Water Powers Amended Legislation Passes Through Council

L/R  Kevin Smith (Woodstock Land Conservancy, Alex Beauchamp (Food and Water Watch), Kate Hudson (Riverkeeper), Heather Schwegler (KingstonCitizens.org), Steve Schabot (Ward 8 Council), Rachel Havens (KingstonCitizens.org/Earth Guardians NY), Aiden Ferris (Earth Guardians NY), Matt Dunn (Ward 1 Council), Deb Brown (Ward 9 Council), Charlie Grenadier (Kingston citizen!),  Rebecca Martin (KingstonCitizens.org), Bill Carey (Ward 5 Council), Jim Noble (Alderman-at-Large), Steve Noble (Environmental Specialist and Mayoral Candidate), Mary McNamara (Esopus Creek Conservancy).

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, the Kingston Common Council unanimously passed through an amended Water Powers resolution.

We will be following up with the Mayor’s office to get a date on the public hearing that is to occur in the next 10 days (the Daily Freeman reported 20) so that you can organize your schedules in advance to attend.   This – after ten months – will be the last meeting of this sort and ask prior to the November ballot.

Thank you for your participation.

READ: Kingston Times Editorial “Moral, Business and the Moral Imperative” by Dan Barton


“We are pleased to witness the second reading of the amended local law regarding Water Powers to include the common council in municipal water sales outside of Kingstons corporate boundary this evening. Once passed, the legislation will be on its way to a referendum and a public vote this fall.

Shortly after February 13th of this year, when the Niagara Bottling Company choose not to locate to the area, our community was left with an opportunity to examine our charter and to consider who was to be included in the decision making process for water sales outside of our community.

Since then, KingstonCitizens.org and our great partners – some of which we am pleased to say are here tonight – have had the distinct pleasure to support you, our common council, as you have taken a very important step in identifying a solution to effectively protect the interests of the public whom you represent.  You understand that the more eyes that are watching, the more minds that are aware of how their government functions – the more likely we can expect transparent outcomes. 

Thinking about water and our watershed together as a people and elected/appointed body is new for our community. Some are calling it historic.  That, is now a part of your legacy and its something to be very proud of.

So thank you, to all of our council members and council president for your collective concern, smarts and follow through on this matter. Swiftly, you addressed a glaring item and your action tonight illustrates great leadership to our community.”

– KingstonCitizens.org



Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org:   4:38 – 6:55

Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch:  7:00 – 9:10

Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper:  9:21 – 11:05

Kevin Smith, The Woodstock Land Conservancy:  11:07 – 15:59

Jennifer Schwartz Berky:  16:03 – 18:27

Johannes Sayre:  18:34 – 22:34

Rachel Marc0-Havens, Earth Guardians NY:   22:52 – 24:44

Aiden Ferris, Earth Guardians NY:  24:52 – 26:14




Global Trade Deals, Water and You


By Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

There’s been a lot of chatter on social media sites, in blogs and – more recently – mainstream news sites about “TPP” and “fast tracking.” It has something to do with jobs and it could help or hurt the economy (depending upon who you ask). President Barack Obama is involved, and Democrats and Republicans are gnashing teeth over the darn thing. Ring a bell?

But what exactly is TPP and why should we care?

Without boring you to death, here’s a quick rundown of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal:

  • TPP involves the U.S. working with 11 other countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) to reduce trade barriers.
  • The U.S. Trade Representative states that the “TPP is the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s economic policy in the Asia Pacific. The large and growing markets of the Asia-Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and services suppliers, and the TPP will further deepen this trade and investment.”
  • And further, the USTR says as a group, “the TPP countries are the largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exports to TPP countries totaled $698 billion in 2013, representing 44 percent of total U.S. goods exports. U.S. exports of agricultural products to TPP countries totaled $58.8 billion in 2013, 85 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports.”
  • President Obama has worked on TPP for the past six years – but mostly in private with about 600 business leaders and policymakers.
  • Recently, steps to make TPP a reality have been taken up in Congress, and lawmakers have struggled with a variety of proceedual aspects, including the so-called “fast track” policy that gives the President the power to negotiate trade deals (including TPP) on his own authority.

At first glance, TPP sounds like a great idea. It will bring down trade barriers that make it hard for U.S. to export goods to other countries. U.S. companies that would benefit from this include large manufacturers, multinational chemical companies, meat and processed food producers, drug makers and retailers.

Retailers in particular are interested in seeing this pass because TPP would lower the costs of goods they sell, which would boost their profits. And that’s good because two-thirds of our economy is fueled by spending on retail goods and services. And the retail industry is the largest private-sector employer in the U.S. with 42 million Americans working at retail, and in related services.

One key reason retailers are supporting TPP is that consumer spending and behavior is shifting. When the so-called “Great Recession” struck, consumers were essentially traumatized into earning less and spending less. Overtime, as economic conditions improved, shoppers remained cautious. And the consistent, year-over-year sales gains that retailers experienced was suddenly in flux. Consumers are more wary of where and how much they spend, and they are increasingly spending their money on “experiences” instead of on “things.”

And we see the ramifications of this locally. At the local mall, J.C. Penney shuttered its doors (and 75 jobs) due to a softer retail sales market. And Office Depot closed as its competitor, Staples, acquired it and closed stores.

So, who again would want to jeopardize this shaky industry – one that employs so many people? Well, taking down trade barriers is a two-way street. As noted above, the trade deal would help many businesses. But it would also harm many others as well. Such as smaller manufacturers and farmers, which is why Congressman Chris Gibson is cautious on TPP. In a letter to constituents last week, he wrote:

“Last week, I finally had the opportunity to read the TPP. I am opposed to this agreement as it is written currently. I have many concerns surrounding agriculture, small business, workers, the environment, our personal privacy, and national sovereignty. Specifically, I believe the TPP could do the kind of harm to agriculture that NAFTA did to manufacturing in our country, undermining the ability of our farmers to compete with our global competitors. I am confident that if we got a fair trade agreement that put our farmers, small business owners, and workers on a level playing field with our global competitors, we would do very well. The proposed TPP draft would not achieve that goal.”

One example of who would be harmed is local dairy farmers and milk producers, like Boices Dairy. If TPP was passed, the market could be flooded with cheap milk from overseas and our local producers would not be able to compete. Apple farmers would also be threatened. Ulster County is the largest apple producer in the state, which is the second largest supplier in the U.S.

