Cast an Educated Vote on November 2nd, 2010. Here’s How.

By Rebecca Martin

Last week, I poked around in search of a list of all the candidates running for office this election cycle to share on  What I learned was how difficult (and that day impossible) it was to find – and with only 1 1/2 weeks away from an important election.

Once, the League of Women Voters provided an impressive run down  of all of the candidates and their platforms. Also included were candidate questions and answers as well as a thorough text of each candidates past record to help citizens be better informed. Where was it?

Sure, I could have put together a list of each individual candidates websites.  But a one sided point of view wasn’t going to help you in your decision making process.  In some circles, voters are told to ‘vote across the line’. All that is is a party tactic that encourages voters to not be educated ones,  further diminishing the process.

I came across the phone number of Dare Thompson (what a great name, yes?), the president of the League of Women Voters and decided to call her to see what I could find out.  Luckily, she was home – and we had a wonderful discussion.  Dare was surprised that the ballot that once existed on the Ulster County Board of  Elections  site was not working correctly. When we finished our conversation,  she contacted them immediately and was able to work with them to straighten it out.  No one had caught that error until that moment. What does that tell you?

It’s repaired now, and you can easily access the names of everyone running on the ballot. The process here does ask that the resident do some investigative work, and there is still time to do it. Research the names on the ballot. Not only the candidates you are not familiar with, but those that you think you know as well.

Here’s how:

1. Visit –

2. Click on “Look up your polling site and view a sample ballot”

3. Put in your zip code, street number and street name.

4. You’ll be taken to a page where you’ll find all important voting details.  Look for the ‘Sample Ballot’ box on the left hand side and “click here” to see a sample ballot. The list of candidates you will have to choose from are there. Print this out, and do some research while there is a little time left.

If you have any additional tips for readings in finding good information, please include it in the comment section of this post.

Be on the look out for an interview with Dare Thompson on shortly…

Strike the Pike?

This is an interesting development.

Sometime back, I learned of what  I believe to be a $1.3 million dollar amount  (in state/federal funding that has grown since) slated to be used to restore and upgrade the current Pike Plan located in Uptown, Kingston.  This sort of ‘canopy’ was popular in and around the 1970’s, when Main Streets were looking for ways to compete with the fairly new “mall mentality”.

Today, Kingston’s Pike Plan is seen by many as nothing more than an idea that didn’t stand the test of time and is now backfiring. Its canopy covers both sides of Wall Street’s sidewalks between John and North Front, and creates a dark and decayed feeling that many feel is hurting what business we have in the Uptown area.

Those in support of the development say that the Pike Plan is ‘historic’ and worth preserving.  The Uptown area where it is located is deemed historic, it is true. But there is nothing historic about the Pike Plan.  Furthermore, I have been told that the canopy is one of the last (if not the last) left in the Country.   That might seem like a good thing, except the reasons they were torn down to begin with was mainly due to their being a deterrent to foot traffic and to business in general.

I learned that the ever impressive KURA (the Kingston Uptown Resident Association) has serious reservations of this project moving forward.  The letter was written to the Mayor by Gerard T. Soldner, President of KURA.  His findings are significant.

I wish those who are so keen on this project might have had the same enthusiasm for saving what was truly historic – the old Trolley Barn on Broadway and W. Chester Street. Their lack of vision now provides residents with another drug store chain. The third within a one mile radius.

Are those at the helm  following the money, or are they doing what’s right by the uptown  residents, businesses and citizens of Kingston overall?

I’m not so certain. But what do I know?

Since this was posted, we made a few changes to it by adding a ‘visual’ of the letter written by KURA. We expect to also include the petition of businesses and building owners concerned with the current Pike Plan effort.

Some additional reading in no particular order. More to come:

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters – Ulster Publishing
Pike Plot, The Hudson Valley Chronic
KUBAs Pike Plan Meeting – Neighborhood Watch
RUPCO: More than a Roof Overhead

Common Sense: Open Arms to the Film Industry in the City of Kingston

By Rebecca Martin

Come on city officials. It’s one thing to have a lack of ideas on how to create jobs in the area, specificially in the city of Kingston. It’s a whole other ball of wax to be potentially chasing away the lucrative film industry from coming to set up shop here. Good grief.

Lets get real about our budget woes. It’s a tricky, inflated pandoras box not because of the growing costs of city services. It’s due to unrealistic contracts and pensions. So collecting a few thousand dollars from a film production company who stands to pour tens of thousands into our local economy (not to mention a good amount of free press) doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever.

In today’s Daily Freeman, the always sensible Ward 9 Alderman Hayes Clement is quoted as saying, “By all means, continue to charge, as the city has, for all direct costs associated with film shoots, such as police or other municipal workers. But beyond that, we should be looking at local film producation as an opportunity to market Kingston and develop a new local industry, not as an opportunity to generate fees for City Hall”.

You can count on me being at the front of the line to speak in support of welcoming film production to Kingston. I’m sure there will be dozens of others who will be happy to speak in favor as well.

