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

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happened?

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

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

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

Call to Action

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

 

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

 

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.

 

00:00 –  1:45  
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.

 

 

1:46 – 5:45 
An explanation of how public education works.

5:46 – 8:19
Can you explain how local elections are organized as it pertains to the board of education? How is it different from a local government election?

8:20 – 9:15
How are districts in the City of Kingston determined? What is the history?

9:15 – 18:25
About School Board Elections, voter turn-out and May elections.

18:26 – 24:02
Can you explain how the funding for capital projects, such as the Kingston High School, impacts the public’s tax bill?

24:03 – 
About the Board of Education and school closures, populations and the tax cap.

 

27:23 – 32:56
Clarifying terms and what the public pays for.

32:57 – 37:42
What items are covered for children in the Kingston City School District who choose to attend a school outside of the district? Transportation? Special services?

 


37:42 – 38:52

Education as a State function and the 14th amendment.

38:53 – 43:02
An explanation of Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954

43:06 – 44:30
An explanation of Education Amendments of 1972.

44:31 – 48:25
Would magnet schools be beneficial in the City of Kingston?

48:28 – 49:15
An explanation of Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

 


49:16 – 55:35

An explanation of all recent Federal education efforts and how they impact us on a State and local level.

55:36 – 57:26
The public’s ability to reform local public education in NYS.

57:27 – 1:00:00
How does accepting funds through the federal government for public schools impact our decision-making on a local level?

1:00:04 – 1:04:24
Every summer, the Kingston City School District ‘re-writes’ curriculum to supplement “Engage NY”.  Teachers who are interested apply and are selected by the district.  Other district initiatives.

1:04:27 – 1:12:52
How might parent groups be supported by the BOE to do more advocacy for the School District?

1:12:53 – 1:24:54
Why is the district decreasing in size and what might be done to increase parent involvement in district initiatives such as re-writing curriculum, a county school district concept and more.

1:24:55 – 1:28:29
More on what federal dollars means on a local level.  Federal dollars reflects 1% of Kingston City School District, just under $2 million. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

###

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.

###

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. 

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…

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…

A Citizen’s Rights Regarding NYS Open Meetings Law on Use of Recording Devices

oml

By Rebecca Martin

At the last Water Board Meeting, a board member made a motion to “Make sure that those who record meetings notify us prior to doing such action and that we have a record of those doing such.” 

In other words, you can’t record their meetings unless you alert the board in advance and then, submit some form of paperwork to be determined.  It passed through unanimously and their Lawyer, Bill Cloonan, clarified and obliged (see video below. Starts at 7:31  and ends at 9:18).

What the board and their lawyer may not have realized is that what they requested was against NYS Open Meetings Law on recording devices.

Jennifer Schwartz Berky, KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning advisor, called Albany to confirm that this was the case, and crafted a letter to the Water Board requesting that they overturn the motion based on judicial precedents (see below).

Citizens have the right to record all city meetings, and as it pertains to the water board – we will continue to do so until the end of time. Or until at least the City of Kingston does it themselves.  Water management is just too important for us not to.

We hope that this instance helps to inform the public on their rights in this case.

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…