hasn’t any say as to who the county sells its property to.

– After being on the market for a little over a year, RUPCO made an offer at the listed price for a project they want to create in that location called ‘The Alms House”.  Their goal is for it to become  “66 units that would comprise of 14 studio and 20 one-bedroom apartments in the approximately 28,000-square-foot 1870s landmark building at the site and 32 one-bedroom units for people ages 55 and older in the new 42,000-square-foot building.”

– The proposal went in front of the Kingston Planning Board where they determined the project to have a negative declaration in SEQR. In other words, they found it to have no environmental impacts that would require further study.

As part of Kingston’s code, the Kingston Common Council had 90 days to determine a zoning change that started months ago, with a request for it to be changed from single family to multi-family use. Whether multi-family or commercial, a zoning change will have to be determined in order for it to be placed back into any real use.

– In this case, once a zone change is made, the project site plan can be reviewed by the Kingston Planning Board, and the public will have more opportunities to help to shape the project.

These are the facts, and this is the process.

So where are we now?

SEQR Determination.
Citizens were concerned both with traffic and sewer issues for this project as well as having questions about taxes and public funding.

It is illegal for the state to award funding to a proposal that is undergoing a SEQR review, as is the Alms House project.  A positive declaration (or pos dec), is a determination that means a project may result in one or more significant environmental impacts that require further study.  A negative declaration (or neg dec), is a determination that the project will not result in any significant negative environmental impacts and therefore, no further study is required.    The Alms House project received a negative declaration in SEQR and so, the project goes directly to its site plan and, state funding can be awarded.

Whatever citizens were led to believe, those concerned about state funding as it pertains to this project missed an opportunity for there to be more time to review all sources by not making a legitimate case on environmental issues.  To me, for all the energy placed towards rhetoric and lawn signs, this single decision that they were not able to influence was the end game. 

The Wrong Message.
All the while, those in opposition were led by several council members, elected into office to protect all of our best interests, apparently used discriminatory language captured on record. By doing so, they might have violated the Fair Housing Act,  and that could lead to a very expensive lawsuit against the City of Kingston.

Claiming it is their first amendment right to speak as they did in representing some of their constituents, they are not completely wrong.  The first amendment allows us freedom of speech. There are laws in place, however, that create boundaries in that department.  To illustrate the point, the second amendment allows citizens to bear arms. That doesn’t mean you can go out and shoot someone.

If you are disenchanted with the sale of 300 Flatbush Avenue, then submit letters to the Ulster County Legislature. Even though a neg dec has been determined, if you have concerns about sewer overflows or other environmental factors as it pertains to this project,  it’s something to take up with the Planning Department.

Going after the Kingston Common Council now is a simple scapegoat during an already contentious political season. It’s all politics. and politics are mainly a game of smoke and mirrors.  Council members voting on a zone change, who choose to take a public position for or against the Alms House project have taken the bait. To place council members at the center of this controversy is misguided. As a zoning change is not commentary on whether or not the Alms House proposal is a good or bad project.  A zoning change is inevitable.

Moving Forward.
I am supportive of RUPCO’s mission, but I also believe that when it comes to projects where public funding is concerned,  it’s healthy and important to investigate and to ask questions.

What concerns me most is how the narrative is being led by several of our elected officials, with what appears to me to be a good amount of misinformation that creates more confusion.  I expect our elected officials to weigh factual information so to legitimately govern and to keep the public informed.   This populist way of doing things, of pleasing the crowd, is like the tail wagging the dog.

Running for the Kingston Common Council is a generous act, but it’s important to remember that it is not high office or intended to bec0me a career position.  It’s a common person’s role, a lot like jury duty.  Often, those who run have never run for office before, and their needs to be some form of training to avoid making unnecessary mistakes that cost us.

Some suggestions, to better avoid Council whoppers in the future could include:

Yearly Council Training Sessions
Did you know, that Kingston Common Council members, once sworn into office, are not required to take any formal training on how to govern? No background or history of Kingston city government:  our charter, code, form of government or any policies that exist. Maybe they get a packet, but that would be all.  In other words, they learn on the job.  There is a difference between an opposing opinion and going rogue. On more than one occasion, the latter has wasted time, capital, energy and creates…lawsuits?    A yearly mandatory training should be in order.

Council Representation
Kingston’s Corporation Council serves at the pleasure of the mayor.  With the executive and legislative branches being independent of one another, it makes sense that the Mayor and the Common Council have their own legal advisor.

