Who is KingstonCitizens.org?

Recently we learned of an inquiry made by the City of Kingston Republican Committee Chair and general practice attorney, Joesph Ingarra. Apparently, he took it upon himself to write to the state Attorney General's (AG) office, requesting that they investigate KingstonCitizens.org as a Political Action Committee (PAC).  He placed his request into a press release sent to several local news outlets to "investigate and report".

Mr. Ingarra neglected to take the opportunity to reach out to us to clarify his concerns prior to his request to the AG. As a member of the legal profession, one would expect that he would understand the difference between a grass roots group and a PAC.

Here's what is true.

What is a PAC?

According to the New York State Board of Elections, A Political Action Committee (PAC) (EL 14-100(16)) means "a political committee which makes no expenditures to aid or take part in the election or defeat of a candidate or to promote the success or defeat of a ballot proposal, other than in the form of contributions, including in-kind contributions to candidates, candidate's authorized committees, party committees, constituted committees, or independent expenditure committees provided there is no common operational control between the political action committee and the independent expenditure committee; or in the form of communications that are not distributed to a general public audience. Common operational control means that the same individual or individuals exercise actual and strategic control over the day to day affairs of both the political action and the independent expenditure committees or the employees of the political action and the independent expenditure committees engage in communication-related to the strategic operations of either committee."

General PAC definitions include being  "a type of organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to a campaign for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation."

What is KingstonCitizens.org? 

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

We do our own research, relying on citizen volunteers.

We don't take sides. Setting ourselves up that way from the very beginning was deliberate, as we believe that good representatives can appear from either side of the aisles.  As our efforts are in engaging citizens, we work with everyone.

2017 Election Season.

We are in the midst of the 2017 election season locally, where what is true seems to matter less to some than it has ever before.

To be crystal clear:

  • KingstonCitizens.org is non-partisan. It does not support or endorse candidates.
  • KingstonCitizens.org is not a 501c3 or 501c4 and therefore, has no intention nor organizational infrastructure to support candidates or has a working budget of any kind.
We also don't condone bullying. Citizens shouldn't either. Therefore, we encourage you to take a moment to write to the City of Kingston Republican Chair Joseph Ingarra at jmi12401@yahoo.com to let him know how you feel about this bogus covert effort.  If you do, copy us at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org   If you have any questions, send them via email to rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org or call 845/750-7295.
UPDATE:  Hugh Reynold's column in the Kingston Times on September 7th in response to Joseph Ingarra:

Click on image to see the column, in full.

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

 

The Hijacking of a City of Kingston Social Media Site?

A recent Hudson Riverport Post on Facebook
A recent Hudson Riverport Post on Facebook

In 2015, the city of Kingston initiated the Hudson Riverport, a project that had "engaged the services of the firm Perkins+Will to produce an Implementation Plan, a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) and a Market Conditions Update for 192 acres of Kingston's Rondout Waterfront under the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program of the NYS Department of State....The Common Council determined by resolution on October 6, 2015 that the Implementation Plan/Draft GEIS was complete and ready for public review and set a public hearing date. The comment period spanned October 8th through November 23rd with a public hearing on November 12th in Kingston City Hall Common Council Chambers."  

On October 11, 2015 in the Daily Freeman, an article "Kingston Seeks Public Input on Brownfield Plan" was printed/posted announcing the city initiative as well as the City of Kingston's Hudson Riverport Facebook page that apparently had been created in 2014.

Just about a year later on October 10, 2016, we happened to notice language in a post on the City of Kingston Hudson Riverport Facebook page that appeared odd.   To a recent article in the Daily Freeman, "Kingston Council Advances Downtown Flood Control Effort" it said in part that, "...The current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written. All they had to do was get the design work started and resubmit the request for construction funds..."

That didn't sound to us like the current office of Economic Development speaking.  It is a fact that the "Hudson Riverport at Kingston" is a Facebook page created, owned and operated by the city of Kingston. So why would it suggest that  "the current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written..." for a project that it continues to organize and maintain?

Curious, we looked at the ABOUT section of Hudson Riverport of Kingston NY page, and there wasn't a description or any details connecting the page to the City of Kingston initiative for which the social media site was created for when it was set-up.   (VIEW: Hudson Riverport ABOUT section).

Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that the page continues to be administered by a past City of Kingston employee without having permission to do so, or without any guidance from the current Economic Development or Grants Management office. After looking around a bit more, there is at least one other just like it. An inventory of these sites needs to be collected.

The good news is that the City of Kingston is currently looking into the matter and will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation.  Apparently, in the past a city employee could create a Facebook page on their own, without there being a secondary employee to be included as an administrator.  That has now been implemented. However, for sites created prior to 2016,  if a person who worked for the city being the sole adminstrator decides to act maliciously,  they might take the entire site down where information meant for the public record that was posted over the years would be lost. Lets hope that that doesn't happen in this case.

Perhaps the good news here, in an instance like this and if it ends up being what we suspect, will expose areas from past city management that must be improved.

There is no doubt that successful projects is the work of many.  It indeed takes a village (or a city in this case).  But for City of Kingston property to be used without authority or direction is inappropriate and completely misleading to the public. Aren't city of Kingston staff and our elected and appointed officials from both the past and present days to be working on behalf of the public good?  City property is the public's property. When you are no longer employed, elected or appointed, hand over important information in good working order so that the city can continue to run smoothly during each of its transitions. It is each of their duties to do so.

ADDITIONAL READING:

READ:   Daily Freeman Article, requesting comments on Riverport be sent to city-owned email address.

READ:   Pages 9-10 of Ec. Dev. Brochure, documenting the project.

READ:  Daily Freeman article about the public hearing process for the plan.

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.

QUESTION:  Why do you wish to see the Water Referendum pass through this fall during the general election? 

“Our government is based on elected officials representing the people.  The fact that there is currently a disconnect and the residents of Kingston have no representation when it comes to selling our most vital resource outside of our community is a dangerous flaw in our charter. Passing this referendum provides a safety net for Kingstonians, so that we can be represented and our voices can be heard if future proposals that may compromise our water supply should occur. I am very proud to have been a part of the solution to keep the Niagara bottling project away from our water, but this referendum is equally important so the future leaders of our city have a system in place to be at the table from the very beginning.”
Bill Carey, Kingston Resident
Ward 5 Alderman

“As Niagara Bottling Company’s recent proposal to begin bottling water from our area highlighted, our water - one of our most precious, shared natural resources - is currently very vulnerable. As the vagaries of climate change increase, water will become even more threatened and precious both in the Hudson Valley and across the world. We cannot afford to leave this essential natural element that literally sustains all of us to be unprotected or privatized.  This Water Referendum is a crucial step in the process of ensuring that our water remains available to all residents in our area – in the City of Kingston as well as other municipalities with shared watersheds and water rights – both now and in the future.  Requiring Mayoral and Common Council approvals for water sales outside the City of Kingston is a sensible step to improve transparency and sound process  – which was lacking with Niagara – to ensure that future water sale proposals are carefully and fully vetted and in the best long term interests of Kingston's residents and water customers.  Cooper Lake & Mink Hollow are the source waters for the City of Kingston's drinking water supply. Woodstock is Kingston's watershed community. Woodstock also has shared water rights in Mink Hollow Stream and to the waters flowing from Cooper Lake, should the Town ever need to access them in the future. Residents of the Town of Ulster and Town of Kingston rely on the water supply from Cooper Lake as well, through long-term water purchase contracts with the Kingston Water Department. And Mink Hollow is in the New York City water shed. For all these reasons the Land Conservancy is committed to doing what we can to help protect the long term integrity and viability of these critical natural resources in our community."
Kevin Smith, Chairman, Woodstock Land Conservancy
Eve Fox, Advisory Council Member, Woodstock Land Conservancy

“Passage of this referendum is important, but not necessarily for me. It is important for my child, and future generations. To insure that our precious, natural resources are not commercialized or squandered should be the top priority of all communities. And it should be up to the entire community to decide how to utilize these resources -- and not left to a handful of people behind closed doors to decide. What I learned from the Niagara Bottling Plant proposal and the subsequent community reaction is that the needs of the community should be considered first, and not be trumped by corporate interests. Economic development is much more than job creation, it includes fostering community wellness. That means creating a place to live that is not only safe and has a high quality of life, but has essential services to include abundant and clean water for all residents.”
Arthur Zaczkiewicz, Kingston Resident
MSW

