Part Two: Q & A with Ward 5’s Jennifer Fuentes

As a new alderman to the Kingston Common Council, Ward 5’s Jennifer Fuentes agrees that Kingston faces many hurdles – especially in regard to the economy, but the city has many attractable assets that could work in Kingston’s favor.

The city’s proximity to New York City and Albany can be leveraged with these assets to market Kingston to the business community.

Fuentes took time with to discuss these issues. This is part two of a three-part series of interviews with freshman common council members.

-Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Ward 5 Alderman Jennifer Fuentes

AZ: What do you see as the top, long-term challenges facing the City of Kingston?

JF: As an upstate city in New York, Kingston leaders must rebuild our economy to create quality jobs that can sustain our middle class. Too many residents struggle to scrape together a living at wages that do not reflect the actual costs of living.  This problem of underemployment/unemployment, multiple jobs to make ends meet and contingent work drains the quality of family and neighborhood life. For the City of Kingston this means smaller tax revenues to provide the services our residents need and fewer businesses that can compete in this environment.

The top county employers are the public sector (Education, County, State, and City) and health care (heavily taxpayer subsidized), but with declining tax revenues we are likely to see future cuts to this workforce. This problem must be resolved thoughtfully because finding few opportunities, our young people are leaving the area, draining our talent pool.

AZ: Despite the challenges, Kingston is often described as a “vibrant city” that has much potential. Do you agree? What are some of the city’s most promising opportunities?

JF: Kingston is a unique community that has many great things to offer. There is something here for everyone from the arts and culture, history, waterfront access, and outstanding parks and recreation. Clearly, we must do a better job marketing our assets and promoting tourism as one component of a healthy economy. Hiring a Main Street Manager is a step in the right direction that should be supported and fully funded. Our proximity to Albany and NYC, access to the NYS Thruway, and Business Park are also an asset that can be marketed to attract jobs. The Solar Consortium offers exciting prospects in technology and manufacturing. However, both tourism and green technology will offer no panacea to the challenges we face unless we promote the creation of good jobs that provide benefits and sustainable wages.

What I love best about Kingston right now is the indoor winter toddler park at the Andy Murphy/Mid-town Neighborhood Center. Once the weather breaks, my son and I will be visiting the Forsyth Park almost daily. We have outstanding Parks and Recreation programs in the City of Kingston that I think too many of us take for granted. It serves many families and our seniors with day camps, drop in centers, organized trips, educational programs, etc. Even for a city our size to have a YMCA/YWCA is very fortunate – note that our neighbor, the City of Poughkeepsie, has lost theirs. These are all opportunities that are low cost to no cost that we should be proud of. Additionally, so much work is being done to improve our waterfront and increase pedestrian and boat traffic, that there will be even more promising opportunities on the horizon. The quality of life that is offered by our community is outstanding for a community our size.

We should embrace our location as a mid-point to Albany and NYC and better promote Kingston within the context of a regional Hudson Valley economy. That means coordinating marketing and economic development efforts between adjacent communities and counties. The reality of living in the Hudson Valley is that many workers must commute to find work and bedroom communities are scattered throughout. A recent study showed upwards of one-third of our workforce leaves Ulster County for employment. Kingston maintains small town charm in a city environment with access to comprehensive city services such as sanitation, professional police and fire services, two hospitals, and good schools.

AZ: Some residents have expressed a need for Kingston to file for bankruptcy as a way to get some fiscal breathing room and allow contracts to be renegotiated. Do you support such a move? Why or why not?

JF: With all due respect to the authors of the bankruptcy proposal, I disagree with the premise that bankruptcy is a viable option. The city is not near our borrowing capacity and maintains a relatively favorable credit rating; overall a sound financial position for a community of our size and upstate location. It is unlikely that the state would agree to assume our liabilities given our financial outlook. We also would be damaging our ability to plan for future needs, such as revitalizing the mid-town corridor and upgrading our aging infrastructure. A bankruptcy would mean our credit (and reputation) is destroyed.