Council Rules
The Kingston Common Council have rules that have not been amended for at least a decade. It’s time that the council take them up for review and make changes to improve any necessary items that can help to govern better during their short tenure. Without proper procedure and boundaries,  those who step up to serve are likely to be burdened, as is the public at large.

PARTICIPATE! Attend Regular Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Council Meetings.

By Rebecca Martin

How can we improve local government? By becoming more civic-minded rather than a single issue participant and attending regular, monthly meetings of both the Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Common Council.  That’s a potent and simple place to start.

To help you to get on your way, KingstonCitizens.org has put together a schedule of 2017  for both elected bodies.   “Many hands make light work” as they say. If each of us attended one or two meetings a year and shared what we witnessed – the landscape would look and feel very different.

Here are simple steps you can take to become a more engaged, local citizen.

  1. Sign up for the dates and times that are most convenient for your schedule (see below)
  2. Attend meetings. Make sure you check the calendar prior to attending, as all dates/times are subject to change (see below).  Make sure you add the dates to your personal calendar so you are reminded of your commitments.
  3. Write a one-page (or more) summation of your experience.  What happened that evening? How many citizens were present? Did you speak during public comment? What issues were discussed?  What significant decisions were made?  What did you learn and what outcome would you like to see on the issues that were discussed that evening?
  4. Submit your piece to KingstonCitizens.org:  rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org to be shared in our “Citizen Opinions” section (rules apply).
  5. We can help you to identify your council and legislative representatives and will encourage you to send a copy of your report directly to them as well.

 

Get Started. 

  1. Ulster County Legislature:  Dem/Rep Caucus and Regular Legislative Session
    1. VIEW:  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW:   Check the Ulster County Legislature Calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change.  You can also access an agenda at the legislative site.
  2. Kingston Common Council: Caucus and Regular Meeting
    1. VIEW  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW: Check the City of Kingston municipal calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change. You can also access an agenda at the City of Kingston website.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Join us in becoming familiar with local government.

VIDEO: The Ulster County Legislature Bans Memorializing Resolutions.

 

By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, with a 13/9 vote, the Ulster County Legislature banned memorializing resolutions.   Although our group is deeply disappointed in the outcome,  we will apply our new knowledge  about the legislature to our work throughout the remainder of the year and beyond.

Outside of a ban on memorializing resolutions, we learned that Local Law 18 from 2016 (Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity) had been held back in the Laws and Rules Committee for over a year. In other words, a simple public hearing on transgender rights was stalled and in essence, denied.

In other news, what appeared to be a dozen or so members of a local sportsman club in attendance,  the group appeared to mostly be there to oppose Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government And Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health, And Well-Being Of All Persons In Ulster County“.  Illustrating the law as Ulster County becoming a ‘sanctuary county’, at one point during public testimony, a member of the group stated, “…We know you will do the right thing. #138 has to go down. We have your back. Thank you very much”  (VIEW Tape #2 @ 21:00)

It was an evening that left me questioning motives. Why would our elected officials wish to limit free speech? Or deny the public a chance for public comment on gender equality? Or, be opposed to wanting to ensure “protection, order, conduct safety, health and well-being of all persons living in Ulster County”?  I haven’t any answers, only a sense. Control and fear. Both will wreck havoc, too. The public must remain diligent.

KingstonCitizens.org is seeking volunteers who are interested in attending monthly Ulster County Legislature meetings and report back to the public via KingstonCitizens.org. It’s our goal to build a larger base of public participation and, as always, encourage new potential candidates.  All legislature seats are up for election in November, 2017.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Special thanks to Clark Richters of the Kingston News for helping us to document the evening.

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Those in favor of a ban on memorializing resolutions were (RED: Republican, Conservative, etc;  BLUE: Democrat):

District 1 (Town of Saugerties)   Mary Wawro
District 3 (Town of Saugerties/Town of Ulster)  Dean Fabiano
District 4 (Town of Ulster/Town of Kingston) James Maloney
District 8 (Town of Esopus)  Carl Belfiglio
District 9 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Plattekill)  Herbert Litts III
District 10 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Marlboro)  Mary Beth Maio
District 11 (Town of Marlboro)  Richard Gerentine
District 12 (Town of Plattekill)  Kevin Roberts
District 13 (Town of Shawangunk) Ken Ronk
District 14 (Town of Shawangunk/Town of Wawarsing)  Craig Lopez
District 18 (Town of Hurley/Town of Marbletown)  Richard Parete
District 21 (Town of Rochester/Town of Wawarsing) Ronald G. Lapp
District 22 (Town of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive, and Shandaken)  John Parete

