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

 

STREAM THEM ALL LIVE!

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.

 

Sunday, Feb. 26th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART I: On Constitutional Law
A conversation on constitutional law as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guest 
Dr. Lynn Mills Eckert
Associate Professor of Political Science, Marist College
VIEW:   2/26/17 Facebook Event

About Dr. Lynn Eckert:   Dr. Lynn Eckert is a political science professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.  She earned a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College in 1992 and a doctorate from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2001.  Eckert is also an Alderwoman serving Ward 1 in the City of Kingston, NY.   Her partner is Amy Eckert, a writer, and they have three children, Raymond, Lucy and Ella.

 

Sunday, March 19th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART II:  On Climate Change, Energy, and Infrastructure
A conversation on climate change, energy, and infrastructure as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guest
Kate Hudson, Esq.
Waterkeeper Alliance
VIEW: 3/19/17  Facebook Event

About Kate Hudson, Esq.:   As the Western U.S. Advocacy Coordinator, Kate supports advocacy teams with all U.S. western domestic campaign activities including policy, legislative, communications, investigations, fundraising and legal work. She develops and coordinates partnerships with local, state and national organizations working on water-related issues and coordinates with Waterkeeper organizations, affiliates, and partners on campaign efforts in the Western U.S.

Kate began her environmental career working in the Regional Attorney’s office of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in 1985, handling a wide range of enforcement and permitting matters in all program areas, including air quality, water quality, solid and hazardous waste and mining. In 1994 and 1995, she served as the Acting Regional Attorney.  In 1999, Kate left the DEC and was appointed an Assistant Attorney General in that office’s Environmental Protection Bureau. She was a member of the Bureau’s Hudson River Team, and was responsible for preparing the State and Federal Trustees natural resource damage claim against General Electric, for their contamination of the Hudson River with PCBs. Kate rejoined the NYS DEC in 2007 where she created and staffed a ten person unit dedicated to pursuing claims for natural resource damages against a wide variety of polluters for their discharges of hazardous substances and petroleum. As Director of the unit, she developed policy and budgetary documents in support of the Department’s natural resource initiatives, represented the Department in the development of claims, coordinated assessment and litigation activities with Federal Trustee agencies and Indian Tribes, and negotiated settlements with responsible parties.

In February 2011, Kate joined Riverkeeper and worked as its NYC Watershed Program Director and then Director of Cross-Watershed Initiatives until November 2016. Kate headed Riverkeeper’s efforts to build a powerful partnership and advocacy campaign with anti-fracking advocacy groups across New York State which resulted in the NYS Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation December 17, 2014 recommendation to not allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.  Kate and the Watershed Team also fought against NYC’s practice of muddy discharges from its Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek as a turbidity control mechanism for the NYC water supply. After a three-year campaign for an environmental review of these discharges, the state DEC has committed to ensuring a comprehensive review process going forward. Finally, under Kate’s leadership, Riverkeeper initiated a cross-program campaign against the exponential increase in crude oil transport down the Hudson River Valley and the formation of a broad coalition of environmental organizations to oppose that expansion. That campaign has resulted in bringing to halt a state DEC permitting process that was on a fast track to allow the transport of heavy tar sands crude down the Hudson River.

Sunday, April  30th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART III: On Immigration
A conversation on immigration as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guest
Andrea Callan, Esq.
Workers Justice Center for New York

About Andrea Callen, Esq.:  Andrea is an attorney and the program director at the Worker Justice Center of New York where she oversees the delivery of legal education and advocacy services throughout the state for low-wage workers in the areas of labor and employment rights, immigration policy, human trafficking and domestic and sexual violence. Prior to working at WJCNY, Ms. Callan was the Statewide Advocacy Coordinator at the ACLU of New York (NYCLU) where she was responsible for managing statewide legislative and policy advocacy campaigns focused on the areas of immigrants’ rights and immigration enforcement, farmworker labor rights, and women’s rights. Through her career, Ms. Callan has also served as the Chapter Director of the Suffolk County Chapter of the NYCLU and worked as a litigator in the areas of labor and employment discrimination law and civil rights law.

VIEW:  4/30/17 Facebook Event

 

Sunday, May 21st, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART IV:  On Public Education
A conversation on public education as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests
Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D.
Director of Education Projects at The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz, Trustee, City of Kingston Board of Education and Executive Committee of Ulster County School Boards Association

James F. Shaughnessy, Jr., Officer
City of Kingston Board of Education

VIEW:  5/21/17 Facebook Event

About Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D.: Robin Jacobowitz is the director of education projects at the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz. She taught for many years as an adjunct in SUNY New Paltz’s School of Education. Previously, Jacobowitz worked at New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy, where her research centered on the growth and development of charter schools in New York State, the organizational structures that facilitate teaching and learning in New York City small high schools, and leadership transitions in new schools in New York City. She also worked with the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children, where her research focused on the relationship between constituency building and policy work in affecting systemic school reform in New York State. Prior to beginning her career in research, Jacobowitz worked with the Public Education Network in Washington D.C., where she provided technical assistance to local education funds around the country on issues of school governance, school health, and public engagement. Jacobowitz holds an M.Ed. in education policy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. She is currently a trustee on the Kingston City School District Board of Education and a member of the executive committee of the Ulster County School Boards Association.