"In today's world water is now a precious commodity and a resource to be protected. We all have  read of droughts across certain areas in North America and their communities hunt for clean water along with their ongoing conservation efforts. We here in the City of Kingston are fortunate to have a clean and safe water supply readily available for our citizens. As representatives of the people  it makes sense that the Common Council  have a say in what companies, who are outside city limits, can purchase the water, for what purpose and how much they purchase. Currently the Council does not have that right based on the charter written almost a hundred years ago. That power was given to members of a  Water Board to oversee all water matters which worked for those times. They could never have imagined the future with water being bottled and sold for a profit.  It is now time to rectify it.   All living creatures, all plants, need water to sustain life and we need to protect our natural resource from abuse or profiteering.  It is essential for the life and survival  of the City of Kingston and for its future generations. As I have said in the past, Water is now the new "oil"."
Deb Brown
Alderwoman, 9th ward
Minority Leader

“Kingston's water supply is a crucial pillar of our public commons. It's understanding that we cannot exist apart from the web of nature whose very source is water. So of course, the sale of our water for a commercial purpose threatens our public commons and cannot be allowed.”
David Bruner, Kingston Resident
Kingston Transition

nestle-ceo-says-water-is-not-a-human-right-we-say-no-to-water-privatization-36837

“Why does the Water Referendum matter?  Because when Kingston was faced with a decision last year that would have affected our economic and environmental future, you didn’t have a choice.  You didn’t have a voice.   The City Charter is Kingston’s “constitution.” It is the fundamental structure of our government.  New York State Law says that YOUR VOTE MATTERS on any change to our city charter.  The way the Charter is currently structured, the Common Council that YOU elected to represent our community has no say regarding the Water Board’s decision to sell our water.  This simply doesn’t make sense.  It is not how democracy should work.  The Water Board should be accountable to the public and the Council should have the “balance of power” regarding the significant decisions that govern our City’s future.   In other words, during the Niagara Bottling proposal last year:

  • You had no say about whether to sell our limited supply of safe, high quality drinking water to a billion-dollar corporation for a fraction of the rate you pay.
  • You had no say about the use of your tax dollars going toward the attraction of a polluting industry.
  • You had no say about how this would limit further residential and commercial development in Kingston.
  • You had no say regarding whether this was environmentally detrimental to our community.

If you vote “yes” for the Water Referendum, you will have a say!  Say “yes!” to include Council - and the public – in the sale of our precious water.”
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Kingston Resident
District 7 Ulster County Legislature Democratic Candidate

“I want to see this water referendum pass because the people must have a say about how this most precious resource is used.  Water is vital to life, and we are blessed to live in an area that has an abundance of water today.  But times are changing, and water shortages are a reality in many parts of the world.  We are also vulnerable to that possibility in the future.  We need to think carefully - and many generations ahead - about protecting our water for the future.  Until now,  a small group of appointed (not elected) officials had the power to make all decisions about the water that Kingston citizens depend on.  The passing of this referendum will ensure that officials elected by the citizens of Kingston will have a say in what happens to the city's water supply.  And the people should have a say in this important matter.  It was only a year ago this month that the citizens of the area found out that the water of Kingston had been offered up for sale to Niagara Bottling Company - these negotiations started in April of 2014 with Kingston’s Water Department and were kept out of the public eye until September!  I urge everyone who is eligible to vote to pass this referendum so that in the future the citizens will be aware of - and represented in - all decisions about their water supply.”
Karin Wolf
Sierra Club and Neetopk Keetopk

“Water is our most important resource. We cannot live without it. Kingston residents, visitors, and businesses all need access to clean, fresh water in times of plentiful rainfall, and in times of drought. We need to protect and conserve our water, and to plan its use wisely. It’s no longer appropriate for decisions about the potential sale of Kingston water to be made by a group of 5 Water Board members, plus the Mayor. A decision to sell our water has far-reaching consequences, and should only be undertaken after informed and careful thought,  and only if approved by a majority of Kingston citizens through their representatives on the Common Council.”
Lynn Johnson, Kingston Resident
Democratic Candidate for Alderman, Ward 9
Member, Kingston Conservation Advisory Council