On the manufacturing side, TPP presents more problems than it solves. Last month, Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business & Industry Council, said in a letter to council members that since 2000, “the U.S. has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments. This lost manufacturing has come at a real cost for America’s middle class. What should be paramount on the minds of our elected officials is how to rebuild this lost industrial capacity. The TPP is emphatically not the answer. Instead, it’s simply the latest in a long line of trade deals (like NAFTA, China, CAFTA, South Korea, etc.) that have opened the door to predatory trade with countries that have only their own interests at heart.”

Kearns is angry, and rightfully so. Economists repeatedly urge for policy that encourages bolstering manufacturing and related infrastructure. Why? Because these types of jobs pay the best and without it, the middle class can’t exist, and our economy would tank, which is what is slowly happening, according to economists from the Pew Research Center who say the middle class is evaporating.

Ok…so aside from harming dairy and apple farmers, how else is TPP a questionable policy? Well, according to drafts of the TPP released by Wikileaks and media outlets such as The New York Times, there’s a policy in TPP that would allow multinational companies to overturn local laws that impede their path to profitability via appealing to an international tribunal. But what would that look like? And why would that be bad?

Consider this possible scenario:

A major drug maker such as Pfizer – under the TPP policy – could say that certain laws in the U.S. (or any of the member countries) are limiting its ability to make profits. This could be laws that prevent the drug maker from releasing products without testing its safety on humans first. Pfizer could appeal to the tribunal and overturn these laws.

Or it could be a food company that says certain laws that prevent food additives thwarts its sales and profitability, and could appeal to the international tribunal to overturn these laws.

Another example would be Monsanto saying that local laws that ban pesticide use is reducing its sales and profits. It too could appeal to the international tribunal and have those laws overturned.

And the examples go on and on, which is why many environmental groups are against TPP. And they are joined by some strange bedfellows: Tea Party activists who see this as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. The biggest threat, though, is to environmental and consumer protection laws.

Last year the Sierra Club inked a position letter on the chapter in the TPP that allows for the tribunal review. Read it HERE

The Sierra Club said in a separate statement “a joint analysis by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals that the current TPP environment chapter…could lead to increased stress on natural resources and species including trees, fish, and wildlife.”

Here’s another example of how this could be harmful. Consider this scenario – one that strikes close to the hearts of Kingstonians:

Let’s say Niagara Bottling (or another company like Nestle) decided to reconsider its business strategy. So they decide to go ahead and build a distribution center for their fleet of vehicles that serve the Northeast at Tech City. There will be no bottling at the plant – at least initially.

And then one day they decide to start drawing water, filtering it and then bottling it to augment their product supply. It could just be drawn from the current supply at Tech City and it could be a very small amount, say 40,000 gallons a day.

After a year, they could document that local laws in Kingston that regulate corporate or commercial use of large quantities of water via the Town of Ulster or directly with the Kingston Water Department is impeding their path to better profits – noting that their strategic plan is to expand water bottling in the Northeast region.

In that scenario, they too – under TPP – would be allowed to have an international tribunal review and overturn any local Kingston City law that thwarts their path to profits.

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed one of the steps that would allow TPP to happen.

The National Retail Federation, which represents the retail industry, immediately sent out a press release applauding the move. As mentioned above, retailers have a lot riding on passage of TPP; remember that their profits and long-term outlook depends upon it.

“Today’s vote on trade promotion authority will grant Congress new powers and responsibilities to craft and monitor our 21st century trade policy, and aid our trade representatives as they work to negotiate pending and future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” the NRF statement said.

Up next is a senate version of the bill. They could include language that allows for Congress to give input on the component policies within trade agreements, including TPP. That might help protect consumer and local environmental laws. We’ll have to keep an eye on how things progress in D.C.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Get informed about TPP by checking out the USTR website HERE

And the Sierra Club SITE

And here is the TPP draft pages from WIKILEAKS


Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW, is an editor and writer with over 20 years of journalism experience. He is also a social worker and a community educator and organizer, and a Desert Storm combat veteran.

Become a Water Board Commissioner for Kingston’s Water Department.


By Rebecca Martin

To be considered as a Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:

  1. Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: cwilliams@kingston-ny.gov by April 30th, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
  2. The term is five years.
  3. You must be a city resident or business person.
  4. Please let us know that you have applied by contacting KingstonCitizens.org at Rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

On May 31st 2015, Water Board Commissioner Al Radel’s term will expire. Radel has served as a Commissioner on the Water Board now for 15 years, which is three terms. We appreciate his service.

That means, that a spot is opening up – and we are hoping that citizens who are interested in serving will step up.

The Mayor of Kingston appoints citizens (and business persons) to most Commissions/Boards/Councils in Kingston. Recently, we reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out what the process was. You know how fast we move around here, and after the second request without getting information, we decided to lay out our questions in a PETITION to give the public a chance to weigh in. That petition is live now, so have a look, consider signing it and leave a comment.

The questions were simple.

KingstonCitizens.org requests that Mayor Shayne Gallo require Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen to:

  1. Make both the description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s role and length of term visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.
  2. Make all of the current members of the Board of Water Commissioners biographies and length of service to date visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.

Furthermore, that:

  1. The City of Kingston’s Mayor, who appoints Board of Water Commissioners, publish a public notice in a timely fashion announcing its search for new candidates for the upcoming term. This announcement should include a description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s expected role; preferred experience / qualifications for candidates; contact info and deadline for submissions; and the term length.

Yesterday, we heard from Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen who responded:

“The Mayor asked that I contact you to let you know that appointments to the Board of Water Commissioners are made by the Mayor and that if you have anyone that would like to be considered for the position, they should submit their CV to him via the City Clerk’s Office.  Neither the Board nor any employee of the Water Department, including the Superintendent has any role in or input into the selection process.”

Not much in the way of answering our questions. Then later, we heard directly from Mayor Gallo’s office:

“This is in reply to your inquiry about how vacancies and/or appointments are made to the Board of Water Commissioners or any other City board or Commission. Be advised the following process has been used since the City Charter has been adopted: Any interested City resident and/or business person may apply for consideration to any City Board and/or Commission by providing a letter of interest with a resume and background information and/or curriculum vitae of said individual. The interested party should submit the above to the City Clerk’s Office.  Upon receipt, the letter of interest shall will forwarded to my office for review and consideration.   If you know of an interested City resident who would like to be considered for appointment to the Board of Water Commissioners and/or other City boards and commissions, please share the above information with them. Thank you for your interest.”