About James F. Shaugnessy, Jr.: James joined the Kingston City School District’s Board of Education because he felt he could make a positive contribution. “I have a daughter who attends school in the District. I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable with the School Board leadership of the District and that the philosophies practiced would be compatible with an environment I would want for my daughter.” In addition, James believes, “The Board also has a responsibility for looking forward to the future needs of the District.”  If James could achieve any educational goal while serving as a Board of Education member, it would be to see excellent programs implemented for all students so that each student can reach his or her maximum potential.  Current Board committee involvement includes serving Chair of the Audit Committee, as well as a member of the Jefferson Committee and the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan Committee.

 

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART V:  On Women’s Issues
A conversation on women’s issues as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests: TBA
VIEW:  7/23/17 Facebook Event COMING SOON

 

 

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VI:  On Campaign Refinance, Redistricting and Election Law
A conversation on campaign refinance, redistricting and election law as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests TBA
VIEW:  9/17/17 Facebook Event COMING SOON

 

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VII:  On Strategic Organizing:  Looking Forward
A conversation on strategic organizing as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.


With special guest
Callie Mackenzie Jayne
Lead Organizer
Citizen Action of NY
Hudson Valley Chapter

VIEW:  10/22/17 Facebook Event

About Callie Mackenzie Jayne:  Callie is the Lead Organizer for Citizen Action of New York’s Hudson Valley Chapter. She came to the Hudson Valley after growing up as a black person in a predominantly white, affluent town. Struggling with exclusion due to income, racial status, and high suspension rates, Callie began organizing around issues of gender equality, worker’s rights, and racial justice. Her focus began to shift as a result of her experiences moving to and living in low-income communities as a single mother in her early twenties.

During this time, she discovered the institutionalized issues that were preventing her from moving up and put her focus into finishing her undergrad and graduate degrees in order to provide leadership and promote change for others facing the same struggles. Having experienced first-hand many of the challenges and roadblocks faced by the communities we organize, Callie is able to connect with people on the basis of shared life experiences, while simultaneously providing strategy and organizing skills to help people take action on the issues that directly affect their lives.

 

Sunday, November 12th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VIII:  On Local and NYS Clean Energy
A conversation on local and NYS clean energy as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests
Jennifer Metzger
Director
Citizens for Local Power

Pat Courtney Strong
President
Courtney Strong Inc.

VIEW:  11/12/17 Facebook Event

About Jen Metzger of Citizens For Local Power:  Director of Citizens for Local Power, Jen holds a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in environmental politics and policy. She is also a Rosendale Town Councilwoman and introduced the first resolution in New York State opposing the Pilgrim Pipelines in November 2014 and various resolutions relating to the SEQR for this project. As a Councilwoman, she has been working to inform and engage other affected municipalities along the pipelines’ path on this issue.

About Pat Courtney Strong of Courtney Strong Inc.:  Patrice Courtney Strong has been president of Courtney Strong Inc. since 2006. Based in New York and Washington, D.C., her firm provides marketing communications services to market influencers who are leading the transition to a clean energy economy. Clients include the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Institute for Building Technology & Safety, serving the New York State Power Authority.  Past clients include The Solar Energy Consortium where she served as vice president, Industry Attraction and the State University at Ulster and Orange Counties.  Earlier, she worked for six years as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rebuild America Business Partners program. This group of 200+ technology companies provided energy seminars across the U.S. to local governments, school districts, and others.  Pat is a board member and chair of the marketing communications section of the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment, based in Washington, DC. She serves as president of the Business Alliance of Kingston, a group of 50-plus businesses working on revitalization through the national Main Street program, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects, and formation of an arts district.

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…

VIDEO: Memorializing Resolution Passes Through Kingston Common Council Opposing Anchorage Proposal.

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By Rebecca Martin

VIEW:  Kingston Common Council’s Memorizing Resolution:  “Resolution 214 of 2016: Resolution of the Common Council of the City of Kingston New York, Approving a Memoralizing Resolution Opposing the Adoption of the U.S. Coast Guard Proposed Rule 2016-0132.”