While it is true that employee wages and benefits consumes three-fourths of our budget, this is the nature of government as a service providing institution. Most of what we do is perform services which are labor intensive. It is my opinion that sometimes our employment contracts are used as an excuse to avoid issues. A leaner government will mean creative problem solving for all of us and I don’t believe that approach has been fully capitalized on. Employee relations have become entirely too political and sensationalized in the media. Our workforce as a whole does an incredible job with fewer resources than ever and deserves our praise. Many of these employees live in the City of Kingston and contribute to our quality of life off the job as taxpayers, homeowners, coaches, volunteers, and good neighbors. Each contract should be renegotiated in the next few years with an eye towards fairness for the employees who are doing more with less and a recognition that our tax base is declining.

AZ: Residents have expressed publicly and privately that your election into office reflects a need for new thinking and new perspectives in city government. Do you agree with this? If yes, how do you implement some of that fresh perspective?

JF: It is always important to allow for new ideas and voices to enter our policymaking dialog. As a new councilmember I will always strive to bring transparency and openness to the process of the Common Council. I will begin holding monthly Ward meetings to better solicit input and ideas from the residents of the 5th Ward beginning in February.

AZ: Could you list three of the best reasons to live and work in Kingston?

JF: The eclectic mix of people that live here and charm of our historic neighborhoods.

It is also important for me to live somewhere where I can walk to the park, to the gym, to church, to the convenience store and my location offers many opportunities.

I appreciate the many great parks and recreation activities for my family and close proximity to natural areas.  This is a great community to raise a family.

Part One: Q & A with Ward 1’s Andi Turco-Levin

* Dear Readers – This is the first of a three part series written by Arthur Zaczkiewicz. Here, he will spotlight each of the three new Alderman candidates who took a seat on the council in January, 2010. Enjoy his insightful piece on Ward 1’s Alderman Andi Turco-Levin. Ward 9’s Hayes Clement and Ward 5’s Jennifer Fuentes will be posted shortly.

– RM

Ward 1 Alderwoman Andi Turco-Levin

Andi Turco-Levin, freshly in office as alderman for Ward 1, is no stranger to the challenges that face Kingston. As an associate broker at a local real estate office, Turco-Levin has first-hand knowledge of the local market and how macro-economic issues are impacting it.
Turco-Levin, who also serves as 2010 president of Ulster County Board of Realtors and authors a blog on local issues, took some time to share her vision of Kingston with
-Arthur Zaczkiewicz

AZ: What do you see as the top, long-term challenges facing the City of Kingston?

AT-L: First of all we need to figure out how to overcome the financial hurdles that we face. It is a complex problem that has more than one answer. Most of all we need to build our tax base by creating a City that offers economic opportunity, a safe and clean environment for its citizens and a quality education for their children. The challenges we face are how to do it. I truly believe that part of the problem is that we have been reactive instead of being proactive in our long range plans for development. From contract bargaining with unions to designing a comprehensive plan to build both neighborhoods and business districts, without looking at the long range outcome we all suffer terribly.  With that said, the City of Kingston needs to overcome its reputation of being dirty, crime ridden and a city that ‘used to be beautiful’.

AZ: Despite the challenges, Kingston is often described as a “vibrant city” that has much potential. Do you agree? What are some of the city’s most promising opportunities?

AT-L: Absolutely! Kingston has so much to offer in many ways. Using Williamsburg, Va. as an example on how history can become an attraction and destination.  Another plus is the architecture here. With so many neighborhoods intact with rows of Victorian homes we can promote ourselves to historic home buffs if we can try to revamp some of these old neighborhoods again. Of course, our waterfront is the crown jewel of it all. The development of that area is also key to us becoming a tourist destination. One other asset we have is a growing group of residents who offer diversity from the arts to small business entrepreneurs who will help rebuild our economic engine. Again, we need to look into a long term plan for our future, without a road map we will be lost.

AZ: Some residents have expressed a need for Kingston to file for bankruptcy as a way to get some fiscal breathing room and allow contracts to be renegotiated. Do you support such a move? Why or why not?

