VIDEO: SEQR 101 Public Educational Forum

 

By Rebecca Martin

On Tuesday, May 21, KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union hosted a public educational forum on SEQR 101.  Video from our event was created by The Kingston News brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

The event’s AGENDA is available with valuable links to resources on page two.

Thanks to Jennifer O’Donnell for bringing her knowledge and experience on the subject to our community.

 

VIDEO #1 

What is SEQR?  
* Purpose (12:17)
* Environmental Factors (15:40)
* What is an “Agency”? (19:11)
* What is an “Action”?  (20:54)

SEQR Processes and Procedures
* SEQR timeline and process  (24:00)
* When does the SEQR process begin?  (34:18)
* Who starts SEQR?  (36:54)
* Classifying the Action: Type II, Type I, Unlisted  (37:12)
* Avoid Segmentation (43:52)
* Type II Action (49:25)
Type I Action (52:24)
* Unlisted (53:26)
* Establishing Lead Agency (55:15)

VIDEO #2

* Establishing Lead Agency (continued) (00:00)
* Coordinated  Review (and Uncoordinated Review) (5:00)
* Determination of Significance: Negative or Positive Declaration? (9:36)
* Environmental Assessment Form (10:20)
* Part 1: Project Information (10:49)
* Part 2: Identification of Potential Project Impacts (11:03)
* Part 3: Evaluation of Impacts (12:01)
* Determination of Significance (17:55)
* Criteria for Determination of Significance (19:20)
* Substantive and Literal Compliance (19:40)
* Evaluate Impacts in Context (21:32)
* More on Determination of Significance (27:00)
* Conditioned Negative Declaration (Unlisted actions only)  (27:16)
* Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)  (27:55)
* EIS Process (33:05)
* Scoping (33:30)
* Draft EIS (35:17)
* Public Comment (35:30)
* Final EIS (36:31)
* Generic EIS (37:33)
* Findings, File and Provide Notice, Final Decisions, SEQR Compliance (40:25)
* Recent Changes to SEQR (41:16)
* Questions and Answers (52:40)


VIDEO #3

* Questions and Answers (Continued)  (00:00)

Zoning, the Mixed Use Overlay District, Comprehensive Plans and the Kingstonian Project

A comprehensive plan is a powerful document in New York State that creates a framework for making important decisions while guiding growth and development. Kingston’s own plan, adopted by the Common Council in April 2016, quite forcefully calls for an affordable housing requirement in new developments:

“Strategy 1.1.2: Require affordable housing for any new or expanded residential building or development project.  The City should consider expanding the number of projects that must provide a ‘fair share’ of affordable housing. Currently, affordable housing is only required for projects taking advantage of the mixed-use overlay district provisions.” (p. 21, Kingston 2025)

The City of Kingston continued to promote that goal in its 2017 Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application in which the Kingstonian Project was proposed:

“Housing development in the Stockade Business District (SBD) has been limited, and a significant percentage of renters in the SBD and surrounding area are cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs.”  (Executive Summary of the City of Kingston’s 2017 DRI application).

However, in February of 2019, the developers of the Kingstonian Project submitted an application that includes 129 market-rate residential units in the Stockade District. The mandate for affordable housing that is outlined in Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan seems to be ignored with this substantial project.

At its first hearing on April 10th, the Kingston Planning Board began accepting public comments for the proposed Kingstonian. To date, the Board has not provided a timeline for review, a date for when the public comment period will close, or indicated when the Planning Board as lead agency will likely make a positive or negative declaration (pos or neg dec) in the project’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), a decision that is meant to be made within 20-days following the acceptance of lead agency.

Since February, KingstonCitizens.org has spoken with many stakeholders about potential significant environmental impacts as it pertains to the Kingstonian Project. We have also fielded questions about the applicant’s zoning listed in its  Environmental Assessment Form (EAF).

 

 

What is a C-2 Zone in the City of Kingston?