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Tonight, the Kingston Common Council passed a memorializing resolution “opposing the adoption of the U.S. Coast Guard Proposed Rule” for the Anchorage project with a vote of 7 – 1 (Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills being the solo ‘no’ vote, stating she had more questions. At this time, she seemed to be supportive of the Shipping Corporations request to create 43 berths in 10 locations, opening up 2400 acres to new anchorages in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the river.  42 of the 43 berths are proposed to be “long term” which means that barges could anchor there for days. This is not as the vessel operators like to say as being “nothing new”.  This would represent a huge increase in the anchoring of commercial vessels in the Hudson between the GW Bridge and Albany, turning our river into a parking lot for large barges and vessels while they wait for dock space to open up in Albany.)  Ward 4 Alderwoman Nina Dawson was absent this evening.

READ:  “Citing navigational safety, Kingston alderwoman won’t oppose Hudson River Anchorages.”  (Daily Freeman)

The U.S.  Coast Guard is taking comments until Dec. 6 on its WEBSITE. With the passing of resolution 214 of 2016, the Kingston Common Council will now be in a position to submit theirs, and join Kingston Mayor Steve Noble who earlier in the year, on August 22, 2016, submitted comments ending with “The City (of Kingston) has spent decades revitalizing its waterfront. Many organizations have worked to clean up the Hudson, to protect its habitats and make it attractive to recreation and tourism. For safety sake, transient vessel berthing is acceptable. Long-term use is not.”

VIEW 26:46 – 29:00:  Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills defend her position in support of the proposed Anchorage project during the Kingston Common Council Caucus on 10/3/16.  It begins at 26:46 and ends at 29:00.  (Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org by Clark Richters of the Kingston News.)

VIEW 40:46 – 44:09:  The passing of the memorializing resolution video is below. It begins at 40:46 and ends at 44:09.  (Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org by Clark Richters of the Kingston News.)

Ward 1 Alderwoman Lynn Eckert prior to the vote states that, “We are obligated to protect the public good. There are too many people who rely on a healthy, ecologically sound Hudson River.”

On the Proposed Anchorage Project: What Owners of Local Businesses in the Hudson Valley Can Do.

Thanks to Kris Seiz of Storm King Adventure Tours who has drafted a sign-on letter regarding anchorages specifically for local businesses.  We invite the Kingston business community, as well as possibly the larger Ulster County business community, to participate.

To read the entire letter, place your mouse pointer on the document to scroll and to sign.

VIDEO: Kingston Common Council Caucus (5/2/16) and Full Council Meeting (5/3/16)

We are pleased to bring you video from this week’s common council caucus (5/2) and full council meeting (5/3). As you will see, we have marked much of the content specifically focused on the items that we have been following recently that include amending the firearms law and the Pilgrim Pipeline memorializing resolution. However, there is a good amount of information throughout, and we encourage you to take the time to also view the remainder of the footage.

Citizens did a great job in supporting the council in their decision making process last night, and in sharing their opinions on the location of the proposed shooting range. The outcome was that the council sent the amended firearms law back to the laws and rules committee for further vetting, which was seen as a positive action by all sides. In addition, an important memorializing resolution was passed showing Kingston’s support of Bill A9831a   sponsored by Assemblyman Skartados, “an act to prevent the construction of pipelines to transport hazardous substances or petroleum on property under the jurisdiction of the New York Thruway Authority.”

Although the items listed in the agenda move around some, everything is covered and you can follow along:

VIEW: Agenda

VIEW: Legislation

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

Read more…

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

transparency_public_rights_to_know_copy

Editorial 

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

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

Read more…

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.

Read more…

First Reading of Water Powers Charter Amendment for Referendum

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, after many terrific citizen public speakers (see 1:44 – 15:35 in the video above), the Common Council did the first reading (at 44:15 – 45:00) of a charter amendment for Water Powers outside of Kingston’s Corporate boundaries.

Alderman-at-Large James Noble explains (at 15:48 – 16:26)  stating that “the original resolution has been changed to another resolution. #134 is going to be a local law change, because it’s stronger legislation.  This evening we will do the first reading without discussion. Next month, we will do the second reading and vote.”

After which, Mayor Shayne Gallo will have 10 days to organize a public hearing before signing off on the legislation. It would then be prepared and sent to the Board of Election to include on the November ballot.

All summer long, KingstonCitizens.org will focus its energies to inspire and to energize our community to vote like it has never done before.  Which way that you do  is a private matter – but to vote is a right that was hard earned. If this referendum is placed on the ballot – so was it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. Please be responsible and do your part and vote.  Place November 3rd (Election Day) on your calendar today.

 REGISTER TO VOTE IN ULSTER COUNTY

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

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.