AT-L: Most contracts will be up in 2012 and I have said it before and I will say it again…we need to start from scratch on the next round of contract discussions.  From what I can tell, in the past Common Council members were not able to participate or comment on the negotiation process and the contracts were given to them at the end of the process to approve. I have had discussions with Chairman Landi of the Finance Committee to be sure that some Council members will indeed be included in the process next time around when the contracts are negotiated. Filing for bankruptcy would have to be the last resort for the City as we would give up so much more control in the long run on how we regain our footing…quite frankly the State is not in the best financial shape either so I’m not certain turning things over to them would be the end of our problems!

AZ: Residents have expressed publicly and privately that your election into office reflects a need for new thinking and new perspectives in city government. Do you agree with this? If yes, how do you implement some of that fresh perspective?

AT-L: I do agree that many Kingston residents are unhappy with the direction that we are going. Rising taxes are a burden to many who live here, especially for seniors who are on a fixed income and for our commercial property owners so we need to all work together to find solutions.

There are two things I wish to focus on while serving on the Common Council. The first one is to encourage residents in the community to get involved.  I have already scheduled our first Ward 1 Citizens meeting to take place on February 27th and hope to have them on a regular basis every 2 to 3 months. I also hope that my fellow Aldermen will become more active in keeping their community up to date with information on things including educating their constituents to the changes that are being discussed such as garbage collection, recycling, leaf bagging and other issues.
The other thing I want to be sure to have is open lines of communication, be it between other Council Members, the Mayor’s office, and the supporting offices that make up our government. I want to be sure that our City residents know we are there working hard and watching out for them.

AZ:  Could you list three of the best reasons to live and work in Kingston?

1.  The natural beauty of our environment along with the proximity to New York City
2.  The charm and convenience of living in a small city
3.  The interesting people who choose to call this City home.

Alderman Information Updated at

As most know, what we thrive on here at is to encourage and nurture the ongoing communications between our elected Alderman and the constituents, AKA Kingston citizens!

With three new Alderman in place (Wards 1, 5 and 9) and the reorganization of committees by Council President Jim Noble, we have updated our site to make being in contact a cinch.

Visit KINGSTONCITIZENS.ORG and click on any of the Wards of interest.  You can become a member (or just follow along) of any of the Ward Yahoo! discussion groups. Most Alderman are members of theirs –  making it simple to ask a question or express an idea specific to your Ward in the company of other members/neighbors.

You can find all nine Yahoo! Groups at the top of this page, right hand side bar or by visiting

Take advantage of this tool. was created to help inspire real change through organization and communication from the ground up.

Please give us a holler if there are any bits of information we might have missed.

Here’s to a new year of better communication and government transparency.

– Rebecca Martin

Citizens Unite

I had the pleasure to take part in the audience of the Adlermanic event this evening at 721 Media. Almost all of the candidates (all but three, Shirley Whilock a democratic running in Ward four, Mike Gill a republican running in ward seven and Todd Langon a republican running in ward eight) were present in a well organized, effective discussion on some of the most pressing issues in the city of Kingston.

The mix of new and old candidates really brought home a feeling that was quite refreshing. I was reminded in this forum that everyone up there were just ordinary people wishing to do a public service  and certainly, did not have many (if any) of the answers to the problems that we face.

Thing is, there can be no solutions without more citizens productively involved.

So how do we bridge this gap? Most all were as stumped by the questions as the audience who asked them. The old rhetoric in these unprecedented times are about as meaningful as a lie.

I’d like to suggest that the citizens lobby and ask their newly elected Alderman in November to call monthly meetings in their wards to work to bring together the constituents to discuss all that’s on the table. They want input on the budget? Than bring the budget to a productive place to discuss the options so that we can wood shed and come to city hall public meetings and be on record in a way that is creative and meaningful.

There are citizens in Kingston who pay more in taxes than they do their mortgage payment– and they are pissed as hell about it. Who could blame them?  It’s particularly unnerving, for whatever the reasons noble or not, that our services are about to be cut though we will continue to pay for them. The city will see and use these savings elsewhere. But how does the homeowner benefit?