Those opposed:

District 2 (Town of Saugerties/Village of Saugerties)  Chris Allen
District 5 (City of Kingston) Peter Loughran
District 6 (City of Kingston)  Dave Donaldson
District 7 (City of Kingston)  Jennifer Schwartz Berky
District 16 (Town of Gardiner/Town of Shawangunk) Tracey Bartels
District 17 (Town of Esopus/Town of New Paltz)  Jim Delaune
District 19 (Town of Marbletown/Town of Rosendale)  Manna Jo Greene
District 20 (Town of New Paltz/Village of New Paltz) Hector Rodriguez
District 23 (Town of Woodstock)  Jonathan Heppner

Absent:
District 15 (Town of Wawarsing, Town of Ellenville)  Thomas Briggs


VIDEO: Resolution No. 91 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW:  Legislative Discussion/Debate


Legislator Highlights
:

VIEW:  Ken Ronk and David Donaldson

VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky

Public Comment Highlights:

VIEW: Amy Fradon, Ban on Memorializing Resolution

VIEW:  County GOP Chair Roger Rascoe, Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

VIEW: Andrea Callan,  Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity (Local Law 18 of 2016) 

VIEW:  Candace Teetsel and Friend, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW: Jeff Rindler, ED of HV LGBTQ, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW:  Evie Starr, Local Law 18 of 2016

 

To view all public comment:
VIDEO #1   Starts at 36:30

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: “On Climate Change, Energy and Infrastructure” with Kate Hudson of Waterkeeper.

“It’s difficult to overstate the seriousness of the environmental threats coming from this administration. We have never had a head of the EPA so hostile towards the mission of the agency, and never had a President so unwilling to make decisions based on science and law.”
– Kate Hudson, Waterkeeper Alliance

KingstonCitizens.org’s recent community educational forum “PART II:  On Climate Change, Energy and Infrastructure” was at capacity.  Our special guest Kate Hudson of Waterkeeper helped participants understand better what was a stake today and what citizens can do.

VIEW video from the event.

Please be sure to visit our upcoming SCHEDULE to learn more about future community educational forums.

Special thanks to Kate Hudson for her generosity in sharing her knowledge as our guest panelist; Peter and Julie at Church des Artists for their space, kindness, and for making this video; and, to all of our KingstonCitizens.org volunteers for their assistance.

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Resources:
VIEW:  KingstonCitizens.org’s “Trump Administration Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws”

8:46 – 11:25
Introduction: On KingstonCitizens.org’s Community Educational Forum Series

Read more…

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17 – Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions. Public Comment and First Reading.

“Why would we want to diminish our voice and power as a legislature? Are our actions any less important than any other legislative body or branch of government to our constituents? If we think so, we should not hold the office.”   –  Jennifer Schwartz Berky,  Ulster County Legislator (Kingston, District 7)   from “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times.   VIEW

On Wednesday night, the Ulster County Legislature held its regular legislative session where the proposed ban on memorializing resolutions had its first reading. Other important items were debated (and adopted) including a memorializing resolution to request the NYS Legislature expand hate crimes (to include first responders and police officers) and, a resolution to prohibit cyber-bullying.

Thanks to all of the citizens who came out to speak that evening on a number of issues. We trust that watching these processes as thoroughly as you are will help to better assist you in speaking to your legislators on these important matters.

Speeches that were made by the Chairman, minority and majority leaders are located at the bottom of this post.

Filmed by Clark Richters of the Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

FOR YOUR REFERENCE:

Resolution #91: “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW: “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times by Jennifer Schwartz Berky, District 7 Legislator

Resolution #92: “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05”

Resolution No. 89  Adopting Proposed Local Law No. 17 of 2016 (A Local Law Prohibiting Cyber-Bullying In Ulster County)”  

 

                     VIDEO ONE:  Public Comment Footage. See names and times below. 

Read more…

PROPOSED BAN ON MEMORIALIZING RESOLUTIONS. Process and Actions in March and April.

Last year, the Ulster County Legislature passed Resolution No. 251 “Amending The Rules Of Order To Set Procedure For Memorializing Resolutions”  In it, it sets some protocols for memorializing resolutions stating that “any resolution which memorializes the New York State Legislature, Congress of the United States, or any other body to take an action which will not require a home rule message, shall be submitted and considered in Committee in accordance with the procedures set forth in these Rules of Order. When presented for consideration at a monthly or special meeting of the Legislature, Memorializing Resolutions shall not be debatable. Memorializing Resolutions shall, however, be amendable, may be referred to a Standing Committee of the Legislature, or may be withdrawn prior to a vote by the Legislative body.”