 

 

 

Better Late Than Never. Niagara Bottling CFA Application

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

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

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

On Niagara Jobs:

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

 

 

VIDEO: Water & Waste Water Infrastructure 101 Educational Panel 3/24/15

By Rebecca Martin

“Infrastructure must be maintained. People come to rely on that service.  The general population doesn’t stop to think “If I didn’t have water, how would my life be affected? How valuable is that infrastructure to my quality of life that I have?  How much am I paying for it vs. how important is it to my life?”
– Fred Testa, EFC

“Many municipalities  say “I haven’t raised water rates. Re-elect me!”  Not good. You need to continually keep pace with the cost of running your system. One of the ways you do that is by increasing your rates to recognize that things cost more as you move forward. You also recognize that things may not break next year, but may in five years – and you keep projecting future costs.”
– Candace Balmer, RCAP

Last evening, KingstonCitizens.org hosted a “Water & Waste Water Infrastructure 101” educational panel with guests Water Resource Specialist Candace Balmer of RCAP Solutions and Environmental Project Manager Fred Testa from NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation.

Close to 50 people were in attendance that included elected and appointed officials, representatives from many of our environmental organizations and citizens alike.

Thanks to our sponsors for this event that include the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper and to Kingston News for providing a live stream of the event and the following video.

MATERIALS:

1.  NYS Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (NYS EFC)
City of Kingston applications/awards to date

2. Powerpoint: NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation

3. Powerpoint: Candace Balmer, RCAP (Coming soon)

 

 

PART One:

oo:oo – 2:42:  KingstonCitizens.org Welcomes the Audience and Guests.

2:43 – 5:24:  MODERATOR Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Introduction

5:26 – 25:00:  PRESENTATION: Candace Balmer, RCAP Solutions

25:14 – 27:48:  QUESTION: Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper
“Is there a reuse solution for the wastewater sludge?”

27:50 – 59:30:  PRESENTATION: Fred Testa, NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation     FOLLOW ALONG with PowerPoint

 

PART Two:

0:00 – 1:56:   QUESTION, Dan Shapley 
”If there is a water quality problem the community is aware of, but isn’t documented on the list it’s not helping getting funding for that project?”

“If the project is going to improve water quality (class b vs. class c) does that effect the score of the project?”

3:00 – 4:04:    MODERATOR

MHI (Median Household Income) is $44,000 in Kingston, making us likely to be eligible for funding.  

“How is the water supply changing based on growth and change in the landscape?  The way we manage, monitor, maintain?”

4:06 – 5:58:  Fred Testa, EFC

“State Department of Health has the role of regulating the quality of water.”

6:00 – 6:24:  MODERATOR

“Would you say that there is an increasing burden on small communities in the way of managing infrastructure?”

6:26:    Candace Balmer, RCAP 

“Demographic changes and the financial impact from shrinking communities.”

7:02 – 7:16:  MODERATOR

“H0w is the role of the government changed to met that gap? Is it doing so?

7:17:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“Water is free, but the pipes that are bringing it to you are not. It costs more than what they want to deal with.”

8:28 – 12:20:   MODERATOR

“In the Kingston system, rates might have to go up to provide for infrastructure needs. In the present, we are struggling to meet that demand. Can we talk for a moment about different rate structures, and what you’re seeing as best practice? Kingston has a descending rate structure today.”

9:25:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“We advocate a level rate structure and per gallon charge so that there isn’t any base usage. It’s called FULL COST PRICING.”

10:16MODERATOR

“How does that play out in the community?”

10:18:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“You have fixed costs. If people decide to use less to save money, the department still has to meet those costs.”

11:24:  Fred Testa, EFC

“Some small communities have a simple, flat rate. In the old days, things were more simple and it’s not as simple today.  In waste water, sometimes the expense on the property owner is based in part on property values.”

12:21 – 13:38:  MODERATOR 

“You brought asset management which the City of Kingston is undergoing for its waste water infrastructure. Can you tell us more about it and how you might be involved?  By the way, it’s the most expensive piece of infrastructure for the COK to run. It was found in our climate action plan that the municipality is responsible for that, and the cost of repairs would be 3 x more than we thought given it’s in the flood plain. Instead of it being $2 million dollars it’s more like $6 million in longterm costs.”

13:40 – 18:56:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“People don’t always understand where their dollars are going, (chemicals, transmission, admin, debt repayment, etc.). It’s about getting the most value for your equipment. It costs more to fix something once it’s broken than when it was planned for so to be replaced in a timely manner.  Assets are pipes, buildings, tanks, equipment, security, tools, office/lab. These are things that you have invested in and you recognize that they have a life span and when they break, you want to make sure that you have access to the things that you need to replace them efficiently and think of about financing for these replacements beforehand.  The first thing you do is an inventory. You want to identify what your assets are and prioritize your critical assets. Those that you’ll be really in trouble if you don’t have a back-up or money in the kitty for replacement.  Many communities don’t have maps. It’s very important to know what and where these assets are. What’s the expected use for life of an asset and how much does it cost? You’ve got to be saving money and setting it aside in dedicated accounts.”

18:29 – 18:56:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

Many municipalities  say “I haven’t raised water rates. Re-elect me!”  Not good. You need to continually keep pace with the cost of running your system. One of the ways you do that is by increasing your rates to recognize that things cost more as you move forward. You also recognize that things may not break next year, but may in five years – and you keep projecting future costs.”