The points unanswered at least expose something critical.  We have some information on the process, but nothing that we didn’t already know.

So why can’t the City of Kingston provide a description of a Water Board Commissioner? Or nail down their term? Or share their biographies and experience so that we know who is at the helm of our water supply? Or put out a notice in the papers to residents with a deadline for their response?

As we are entering into an election cycle, we will take these things up again at an appropriate time.  We intend to advocate for Kingston to overhaul it’s city charter at a future date.

Until then:

To be considered as a new Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:

  1. Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: cwilliams@kingston-ny.gov by April 3oth, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
  2. The term is five years.
  3. You must be a city resident or business person.
  4. Please let us know that you have applied by contacting KingstonCitizens.org at Rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 1/22/15 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster (ToU) Town Board will meet on Thursday, January 22nd at 7:00pm.

It was REPORTED that the new deadline for the Chazen Companies to submit a draft scoping document for Niagara was to occur on 1/22/15 which is tomorrow. Although at the last ToU Town Board Meeting Supervisor Quigley stated “We have no notice from Chazen of a delivery date of the scoping document” (VIEW the recorded meeting that starts at 30:15) the public anticipates tomorrow as a deadline as there hasn’t been any formal communication otherwise.

The ToU has released tomorrow evenings AGENDA where nothing regarding Niagara is noted. That doesn’t mean that it will not be added sometime tomorrow, and we will keep you updated.

According to the SEQR TIMELINE  that the Town of Ulster posted on their website, it states that the ‘Projected publication date of the draft scoping document‘ was to be December 22nd and that the date “May be extended by Town Board Resolution“.  That did not occur last month.  We are hoping to learn the Board’s course of action tomorrow evening in this regard.

As a reminder, the public may speak at the front of the meeting on matters that are on the agenda, and then allotted time at the end of the meeting to speak on anything else. If Niagara is not on the agenda, be prepared to step up to the podium when Supervisor Quigley invites the public to address the board later in the evening. Their meetings run on time, and are brief – so if you intend to come, place be prompt.


WHAT TO REQUEST?   A draft scoping document IS submitted:

1. 60 Day Public Comment Period

Last December, KingstonCitizens.org generated a letter to the Town of Ulster as lead agency requesting a total of 60 days for public input during the public portion of the scoping process. This was due in part to the process start date being December 22nd – January 22nd and in the midst of three major holidays.

As the date was reported to be moved to January 22nd, giving The Chazen Company a total of 60 days to deliver their scoping document.

The public, in turn, wishes for the same courtesy.

In addition, for as long as it takes The Chazen Companies to deliver their draft, the public will request the same amount of time.


2. Additional Hearings/Locations to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope

Because the proposed project is a complex and multifaceted one that has the potential to impact multiple communities and environmental resources, the public should ask the Town of Ulster to consider more than one public hearing on the scoping document to include locations in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties. Additional time and hearing locations in communities that will be potentially impacted would allow for greater public participation and input on the proposed environmental review laid out in the applicant’s draft scope.

FOLLOW:  SEQR Pos Dec Review Timeline on Facebook.

WHAT TO REQUEST?   If a draft scoping document IS NOT submitted:

1. That the Town Board Initiate and Pass a Resolution on Submission of Draft Scoping Document for the Amended SEQR Timeline.

In the SEQR Timeline that the ToU posted on their website, it states that the ‘Projected publication date of the draft scoping document‘ was to be December 22nd and that the date “May be extended by Town Board Resolution“.  The Town Board did not do so to extend the change in December to January. Request that the ToU be transparent and follow their own protocol so that the public has the information that it needs to continue to track this process.


We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length and to please show respect to municipalities where you are a visitor.

Town of Ulster meetings are generally audio taped, however we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.




Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting

Thursday, January 22nd, 2014

Town of Ulster Town Hall
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

Click on this LINK 

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 11/20/14 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster Town Board will meet on Thursday, November 20th at 7:00pm.   Scheduled to occur that evening is the Town of Ulster Town Board to give final approval of itself as being “Lead Agency” in the proposed Niagara Bottling Company SEQR process.

The public is invited. Public comment on any matters will be made available following “Old Business” at the end of the evening. We expect that to occur between 8:00pm – 8:30pm, though it may be later.   Please see Supervisor James Quigleys’ note below.
We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length. Please show respect to municipalities that you are visiting.

Here are several posts to research that will help you to create your 3 minute speech so to hit key points that evening.

On a Positive Declaration in SEQR.

Why the City of Kingston should be an Involved Agency.

Insightful letter to the DEC from Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber.

Their meetings are always audio taped by the Town and we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.



Town of Ulster Town Board
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Town of Ulster Town Hall

Click on this LINK


As per Supervisor James Quigley regarding this month’s meeting:

“A DRAFT AGENDA will be posted Tuesday morning (we have linked it above) and is subject to change. There are no items currently listed on the Agenda related to Niagara Bottling. I am awaiting the Resolutions from Counsel prior to place the item on the Agenda. A Revised Agenda will be posted as soon as possible. There are two opportunities for the Public to speak during the meeting. In the beginning Statements may be made on Agenda Items. At the end of the meeting is Public Comment for any and all topics. Remember these are times for the Public to make statements to the Board not enter into a debate with the Town Board.  Anyone who wishes will be able to address the Board during these periods. Comments are limited to three minutes per speaker and there is no yielding time to other speakers.”


The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee Meeting 9/18/14

Attached is the recent Comprehensive Steering Committee meeting held at Kingston’s City Hall led by Consultant Shuster Associates. A new 85 page Comprehensive Plan draft was distributed to the committee (according to some, about a week ago). It is not available at this time for the public.

The Steering Committee is now set to read the document and make new comments by October 3rd. Shuster Associates hope to pass off a final pass to the Committee to present to the public by years end.

As Deb Brown (Ward 9 Alderwoman) is the Liaison from the Common Council to both the CP Steering and Zoning Committee, it is reasonable to request that any interested public have access to the draft plan to review accessibly on the City of Kingston’s website.

We’ll be updating this page to highlight important moments for the public.

Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Filmed by Kingston News.

@ 33:05
Alderman at Large James Noble: Any other questions? If not…
Emilie Hauser: Is there public comment?
AAL James Noble: Public comment?