The mixed residential and commercial Kingstonian Project is located in a C-2 zone where residential use is not a permitted as-of-right use. The City of Kingston Zoning Code for a C-2, short for Central Commercial District (§ 405.17), outlines uses that are permitted as-of-right:

A building may be erected, altered, arranged, designed or used, and a lot of premises may be used, for any of the following purposes by right and for no other: Retail stores; banks, including drive-in windows; service businesses, such as, but not limited to, barbershops, beauty parlors, tailors and dry-cleaning stores, custom dressmakers, jewelry repair, shoe repair, travel agents, auto rental offices, appliance repair and duplicating businesses and job printing establishments having not more than 10 persons engaged therein; business, professional and governmental offices; theaters and assembly halls; restaurants, art or craft studios or studios for teaching the performing arts; libraries, museums and art galleries; manufacturing, assembling, converting, altering, finishing, cleaning or any other processing of products where goods so produced or processed are to be sold at retail, exclusively on the premises, in accordance with the requirements of § 405-16B(13); public and private off-street parking lots and parking garages unless accessory to and on the same lot with a use otherwise permitted, such garages and parking lots shall be limited to use by passenger automobiles exclusively.”

Wouldn’t the Kingstonian Project be required to gain a variance for residential use by the City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals? It doesn’t appear to due to it being within a Mixed Use Overlay District.

What is the Mixed Use Overlay in the Stockade District?

The Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) was adopted in 2005 as an amendment to the City’s Zoning Code following three years of debate. (See “Kingston council OKs Uptown/Midtown loft law,Daily Freeman, 5 January 2005. ) The primary purpose of it was to ease the regulatory burden of converting upper floors in existing commercial buildings to residential use. Instead of applying for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, building owners could apply for a less onerous Special Use Permit from the Planning Board.

There are two MUODs in the city: the Stockade and Midtown. The thinking of council members at the time was that by making the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in these districts for residential lofts easier, it would incentivize the creation of affordable housing units. Much of the text of the amendment (which was created with assistance by Greenplan, a planning consultant out of Rhinebeck) focuses on affordable housing, which is “intended” to be based on guidelines outlined therein. It is intended to apply to adaptive reuse projects containing five or more residential units wherein 20% of those units must be maintained as affordable (defined as 80% of the Ulster County median income.) Such units are to be dispersed throughout the proposed housing project, be indistinguishable from market-rate units, and the affordable unit rents are not to exceed 30% of a household’s income.  

But there are few (if any) buildings in the Stockade that could accommodate five units or more. An analysis of these properties is likely to show that no affordable units have been created in the Stockade District with this regulation. (See  Upstairs Apartments Fail to Materialize in Stockade, Midtown Kingston,” Daily Freeman, 11 February 2007.)

In addition to promoting the creation of affordable housing, the MUOD text describes a second underlying purpose: “to encourage mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-based neighborhoods.” (§ 405-27.1, subparagraph B-2) It seems that the Kingstonian Project, which neither proposes any affordable housing nor seeks to adaptively reuse any buildings, is narrowly interpreting this second clause as the basis for its qualifying for the more expeditious Special Use Permit application process. (In its Environmental Assessment Form, the applicant flags the MUOD as an applicable zoning measure.) To achieve this second purpose, the amendment allows “site and building enhancements that promote a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-based neighborhood” to qualify for a Special Use Permit. Apparently, “site enhancements” can be interpreted to mean new construction.

More on Market-Rate and Affordable Housing.

At this time, all of the residential units planned for the Kingstonian Project will be market rate, which has no rent restrictions. A landlord who owns marketrate housing is free to attempt to rent the space at whatever price the local market may tolerate. In other words, the term applies to conventional rentals that are not restricted by affordable housing laws. So while the project entirely skips over the affordable housing purpose of MUOD, it is availing itself of the special use permit perk that comes with being in a MUOD.