Only eight months later,  District 18 Republican Legislator Richard A. Parete along with Legislators Dean Fabiano (District 3: Town of Saugerties, Town of Ulster) and Kenneth J. Ronk  (District 13: Town of Shawangunk) have taken it a step further with a new resolution that would prohibit Memorializing Resolutions altogether.

VIEW Resolution No. 32

Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

Many citizens were present at the regular legislative meeting in February to speak during public comment and to encourage the legislature to reject a ban on memorializing resolutions. Only upon arrival did we learn that earlier in the day, the Ulster County Legislature’s Laws and Rules committee tabled the resolution instead of passing it through to the floor as anticipated.

As reported in the Daily Freeman,  Legislator Richard A. Parete stated that  “The main reason [I pulled it] is because the full Legislature wasn’t there, and I don’t know if it had the votes to pass.”  Parete said he would wait until March when he expects more legislators to be in to introduce the measure.”    VIEW The Daily Freeman Article.

How does this appear to the public?  Not only is a ban on memorializing resolutions undemocratic, but tabling proposed legislation due to not having the votes for it to pass lacks transparency.

Thanks for your support and in following this issue through to the end with us. It is not only important for citizens to speak to the issue but to also be a witness.

 

WHAT’S THE PROCESS?

In February of 2017, District 18 (Town of Hurley, Town of Marbletown) Legislator Richard Parate withdrew Resolution No. 32 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions” for the Ulster County Legislature.  

1. LAWS AND RULES.  On Monday, March 13th at 6:30 pm it is anticipated that the UC Legislature Laws and Rules Committee (K.L. Binder Library on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston) will discuss whether or not to pass the resolution out to the floor the following evening.   VIEW Facebook Event.

2. FIRST READING. If approved, the Resolution will have its first reading (though not out loud) on Tuesday, March 14th (Legislative Chambers on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston) at the regular legislative session that begins at 7:05pm.  No action can be taken.  VIEW Facebook Event

3.  SECOND READING AND VOTE.  On Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00pm during its regular Legislative session (Legislative Chambers on the 6th Floor of the Ulster County Office Building 244 Fair Street, Kingston), it is anticipated that the legislation will have its second reading and folloing, the full body will vote.   VIEW Facebook Event

 

TAKE ACTION.

 1. CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR.  We encourage citizens to contact their Legislator and request that they reject the ban on memorializing resolutions throughout the months of March and April.    VIEW: Ulster County Legislature Website to Find Your Legislator.

2.  DEMOCRAT LEGISLATOR JOHN R. PARETE SAYS HE SUPPORTS A BAN.  Given this is a Republican supported ban, it is important for citizens to know that District 22 Democratic Legislator John R. Parete has announced that he supports the ban, and could be the swing vote on the matter.

If you live in the Towns of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive or Shandaken, please consider calling or emailing your representative directly to discuss his point of view, and to share yours.   (845) 657-8500 or send an email to  jparete@msn.com

3. SIGN OUR PETITION.  Sign our PETITION where your name and any comments that you make go directly to Legislators Richard Parete, Kenneth Ronk, Dean Fabiano and John Parete.

4. PLAN TO ATTEND UPCOMING MEETINGS.  Please consider:  a)  Attend and speak during public comment at the regular Legislative sessions on Tuesday, March 14th (7:05pm) when it is anticipated the legislation will have its first read. No action will be taken and;   b)  Tuesday, April 18th (7:00pm) when it is anticipated that the Resolution will have its second reading and a vote by the legislature.

5. SHARE WITH FRIENDS!  Please share this post with friends to help us to get the word out. Thank you for your support.

REVIEW:  Tell Ulster County Legislature That a Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions is Undemocratic.

Read more…

KingstonCitizens.org Host Eight-Part Educational Forum Series in 2017

By Rebecca Martin

In November of last year, when Donald Trump became our president-elect, most of the world felt as if it had shifted in an unprecedented way.  Whether citizens supported Trump or did not, there was a common feeling of either joyous or defeated disbelief.

It wasn’t long after that a list of Trump’s initiatives appeared for his first 100 days in office.  With the support of a Republican majority in Congress, Trump’s initiatives suddenly seemed plausible. I saw this as an opportunity to look more closely at the checks and balances that exist in local, state and federal government.

We jumped quickly into action, creating a google document (so that citizens could collaborate) that outlines Trump’s initiatives so to better explore their context and, to identify local and New York State policies and laws that could help guide us through this new administration.   We hosted very small meetings with a couple dozen citizens to start this important work and realized shortly after that it needed to continue and be open to more citizen’s input.

