Missed the Kingstonian PILOT press conference event? Here’s a recap and next steps

WATCH:
“Say NO to the Kingstonian PILOT: A History of the project” and Press Conference

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On September 15th at 5:30pm, KingstonCitizens.org, Kingston Tenants Union, Mid-Hudson Valley Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and the Kingston News hosted a press conference event in advance of that evening’s Ulster County Legislative meeting. It was our goal to raise awareness about a $30.6 million dollar tax incentive for a development project which proposes to build high-end housing and a luxury boutique hotel in exchange for a parking garage in the City of Kingston’s historic Stockade District.   

READ:  The Ten Things we Know about the Kingstonian PILOT

To start, the Kingston Tenants Union debuted their short film “Say NO to the Kingstonian PILOT: A History of the Project“ in an effort to help the public connect the dots in a four year saga. “This is a case study of steamrolled gentrification and suppression of marginalized voices in the process.” said Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin after watching the film.

Speaker testimonies followed the film from the Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers, former City of Kingston councilwoman and Legislator Dr. Lynn Eckert, Kingston Tenants Union Juanita Velazquez-Amador, City of Kingston resident Larissa Shaughnessy and local comedian Duval Culpepper, all of whom encouraged the Ulster County Legislature and Board of Education to say NO to the Kingstonian deviated Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT).

In scheduling the press conference on this date, it was our goal to help coordinate as many members of the public to speak during open public comment to the full 23 member Ulster County Legislative body during their remote meeting that evening.

What happened to public comment during the Ulster County Legislature on Wednesday?

Public comment during an open meeting provides community members the opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights. The vitality of government is measured by the level of public interest and involvement, and community members are empowered when they make their views known. 

Prior to COVID-19, the public would arrive at the legislative chambers and sign up to speak on any item, whether it was on the agenda or not. On contentious issues you could predict an overflow of the public spilling out into the hallway in order to have their two minute opportunity to speak to their elected officials in a public setting. 

Since COVID-19, the Ulster County Legislature has been meeting remotely.  To our surprise on Tuesday evening, with nearly 62 people waiting in a queue to speak on the PILOT for the Kingstonian, the clerk reminded the legislature of their new policy initiated in April which limits public comment to agenda items. The decision to enforce the public speaking rule was made by Chairman David Donaldson (D/District 6, City of Kingston) who is known to be in favor of the Kingstonian PILOT. 

Unfortunately, the new public comment policy has not been clearly or consistently communicated to Ulster County residents. Although it is within the Legislature’s purview to set those speaking parameters (unless the public challenges it), we don’t recall the clerk making an announcement of the new policy at the start of past meetings, nor are we able to locate where they amended their presentation slide regarding the call-in number or, describing their procedure on the website legislative calendar where the public could intuitively find information about public meetings.

Even one of the legislators at the meeting spoke out about the Chair’s decision to reinforce the April rule change on the very night when community members had carved out time to speak on a contentious topic before the legislature. “I feel obligated to state on the record that we have many times heard people speak on items not on the agenda…” said Legislator Abe Uchitelle (D/District 5, City of Kingston).

The challenges in following the Kingstonian PILOT process. 

Like the number of public parking spaces the Kingstonian project has offered, the rules and governing procedures around the Kingstonian process are constantly changing to accommodate the developers interests. Rarely has any level of government – the city or the county – provided good lead time or clear instructions that would allow the public time for speaking preparation.  In fact, several weeks back, we received information that the Ulster County Legislature’s Chairman Donaldson accepted a late communication on the Kingstonian PILOT (that came in after the August 21st deadline).  In an effort to enable the legislation contained in the late communication to be considered at the September legislative meeting, long-standing rules would have had to be somehow interpreted or altered for an accommodation to be made.  That plan never came to fruition yet it demonstrates the unfair terrain on which those opposed to the Kingstonian PILOT must operate. 