A decade ago, the Teicher organization proposed a similar mixed-use project— though shaped differently and without a street closure—on a portion of the Kingstonian site. It received a positive declaration in SEQR with the attendant public scoping process. In its final scoping document, the Teicher team outlined an affordable housing plan where they would “…present a program and procedures that will result in at least 10% of the proposed housing units being set aside as affordable/workforce housing units as defined in the City Zoning Law.” It also stated that “…the plan may identify any appropriate options for promoting or creating such affordable housing units in off-site locations in lieu of within the proposed development.”

It is important to note that the City of Kingston’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application touts the goals of the MUOD and places them in context of Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to affordable housing in commercial districts:

“…the overlay was mapped in 2005 to allow for the adaptive reuse of industrial and commercial buildings for rental and affordable housing and to promote the development of a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian- based neighborhood. Properties within the overlay district have certain affordable housing requirements and pedestrian-friendly design standards. In addition, the City has a goal to simplify the district’s affordability standards while allowing for the adaptive reuse of former industrial and commercial buildings throughout the city, not just in the overlay district… . Kingston 2025 identifies the Stockade Business District (SBD) as the “Uptown Mixed-Use Core” neighborhood and specifies goals and strategies specifically pertaining to this area. The vision for the SBD as articulated in Kingston 2025 is to be a center ‘for local life providing nutritious fresh food, necessary personal services, transportation and mass transit options, employment opportunities at a range of incomes, a diversity of housing options, and nearby public and private recreational facilities…’. Kingston 2025 outlines several strategies for residential development in the SBD, including allowing mixed- uses in the C-2 zoning district, and moving toward city-wide standards for adaptive reuse and affordable housing. Therefore, it is likely development guided by the Comprehensive Plan will include more housing opportunities in the SBD.”

If not now, when?

Why are only some of the goals of the City’s Zoning Code being followed? Over the past generation, public officials and members of the community have repeatedly identified a clear need to keep housing affordable in Kingston. It is why the MUOD was created. As has been stated earlier, our 2025 Comprehensive Plan also recognizes the need for affordability throughout the city, which is also in keeping with the Courts’ recognition of the requirement for inclusionary zoning. Now that we have an adopted plan that states this, it has the full force of law, as noted by the NY State Department of State in Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan: “New York’s zoning enabling statutes (the state statutes which give cities, towns and villages the power to enact local zoning laws) require that zoning laws be adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan should provide the backbone for the local zoning law.”

It goes on to note that public spending at any level of government must be in accordance with that plan: “Once a comprehensive plan is adopted using the State zoning enabling statutes, all land use regulations of the community must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. In the future, the plan must be consulted prior to adoption or amendment of any land use regulation. In addition, other governmental agencies that are considering capital projects on lands covered by the adopted comprehensive plan must take the plan into consideration.

At what point will Kingston do more than aspire for 20% affordable housing in all new development projects, reuse or otherwise? With each passing year that we lack good planning, we lose precious time in balancing the new opportunities coming to Kingston and the pressing needs of our existing community.

VIDEO/GOOGLE DOC: Public Comment Workshop for the Five Year CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan

“Why does the city suggest that SEQR is viewed as a barrier when it’s a passive voice? By whom is it viewed as a barrier? The language should be more specific if that is the case….The environmental reviews are a part of doing business. A municipality should be careful about characterizing it negatively in a report as it is something that protects the environment, economic and social factors in our community.”   a comment from the public during the recent workshop re: the five year CDBG Consolidated Strategic Plan

By Rebecca Martin

Last week, KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union and the Kingston Land Trust hosted a public comment workshop event for the Five-Year CDGB Consolidated Plan, Fair Housing Plan, and Annual Action Plan Federal Fiscal (2019).  With about 20 citizens in attendance, the group outlined 57 new comments that we’ll be submitting (along with more we hope) when the public comment closes on May 15th.

The City of Kingston extended the public comment deadline for 10 days (to May 15th) on the afternoon of our workshop. This will allow the public more time to look over and to comment on the plan.  It’s so important for the public to do so, as it is only created just once every five years.