VIEW:  “Trump’s Initiatives: Local/State Policy and Laws”

The result is an educational series that will span 2017. Citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period,  an interactive work session on KingstonCitizens.org’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.

Thanks to Peter Wetzler and Julie Hedrick of Church Des Artistes who have donated their beautiful space so that we are comfortable and supported in our efforts each month.

Please review the list of topics, dates, and details below.   We are currently booking more guests and will make those announcements as they are confirmed.  For now, put all of the following dates in your calendar!

We look forward to meeting more of our neighbors, making new connections and becoming more educated on a whole host of complicated topics.

Knowledge is power.

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KingstonCitizens.org presents
Community Educational Forums: An Eight-Part Series
at Church Des Artistes
79 Wurts Street
Historic Rondout section of Kingston, NY
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Over the course of the series in 2017, citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period,  an interactive work session on KingstonCitizens.org’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.

Moderated by KingstonCitizens.org Co-Founder Rebecca Martin.

Participants are encouraged to bring a dessert to share. Coffee and tea provided.  We encourage citizens to bring along their personal computer laptop if they have one. All dates and topics subject to change.

Read more…

President Trump’s First 100 Days: New York State and Local Initiatives, Policy and Laws Document

 

By Rebecca Martin

VIEW: Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws

Something has changed throughout the recent presidential campaign that led to Donald J. Trump becoming president. Whichever end of the spectrum you found yourself on, the citizen dialogue was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Over the past couple of years, I have witnessed hateful rhetoric. Anonymous blogs and posters throughout social media debating half truths fed by the media, slaying people in ways that were unfair, inappropriate and in some cases downright violent in nature. As overt as it has been, the anger leading up to where we are today has been a slow and simmering trajectory downward.

So now what? America is about to inaugurate an unapologetically crass multi-national business man turned reality star celebrity  who lost the popular vote to become president.  A man without any political experience on the grand stage to be the leader of the free world.

It is our aim at KingstonCitizens.org with the issues that we take on to understand the law and process around them.  Whatever side one leans towards, we appreciate the bureaucratic processes in place because we know that when ciitzens choose to lean in, there is that to protect them as they come to better understand governing.  When it’s not working, then there is a need for reform. Coming to better know the law and process provides a baseline, and these safeguards will most certainly erode if citizens do not become familiar with them.

Since December, KingstonCitizens.org has spent time preparing a document that outlines Trump’s initiatives for the first 100 days of his being in office and disseminating their context to better match initiatives, policy and laws as they pertain to NYS, Ulster County and our locality. It’s a ‘living’ document that we will work on throughout 2017  with volunteers  to provide insight so that your civic efforts might be more focused and pointed.

Government on every level is a civic responsibility. Beyond Trump, the challenges that we face today is a burden that we all must shoulder. To protect our republic for generations to come – if a future republic is even possible at this point- we must hold our neighbors hand no matter who that is or how different their point of view is from yours – and get to work.

A special thanks to all of our volunteer contributors.

VIEW: Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws

 

VIDEO: Kingston Common Council Reaffirms Kingston as “Welcoming and Inclusive” in a Memoralizing Resolution.

VIEW
FAQ Sheet and a copy of the memorializing resolution and letter from Kingston’s faith community. 

We are pleased to bring you video from last night’s Common Council meeting, where more than 300 people turned out at Kingston City Hall. 62 speakers signed up to speak in support or in opposition of a memorizing resolution to reaffirm Kingston as a ‘welcoming and inclusive city’.

In the end, those who spoke in favor of the common council passing the memorizing resolution held a margin of about two-to-one.

After hours of testimony, the memorializing resolution was adopted 5/3. Those in favor were Eckert (ward 1), Scott-Childress (ward 3), Dawson (ward 4),  Carey (ward 5), Schabot (ward 8).  Opposed were Davis (ward 6), Mills (ward 7) and Brown (ward 9)

Following, the council discussed and voted upon a fee schedule for metered parking and kiosks.

Video from last evening is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org with thanks to Kingston News.

 

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VIDEO: 1 of 5
Public Comment.  


VIDEO: 2 of 5
Public Comment.

Read more…

FAQ Sheet: The City of Kingston as a “Welcoming and Inclusive City”.