During the September legislative meeting, the clerk announced to the public that they anticipate the Kingstonian PILOT resolution to come in front of the legislature in October. Yet the public will only be able to confirm that following the Laws and Rules Committee, which occurs the evening prior to the full legislative meeting. The agenda will only be made available the morning of October 20. If the Kingstonian PILOT resolution is listed as an agenda item, then the big night would be Tuesday, October 20 at 7:00pm.  If so, we hope that not only will the public come out in force like they did this month, but the Ulster County Legislature will continue with remote meetings in order to accommodate every single voice.  If Chairman Donaldson decides to make October the month that the legislature returns to legislative chambers, the result would limit the number of residents who are able to attend due to current Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

TAKE ACTION

WATCH the film and recorded testimonies to learn about the history of the Kingstonian project and listen to a range of opinions from people who courageously spoke during the press conference.

READ “The Ten things that we know about the Kingstonian PILOT” and spend some time asking more questions in order to prepare your testimony for the next public comment session at the Ulster County Legislature.

CLICK HERE TO SEND A LETTER  to all of the representatives in the Ulster County Legislature and ask them to assure that their October 20 meeting (or whenever they are scheduled to discuss and to vote on the Kingstonian PILOT), remain remote to accommodate all Ulster County residents during COVID-19’s restrictions on public gatherings and, to vote NO on the Kingstonian PILOT.

“PILOT agreements are harmful to local governments and school districts, especially now.” The Village of New Paltz Pass a Position Statement on the Kingstonian PILOT.

At tonight’s Village of New Paltz Joint Board meeting, the village board passed passed a position statement on Housing and Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTS).

The Position Statement was split into two pieces. “First, a comment on the formula as to why PILOTs are problematic because of the NYS tax cap law, and a housing project like this does a great job at illustrating just how problematic the way the law is currently written.” said Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers. ” It’s such a problem that over the last several years, there have been many bills to try to fix it. Several years ago, it was passed by the Senate and Assembly, but was vetoed by the Governor Cuomo. It’s a formula problem and harms the taxing authorities, and is why a municipality would never agree to a PILOT…when you construct new housing, you are going to end up with additional responsibility and expenses as a taxing authority, especially if you are a school district.”

Mayor Rogers went on to explain, “If you build 100 new units that have “x” number of bedrooms, you’ll have “y” K-12 age children. It’s just math, it’s what happens when you add units to any community. The way sales tax law is currently formulated, you end up with new units and the schools district has no way to increase their budget to accommodate the additional demand on their school district. It’s a fundamental flaw.”

Deputy Mayor KT Tobin agreed. “Unless it’s for affordable housing, I don’t think PILOTs are good public policy. I thought five years ago that they’d be dead by now, because promises for jobs did not materialize. The lack of clawbacks and systematic accountability mechanisms has well demonstrated the failures of PILOTS. And now that we’re in COVID – a pandemic – I can’t even wrap my head around asking for buy-in from property tax payers right now given the cuts we are looking at and the fiscal cliffs that school districts and municipalities are facing. It appears to be a combination of denial and lack of awareness that this is not the right time for this and my municipality will be impacted as well.”  

During the meeting, Ulster County Legislator Eve Walter (District No. 20 – Town of New Paltz, Village of New Paltz) confirmed that “…typically the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) has the capacity to approve or disapprove PILOTs on their own unless the entity is seeking a deviated pilot. In this case, the Kingstonian developers ARE seeking a deviated PILOT and that means that all three agencies would need to approve the terms (the City of Kingston, Board of Education and Ulster County Legislature). If any one of them do not, it would be a stop.” Legislator Walters later added, “This is about equity and taxes. This is about being one community.”

Read more…

The Ten Things We Know about the Kingstonian PILOT and Remote Press Conference on 9/15/20

“Say NO to the Kingstonian PILOT” is a remote press conference on Tuesday, September 15th at 5:30pm.  Get ready and CLICK ON OUR VIDEO LINK to join us and to learn what you can do.

Or, visit our FACEBOOK EVENT for up-to-date information on the Kingstonian PILOT process.