“While I live in Woodstock, I am a KingstonCitizens.org committee Chair, and I have continued to work with this amazing team to so to stay civically engaged in the protection of our collective public safety, way of life, and our water.   It is encouraging to see that the Kingston Common Council has taken this action.   This Referendum is extremely valuable to the region, because the systems that are in place, in the City of Kingston, for the governance of water that lie in Woodstock township are not currently set up to give the people a voice.   Judging by recent events, it is clear that if we do not take the necessary steps to safeguard the community from similar threats, we could find ourselves in the middle of a nightmare we can’t wake up from.   About one year ago to the day, I was alerted to the plan to the privatization of a small lake in the Woodstock community. My immediate reaction was “Not in my back yard!!” And then I began to understand that it was far more than just my lake that lie vulnerable.   The plan that Niagara Bottling Company, Kingston Water Board and The Town of Ulster Supervisor had for the region was obscenely dangerous to the health and safety of the people in our community and threatened to add billions of gallons of potential waste overtime to the Hudson River via the Esopus Creek and innumerable plastic bottles to the sea of plastic we continue to create and throw “away”.   This is not the kind of decision that should be left in the hands of a few people. Public water should be governed with the inclusion of the people whom the sources serve.  While the plan was never able to see itself to manifestation, it did shed light on vulnerabilities as well as create stress on inter-municipal relationships, and we have been left with much more than leaky pipes to repair.   I see this referendum as the first step of many that can be taken to protect the City of Kingston’s water supply, those who are served by it and those who live in the watershed from which it comes.”
Rachel Marco-Havens, Woodstock Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Communications Committee
Founder, Earth Guardians NY

“Many years ago, I saw a documentary that showed Bolivian people who were facing legal penalties for collecting rainwater--apparently, the water that fell from the sky legally "belonged" to a private corporation and the Bolivian people were accused of stealing their property. This struck me as absurd and monstrous, but the years since I have seen that attitude creeping into the U.S. system. Water should not be treated as a commodity to be traded on Wall Street and owned by private entities. It is a natural resource and a public right. It belongs to all of us, and that's why it matters deeply to me that the people of Kingston have the final say in how our water is managed.”
Sara Eckel, Kingston Resident

“I would like to see the Water Referendum pass this Fall because it will bring the public's voice into decisions about Kingston's most precious natural resource -- drinking water.  Kingston's citizens are smart, well informed and ready to help plan for a future of clean, abundant fresh water.  The Referendum will help make sure they have the power to do just that.”
Paul Gallay, Executive Director
Hudson Riverkeeper

“I plan to vote in support of the Water Referendum and I urge my fellow Kingstonians to vote “yes” on the water referendum too. The referendum requires Common Council approval on any sale of water rights outside of Kingston's corporate limits. Currently, the Water Board stands as an independent agency with members appointed for set terms by the Mayor of Kingston.  Long ago, those establishing an independent Water Board intended that the agency operate above politics without the potential for graft, cronyism, and the short term thinking often associated with the rough and tumble of policymaking. Yet, an independent agency insulated from and unaccountable to the citizens it represents breeds its own kind of potential problems. Given the way Water Board members are appointed, politics isn’t eliminated from the process. Instead, the politics take place behind closed doors in the Mayor’s office without a transparent, public discussion of the appointee’s values, commitments, and philosophy. A good mayor will seek Board members from a variety of different and competing perspectives. A problematic mayor will stuff the Board with likeminded friends and political allies. The quality of the Board depends upon the ethics of the mayor.    In a 21st century full of drought conditions brought on by climate change, water has become a crucial resource. The City of Kingston cannot thrive economically without a stable water supply. The people who, in the final analysis, own that water should make any decision that potentially endangers its watershed. If the referendum passes, the Water Board will retain many of the features that have historically accompanied its independent agency status. It will continue to function the way the progenitors of the Water Board intended – free from the short term compromise and deal making characterizing many political decisions with one crucial exception. When considering whether to sell Kingston’s water outside of our community where the public hasn't any jurisdiction, the Water Board must seek the approval of the Common Council, the most representative branch of Kingston government. If selling Kingston’s water to a corporation like Niagara Bottling Company is truly in the best interests of the community, surely the people will see the wisdom in such a policy. If the selling of Kingston’s water is detrimental to the community, then the Water Board will have to reconsider whether its commitments align with the public good. “
Lynn Eckert, Kingston Resident
Democratic Candidate for Ward 1 Alderwoman