Here are key facts to clarify much of the misinformation on the matter of Kingston’s proposed memorializing resolution on being “welcoming and inclusive”. We hope it is helpful to citizens of Kingston as they prepare their testimony on Tuesday, January 10, 2017.  Please arrive at Kingston City Hall (420 Broadway, Kingston – council chambers) at 6:45pm to sign-up to speak and to get a seat. The Mayor’s ‘state of the city’ address will begin at 7:00pm, and the Common Council will have their January council meeting following at approximately 7:30pm.  Public comment will take place at that time.

 

VIEW
Initial letter from 21 City of Kingston faith groups requesting Kingston declare itself a ‘sanctuary city’.

VIEW
Memoralizing Resolution
“Kingston as a Welcoming and Inclusive City”.

IS THE CITY OF KINGSTON DECLARING ITSELF A “SANCTUARY CITY”?
No.  In the memorializing resolution, although the “whereas” states that “these practices are generally considered to be ‘sanctuary city’ principles”, the proposed action of the City of Kingston is simply to reaffirm that it has always been and will always be that of “a welcoming and inclusive city”.

VIEW: Mayor Steve Noble’s reasoning why the memorializing resolution is not titled a ‘sanctuary city’.  (Begins at 23:56 – 25:28)

WHAT IS A MEMORALIZING RESOLUTION
?
A memoralizing resolution does not set forth policy or law. Instead, it creates text to cause people to remember. It is a tool to both educate and in this case, to remind us of our principles and values.

WHY IS THE CITY OF KINGSTON PROPOSING A MEMORALIZING RESOLUTION THAT “REAFFIRMS KINGSTON AS A WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVE CITY”?
In November of 2016, Kingston’s Mayor Steve Noble received a letter from 21 members of the local faith community requesting that Kingston declare itself a ‘Sanctuary City”.  In response and following process, the mayor issued a communication to Alderman-at-Large James Noble requesting that their concerns be referred to the appropriate council committee for discussion. The matter was assigned to the Kingston Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee. After  much research and collaboration, extensive questioning of both Mayor Noble and Police Chief Egidio Tinti, debate and public comment, a memoralizing resolution was drafted based on models adopted by municipalities from across the nation, reaffirming Kingston as a “welcoming and inclusive city”.  The memorializing resolution passed positively out of the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee for a full council vote on January 10th.

VIEW:  Mayor Steve Noble explains the context of the memorializing resolution (begins at 1:10 – 7:54).

IS THE CITY OF KINGSTON VIOLATING ANY LAWS BY PASSING A MEMORALIZING RESOLUTION THAT “REAFFIRMS KINGSTON AS A WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVE CITY”?
No.  The City of Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti reviewed the memoralizing resolution and found no conflicts with existing practices and procedures of the Kingston Police Department.   Immigration is federal law, not local law. Kingston, and all US municipalities, is barred from making laws relating to immigration.

IS THE CITY OF KINGSTON AT RISK OF LOSING FEDERAL FUNDING BY PASSING A MEMORALIZING RESOLUTION THAT “REAFFIRMS KINGSTON AS A WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVE CITY”?
No. The current memoralizing resolution does not change any existing laws, rules or practices of the City of Kingston or the Kingston Police Department and is consistent with the principles of the NYS and US Constitution.

READ: “Trump Can’t Force “sancutary cities” to enforce his deportation plans.” in the Washington Post. 

Public Educational Forum “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know” on January 28, 2017

Jon Bowermaster will be in attendance to speak and to show his film “A Pipeline Runs Through It’ to be presented at the beginning of the event.

By Rebecca Martin

KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know and How Local Action Makes Global Impacts” on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers located at 420 Broadway, in Kingston NY from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  Guest panelists include Jeremy Cherson of Riverkeeper, Sue Rosenberg of Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline/CAPP-NY, Jen Metzger of Citizens For Local Power and a Rosendale Town Councilwoman and Andy Bicking of Scenic Hudson. The short film “Hudson River at Risk 6: A Pipeline Runs Through It” will be presented by Writer, filmmaker and adventurer and six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council Jon Bowermaster.

The event is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Co-sponsored by Riverkeeper, Citizens for Local Power, Scenic Hudson, CAPP-NY, the Local Economies Project and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Kingston Land Trust, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Earth Guardians NY, Citizen Action NY and Sustainable Hudson Valley. With support from the City of Kingston, the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Rosendale, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Ulster County Legislature and 103rd District Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.

 

VIEW Event on Facebook for up-to-date information on this important local event.