You could have the same discussion with those who own buildings that house important business in the city of Kingston and who are taxed higher than those who also own similar types of properties with empty store fronts and who are taxed lower.

On the subject of taxes, here’s a savings. While we operated our Ward 9 debates at City Hall, on a cool late summer night (in the 60’s)- the air conditioning was blaring making those present needing extra clothing to keep them warm. When asked to turn off the AC and to open the windows instead, we were told that the system was on a timer that only the city’s engineer could address.  I’d like to see that whole system tweeked. I can only imagine how expensive it is to cool that entire building down.

…And, alderman, let’s organize and communicate while there is still the opportunity to do so.

Citizen’s unite.


Tuesday Primaries

Are you planning to vote at tomorrow’s primary election?

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, September 15th to choose candidates that will run in November’s election.

There is a good rundown in today’s Freeman: “Tuesday Primaries will set the stage for November elections”.

There have been many questions as to why some of our candidates are not yet putting up lawn signs. Only candidates who are to be in the primary elections can post lawn signs at this time. They will all have to come down after Tuesday. All candidates running for office will post lawn signs prior to the November election.

You might also call the Board of Elections to confirm your voting location, in the case that something has changed. Their number is: (845) 334-5470. Polls are open from noon – 9:00pm.

Click on the candidates links below, when available, to learn more about their current platforms.

In Ulster County:

COUNTY JUDGE: (Vying for the Independence Party Nomination)
Rep. Donald A. Williams vs. Dem. Deborah S. Schneer

District 5 LEGISLATURE: (Vying for the Independence Party Line). Voters select 2.
Rep. Fred Wadnola vs. Dem. Brian Cahill
Rep. James Maloney has forced an opportunity-to-ballot contest for the ballot.

District 6 LEGISLATURE: (Vying for Democratic line). Voters select 2.
Dem. Jeannette Provenzano vs. Dem. Frank Dart vs. Dem. Mike Madsen

WARD 1: (opportunity to ballot, Republican line)
Andi Turco-Levin

WARD 8: (Vying for Conservative line). Voters select 1.
Dem. Robert Senor vs. Rep. Todd Langon

WARD 9: (Vying for Democratic line).
Dem. Hayes Clement vs. Dem. Mark Halwick

Saving Important Programs In These Tough Times

We are hearing a great deal about the looming budget cuts coming to the city of Kingston.  As the city looks at what seems to be a four million dollar short fall in the 2010 budget, we need to look closely at how every dollar is being spent.

I’ve read many opinions as to where citizens and the city feel the budget should be cut. But nothing much on the services that citizens cherish that are in need of protection at this most vulnerable time.

I can think of a few. Our Public Library, the programming provided by our Environmental Educators, the work of Pat Johnson through the Parks and Rec department and the Everett Hodge Center.

What do you think? Feel free to comment here. Let’s also get something going in our Ward Yahoo! Groups. You can find yours on the main page of this blog, or visit I’ll work to compile your comments and provide them to the common council and the mayors office to consider this fall.


Rebecca Martin

Ward 9 Alderman Candidates In Kingston

Kingston’s Ward 9 has a most interesting run this election cycle with three fresh candidates running for the Alderman seat.

There are nine wards and nine alderman – and each one is elected by the constituents in their ward. But each Alderman holds an important role that is not only ward centric but city wide as well, holding a seat on the city council. That means, you need to know who they all are no matter what ward you are in. (Did you know that the council, after the recent change in the charter, gives this government body more power than the city Mayor?)

We will post more on our upcoming candidates. Since Ward 9 has been deemed ‘the race to watch’, we’ll begin here.

Ward 9 candidates will debate on September 2nd at Kingston’s City Hall. Ward 9 residents can sign up to speak at 6:30pm. The debate begins at 7pm and is open to all city residents.

Ward 9 candidates, in alphabetical order:

Debbie Brown (Republican/Conservative)

Hayes Clement (Democrat/Independent)

Mark Halwick (Democrat)