KingstonCitizens.org Hosts Public Educational Forum and Discussion on City Administrator and City Manager Forms of Government on Tuesday, March 25th.


KingstonCitizens.org will host a public educational forum and discussion on “City Administrator and City Manager Forms of Government” on Tuesday, March 25th at the Kingston Public Library 55 Franklin Street, in Kingston NY from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.  Panel guests include Meredith Robson, City Administrator of the City of Beacon, NY and Chuck Strome, City Manager of New Rochelle, NY. 

Kingston, NY –  For the past twenty years, the city of Kingston, NY has what is known as a ‘Strong Mayor’ form of government, where a mayor is elected into office based on popular vote to manage the city’s $36+ million dollar budget, departments, committees, commissions and an aging citywide infrastructure.

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present a public educational forum and discussion on two alternative forms of government titled “City Administrator and City Manager Forms of Government” on Tuesday, March 25th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY. All are welcome to attend.

Guest panelists include Meredith Robson, City Administrator of the City of Beacon and Chuck Strome, City Manager of New Rochelle, NY to discuss their roles and relationships with the public and elected officials.

The evening will be co-moderated by Rebecca Martin, founder of KingstonCitizens.org and former Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust and Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Principal at Hone Strategic, LLC and the former Deputy Director of Planning at Ulster County.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at: rebbytunes@earthlink.net

Our Panelists

Meredith Robson, City of Beacon Administrator:   Meredith Robson has served in a variety of governmental positions for over 26 years.  She has served in all levels of government, except County government, and her career has spanned three states.  She is currently the City Administrator for the City of Beacon. Ms. Robson has been very active in professional associations throughout her career, including serving on the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials Executive Committee and in her current roles as President of the New York City/County Management Association and Northeast Regional Vice President for the International City/County Management Association. Ms. Robson is an ICMA Credentialed Manager and has a Bachelor of Science from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  She has participated in numerous professional development programs, including the following leadership training opportunities:  Wallkill Valley Community Leadership Alliance, Leadership Greater Waterbury and Pace University Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program.

Chuck Strome, New Rochelle, NY City Manager On November 12, 2002, the City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Charles B. “Chuck” Strome, III as City Manager. Mr. Strome served as Acting City Manager since March 2002 and as Deputy City Manager since 1995. Prior to that, he served as Director of Emergency Services from 1989 through 1992, and then became Assistant City Manager / City Coordinator. 

Mr. Strome has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and a Masters of Public Administration-Government from Pace University. 

Before joining government, Mr. Strome held positions at Hudson Westchester Radio where he was News Director, Vice President, and Program Director. 

Mr. Strome is a member of the International City Managers’ Association, and former president of the New York State City / County Managers Association. He is also past President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Municipal Administrators Association of Metropolitan New York.

Our Moderators

About KingstonCitizens.org: KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on relevant and current issues about Kingston, N.Y and working to foster transparent communication by encouraging growing citizen participation.  The founder of KC.org and evening co-moderator Rebecca Martin is a world renowned and critically acclaimed musician who has 25 years of experience as a manager, community organizer and activist.

About Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Principal at Hone Strategic, LLC:  Berky, the evening’s co-moderator, has over 25 twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, conservation, economic development, and urban planning in the non-profit, government, academic and private sectors. Prior to launching Hone Strategic, she served as Deputy Director of Ulster County Planning for over seven years, where she was the lead researcher and liaison to the Ulster County Charter Commission. Before moving to Ulster County, she worked in Washington, DC at the World Bank and Urban Institute, at the University of Rome (Italy) and as a project manager of design and construction for New York City’s major cultural institutions. Berky has lived for extended periods in Argentina, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. She earned a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning (M.Phil.) and Real Estate Development (M.S.) at Columbia University, where she is also currently completing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning on the subject of environmental economics.


MORE ON – Kingston: “Strong Mayor” or “City Manager” Form of Government?


(This piece was originally printed in the Kingston Times in August of 2013 after a flurry of firings at Kingston City Hall in Kingston, NY.  This is an edited version).


“When you find that change is constant, will you shun complacency?” – J. Harris

As a kid, I grew up in a household of ‘activists.’  That’s what my parents were called anyway. It never occurred to me then, or now, that they were anything out of the ordinary. For is it activism or ones duty to shine the light on a problem that lies inside or out of the community?

In the mill town where I am from, my father was a family doctor and my mother a nurse. Together, the two cared for generations of people who one day began to show up at an alarming rate with both common and also extremely rare types of cancers. Wanting to understand this phenomenon led my parents to the discovery of a dioxin contamination that was produced by the mill. A by-product of the bleaching process in papermaking, it’s a severe carcinogen also found in the notorious Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange. All day long, they put out a large pool of muddy dioxin-laced sludge right out in the open. Without good management regulations at that time, it was disposed of by being dumped into the rivers, buried on mountaintops and burned close by. The geography of the area made for a noxious smog that hung over the valley like an impending death sentence. But noone listened.

Years later, my hometown was later dubbed “Cancer Valley”. You’d think it to be enough to wake even the staunchest of cynics. But it wasn’t. The industry scurried about to downplay the statistics and public officials obliged. “Those damn elitist activists.” they’d say with their heads buried in the sands.

How do you get away with such a thing?

The people’s needs are simple. They want a job to best utilize their skill set, a roof over their head, food on the table and a good education for their children. With jobs scarce in most rural places, a lack of alternatives allow for easy management of a problem like this. Vocal residents were diminished by threats from their large employer to pack up and leave.   Residents without options would resort to nostalgia.  “Our town will prosper as it always has”.  Even as it slowly bled to death.

Now thirty years later, the town that I knew is barely recognizable.  The population has aged out. Young families have moved away. Generations no longer generate.  It is necessary today for mill workers to be brought in to keep the mill in business with those who haven’t a connection to the history or the spirit that once was.  The wealthy are no longer professionals. They are those who have the means to gobble up foreclosed properties to use as Section 8 housing.

A cautionary tale.