FOTO-CARTEL-NO-A-PRIVATIZACIÓN-DEL-AGUA

“Having the Common Council involved in all decisions as important as the sale of our water is critical to Kingston's future. Hopefully, our next Mayor will observe "transparency, accountability and informed public engagement" in all decision making, but ensuring that all 11 of our elected representatives have the information upon which important decisions are made and and a voice in those decisions is fundamental to protecting the public interest and furthering open government in Kingston.”
Kitty McCullough, Kingston Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Economic Development Committee

“Access to clean water is a precious, life-sustaining human right which we cannot take for granted. Multi-national corporations know that water is the new oil, the new gold, the new hot "commodity", according to companies like NESTLE and NIAGARA, who are actively engaged in turbo charged water grabs, pollution of streams, rivers, oceans, and the economic exploitation of local water supplies across the country. Ulster County has recently experienced such heinous activities first hand in our victorious fight to prevent NIAGARA plastic water bottling company from setting up shop in our communities. It is vitally important that the Kingston, NY Water Referendum pass on Election Day 2015. We have seen the future and it requires that the citizens of Ulster County protect our water, now and in the long term. If we blink, our water may be compromised. Our relatively pristine watershed provides water to local communities and to New York City. It is beyond valuable. The people of Ulster County deserve the right to protect our water, and the right to determine our watershed's healthy future. I am forever grateful to the heroic work of all at Kingstoncitizens.org, and everyone involved in making sure that Kingston, NY has the opportunity to vote "YES" on the Water Referendumon on Election Day, November 3, 2015.”
Anne Hemenway
Earth Guardians NY
Kingstoncitizens.org Events Committee

"We need the decision makers to be forward minded people who think about our children's children and sustainability especially during the times of depleting resources on our planet."
Jorge Nelson
Lake Hill Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Events Committee

"I was very active with KingstonCitizens.org during the Niagara Bottling proposal crisis. From September 2014 to February 13, 2015, the date when Niagara withdrew their proposal to buy a large portion of our limited municipal water supply, I stopped taking our water for granted. I learned too much to continue to be complacent about our water. I now understand that we, the people, should all be good stewards of our water. I want Kingston’s Water Referendum to pass because I believe that the power to make decisions about selling our municipal water supply should be shared among appointed (Water Department staff/board) and elected officials (our Common Council members), and that any such decisions must be weighted in favor of our common good. The world is a very different place now than it was in 1895, when the City of Kingston’s Charter first defined who had the power and responsibility to protect our municipal water supply. 120 years ago, people could not have imagined plastic water bottling plants or corporate grabs of our natural resources. Today, these are real and present dangers. Amending our City Charter to empower the Common Council to represent the public and to be actively involved in decisions related to water sales outside of the City is the right course to take."
Debra Bresnan, Kingston Resident
KingstonCitizens.org Communications Committee

"Catskill Mountainkeeper supports this referendum because it insures greater participation of affected communities in decision making about their water resources. Vital drinking water resources are increasingly coming under threat from human activities and the consequences of human activities, and our ability to protect water resources is enhanced through improved transparency and inclusiveness."
Dr. Kathy Nolan
Catskill Mountainkeeper

WHAT TO EXPECT: Kingston Common Council Caucus (6/1) and Kingston Common Council Meeting (6/2)

 

Monday, June 1st, 2015
Kingston Common Council Caucus
7:00pm
Conference Room #1
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Kingston Common Council
7:30pm
Council Chambers
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston

Both meetings will be filmed. 

 

By Rebecca Martin

At last week's Public Safety/General Government Committee meeting, a resolution for a referendum to be placed on the ballot in November passed unanimously through to the Common Council. The referendum, if approved by a full Council vote, would give the public the opportunity to vote on whether or not to amend the charter to include the Common Council for "Water Supply Outside of City".

In Section C11-5C (Water Supply Outside of City), it says: (C) Such sales or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission" (the NYS Water Power and Control Commission today is the Department of Environmental Conservation aka DEC).  The referendum would ask the public to approve or not the inclusion of the Common Council,  “and the common council.”   That simple amendment would give the public a say as to water sales outside of Kingston’s city limits.  Additionally, Kingston would automatically be an “Involved” agency in SEQR in the case one were ever triggered again.

In the meantime, the public’s water would have a layer of protection that would allow for thoughtful policy to be developed for sustainable growth and economic development using this precious public resource.

This is one of many steps that need to be taken in order to help protect Cooper Lake and our watershed as a whole.  But by assuring that the sale of water outside of our small, local municipality includes our Common Council - it is a significant one.