 

Kingston, NY – Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC has proposed to construct two parallel pipelines that would run along the NYS Thruway and through private property—one pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil south from Albany, NY, to a refinery in Linden, NJ, and the other carrying refined products north. The 170+ miles of pipelines, together with nearly 13 miles of lateral pipelines, would impact 31 communities in Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Ulster, Orange, and Rockland counties, as well as 30+ communities in New Jersey. The carrying capacity of each pipeline would be 200,000 barrels (or 8.4 million gallons) per day, which would more than double the number of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude to the Port of Albany at the peak of Bakken crude production in 2014.  The increase in crude-by-rail volume means that the project will also impact many communities north and west of Albany through which the CSX and Canadian Pacific rail lines run.

Read more…

The Hijacking of a City of Kingston Social Media Site?

A recent Hudson Riverport Post on Facebook
A recent Hudson Riverport Post on Facebook

In 2015, the city of Kingston initiated the Hudson Riverport, a project that had “engaged the services of the firm Perkins+Will to produce an Implementation Plan, a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) and a Market Conditions Update for 192 acres of Kingston’s Rondout Waterfront under the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program of the NYS Department of State….The Common Council determined by resolution on October 6, 2015 that the Implementation Plan/Draft GEIS was complete and ready for public review and set a public hearing date. The comment period spanned October 8th through November 23rd with a public hearing on November 12th in Kingston City Hall Common Council Chambers.”  

On October 11, 2015 in the Daily Freeman, an article “Kingston Seeks Public Input on Brownfield Plan” was printed/posted announcing the city initiative as well as the City of Kingston’s Hudson Riverport Facebook page that apparently had been created in 2014.

Just about a year later on October 10, 2016, we happened to notice language in a post on the City of Kingston Hudson Riverport Facebook page that appeared odd.   To a recent article in the Daily Freeman, “Kingston Council Advances Downtown Flood Control Effort” it said in part that, “…The current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written. All they had to do was get the design work started and resubmit the request for construction funds…”

That didn’t sound to us like the current office of Economic Development speaking.  It is a fact that the “Hudson Riverport at Kingston” is a Facebook page created, owned and operated by the city of Kingston. So why would it suggest that  “the current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written…” for a project that it continues to organize and maintain?

Curious, we looked at the ABOUT section of Hudson Riverport of Kingston NY page, and there wasn’t a description or any details connecting the page to the City of Kingston initiative for which the social media site was created for when it was set-up.   (VIEW: Hudson Riverport ABOUT section).

Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that the page continues to be administered by a past City of Kingston employee without having permission to do so, or without any guidance from the current Economic Development or Grants Management office. After looking around a bit more, there is at least one other just like it. An inventory of these sites needs to be collected.

The good news is that the City of Kingston is currently looking into the matter and will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation.  Apparently, in the past a city employee could create a Facebook page on their own, without there being a secondary employee to be included as an administrator.  That has now been implemented. However, for sites created prior to 2016,  if a person who worked for the city being the sole adminstrator decides to act maliciously,  they might take the entire site down where information meant for the public record that was posted over the years would be lost. Lets hope that that doesn’t happen in this case.

Perhaps the good news here, in an instance like this and if it ends up being what we suspect, will expose areas from past city management that must be improved.

There is no doubt that successful projects is the work of many.  It indeed takes a village (or a city in this case).  But for City of Kingston property to be used without authority or direction is inappropriate and completely misleading to the public. Aren’t city of Kingston staff and our elected and appointed officials from both the past and present days to be working on behalf of the public good?  City property is the public’s property. When you are no longer employed, elected or appointed, hand over important information in good working order so that the city can continue to run smoothly during each of its transitions. It is each of their duties to do so.

ADDITIONAL READING:

READ:   Daily Freeman Article, requesting comments on Riverport be sent to city-owned email address.

READ:   Pages 9-10 of Ec. Dev. Brochure, documenting the project.

READ:  Daily Freeman article about the public hearing process for the plan.

Speaking With One Voice On The Proposed Anchorage Project.

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By Rebecca Martin

** Public comment has been extended to December 6th. Our post reflects this change. 

VIEW: Commercial Shipping Organizations Proposal

It is always great when we have the opportunity to sit down with Riverkeeper’s Kate Hudson who is the Director of Cross Watershed Initiatives there.  Her clarity on all of the issues she is charged with, and in this case the proposed anchorage project on the Hudson River, is a big help to citizens all throughout the Hudson Valley Region.