I turned out to be an artist. Things that the average person fear are just a part of ordinary life for me – and so that “fearlessness” and then a knack for organizing make for one hell of a tool chest in these times.  Four years after moving into this adopted city of mine  (and today, I’m a Kingston resident now for 12 years – the longest I’ve lived anywhere else other than my home town) and shortly after becoming a mom, I became what they call a ‘community organizer’ or ‘activist’ I suppose – and what I found was a gaping hole between the people and city hall that was downright disconcerting. Over the years and with the help of many volunteers and good souls, close to 50 initiatives both large and small to help repair that disconnect were created and diligently worked upon that would serve the public for a long time to come. Those of you who have come along for the ride for the past 8 years know what I’m speaking of.


I’ve been dismayed by recent events in Kingston.  The decisions and reactions of our mayor have disappointed me, but it’s not something I haven’t already seen in one form or another in Kingston’s recent past.  On first blush, I find my inner dialogue focused on the politicians short comings. But the truth is, that our collective lack of knowledge and resignation in how local government works is where the problem lies.

Furthermore, the people’s collective acceptance of bad behavior from those working on their behalf is mystifying. With such low expectations, what chance is there to develop and attract a greater range of talent and professionalism in high office elected positions?

Starting from the top down, Kingston has what is known as a “strong mayor” form of government. That means that whoever is elected into office essentially has full administrative authority. The people are encouraged to vote ‘across the line’ (promoting lazy voters in my estimation) and your mayor ends up navigating a $36.8 million dollar budget, a population of about 24,000 people and an entire aging citywide infrastructure.

Here’s the thing.  He or she isn’t required to have any specific qualifications for a job like this because qualifications is unconstitutional for any elected official. Did you know that? In essence,  that means that anyone at all can be your mayor, whether they are experienced in city management or not.  Think about that for a moment and try not to panic.

The city charter currently allows ‘mayor’ to appoint department heads and membership to the city’s internal committees without much or in some cases any oversight.  They might choose to cast a net to hire the most qualified candidates locally, or enlist those whose merit lies mainly in having helped them to become elected into office. As we have recently witnessed, the latter approach has led to an unprecedented number of firings.

Take a look sometime at the City of Kingston’s charter and read Article IV: Mayor “General Powers and Duties.”  The executive duties are light at best.

Compare that to municipalities with a City Manager (Oneonta, NY) or City Administrator (Beacon, NY).  Pretty astonishing don’t you think?

What would be in the public’s best interest is to have an ongoing community discussion on the choices that exist for how a city like ours could be run.

Twenty years ago for a hot minute Kingston actually had a city manager form of government. It was a hard earned effort that was forged by a group of active citizens with the support of the chamber of commerce. There is an article written by Tom Benton that the Kingston Times  published describing how it all came to light. Prior to that, the mayor’s role was considered a full time position, but with only part time pay.   More of a role had by a retiree with some clout in the community as I understand it.

City Manager wasn’t long lived here in Kingston – as  T.R. Gallo, who petitioned at the last minute to reverse the ‘City Manager’ outcome before he himself ran for mayor, strengthening its role to what it is today.

If set up correctly, a city manager could diminish the power of party politics by placing more responsibility on a larger body of elected officials and therefore, placing more control in the hands of the people.

I like that.

How about requiring those newly elected council members to take a course in civics and in Kingston government? (new school board trustees get mandatory training.) Furthermore for our council, what about term limits with a maximum of two terms? It should be a common man’s position. Like jury duty. There is no better way to learn how your local government works than by landing a role in it for a short time. If you find that you have a knack for public service?  Run for higher office.

Kingston is in the midst of rewriting its citywide Comprehensive Plan, a process that hasn’t been undertaken since 1961. They are calling it “Kingston 2025” and it’s meant to act as a road map for creating a resilient and sustainable community over the next 12 years. That’s entirely possible given the efforts of a good number of initiatives that have been underway for some time.  Kingston citizens, get in there.  Give your input and ask that once the new plan is in place, that it is looked at again for proper updates under each new executive office term. That’s every four to five years.

City government is ours and as soon as we are afraid of it, we no longer live in a democracy. What is necessary to make things run smoothly in todays climate is organization, cooperation and different points of view. Be inquisitive, stay current and together make the changes that are needed and available to us.

– Rebecca Martin


How Kingston Got It’s “Strong Mayor” Form of Government.

This image was used from the Bainbridge Voter. Click on the image to learn more.

Did you know that the City of Kingston had once adopted the City Manager form of government?

It’s on our mind these days given the current circumstances at City Hall. For such a small city, casting a net to find qualified candidates for manager who could be hired and (hopefully not, but if necessary) fired too, sounds like a very good idea.  There is much irony to the article given the events of today. Read on.

Thanks to Tom Benton and Ulster Publishing for allowing us to repost this article.

We’d like to know what you think. There are certainly pros and cons to a City Manager form of government. But there are pros and cons to a ‘Strong’ Mayor form of government too.


How Kingston got its ‘strong mayor’
Commentary/ Tom Benton
(originally printed in the KINGSTON TIMES)

This is how it actually went down, nearly 20 years ago. I should know; I was there. In fact, in a way I was caught up right in the middle of it all, though that was not my intention.

Some time around 1992, Kingston Mayor John Amarello got to thinking that the city’s charter, which hadn’t been modified since the late 1800s, could use a little updating.  Maybe it was those provisions prohibiting displays of magic and legerdemain (sleight of hand) on city streets that got him thinking, or the ones dealing with where horses could be tied up. In any event, the mayor decided that it would be useful for someone to take a look at the charter to see if some modernizing might be in order.

And so it was that he decided to create a Charter Revision Commission to tackle the task.  John — I knew him well enough to call him by his first name — approached me about acting as chairman of the committee. At the time, I was a young attorney practicing in Kingston, very much involved with various civic groups and friendly with many of the business and governmental figures in town. And best of all from the mayor’s standpoint (or so I believe now), I had no political axe to grind. I have never sought or held elective office (unless you count student council in high school) and had no aspirations to do so then. So I think the mayor felt that I would be somewhat free from the rough-and-tumble of local, partisan politics. If I may say so, they don’t get more fractious anywhere than they do in Kingston (with the possible exception of the recent debt ceiling imbroglio in Washington).

With some reservations about the time commitment it would involve, I signed on, so to speak, along with a half-dozen or so other local appointees. Significantly, one of those original members was then-alderman T. R. Gallo, who resigned from the commission after several meetings (more about that later). We set about our work at frequent evening sessions, studying the charter of Kingston along with those of other similarly sized small cities. As it happened, I was also then the president of the board of directors of the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce. Some chamber members I knew believed that the “city manager” form of local government was preferable to the traditional model, theoretically being more efficient and business-like, and they encouraged me to introduce that concept into our discussions.