19:11 – 19:52:  Candace Balmer, RCAP 

“Long term vs. short plan terming – you want to have the name of what you are replacing in that account so that extra money in water budgets are not transferred. You need dedicated reserve accounts.”

19:57 – 22:58:   MODERATOR 

“The EFC brought a list of what Kingston has borrowed from the revolving funds since 1994/1998.  How does EFC Work with a city like Kingston on Asset Management?

20:56 – 22:58:   Fred Testa, ECF

“We would mostly be urging them to do that. Asset Management plans are a growing phenomenon.  It wasn’t done in the past. There is a growing interest to do this and the DEC is starting to work on a plan making it required. What will the rates be? How will they need to be raised in order to avoid crisis? Asset Management will take communities a long way to know what will be happening. They are a live plan. They do no good to put them up on the shelf and not revisited and updated consistently.”

22:59 – 24:06   MODERATOR

“The State is trying to incorporate best practices for rating and in awarding funding.  Communities should invest where they already exist vs. sprawling. Invest in existing communities instead of newer projects.”

24:12 – 25:17:  QUESTION:  Rachel Marco-Havens (Woodstock)

“Can you speak to New Paltz regarding waste water? You spoke about Smart Growth. What does that mean environmentally?”

25:18 – 26:35  Fred Testa, EFC

We are looking at a project with new infrastructure or expand new service area. Has the municipality planned for growth in that area? Does it add properties that local growth hasn’t thought about. We are looking to see if the local gov have considered impacts on the communities. Was it planned for? Is a comp plan available to avoid uncontrolled sprawl that have adverse effects.

27:06 – 27:26  QUESTION: Rebecca Martin (Kingston)

“Can you speak a little bit to inter-municipal partnerships and how funding increase, or the benefits?”

27:28 – 29:56   Fred Testa, EFC

“We want to see that there is capacity at a treatment plant for both, that the communities have already talked. We want to see an inter-municipal agreement. A legal contract drawn up by the parties. Tying in smart growth, the idea is if there is a treatment plant nearby it may be best for everyone to make use of it.”

29:57 – 30:40:   MODERATOR

“There was a discussion in Kingston and Ulster in looking at that sort of collaboration in the past. I don’t know where those discussions are today. Also Comprehensive Plans can engage in other communities under municipal law to generate inter-municipal agreements.”

30:41 – 43:04: QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will (Kingston)

“I think this should be mandatory attendance for all muniapl leaders. Looking at the revolving fund loans for Kingston and noticing out of 14 there are 3 that originated from the Kingston water dept, all happening in 2012 under 1/2 million – 6.2 million.  In the dealings with the KWD are you in close contact or are there ongoing communications with KWD since 2012?

32:32:  Fred Testa, EFC

“I myself haven’t worked with Kingston, but the water district is referenced here – but the COK was the borrower here, not the Water Department.”

QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will

“We have a flooding task force that looked at conditions in the Rondout, historically it’s been very industrial. Are there funding mechanisms to assist with businesses and private property owners to help mitigate flooding problems?”

34:49:  Fred Testa, EFC

“Not through EFC.  There may be funding through the Consolidated Funding Application.”

35:43:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“There may be funding through Community Development Block Grant for these things.”

35:59 – 38:13   MODERATOR and Fred Testa, EFC

“Kingston is going through it’s brownfield area opportunity, a GEIS of great magnitude that will allow business and property owners to move through the SEQR process more quickly. Through the DOS. The program, unfortunately, has sun setted but hopefully there will be more opportunities.” (more on the CFA Program, Green Innovations grant, all happen in June).  “Kingston has been on the ball and have qualified for a great number of grants. As have the county. We have a green infrastructure project for Sophie Finn School.”

38:19 – 40:22  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“I want to answer your question, Brad. The CDBG program, one is public infrastructure, planning, public facilities and economic development of small business and enterprise. I don’t know if the economic development section would apply, but it’s worth looking that up. For joint applications, there are strict requirements, but if you were a join applications you could apply for more funding.”

40:22  MODERATOR

“Kingston is an entitlement city, not entitlement county. Kingston’s CDBG goes through HUD (Housing and Urban Development).”

40:44:  QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will

“What is the percentage of applications that are approved through the EFC?”

40:54 – 41:00:  Fred Testa, EFC

Last year we financed every application.”

41:05  MODERATOR

“The window is closing for the hardship applications. If Kingston wanted to apply for the round that moves forward in 2016 and are not  listed this year how would that work?”

41:24: 43:04  Fred Testa, EFC

I think Kingston has projects listed in the drinking water plant, but not waste water. The City received funding last September for a study 30,000 to study the engineering planning grant WW treatment plant for improvements. They can then give us a listing form, get on the intended use plan and get a score to hopefully be high enough to apply for hardship financing.   Projects can apply for up to $25 million, $18 million at 0%  The city is not in a position to apply because they are not on the list. Step one. Get on the list.