You can join us by reviewing the materials below that include: the three hour workshop where many questions were addressed and the following materials:

Kingston 2019-2023 Consolidated Plan_DRAFT

AI – Executive Summary

Draft AI

We have created a public document and invite citizens to add your comments in your native language.  Please locate an empty line and provide us with your name, city and comment.

GOOGLE DOC:  Public Comments for CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan (due date: 5/15/19)

You can also submit comments to:  Brenna Robinson, Director of Economic and Community Development at brobinson@kingston-ny.gov by Wednesday, May 15th.

A very special thank you to The Idea Garden for hosting our event, Tanya Garment, Sebastian Pilliteri, Rashida Tyler, Julia Farr, Ted Griese, Brenna Robinson, Jeffrey Morell, Rita Washington, Tony Davis, Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Guy Kempe for their support and assistance.

Video by The Kingston News brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

KingstonCitizens.org presents a Public Educational Forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process”

Photo courtesy of Friends of Historic Kingston.

KingstonCitizens.org presents the public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process” on Monday, May 14th from 6 – 8 pm at Kingston City Hall in partnership with the City of Kingston and Friends of Historic Kingston.  Guest panelists will include the Mayor of Kingston and experts from the Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, Heritage Area Commission, New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Preservation League of New York.

Kingston, NY.  KingstonCitizens.org, in partnership with the City of Kingston and the Friends of Historic Kingston, will host the public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process” on Monday, May 14th from 6 – 8 pm at Kingston City Hall, Council Chambers located at 420 Broadway in Kingston.

Panelists will include City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble; Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair of the City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission; Hayes Clement, Chair and Kevin McEvoy, Secretary of the City of Kingston Heritage Area; Linda Mackey, SHPO CLG (Certifed Local Government) Representative for Ulster County of NYS SHPO; and Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation of the Preservation League of New York.

The group was assembled to share best practices for streamlining Kingston’s Historic Commissions in response to recent legislation introduced to the Kingston Common Council by the Mayor’s office. Streamlining Historic Commissions was a recommendation made by the consultant Shuster and Turner in their document “Comprehensive Amendments to the City of Kingston’s Zoning Law” hired by the City of Kingston in 2013 to lead its first Comprehensive Planning process since 1961.

A public question and answer period will follow the panelist presentations. This event will be filmed by The Kingston News.

“We are pleased to work with our community partners to share best practices in historic preservation and explore the challenges and opportunities ahead as we consider updates to our City commissions,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “It is fitting that this educational forum will be held in one of Kingston’s most notable historic preservation projects- our beautiful City Hall. Its restoration is a testament to Kingston’s ability to work together for the betterment of our community.”“

“Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission was created in 1966 in direct response to the urban renewal-driven destruction of the Rondout.” said Marissa Marvelli, the Vice Chair of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, who will also be a panelist on the 14th.  “The drafting of the city’s first preservation laws and amendments was a collaborative effort of preservation-minded citizens and members of the Common Council. Today’s Landmarks Commission continues its original purpose: ‘for the promotion of the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the public through the protection, enhancement, perpetuation, and preservation of Landmarks and Landmarks Districts.’ The effectiveness of the city’s preservation program is dependent on the strength and clarity of its ordinance.”

“There are many pressing issues in the City of Kingston, and assuring the protection of our historic assets is certainly one of them,” says Rebecca Martin, lead organizer and, co-founder of KingstonCitizens.org, who will also moderate the event. “With legislation on the table, creating an opportunity to take an in-depth look at Kingston’s historic preservation is both timely and essential.”

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org or call 845/750-7295

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About KingstonCitizens.org.  Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based group committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency of local government. By providing citizens with timely and factual information, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education, and advocacy.

About the City of Kingston.  Kingston, dating to the arrival of the Dutch in 1652, is a vibrant city with rich history and architecture, was the state’s first capital, and a thriving arts community.