A brief overview of the “city manager” form: Traditionally in the U.S., most governments, be they state, county, city, village or town, have followed the federal model, wherein three branches (executive, legislative and judicial) regulate the entity’s affairs. This structure is designed to provide checks and balances on the uses and potential abuses of power. By the beginning of the 20th century, progressives started to wonder whether all that power-balancing was really needed at the smaller and more local levels of government. Couldn’t the legislative body (city council) just hire an executive to conduct the administrative affairs of the community? After all, the council has its own internal checks and balances built in by virtue of its multiple members. It was also thought a hired executive, with specific training and expertise, would provide better and more efficient operation than might be expected from an elected mayor who, well-liked and popular though he or she might be, usually has no real training for the job.

I don’t remember the number of meetings we had, but in the course of many weeks, a consensus began to build in the direction of the “city manager” form. I believe that this was about the time Mr. Gallo bowed out. Be that as it may, after months of meetings and many hours of discussion and debate, the commission ultimately finalized a proposed revised charter for the City of Kingston, incorporating the city manager concept. This was submitted to the city for consideration and potential adoption.

During the spring and summer of 1993, the charter revision commission held a number of public information meetings throughout the city, so residents would have the opportunity to learn about the new proposal. These were well-attended and aroused great interest and passion on both sides. In due course, and in accordance with the required procedure, Kingston’s Common Council approved the submission of the proposed charter revision to the local board of elections so that it could be placed on the ballot as a referendum item to be voted on in the fall of 1993. Supporters of the measure conducted an aggressive grass-roots campaign, handing out flyers door-to-door in Kingston neighborhoods and taking out ads in local newspapers. On Election Day, the revision was approved.

Those of us who had been active in the revision process, including prominent local business figures like Frank Bailey, George Hutton, George Bell and others, were celebratory. But it should be admitted that there was no certainty about how well the “city manager” form of government would work in Kingston. The “city manager” form had been quite successful in some cities — Austin, Texas, for example — but arguably less so in others. And the work of transition still lay ahead, as the new charter structure was to take effect in January 1995.

As it happened, the 1993 vote also brought about the defeat of the incumbent Republican mayor, John Amarello, by the Democratic candidate, T.R. Gallo. It was no secret that T.R. had long dreamed of becoming Kingston’s mayor. His late father was a fixture in Kingston politics two decades earlier. The new charter preserved the office of mayor, but significantly reduced his or her official duties and authority to what might fairly be characterized as “ribbon-cutter in chief.” This was far from what the newly elected mayor had envisioned for himself.

After a few weeks, then-alderman-at-large, James Sottile, responsibly formed an ad hoc committee to work on the transition process and to begin the search for a city manager.  Because of my past involvement with the new charter, I was invited to participate in that group as a citizen member at meetings throughout the winter of 1993-94. Some time in the spring, word began circulating in Kingston about a new proposal which would supplant the recently adopted city manager charter by providing for a so-called “strong mayor” — an elected mayor with greater authority than is traditionally found. The document itself soon surfaced as Mayor Gallo began a public petition campaign to place the new charter revision proposal on the 1994 ballot as a referendum item.

To place a referendum on the ballot (an alternative to the mayoral commission procedure) requires the signatures of certain percentage of the affected voting public. Even for a mayor as popular as T.R. Gallo, this was a large undertaking, particularly in the turbulent wake of the previous year and a half of charter debates. As for the proposal itself, it was rather ingeniously constructed by taking the newly adopted charter and merely replacing the words “city manager” with “mayor” throughout. There were some other modifications, of course, but that was the essence of it. And here was the effect: Under the adopted charter, the city manager was given very broad and powerful executive authority, the governmental check on that authority being control and supervision by the Common Council. Under the new proposal, an elected mayor would have the same broad authority, but would be entirely free from any such control or supervision by the council. Strong mayor, indeed!

By late August, it appeared that the petition campaign would fall short of the required number of signatures. With time was running out to meet the filing deadline for the fall vote, Mayor Gallo hastily created a his own charter revision commission, whose appointed members immediately adopted the new “strong mayor” proposal without discussion or debate. A single public information meeting (a half-hour in duration) was held a few days later at City Hall and in short order, the “strong mayor” charter was submitted to the board of elections for placement on the ballot. As I recall, all of this took place in the space of less than two weeks.

With Election Day looming, there ensued an intense period of public debate and a visible war of lawn signs. Things took a turn toward the uncivil. At a public information meeting sponsored by The League of Women Voters, I was loudly and aggressively heckled throughout my presentation by a small group of partisans. Such was the tone and tenor of the time.

Many Kingstonians will remember the outcome. In one of the largest voter turnouts in city history, the “strong mayor” charter revision was passed into law. Although the margin of victory was narrow (around a hundred votes, as I recollect), the city manager charter adopted a year earlier was consigned to history without ever having been tried and the era of the strong mayor was ushered in.

Disappointed as some of us were, we all moved on. But the city manager issue has recently resurfaced in comments by some Kingston mayoral candidates.  Knowledge of historical precedent can be instructive, so perhaps the foregoing will be useful to some. For others, it might merely be an interesting story.  I do note that the county has recently changed to an “executive” structure. If Kingston does decide to revisit the city manager concept, it is hoped that the residents display the political will to give it a fair chance the second time around.

Tom Benton is a retired attorney who owns and operates the Tom Benton School of Music in Woodstock.

Cool Communication – The Town of Ulster

Have you checked out how impressive the Town of Ulster’s website is?  They’ve created a site that is easy and clear in its design and navigaton, making it simple to get important, up-to-date information. It offers timely agendas and minutes from each meeting and you can subscribe to the site and receive frequent updates on the weeks meetings/events/public hearings.

Check it out: Town of Ulster Website

Kudos to the Supervisor and his crew. 

City of Kingston, let’s follow their lead here. How hard can it be?

The Economic Power of Open Space

The Rondout.

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz

As you may have read, a recent study revealed that open space in the nearby Shawangunks — Minnewaska, Sam’s Point and Mohonk preserves — feeds over $12 million to the local economy each year. The money comes from the 392,000 or so annual visitors to these areas. This spotlights an important trend: open space has value.