43:08 – 48:20  QUESTION: Kathy Nolan, Catskill Mountainkeeper

“Troubled that we are talking about conventional waste water treatment plants. They don’t include pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, hormones. However newer technologies methods do. Those plants require less maintenance impacting costs. Who do we get to help us to be directed towards innovative approaches, especially considering NYS watershed?”

44:42:   Candace Balmer, RCAP

“Most don’t describe technology requirements, though must be technically approvable. In that way, it’s all fundable.”

45:18:  Fred Testa, EFC

“If there are new technologies being considered, the DEC which permits waste water treatment plants allows them to discharge treated wastewater as long as it meets cleanliness regulations. If they are presented with new technologies, they are going to want to see proven technical evidence.”

Candace Balmer, RCAP

“If it breaks, they want to see that you can get the pieces easily for repair. That don’t want you to put in something that is problematic in that way.”

Kathy Nolan CM

“What you’re describing is a system that doesn’t have a way to perhaps get started in communities that use better technology. With the Green Innovation funding stream, can we can get a plant funded to be used as a pilot to see how it functions and if it’s possible to create more of them.  We keep coming to the same point in the conversation. We need to do something that gets us into the better technology.”

Candace Balmer, RCAP

“Get with your regulator. Have them come with you and chat about concerns. Sometimes it’s an individual look at concerns.”

48:27 – 50: 04  QUESTION: Joanne Steel, Mid-Hudson Sierra Club  

“Town of Lloyd had a rebed system that was doing very well. Are you familiar with it?”

49:06   Fred Testa, EFC

“That was a wetland. It’s not a rebed for sludge.”

49:17  Candace Balmer, EFC

“Though it’s an example of their working with the DEC to get that project off the ground.”

50:11 – 53:53:  QUESTION: Mary McNamara (Saugerties)

“In our region there are often neighborhoods where Septic Systems have failed. To accommodate, water districts have been created. It’s to o expense to bring in a clean water program. The nearby surface waters are impacted. I see it more and more. What funding programs exist for individuals?”

51:25:  Candace Balmer, RCAP

“Looking at it from a community perspective, what EPA has promoted is decentralized water management concept with responsible management entity. Pay the bills. You can have a management district that manage onsite. Woodstock has a management area where they inspect and repair individual septic systems. There’s a variety of ways. For individuals, there are not a lot of programs. If you are poor or elderly you can get up to 7500 in a lifetime and septic systems are one of them that you can use it for.”

53:34: Fred Testa, EFC

“There is Housing Improvement in CDBG to improve septic systems for private drinking water wells.”

53:54 – 58:05:   MODERATOR

“Kingston represents a community that has experienced it all.  Now we are dealing with the burdens in dealing with infrastructure. How do we look down the road to address this challenge?”

56:11 – 57:16:  Fred Testa, EFC

“You need people to sit down and focus. Asset management approach forces people to look at specific elements of infrastructure and plan accordingly. Infrastructure must be maintained. People come to rely on that service.  The general population doesn’t stop to think “If I didn’t have water, how would my life be affected? How valuable is that infrastructure to my quality of life that I have?  How much am I paying for it vs. how important is it to my life?”

57:19 – 58:05:   Candace Balmer, RCAP

“It takes the community. When we do project planning we get everyone at the table. The regulators, the public, the board. Lets all sit down at what we’re looking at and what it costs.”

 

 

KingstonCitizens.org sponsors a public educational discussion titled “Water and Waste Water Infrastructure 101” on Tuesday, March 24th

 

St-Marys-Water-Recycling-PlantKingstonCitizens.org sponsors a public educational discussion titled “Water and Waste Water Infrastructure 101” on Tuesday, March 24th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library, 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY.  The group’s guest will be Water Resource Specialist Candace Balmer of RCAP Solutions (Resources for Communities and People).

Kingston, NY:   KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present an educational discussion titled “Water and Waste Water Infrastructure 101” on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 at the Kingston Public Library, 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY. from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.  Moderated by KingstonCitizens.org’s Jennifer Schwartz Berky, the group will have the opportunity to speak with Water Resource Specialist CANDACE BALMER to explore water and wastewater infrastructure,  how it is and can be funded, the importance of regular maintenance and the reality of periodic rate increases to keep this huge investment functioning. A question and answer period will also take place.

This event is free to the public and will be filmed by Kingston News. Sponsored by KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

###

Our Guest:

About Candace Balmer, Water Resource Specialist RCAP 

Ms. Balmer joined RCAP Solutions in March 1997 after previous experience as Associate Director, Pollution Abatement Technology Program at Westchester Community College and as Project Engineer with Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM).  Advisory Boards and Task Forces: NY Onsite Wastewater Training Network (OTN); Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership (LEWP); NYC DEP-coordinated Ashokan Reservoir Working Group (ARWG).  Education: A.A.S. Water Quality Monitoring; B.A. Anthropology; M.S. Environmental Engineering.