One of our big take-aways was to come to understand where we are today on the crude oil transport front. Having more anchorages means that empty barges traveling up from NYC can cut their travel time in half to park until a berth opens up in the port of Albany where shipments of crude oil arrive. There is much activity in North Dakota, and crude oil is transported on ‘bomb trains’ to Albany. Shipping companies are waiting (perhaps ‘frothing’ is a better term) to transport it back down the Hudson River to NYC so it can be sent out and processed in NJ and PA. This will become more of a problem for us in the Hudson Valley.

Why?

Last year, “With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama ended 40 years of U.S. crude oil export limits by signing off on a repeal passed by Congress earlier in the day….The restrictions lift immediately under a provision in the spending and tax package that the president signed into law. Congressional leaders earlier in the week reached an agreement to end the trade restrictions, established during U.S. oil shortages in the 1970s, as part of a grand bargain that includes tax breaks for renewable-energy companies and refiners….Repeal of the crude-export restrictions reverses four decades of a policy that has defined the nation’s relations with the rest of the world. Without the trade limits, the U.S. — now the world’s largest oil and gas producer — is free to export its crude, as it already does with refined products including gasoline. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with a vote of 65-33 after the House approved the measure 316-113 hours earlier.”

Read more…

WHAT TO EXPECT: Kingston Common Council Meetings in July and Local Law #6 (aka the Rochester Law)

what-to-expect-np

WHAT:

Kingston Common Council Caucus  (Monday, 7/11)
Kingston Common Council Meeting (Tuesday, 7/12)

WHERE:

Caucus:    Conference Room #1   (7/11)
Council Meeting:  Council Chambers  (7/12)
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway  Kingston, NY  

WHEN:

Caucus:  Monday, July 11th  @ 7:00pm
Council Meeting:  Tuesday, July 12th  @ 7:30pm

Sign-up to speak and secure a seat at the council meeting on 7/12/16  at 7:15pm. 

WHY:

The Kingston Common Council holds its monthly caucus and council meeting in July.

Local Law #6 (known as the Rochester Law), that proposes clearer requirements for shooting ranges in Kingston. It is a local law that will have its second reading and a full council vote on July 12th.

This event will be filmed and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org thanks to Clark Richters and Kingston News

CITIZEN REQUEST

We encourage the public to attend and to speak on Tuesday, July 12th in support of the council adopting Local Law #6 (the Rochester Law). Local Law #6 emphasizes the creation of important buffers for a business such as a shooting range within our city limits.   

The issue is not about burdening the right to have a gun or to practice using a gun.  Given the potential health and safety issues of a shooting range,  finding the appropriate location for one is key. In our opinion, an appropriate location is NOT inside a densely populated or highly used area. 

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The Kingston Common Council will hold its monthly caucus (Monday, July 11th) and full council meeting (Tuesday, July 12th) this month, a week later than normal scheduling due to the July 4th holiday weekend.

Among other important topics that evening, council business will include the second reading and a full council vote of Local Law #6 (known as the “Rochester Law”). This vote is the outcome of months of discussion and debate to properly vet Kingston’s current firearms law.

The Common Council will vote on whether it “wants to set specific criteria and restrictions for the opening of indoor shooting ranges in the city, or adopt a simpler approach that does not limit where such facilities could be operated.”   (*See below)

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PROPOSED LOCAL LAW #6 OF 2016 ADOPTING THE RULES AND REGULATIONS REGARDING SHOOTING RANGES ESTABLISHED BY THE CITY OF ROCHESTER IN 2011 IN ITS ENTIRETY WITH THE REQUISITE CHANGES TO ADAPT TO KINGSTON’S CIRCUMSTANCES

The new vetted law (Local Law #6 of 2016) aims to provide clearer regulations for operating indoor shooting ranges in Kingston, including important buffers “that would prohibit any new range from being located within 1,000 feet of the entrance to any school, church, hospital, youth recreational facility or location which, in the opinion of the police chief, would create a nuisance to any nearby resident.”   (*See below)

PROPOSED LOCAL LAW #5 OF 2016 ADOPTING THE RULES AND REGULATIONS REGARDING SHOOTING RANGES

In our opinion, this unvetted law would “allow indoor ranges anywhere in Kingston with Planning Board approval” and should be dismissed.  (*See below)

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We encourage the public to attend and to speak in support of the council adopting Local Law #6 (the Rochester Law). Local Law #6 emphasizes the creation of important buffers for a business such as a shooting range within our city limits.     

The issue is not about burdening the right to have a gun or to practice using a gun.  Given the potential health and safety issues of a shooting range,  finding the appropriate location is key. In our opinion, an appropriate location is NOT inside a densely populated or highly used area.  

*Excerpts in quotes from the Daily Freeman  VIEW