About Friends of Historic Kingston.  The Friends of Historic Kingston are charged in preserving historical and architecturally significant buildings and sites in the City of Kingston; To promote and foster interest in the historical heritage and beauty of Kingston and, to acquire, preserve and exhibit materials relating to regional history and culture.

About the City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) is a quasi-judicial body of Kingston citizens whose duties and procedures are outlined in Chapter 405, Article IX of the city’s administrative code. Its seven volunteer members are appointed by the mayor to administer the designation and preservation of Kingston’s individual landmarks and four historic districts. Current members have expertise in preservation planning, historic architecture, restoration arts, law, history, and real estate. The commission holds public hearings the first Thursday of each month where it reviews applications for work to historic properties and discusses matters related to public education about the protection and perpetuation of the city’s built heritage.

About the City of Kingston’s Heritage Area Commission.  The Heritage Area Commission is charged with the responsibility of advising the Mayor and the Common Council on all matters related to the Kingston Heritage Area and its programs in a manner consistent with the concepts, goals and objectives set forth in relevant state and local legislation regarding New York State Heritage Areas and in the Urban Cultural Park Management Plan.

About the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  The SHPO works with governments, the public, and educational and not-for-profit organizations to raise historic preservation awareness, to instill in New Yorkers a sense of pride in the state’s unique history and to encourage heritage tourism and community revitalization.  The SHPO administers programs authorized by both the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the New York State Historic Preservation Act of 1980. These programs, including the Statewide Historic Resources Survey, the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, the Certified Local Government program, the state historic preservation grants program, state and federal environmental review, and a wide range of technical assistance, are provided through a network of teams assigned to territories across the state.

About the Preservation League of New York.  The Preservation League of New York State invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth and the protection of our historic buildings and landscapes. We lead advocacy, economic development and education programs across the state.

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.

Read more…

VIDEO: KingstonCitizens.org 2017 Educational Series “On Public Education”

                                         Click on image to view video

 

By Rebecca Martin

We are just about half way through our educational series this year, with this recent panel on “Public Education” that was so enlightening.  Did you know that every summer, the Kingston City School District re-writes curriculum to supplement “Engage NY” by selected teachers in the district? Or that only 1% of the school district’s budget is federal dollars?

A special thanks to Robin Jacobowitz and James Shaugnessy for their time and service to our community.  As always, to Julie, Peter, Matthew and staff at “Church Des Artistes” for hosting us.

Read more…

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.

FAQ Sheet and Call To Action: Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions Vote April 18.

CALL TO ACTION.

Legislative Members  VIEW

Please call your Ulster County Legislator today and ask that they reject Resolution No. 91 “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions” on April 18th.     “It is important to me that you do not support a ban on the memorializing resolution process. A ban is undemocratic and infringes on my first amendment right to petition.”

Plan to attend the next Ulster County regular legislative meeting on Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00 pm at the Ulster County Office Building located at 244 Fair Street, 6th Floor in Kingston, NY.  Arrive at 6:30 pm to sign-up to speak and to get a seat.  Citizens are encouraged to create a two (2) minute testimony that is respectful and succinct.

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In March of 2017, Resolution No. 91, a proposed ban on memorializing resolutions,  had its first reading (see video below).  In order to change a local law, that’s step one in the process.  On April 18th, the resolution will be read a final time before it goes to vote.

Here are the facts. (**)

Is a letter from the legislature as effective as a memorializing resolution?

No. Memorializing resolutions must be submitted to the Clerk of the Legislature by the sponsor(s), along with all other business of the session, by a specific deadline.  The appropriate standing committee is chosen based on the issue.  It is placed on the committee agenda and discussed at the regularly scheduled meeting, which is open to the public.  The members of the committee have the opportunity to discuss the MR in committee before voting to send it to the “floor” of the legislature for a vote in the upcoming session.  A letter is not an act of the legislature that invites group discussion in committee, requires a vote by that committee to be sent to the floor, and is then a part of the public process where the public sees the memorializing resolution and can attend the session to weigh in.