RCAP Solutions, Inc. is the Northeast regional partner of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP).  RCAP is federally funded to assist small rural communities with water and wastewater projects.

Sponsored by:

About KingstonCitizens.org
KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

With Support from:

About Woodstock Land Conservancy
The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

About Riverkeeper
To protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Catskill Mountainkeeper
To be the strongest and most effective possible advocate for the Catskill region; working through a network of concerned citizens we promote sustainable growth and protect the natural resources essential to healthy communities.

Response to SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt: “…we resolve in this New Year to continue asking our leaders to be role models of citizenship.”

“As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.”  This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship.”  – KingstonCitizens.org

On December 29th, 2014  SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt RESPONDED to the hundreds of letters generated by KingstonCitizens.org from concerned citizens regarding the possible acceptance of the Niagara Bottling Company into the Start-Up NY program.

The long awaited ANNOUNCEMENT from Governor Cuomo was issued on that same day with two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster selected. Neither of them were Niagara Bottling Company.  Good work everyone!

However, Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be ON THE TABLE AT A LATER DATE.

We are committed to seeing this through to the very end with you.

Please READ KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning Advisor Jennifer Schwartz Berky’s response to President Donald Katt below.

Happy New Year to you all.

– Rebecca Martin

 

kc

Thank you for your LETTER dated December 29, 2014 in response to Kingston Citizens regarding Start-Up New York. We are dedicated to promoting transparency in government through civic engagement and public education. While we are interested in understanding the decisions that led to your support of the Niagara Bottling Company for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, our focus is broader. For the past decade, we have engaged the community and our leaders in meaningful dialogue about governance and community development. We believe that the public has the right and the obligation to understand how decisions are made in the public interest.

In your letter, you suggest that Ulster County citizens and groups are engaged in a ‘robust debate’ regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. However, so much of the information about the proposal has not been made available to the public. While we recognize the importance of confidentiality in certain aspects of business, the basis for decisions in the public interest must be clear. The public cannot engage in an open, fact-based debate where the decision-making criteria and process are not transparent.

As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.”  This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship. It is in this spirit that we invite you to meet with representatives of the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club and Kingston Citizens in the next two weeks to share  information regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal and to engage in – as you called it – “an important and welcome part of that discussion.”

In what follows, I respond to the points in your letter (showing your text in bold italics) with the hope that we can continue a fact-based dialogue in our proposed meeting:

Thank you for copying me on the email you sent to the Commissioner of Economic Development and the Chancellor of the State University of New York. New York has a history of robust debate when it comes to environmental and economic development issues and input from concerned citizens and groups is an important and welcome part of that discussion. […] Reviewing the process and the credentials that were considered in the case of Niagara Bottling, I cannot imagine an outcome other than that which we reached given the defined role that the College performs.

We welcome “robust debate.” Your letter states that you cannot imagine another outcome than the one reached by the College. However, debate and discussion are dependent upon a shared review of all available information. We would like to learn more about the scientific, economic and educational aspects of your decision making process. The Start-Up New York regulations require the college to describe, in its application, how the proposed businesses would generate positive community and economic benefits, including:

 diversification of the local economy,

 environmental sustainability, and

 opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.

These required criteria are not discussed in the proposal. We are concerned about how or whether the Niagara Bottling plant can meet these and the other criteria of the Start Up New York program.

I want to clarify the role of SUNY Ulster within the context of the Start-Up NY program with which we, along with many other components of SUNY have chosen to become actively engaged. The steps defined by the SUNY Chancellor’s office are clear and concise and include filing a plan for participation, which we did, being one of the first few in the state to receive approval.

As a part of that defined process, we named a committee to meet with and review proposed projects to determine if the prospective company was eligible to complete a proposal to be forwarded to New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) for consideration. At that point, if recommended, the campus president forwards the project to ESD.

Given the great need for economic development in our area and the importance of environmental sustainability – a responsibility we all bear, but which should be of particular importance to an educational institution that sets an example for its students and community – we ask that you share more information about the decision making process that led to the approval of Niagara Bottling Company’s application to participate in Start Up New York. The environmental ramifications, local, regional and beyond, are important in any enterprise. As such, opening questions for our dialogue with you and the Start-Up New York committee would include:

 What was the analysis that led to your decision to support the Niagara Bottling plant project?

 Was there a cost/benefit analysis as part of your evaluation? What were the results?

 What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?

 As for the jobs and links to the educational mission of SUNY Ulster, what were the criteria used to determine whether these would provide meaningful educational opportunities for the students and link to SUNY Ulster’s mission?