Read more…

Seed Money for Parks

The dusk sky at Hasbrouck Park.

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz

The spat between the mayor and lawmakers over spending money on a gazebo at T.R. Gallo Park in the Rondout, as reported by the Daily Freeman today, can be easily resolved.

According to the Freeman, Mayor James Sottile is miffed over a decision by the Finance/Economic Development Committee to table — for a second time — his $4,000 request for installing the gazebo.

Read more…

Meeting Agenda: Finance Economic Development Committee

Today, I received the agenda for the Finance Economic Development committee from Ward 1 Alderman Andi Turco-Levin (who also has a seat on this committee).

The meeting takes place tomorrow. The agenda link is posted below for any citizens interested in participating.

Click HERE to get to the meeting calendar on the City of Kingston’s website


PART TWO: Council Majority Leader State of the City Report

Ward 7 Alderman and Majority Leader Bill Reynolds.  Below is his state of the city report read on April 6th, 2010. If you have any thoughts or feedback, please use the Ward 7 Yahoo! Group that Alderman Reynolds is a member of.

Public service is an honor for anyone privileged enough to have been chosen by the voters to represent them.  The aldermen here tonight together in this great room with Alderman-at-Large Noble and officials who work in an appointed capacity have lately been particularly honored by the public to serve, because we were elected in the midst of what many are calling the Great Recession.  The voters chose us to do the hard work for them, and to do the best we can on their behalf.

That is why I am here to tell the people of Kingston that – we hear you.  We understand your fears and concerns.   And we will continue to listen to you because we who sit at these desks every month to make new laws and pass budgets don’t have all the answers.  We need your help and your input to make Kingston a better place.

Times have been tough, for sure, and they will continue to be difficult for the remainder of the year.  We are committed to keeping a sharp eye on the bottom line and to make the best use of taxpayer dollars – and we are prepared to make the tough decisions required to keep living and doing business in Kingston as affordable as possible. We are walking a tightrope for sure – but as long as we remain steady and as long as we keep our heads up, we will make it through this recession.

So, let’s focus on the challenges we face:

We need to rectify the safety net inequity that Kingston shoulders.

We need to continue to hold the line on property taxes and ensure that taxpayers are being assessed equitably. Bearing that in mind, we urge the school district to do the same – a 12 percent school tax increase is unsustainable.

On the heels of the ongoing success of the URGENT task force, we signal our support for the new block-by-block sweep program designed to clean up bad influences that pollute and destroy homes and neighborhoods.

We need to focus on getting our act together now, ahead of an economic upturn, by re-focusing on the basics: cleaning up the city, cracking down on crime and blight, and cutting back on a cost structure that’s outgrown our ability to pay for it.

We must continue to focus on the inequity of our “homestead/non-homestead” tax policy, which is steadily eroding the city’s commercial tax base and private-sector job market.  That being said, the immediate source of distress for many taxpayers has been the property revaluation process that was first conducted in 2008. While serious flaws and inequities were apparent in the results produced so far, this is a problem that can and will be corrected with a new revaluation.

Speaking of inequities, we had to learn quite by accident that Kingston was paying social services costs for people not living in Kingston.  And, while we look forward to the mayor working together with the county administration to be sure the city is reimbursed for lost taxpayer dollars, we remain committed to auditing future claims, and will work together with the city and county comptroller as this process unfolds.

This is terribly important, given the cost – $1.2 million in safety net spending this year, up from $400,000 seven years ago. Not only do we take in the county’s disadvantaged, we take on the entire local portion of the bill.

We remain committed to sustaining an infrastructure that up until recently seemed to be crumbling every week.  And, though we have allocated substantial sums to guard against infrastructure decay, we will continue to be sure our infrastructure meets our basic needs.

Bankruptcy is not an option for Kingston, for a whole host of reasons not the least of which such a move would require state legislative action and, quite frankly, you have to be bankrupt after all to declare bankruptcy. Kingston is still well below its tax and bonding limit, although by no means are we in a position to brag about such a thing.  But to declare bankruptcy, as I have said publicly, would be equal to raising the white flag.

That said, the financial situation we face remains serious. Correcting it will depend on how we approach labor contract negotiations.  And while we are pleased two out of three of our unions provided give backs for the 2010 year, we may still need to work with them to be sure we’ll be able to provide required services to the people while holding the line on taxes as we work to assemble a 2011 budget. The mayor has indicated he will include members of the Common Council in discussions and negotiations with the three unions.  That’s the right approach.

Some of the things we could look for would include new flexibility in the way departments are staffed and job responsibilities defined, with a particular emphasis on putting more police officers on the street at critical times each day, and cross-training more firefighters to act as building-code enforcement teams during otherwise idle periods.  We will need to look at realistic contributions by employees toward their health-care plans, recognizing that we must work together to reduce costs.  We just received word, for example, that the premium increase for the Empire Plan for 2011 may be more than 13 percent.

This is not a happy or uplifting speech, I know, but there are times that require us to set aside happy talk and speak to stark reality.  That also means making the hard decisions.  When you say you want to cut costs, you have to mean what you say and follow through on your words.  Cutting costs isn’t easy and it isn’t painless.  You have to back up your words with action, otherwise the things you say and the promises you make will sound hollow and broken.

That isn’t to say I’m not optimistic about this city’s future.  I have always and remain very optimistic that Kingston will one day reach its full potential.  When the cost cutting is over, we will need not only to streamline government but aggressively market this city so we can continue to brag about it being one of the top art destinations in the country, as not only one of the more affordable places to live in the region, but a place where several types of architecture:  beginning with stone houses, through all the great design eras – all exist in one place. We need to continue to show the world what sets Kingston apart from so many other places in the region.

We will work together with a vibrant group of citizens organizations such as the nascent Kingston Digital Corridor, KingstonCitizens.org, Friends of Historic Kingston, the Business Association of Kingston, ASK, the Neighborhood Watch group, and KURA just to name a few.  We were happy to listen to and work together with our business groups in establishing the Main Street Manager, embodied by Nancy Donskoj who has done an excellent job showcasing our city’s assets and opportunities.

I am convinced that with the right combination of marketing and a more sensible tax structure we’ll be able to move this economy forward.  We have some way to go for sure, but Kingston has been through tough times before.  We’ll get through the Great Recession and be stronger and smarter when it’s over.

Thank you.