That IBM chip on our shoulder has got to soften. Those days are over, and Kingson better get with the program to reinvent itself if it wishes to be successful and competitive. We sit in an opportune position right smack dab in the middle of New York City and Albany. It’s a bedroom community waiting to happen if I’ve ever seen one.

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? Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been

By Rebecca Martin

This morning, was mentioned in Nancy Donskoj’s Main Street Manager blog. It was nice that some of the other blog efforts were being shared with her base. Thanks to all who do so much to help with outreach and community building mentioned here or not.

The piece got me thinking about in general and  how it all began, transitions, where we are now and where I believe we are heading.  was an extension of a concept that came out of the Ward 9 community group that formed many years ago.  Our group met face to face each month which helped us to get to know one another and the strength of our voices and ideas.  A google group (now a Yahoo! Group) for online and ongoing communications allowed our dialouge to continue until we met again. This was an immediate tool that helped foster transparency, as our ideas were shared with a growing group of neighbors in the company of our Alderman. An Alderman, remember, is meant to reflect the collective voices (and not just those who live to their left and right) of his/her constituents when they sit on the common council to vote on their behalf. The idea was to enable citizens to become better informed to aid in that process so to make the greatest impact. Besides witnessing the new excitement and sense of possibility in my new friends and community members,  it was also a very large experiment to see if government actually did what it professed to do. What I learned from a front row seat was that at times it did, though more often it did not. It was evidence that citizens needed to take on a reasonably consistent and a more responsible role in what was happening around them.  That is if there was ever going to be a time for what was completely outdated and out of whack to come back to a current and balanced place again.

I like getting to the bottom of things no matter how difficult or uncomfortable that may be.  It’s a personality trait that embodies Mt. Everest highs and Dante’s Inferno lows.  But I don’t mind.  There is no end to unraveling a lifetime of experiences to get back to an authentic place and in learning from the cues to be more trusting, accepting and simple.

But I digress. Back on point.

The online Ward 9 Community group was a useful tool, so with the help of Beth Bengston-Gillis, Mark Greene and Arthur Zaczkiewicz, was launched on July 4th, 2007.  Back then, it was an HTML site. Remember those?  It was created years before we had heard of Wordpress or Ning and whatever else has come along since. Mark Greene had designed the most beautiful logo and ‘portal’  that allowed citizens to connect to any of the  nine online Yahoo! groups representing each of our nine wards. In that way, we were able to provide a current and organized place for citizens to gather, discuss and take productive action in their immediate neighborhoods.  Their updated Alderman and ward-centric information was posted at each of the group pages as it still is today.

A year or so later with the discovery of Wordpress, we joined the ranks when veteran journalist and my partner in the effort at that time Arthur Zaczkiewicz decided to write a blog as an extension of and to help fill in some of the blanks that indeed needed filling.

Today, our blog remains a useful tool for all Kingston citizens, public officials and local papers alike. It has never been our aim to ‘break stories’ or to participate in taking a stance on any political platform. We intend to find ways to nurture those who came on board long ago while collecting newly energized citizen voices to share their views and ideas with us all to keep the forward momentum.    We wish to grow our effort as a citizen journalism site and we would love it if you would join us.   All you really need to bring to the table is your willingness to share in the same spirit as is

I’ll be happy to get your on your way.

Contact me at rebbytunes at

Kingston Residents: Interested in Helping to Developing Walking and Biking Trails in Ulster County?

By Liz Lipton

For residents who are interested in developing walking and biking trails in Ulster County, here is a LINK to American Trails’ Web page with 50+  articles/ research studies on the economic benefits of such trails.

This Web page includes links to studies in the following categories: “Tourism,” “Benefits,” “Business,” “Valuing Trails,” and “Studies.” Here is a sampling of the studies listed in their respective categories.  Some of the studies in “Valuing Trails” and “Studies” are of particular interest to those concerned with property values.

Read more…

A Local Currency? Introducing Hudson Valley Current

By Rebecca Martin

Last year, I received a phone call from a fairly new resident to Kingston named Sean Griffin who wished to discuss a great idea.  He called it the “Hudson Valley Currency”  back then –  a local currency he and his group hoped to design to work in the area.

How would a local currency be implemented into our current system you ask? was able to get the lowdown from David McCarthy, one of the three partners (the others are Sean and Chris Fenichel-Hewitt who we hope to catch up with at a later date) to explain.

Read more…

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…

Shining The Light

At the half year point of 2010, would like to get feedback on what grass root effort this year has inspired you the most.

It has been an especially productive year amidst the hardships. We at are particularly fond of The Hodge Food For Thought Program, Queens Galley’s  Hudson Valley  Hunger Banquet, Kingston, NY’s Neighborhood Watch, The Citywide Clean-up and Lawn Sale effort  and KURA to name a few.

Help us to shine the light and share with us the many others, seen or unseen.

Making Changes. What a Kingston Citizen Can Do.