WHAT TO EXPECT: June 1st 

Caucus (Monday, 6/1), which is a public meeting of supporters and members of a specific political party (in Kingston, our nine alderpersons are made up of eight democrats and one republican), occurs each month the evening before the full Common Council meetings. Much discussion is generally had on all agenda items, as well as often, conclusions as to which way council members will cast their vote the following evening. There isn't a sign-up for public comment during Caucus, however you may contact Matt Dunn, the Council Majority Leader (see email address below), if you wish to be added to the agenda. For those who can attend caucus,  it is always enlightening and in this case, and if added to the agenda, will help you to better understand the dynamics that surround this issue.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: June 2nd

It is very important that the public plan to attend the Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 2nd to speak in support of the public referendum as described above if you are in favor of it.  Please consider to thank the Public Safety/General Government Committee for their leadership role here and on passing the resolution for referendum through to Council. Request that the City take any necessary steps to make a referendum possible for the November, 2015 ballot.  A public comment period begins shortly after 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to sign-up to speak.   Keep your comments succinct, respectful and no longer than 3 minutes in length.

If you cannot be in attendance next week but wish to share your thoughts with city officials regarding this matter, with "REFERENDUM:  Water Supply Powers" in the subject.

 

Mayor Shayne Gallo
sgallo@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 334-3902

Alderman-at-Large James Noble
jnoble39@aol.com
(845) 331-4696

Matt Dunn, Ward 1 and Majority Leader
ward1@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 541-8880

Brian Seche, Ward 2 
brian@seche.net
(845) 335-5971

Brad Will, Ward 3
bbieber693@gmail.com
(845) 616-8664

Nina Dawson, Ward 4
ward4@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 616-8592

Bill Carey,  Ward 5 
kingstoncarey5@yahoo.com
(845) 339-1361

Elisa Ball, Ward 6
ward6@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 430-8521

Maryann Mills, Ward 7
mmills1299@aol.com
(845) 331-7682

Steven Shabot, Ward 8
ward8@kingston-ny.gov
(845) 338-5060

Deb Brown, Ward 9 and Minority Leader
djbrown72@hotmail.com
(845) 338-0763

Additional Reading from KingstonCitizens.org:

Resolution for Referendum Passes Unanimously Through Kingston Public Safety Committee

Moving Towards a Referendum

Powers for Sale of Water Outside of Kingston Put to Referendum? We Say Yes!

Checks and Balances. Amend Charter to Include Kingston Common Council in Certain Water Sales.

Niagara Bottling Proposal Timeline: 116 Events

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to you all.

- Rebecca Martin

 

kc

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

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

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

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

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

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

 diversification of the local economy,

 environmental sustainability, and

 opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
KingstonCitizens.org

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

City_Manager

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

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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.

 

Public Hearing on Combined Sewer Overflow Long-Term Control Plan Scheduled.

By Rebecca Martin

A little over a year ago, Kingston resident and KC.org contributor "Wilbur Girl" wrote an exceptional piece on her "Environmental Focus on Kingston" series titled "Give me an "C", "S", "O"! laying out the city of Kingston's troubled sewage treatment problems.

She writes, "On average Kingston receives 47.48 inches of rain a year, with May being the wettest month. This summer alone (2009) we’ve been deluged with roughly 17 inches of the wet stuff. While my friends are all bemoaning the loss of blight ridden tomatoes, I’ve been worrying about a problem that runs a little deeper. Yup, I’ve been thinking about combined sewer overflow systems (CSO’s).

Kingston’s antiquated sewer system is a CSO. They were all the rage and considered the newest and greatest in waste flow management along the eastern sea board following the Civil War. The EPA defines these types of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems as “remnants of the country’s early infrastructure and so are typically found in older communities.” They estimate there to be roughly 772 CSO communities in the US today.

A CSO was designed to collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater all in the same pipe. This slurry of toxic sludge is transported to a sewage treatment plant. Periods of heavy rainfalls or quickly melting snow exacerbate the volume of storm water runoff so that it exceeds the capacity of the system. Excess, untreated wastewater instead empties directly into nearby bodies of water – in our case, the Rondout Creek. Also, because of their age, CSO’s often fail or collapse at an accelerated rate."