Why do proponents of the ban on Memorializing Resolutions claim that they take up too much time during regular legislative sessions?

In 2016, the rules were changed prohibiting discussion on Memorializing Resolutions during the legislative session.  However, procedure allows for members to call for a “long roll” (i.e., a one-by-one vote) so that they may speak on the issue.  KingstonCitizens.org believes that engaging in debate in a way that represents and involves the public is the legislature’s business. They are protecting our “right to petition” by creating an opportunity for our voices to be heard and for our petitions to have a real forum. A ban on memorializing resolutions discredits public participation, civic dialogue, due process and the First Amendment.

Why are memorializing resolutions important? 

Memorializing resolutions are statements of principles that do not become a local law or policy. They are “non-binding”. It is, effectively, a petition by one legislative body to other legislative bodies and lawmakers to provide a mechanism that allow citizens and the legislature to take a stand on important issues.

Why do the ban’s sponsors claim that Memorializing Resolutions have been used as a political tool? 

The sponsors have said that memorializing resolutions were used recently by the Democratic Caucus to polarize the legislative body over issues we have no control over.  Memorializing resolutions are a governing tool. Governing tools are non-partisan.

Two controversial memorializing resolutions were recently sponsored by Republicans and passed by the majority of the Ulster County Legislature. One, in fact,  just occurred in March of this year.  It was Resolution No. 92 “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05” (March 22, 2017). The other was  Resolution No. 253  “Opposing The Process Of Enactment And Certain Provisions Contained Within The New York SAFE Act”  (June 16th, 2015).

 

SOURCES  (**)

VIEW  “Commentary:  Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic” by Jennifer Schwartz Berky (Kingston Times, March 22, 2017)

VIDEO:  Ulster County Laws and Rules Committee Discuss Prohibiting Memorializing Resolutions Legislative Session

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17: First Reading of Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

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: UC Laws and Rules Committee Discuss Prohibiting Memorializing Resolutions. Legislative Session Postponed to Wednesday Due to Snow.

Last evening, the Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules Committee had their monthly meeting with one of the items being to discuss Resolution No. 91  “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”.  It passed through committee by a 4 / 3 vote.  We filmed the meeting thanks to The Kingston News (brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org) so that you can see the debate from last night. We also took the liberty to note the legislator’s districts and localities they represent in the case that one of the members represents you and you wish to contact them directly.

Due to today’s snowstorm, the regular legislative session that was to be for this evening was moved to tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 15th at 7:00pm in Legislative Chambers (6th Floor) of the Ulster County Building located at 244 Fair Street in Kingston.  Residents can sign-up to speak when they arrive.

We ask citizens consider coming to speak tomorrow in opposition of the Ulster County Legislature banning memorializing resolutions.  Please keep comments respectful, succinct and no longer than three (3) minutes in length.

In the case that the meeting is moved again, we’ll send out an update.

 

VIEW
Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules Committee Meeting
Video from Tuesday, March 13, 2017

Read more…

VIDEO: KingstonCitizens.org Community Educational Forum, Part I: “On Constitutional Law”

 

Click on image to view video. KingstonCitizens.org’s Community Educational Forum: Part I – “On Constitutional Law” with guest Dr. Lynn Eckert.

 

By Rebecca Martin

Our first community educational forum “On Constitutional Law” was a huge success. At capacity, citizens took in a three-hour discussion on Constitutional Law as it pertains to the Trump Administration’s initiatives for his (their) first 100 days in office.

You can view the video HERE, or by clicking on the image above.  We have done general markings to make it easier for the public to follow along (see below).

Because of the storm the day before our event, the Rondout in Kingston had lost its power for most of the afternoon making it impossible to stream. We will be streaming however next month, and for all the remaining educational panels throughout the 2017 season.

Please VIEW our schedule.