There has always been a good amount of citizen activity  in the city of Kingston. But I’ve found that the mood has changed pretty dramatically as of late.

In general, the lack of good public information made widely available has created a plethora of independent blogs and the like – where a person can now air their opinions and thoughts on any given topic. That’s a good thing in theory. Unfortunately,  there is a lot of poor fact finding and planning that now can be broadcast for all to read or hear. In the age of sound bites, it’s more important than ever to be thoughtful in what you provoke.

Over the past few months, I have had many different discussions with citizens who are concerned on subjects where citizen involvement is key. Crime (thank you Michael and Claudia D’Arcy), Taxes (thank you KURA), the Safety Net (thank you Mary Ann Parker), Food Security (thank you Diane Reeder), Children’s Programming (thank you YMCA, YWCA, CCE, the Boys and Girls Club and the Hodge Center to name a few), Comprehensive Planning and Term Limits  (thank you….TBA) and more. Garbage Disposal, Recycling, Water Source Solutions, a Local Economy, Bike Paths and Safe Routes to Schools, Parks, Schools – you name it. There is no shortage of issues that need to be addressed.

Bombarded by problems and bad news, how does one begin the process of lending a hand to make productive changes? Here are a few tips:

1. Is there an effort already underway? Take a moment and reach out to others to learn if what is of concern to you is already in motion, than join and lift them. You are not alone, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel as they say.

If not….

2. Choose a topic that interests you and that needs reform. Lord knows, there are many and you are only one person with only so much time in a day who wishes to volunteer. Selecting a cause and contributing to a change no matter how small or large  is a really big deal.

3. Investigate and get the facts. Learn what is at the very core of a problem and become familiar with it’s history and what options are available to make the greatest impact. This is the most important aspect in helping you to speak literately about the subject. There is a great wealth of information as to who leads what on the city of Kingston’s website. Find out who leads a committee, find out when they meet – and take a few months to frequent their meetings.

4. Devise a well thought out plan with others, being clear about what you are asking citizens and public officials to do to support the effort. When turning over stones, don’t be surprised to find opposition. That’s alright. Take that, and go back to item #2. Use all of what you find along the way to finesse your effort. It’s always a dance, and it is never linear.

5. Check in with yourself. Make sure that you are continually moving outward from an authentic place.  How many times have you witnessed ones ego, desire, belief or emotions derail an entire effort in the long run? Too many I’m afraid.

6. Build trust by following through and stay the course. If you don’t do so intelligently, you risk losing the support that you initially had. Don’t give up, land the bird and trust that the outcome will be exactly what it needs to be.

7. It takes a village. Shining the light on a subject will most probably attract new ideas and better ways to proceed.  ‘Saving the world’ is not the goal, really. Inspiring people to become active productively and to make their voices heard…IS.

Got further thoughts on the subject? Post them in the comment section of this blog post. Got questions as to who the best person might be to connect with on a matter that’s important to you? Contact me at . I’ll be happy to connect you to the source if I can.

Thanks for stepping up to the plate, and the very best of luck in your endeavors.

– Rebecca Martin

Moving Funds From the Carnegie Library Renovation? Contact Your Alderman To Learn More.

There was a tribute to city clerk Kathy Janeczek (who passed last year quite suddenly) this week on the lawns of Kingston’s City Hall.  If there was ever one deserving of such a thing, it is most certainly she.

I had the opportunity to work with her in breaking ground for the Victory Garden at City Hall in 2009 – and it was a great pleasure to do so.

While reading about the ceremony in the Freeman, I learned that the Mayor wished to recommend to the council to move $50,000 away from the Carnegie Library renovation this year in order to create (in addition to the City Hall tribute) a stage/screen in the Rondout for films, plays and the like in her honor.

What an odd thing to find in the midst of a memorial read.

I think this is important for citizens of Kingston to pay close attention to, as I’m  not sure this is such a good idea.

Why?  Overall, there is a lack of long term planning and proper follow through on any given project in the city of Kingston. As a matter of fact, though this idea might have been kicking around City Hall,  I have never heard it mentioned anywhere until just the other day.

Moving funds now in the tune of $50,000 away from a project long underway with much support from the community  and otherwise doesn’t make much sense in what appears to be an instant. Especially given the current budget crisis. I have my doubts that that money could be replaced. Who knows what next year is going to bring?

…and the Carnegie Library restoration project needs to occur for our children and in providing an opportunity to protect our rich history.

Though I didn’t know Kathy well, what I suspect by her endeavors and her heart is that she would prefer the Carnegie Library restoration over a small stage for films. Especially in these tough economic times where there are no guarantees from year to year now on the  resource front.

We’ll pursue this further, and we encourage you to do the same. Speak to your Alderman to get relevant details and voice your opinion because that’s really all we are hoping to inspire in this post. If we all take a moment to move meaningfully forward, than we’re going to be in far better shape in the long run. Every decision is an important one, and the council is there to represent you.

Here is a LINK to the Daily Freeman article.

– Rebecca Martin