 In addition, did the committee evaluate the proposed wages in connection with the living wage standards in Ulster County?

 What other proposals received by SUNY Ulster (you mention that about 20 businesses applied) and how were they evaluated? Is this evaluation ongoing?

We understand that the Start-Up New York application review process requires the college to provide certification of its notification of and any written responses to the proposal by the municipality or municipalities surrounding the proposed off-campus site, as well as responses by the college faculty senate, union representatives and the campus student government.  We appreciate the college’s esteemed tradition in the environmental management field and your awareness of this issue. Therefore, since the source of water from Kingston’s reservoir is in Woodstock, we question why these two municipalities were not participants in the notification process and why this documentation was omitted from the 39 PAGE AMENDED PLAN DATED AUGUST 29th, 2014 FROM SUNY ULSTER.

It is now up to other agencies with different clearly defined processes to analyze and make determinations about the viability and value of the project. Being an educator and one with a strong belief in informed decision-making based upon factual information, I look forward to the process unfolding. However, I am not a party to, nor a decision maker within those systems.

As the leader of SUNY Ulster, you are the key participant in this process. Although the final decisions are made in Albany, the Start-Up New York Regulations make you “a party to,” and “a decision maker” for our community. In addition, the PROGRAM REGULATIONS and STATUTE do not exclude SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees from the process. Given the size, complexity, and potentially regional impacts of the Niagara Bottling plant proposal, the planning process that you oversaw is nothing less than a critical step in the decision making process. If the SUNY Ulster President’s Office has been entrusted with the responsibility of recommending a project with so many implications for our community, we believe that you have an equal responsibility to help the public understand how and why you assessed the whole of this Niagara project as worthy of funding. Furthermore, as the SUNY Ulster Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the college, we believe that their role, even if voluntary according to Start-Up New York’s guidelines, is crucial in the decision making process. They are important leaders in Ulster County with deep ties in our community.

We have had about 20 inquiries, from a variety of companies. Companies seek us out, we do not recruit companies. To this date we have submitted three applications to ESD for final approval into StartUp. All three are manufacturing-related. I support Start-Up NY, because it is a new program that looks to address the need for jobs in upstate NY. I also support it, because it allows unique learning experiences for students with participating partners. It is my hope that residents of Ulster County understand that I pursued the Niagara/StartUp only for the benefit of our students and the improvement of our local economy.

We do not see economic development and environmental protection as an “either/or” scenario. We believe that there are better alternatives to the Niagara Bottling plant proposal. In our presentation to the SUNY Trustees, we outlined reasons for concern on both fronts. In 2007, Ulster County adopted a sustainable economic development plan, “Ulster Tomorrow,” that identified core competencies that would generate innovative clusters to build our economy. The plan was completed and approved with the help of a renowned economic consultant and input from scores of leaders in every sector in our county, including Trustees and members of the SUNY Ulster community. Although we do not have the details of the two companies that have been approved for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, their business models appear to be more in keeping with the concepts of sustainable development. As you noted, there were about 20 inquiries for the program. We are interested in their proposals and the potential they offer for innovation and clusters that may truly lead to job growth in our area.

A water bottling plant is not a sustainable business. So far, 90 colleges in the United States have officially banned bottled water and your students are now proposing that you make a similar commitment to sustainability in college management and curriculum. Also, as we noted in our presentation, this particular industry does not align with the well-accepted principles of clustering and sustainable development adopted in the County and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (MHREDC) plans. It is an economically isolated activity that will rely on plastics manufacturing, an industry widely acknowledged to generate major pollutants in its extraction, production, and disposal processes. The use of a publically-financed infrastructure and our municipal water supply, a natural resource with finite possibilities, to support further economic development and growth in our area is inconsistent with the goals set forth in “Ulster Tomorrow,” the MHREDC plans, and the Regional “Cleaner, Greener” Sustainability Plan supported by Governor Cuomo. Finally, this proposal is inconsistent with the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which maintains that water and other natural resources belong to the public and it is the government’s obligation to preserve them for public use.

As participants in Ulster County’s diverse, educated workforce, the constituents of Kingston Citizens support SUNY Ulster and its mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.” We respect SUNY Ulster’s tradition of excellence in environmental and economic fields of endeavor. Your mission, including “responsible use of resources,” must be aligned with regional goals that have been defined, collaboratively, with other thought leaders who are likewise committed to define, preserve and develop our assets. Our regional assets are intertwined: our valuable natural resources have a shared and equal impact upon our quality of life as humans and on our potential for future economic development. The goals of benefitting SUNY Ulster students and improving our local economy must live in harmony with our region, its valuable natural and human resources, and its economic future.

We therefore ask you to have an open and productive dialogue with us, the college community, and our leaders in economic development and environmental resource management. Given the potentially imminent decisions regarding Start Up New York, we request you meet with us as soon as possible.

Respectfully,

Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
KingstonCitizens.org