We hope that this series inspires citizens in our region to place more energy in connecting to neighbors and their communities.  To become more knowledgeable and less afraid.  To emphasize due process and to come to know how to access (and interpret) the laws that are in place to protect us.

Special thanks to Dr. Lynn Eckert 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.

00:00 – 5:48
Introductions – Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org

05:49 – END
Dr. Lynn Eckert:  On Constitutional Law:  Looking at Articles 1, 2 and 3.  Also, 9th, 10th and 14th Amendments.  

Starts at 45:33
“Article 1, section 9.  How do we handle a president who has hotels, businesses, financial influence?”

Starts at 50:03
“Is there anything in the constitution that prevents a president from making money by being president?”

Starts at 51:36
“What is the difference between the Constitution and a law?”

Starts at 52:16
“What is the Federal conflict of interest law?”

Starts at 53:00
Why Trump is going after the press. 

Starts at 56:56
“What would be the optimal way to go to speak to Faso?”

Starts at 58:07
“Does Congress have an obligation to meet with constituents, and if they don’t, can they via the law?”

Starts at 1:03:00
How can we bring this all back to us in New York State?
KC.org Trump Document – Follow Along!

Starts at 1:20:28
“Do judges need to be lawyers? 

Starts at 1:25:50
“What’s to stop Trump from appointing Bannon, or some random person with extreme views as a federal judge?”

Starts at 1:26;18
“Explain the “alternative” understanding?” 

Starts at  1:28:46
“How can constituents be involved in the redistricting process?”

Starts at 1:37:38
“Can you speak to Ballot initiatives?”  

Starts at 1:43:26
“Resistance strategies of impeachment and changing electoral college?”

Starts at 1:44:02
“What about Conflicts-of-Interest?”

Starts at 1:48:40
“If Trump is impeached, what happens to Bannon?”

Starts at 1:51:12
“Is there a class action citizen suit that can be brought against Trump for ‘harassment’?” 

Starts at 2;01:35
Corporations as people.

Starts at 2:15:56
“Can we begin to have ‘moral’ conversations with our elected officials?”

Starts at 20:20:30
“When is it appropriate for civil disobedience?” 

Starts at 2:23:50
“Discussion on International issues? How do we approach this?” 

Starts at 2:31:34
“Further ways to regulate/muzzle corporate behavior?” 

Attend All Eight KingstonCitizens.org Educational Forums and Become a KingstonCitizens.org Fellow!

 

 

Do you want to become a KingstonCitizens.org Fellow?   Sign-up in advance to attend all eight of our upcoming educational forums in 2017.   Deadline to do so is Friday, February 24th.  Only 15 spots available!  See our schedule below.

What you will receive:

  1.  A “reserved” seat throughout the 2017 educational forum series.
  2. Become an expert! A free education on all presented topics including information on local and NYS policies and laws as they pertain to these subjects.
  3. A certificate of completion from KingstonCitizens.org
  4. Two of our “fellows” will be selected randomly to win a free year subscription to a local newspaper of their choice.
  5. …and perhaps more surprises as we go along.

Write to Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org with “KingstonCitizens.org Fellowship”  in the subject line.

For more informationVIEW: KingstonCitizens.org Host Eight-Part Educational Forums in 2017.

 

 

KingstonCitizens.org presents
Community Educational Forums 
2017  Schedule

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

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

 

Sunday, April  30th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART III: On Immigration
A discussion on the Ulster County Legislature’s upcoming 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,” with guest panelists District 7 Legislator (Kingston) Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Ulster County Sheriff Van Blarcum. Other guests TBA.  The discussion will review this and other local proposals using the guidance provided by Attorney General Schneiderman and the ACLU to help communities understand their rights under the proposed changes in Washington.

With special guests
Jennifer Schwartz Berky
District 7 Legislator

Sherriff Paul J. Van Blarcum
Ulster County Sherriff

 

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

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

 

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VI:  On Economics
A conversation on economics as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guest economist and energy analyst Evelyn Wright.

 

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

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.

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.

###

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

 

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.