I've included the link to her piece in full up above and encourage you to read it as a refresher. Here's why:

Please be advised that the Office of the City Engineer will hold a Public Hearing on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 6:30 PM in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.  The hearing is for the purpose of discussing the recently completed Combined Sewer Overflow Long-Term Control Plan submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on November 1, 2010.

All interested persons are invited to attend and express their views.

A copy of the Plan is available for review in the Office of the City Engineer, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM.

Please notify the City Engineer’s Office twenty-four hours in advance of the Public Hearing should special accommodations be required.

The plan is available at the Kingston Library also.

What are Combined Sewers?

Combined sewer systems (CSS) are sewers that are designed to collect storm water runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe. During rain events, when storm water enters the sewers, the capacity of the sewer system may be exceeded and the excess effluent will be discharged directly to the receiving water. A combined sewer overflow (CSO) is the discharge from a combined sewer system that is caused by snow melt or storm water runoff.

Complete Streets Resolution Passes in Kingston

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, the Common Council approved a resolution for Complete Streets in the City of Kingston, which serves as an important component in support of the Climate Smart and Green Jobs Community Pledge. Thanks to Kristen Wilson, David Gilmour, Emilie Hauser and the entire team of the "Healthy Kingston for Kids" project for their hard work and tenacity.

Click below to read a PDF of the DRAFT COMPLETE STREETS RESOLUTION
Draft Complete Streets Resolution 11082010

Learn more about COMPLETE STREETS IN THE CITY OF KINGSTON

Bravo!

“Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston!” Initiative Marks Its Second Season in 2010

Kingston resident Kate Lawson leads by example.

“Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston!” initiative continues for a second year in the City of Kingston.

The City of Kingston's Mayor James Sottile, DPW Superintendent Michael Schupp and The Kingston Land Trust hope to save Kingston citizen's tax dollars for a second year by encouraging residents to mulch their leaf landscape waste.

KINGSTON - With the recent passing of a mandatory leaf bagging law in the city of Kingston, public officials in connection with the Kingston Land Trust are asking residents to “Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston!” for a second fall season. The federal program that was initiated locally hopes to save citizen's tax dollars by asking them to ‘help Kingston help itself’.

"Mulching leaves takes a serious waste disposal problem and stops it at its source," says Rebecca Martin, Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust.  "Additionally, it takes 1/4 of a persons time rather than bagging them, avoids all municipal collection costs and provides valuable plant nutrients stored in leaves throughout the season to fertilize lawns and gardens naturally."

A helpful brochure will be available at the city of Kingston's Clerks office, Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Kingston Land Trust offices after October 10th about the program.  To learn more on the initiative online, visit the city of Kingston's website or contact Rebecca Martin, Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust at 845/877-LAND (5263) or rebecca@kingstonlandtrust.org

Five Guys Named Top Burger

Fresh off the presses is Zagat's fast food survey, which names Five Guys Burgers and Fries as its top choice in the U.S. -- beating out California-based In-N-Out Burger as well as McDonald's, Burger King and a host of other chains. After the news item here hit the wires, there was a flurry of inquisitions for where Five Guys is located. It turned into a top search on Yahoo! by Tuesday afternoon. All anyone knew about the fast food chain was that our President enjoyed the food there once. And you know what? We've got a Five Guys right here in Kingston, on Ulster Avenue by the mall.

Last year when it opened, I told a friend who frequents one in New York City. He says the line out the door of the joint is a block long during lunchtime. No wonder.

-- Arthur Zaczkiewicz

Kingston Activists to Present at U.S. Social Forum in Detroit

Congrats to Kingston residents Valeria Gheorghiu and Arthur Zaczkiewicz who were selected to present Kingston's recent 'Civic Involvement'  at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan on Friday, June 25th.  A great accomplishment for Kingston!

Read on...

- Rebecca Martin

Kingston Activists to Present at U.S. Social Forum in Detroit
Local residents to spotlight ‘civic involvement’ initiatives in Kingston

KINGSTON – Kingston attorney, environmental justice activist and community organizer Valeria A. Gheorghiu is presenting a two-hour workshop on the growth of Kingston, N.Y.’s civic involvement initiatives at the 2010 U.S. Social Forum in Detroit along with social media guru, community educator and Kingston resident Arthur Zaczkiewicz and, via Skype, community organizer Rebecca Martin.