PART ONE: Council Minority Leader State of the City Report

We have created a two part posting to share both the majority and minority leaders state of the city reports for citizens who were not present this evening.

We’ll begin with minority leader  and Ward 1 Adlerman Andi Turco-Levin (R).  This was her state of the city address presented on Tuesday, April 6th 2010. If you have any thoughts or feedback, please visit the Ward 1 Yahoo! Group where Alderman Turco-Levin is a member.


–  Rebecca Martin

Minority Leader’s Report 2010  Efficiency and Planning

Mr. President, my fellow Council Members, and to all of you here tonight, we want to thank you for this opportunity to share our hopes, visions, and recommendations on how we can move our City forward.

Let’s also take a moment to recognize the hard work of our police and firefighters who keep us safe, to the volunteers of this City who keep our kids off the streets and out of harm’s way from gang violence and drug dealers and also to the private citizens who work to unite our communities.  A heart felt Thank You.

As you know, we are currently forging through very difficult times, not only from an economic point of view but from a quality of life standpoint.  What I hope to outline here tonight is a way for us to recognize how we got here, what we can do to prevent us from continuing in the same direction, and what we can do in order to steer our City towards growth and economic stability.  As with any journey, a roadmap is the key for success.  It outlines boundaries, and allows you to navigate a course to reach your final destination.  We have no roadmap.  The fact that Kingston has not had a complete comprehensive plan done since the 1980’s is evidence.  From one side we wish to welcome development, yet we get mired down with variables leading to lengthy delays, then ultimately leaving us with nothing as the end result.

From the former uptown parking garage to the scarred waterfront once with promise of the Noah Hotel, now a vacant lot collecting graffiti and trash.  Had a long range plan been in place for the City of Kingston some of those hurdles may have been avoided and the outcome much different from what we have today including more super sized drug store chains.

Getting through difficult issues on a day to day basis is not working.

This approach is not successful in life, and it doesn’t work in government either.  Shortsighted planning has no benefit, especially for the future of our City and what we leave to the next generation of our children who we hope can stay here, earn a living and raise their families too.  It affects every aspect of our City’s well being.

It seems obvious that many of our City’s woes stem from the erosion of our tax base, lack of well paying jobs and the steady decline with quality of life benefits.  To turn this trend around I believe the first line of defense would be to ask that a long range planning committee be formed in order for us to identify what is needed to create a 25 – 30 year plan on how our City grows into the next generation.  In it we can explore how we grow our business zones, protect historic districts and quaint neighborhoods, all while keeping a healthy balance, and an eye on environmental responsibility.  One of the things that people love the most about our City is our heritage, yet we do nothing to protect it, in fact it seems that even the provisions in place are not enforced.  Not only is this an important task to insure our City’s character, it is an untapped source of revenue which will strengthen our financial footing as well.  Perhaps the Economic & Finance Committee should form a task force designed to look at our City’s Codes and Laws and update them to reflect today’s living standards, incorporating ways to create revenue at the same time.  A simple permit fee to remove a shade tree could create funding for much needed sidewalk rehabilitation.  As it is now, the $250 fine when a tree is removed without a permit is not enforced…you do the math.  Simply enforcing our codes can provide a revenue stream which can help restore many of the services to our residents which seem to dissipate on a daily basis.

Part of this plan needs to include public safety for pedestrians and bicyclists which will also encourage less motor vehicle traffic in our urban areas.  This is just one of the many issues that come to mind so let’s move on to the next topic.

Fiscal Crisis:

Efficiency (and Planning) will be what pulls us through.   The current union contracts are crippling our City where ALL parties need to rethink everything from the ground up.  This may not happen until contracts are open at the end of next year, but it MUST happen.  Looking at how things are done now and how things should be done efficiently in the future, which include the merging of services has to be our plan in order to sustain the City without the unlawful burden on the taxpayers.  We ask that union leaders understand the challenges that we face with the budget process in the upcoming months.  The unity of working together is the only solution that will keep us stable.  Cooperation from every component will make the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

Other departments also need to be realigned in order to reflect tomorrow’s government model.  Economic Development needs do more than secure grant money.  Instead let’s come up with an outline on how to encourage small business with tax incentives and perhaps outline areas that could benefit from programs that attract these small businesses.   Let’s give them a reason to come here.

The last issue that we need to address is crime, quality of life, and the confidence our residents have in us to provide it for them.  Our police department works hard fighting to keep our streets safe and gang activity at bay, not an easy task.  The City needs to stay on solid ground in order for us to turn this trend around and take back our neighborhoods.  Fighting crime is important, just as important is engaging our young people early and giving them something to do instead of getting into trouble. Continually cutting programs that offer these options for them is backwards thinking.  Funding police, very important, but we also need to take steps in prevention and this is where the cuts from the Recreation Dept. become the issue.  These programs provide a safe place for them to grow, play and learn.  Cuts from this department show in the deterioration of our City Parks, their Programs, and the mental well being for all our residents young and old.

There are great things coming with new faces on our Common Council, looking at things with a new perspective for change and expecting accountability.  I also want to compliment the Mayor & the City’s Comptroller for uncovering overages in what we spend in Safety Net funding.  This action can save us millions of dollars in the future.  By working together without party lines getting in the way of progress and compromise we can hopefully turn a corner and see positive change.  We also need do a better job of letting the community know what is happening in City Government.  Let’s encourage the flow of information by setting up a Kingston311.com information website.  It’s based on NYC’s information hotline where residents can ask questions on things ranging from City Codes to Recycling Schedules.  We don’t have the funding for a hotline, but a website with vital information would be a welcome resource for our Citizens without much cost and could even become a source of income in the future.

In summary, we need to look at the Big Picture from top to bottom and re-think how things are done with a long range plan.  Without it we have nothing, no public safety, no funding for police and fire,  no infrastructure, no technology, no youth programs, no business…All of these components lay the foundation for economic stability ending our financial crisis.  Planning and Efficiency is our mantra.  If done right we will see a stronger community with less spending, more revenue which ultimately leads to lower taxes.   We will have a City which offers quality of life for its residents, economic strength for our businesses, and a solid and affordable education for our children.

We look forward to working with all members of the Council and Administration towards this goal.   The city of Kingston is the Jewel of the Hudson.  Let’s put some polish on her and make her shine.

Thank you.

Respectfully Submitted,

Andi Turco-Levin

Minority Leader

Alderwoman Ward 1