Gheorghiu, who serves on Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), Zaczkiewicz, and Martin, are presenting “Green Power to the People: How a Garden-based Democracy Can Transform Civic Participation.” The workshop will explain and analyze how several recent citizen-based projects such as the formation of a city-wide garden coalition, KingstonCitizens.org, the CAC’s Climate Smart and Green Jobs Pledge visioning sessions, and KingstonDigitalCorridor.org among other initiatives, are reinvigorating civic participation. The U.S. Social Forum runs June 22 to June 26. Over 25,000 attendees are expected this year. The workshop is being sponsored by the Kingston Land Trust’s community garden committee.  Other citizen participants and/or presenters are to be determined.

“The fusion of grassroots organizing principles and civic involvement in the local government here in Kingston has the potential to serve as an excellent model for other communities across the country,” Gheorghiu said. “Opening local government policy development and implementation through community forums such as the City Gardens Coalition and the Climate Smart and Green Jobs Pledge visioning sessions is an innovative model of local governance.  Or perhaps it is a return to the founding principles of our nation, when we used to have town meetings.”  Gheorghiu said these principles are alive and well again here in Kingston, “We are facilitating direct democracy by citizens through our community/city partnerships.”

Zaczkiewicz said the development of social media tools such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Ning and Drupal over the past decade has transformed how people communicate.  “This transformation is now enabling greater civic participation and involvement – especially on a local level,” Zaczkiewicz explained.  “In Kingston, we’re seeing a blossoming of blogs, Facebook pages and websites, specifically aimed at improving the quality of life for Kingston residents, creating sustainability, developing greater public input in policy making, and most importantly, fostering the democratic process by allowing residents to be more clearly heard.  Thomas Jefferson would be proud.”

Upon their return, Gheorghiu and Zaczkiewicz will hold a presentation in Kingston later this summer to bring back some of the other national initiatives learned at the event in Detroit, which includes a food justice people’s movement assembly aimed at sharing “local solutions” and facilitating “greater coordination of national strategies of action.”

About the U.S. Social Forum: The U.S. Social Forum started as a regional forum after the World Social Forum first met about nine years ago, shortly after the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle in 1999, to begin creating a better world. Its purpose was to provide an alternative international forum to the World Economic Forum. The World Social Forum provided a space for non-profits and community organizers to inspire each other and create solutions for a more globally just world.  A U.S. Social forum was created in 2007 to envision solutions specific to the U.S. drawing 12,000 people. This year’s event would be the second U.S. Social Forum.

For more information on its history, VISIT

If interested in attending, presenting, or supporting the presenters’ travel expenses, and for more information about the workshop, email: thepeople37@yahoo.com.

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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. Sottile wants the recreation fund (a pool of money paid by developers) to be tapped for the expenditure. The mayor says the gazebo would be for seniors.

Majority Leader Bill Reynolds notes that a lot of development has been done on the Rondout, and other parks in the city now need attention. Alderwoman Andi Turco-Levin says Forsyth Park could use some upgrades. Currently, there is $19,440 in the recreation fund.

A simple -- and more democratic -- solution would be to dole out the money equally across all of the city parks. According to the City of Kingston website, there are 13 parks, which include two neighborhood centers. Why not earmark $1,495.38 for each park?

I know it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it could be used as "seed money" for larger improvement projects. It would work like this:

1. Each alderperson would gather a group of citizens around each park in their ward, recruiting them to be "friends of the park" -- just like the Friends of the Forsyth Nature Center.

2. The friends groups would have regular meetings to include a visioning session where they decide via a consensus process what improvements are needed.

3. They would then create a fundraising plan and budget -- with the $1,495.38 seed money included.

4. The friends group would then execute their fundraising effort, which might include music concerts, bake sales, barbecue cook offs, whatever.

5. And finally, the  group would spend the money to make the improvements and upgrades.

This process would allow for better use of public money while also creating "citizen ownership" of our parks. Of course, there are some challenges in this proposal. Ward 9, for example, would have to decide which city park to adopt and support since it doesn't have any in the ward. Or, maybe it would decide to use the seed money to buy some open space to have a park.

And for the mayor's gazebo, Sottile would have to work with Ward 8 residents and its alderperson in the visioning process to convince them of the need for the gazebo. They could likely want to spend the money on new picnic tables, for example.

Either way, this is a process worth considering. What do you think?