The Kingstonian is a proposed $50M, 143-unit luxury housing complex with a 32 room boutique hotel, 8,000 square feet of retail space and a 420 parking space complex. It also includes a walking bridge to the Herzog’s Plaza, which is owned by one of the developers. In exchange for closing a public street to create a “pedestrian plaza”, the developer promises a couple of public toilets. 

The developer is asking for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement where they pay no taxes for 25 years; a subsidy worth approximately $30.6M.

The Kingston Common Council unanimously approved the PILOT’s general terms. Although the Council may believe that the tax-free deal for luxury apartments is a good bargain for Kingston, it is only one of the three involved agencies that would be impacted by the PILOT and have to agree to the terms in order for the PILOT to go through. The other agencies include the Ulster County Legislature (UCL) and the Kingston City School District Board of Education (BOE).

A tax-free deal for luxury apartments in Kingston would be felt beyond the Kingston city boundary. Municipalities that pay Kingston City School taxes include the Towns of Esopus, Hurley, Marbletown, New Paltz, Kingston, Rosendale, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock.  As a result, it’s not just Kingston that will be left with higher school taxes. PILOTs result in less tax revenue, which requires everyone else to make up the difference for a developer that stands to make a windfall in profits with a $30.6 million subsidy courtesy of the City of Kingston’s Common Council. 

At a time of financial crisis when the coronavirus pandemic has led to cuts in city services and jobs, loss of tax revenue on this scale could be simply devastating. The proposed Kingstonian PILOT deal could potentially harm the least well off in the city as well as hardworking taxpayers who already struggle to pay high school and property taxes while wealthy real estate developers get a free pass. For county legislators advocating for social justice in housing, services for the poor, and children in need, the PILOT should be particularly worrisome. While not all PILOTs are exploitive, they must be balanced against the potential gains an investor or industry may bring to the area.

There is still an opportunity to stop the giveaway that Kingston’s Common Council shamelessly endorsed. CLICK ON THIS LINK to send a letter to the Ulster County Legislature and say no to developer welfare and tell the Kingston City School Board that education is a public good. Everyone should pay their fair share of school taxes, including wealthy real estate developers.

The Ten Things We Know about
the Kingstonian PILOT

Read more…

A public hearing on promising affordable housing project on Golden Hill site

A public hearing will be held at 6:20pm tonight (Tuesday, August 11, 2020) regarding a promising proposal called the Golden Hill Housing Development. Dial (646) 558-8656, Meeting ID: 982 8635 1219

“In Resolution No. 179 of May 19, 2020, the County Legislature requested the County Executive to inventory existing County-owned lands that no longer serve a county purpose to ascertain if they are suitable to meet the County’s housing goals. Responsive to that request, the Executive identified the site of the former county jail on Golden Hill as a suitable site and released a request for qualifications to solicit and gauge interest from developers and concept plans for development of housing on the site. This memo reviews the project goals, timeline, and process for discussion with the County Legislature.”

A SUMMARY is available for public review. For more information or if you have any questions, contact Ulster County Deputy County Executive Evelyn Wright at ewri@co.ulster.ny.us or call 845/340-3633.

The Kingstonain tax-free deal for luxury apartments would pay no school tax

Editorial Board

This week, the Kingston Common Council unanimously approved general terms for a $30.6 million dollar deviated payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the Kingstonian project. Although the Kingston Common Council may believe that the tax-free deal for luxury apartments is a good deal for Kingston, it is only one of the three involved agencies that will need to approve the PILOT before it can be implemented by the Ulster County Industrial Development Corporation (UCIDA).  The agencies include the Ulster County Legislature (UCL) and the Board of Education (BOE) for the Kingston City School District (KCSD). We anticipate the two remaining agencies will hold public discussions and a vote sometime in September and October. Write and call your representatives and ask when the PILOT is scheduled to be on their agenda and to explain in advance (and in writing) the impacts of a tax-free deal for luxury housing will have on your school taxes.

A wealthy developer will pay no school tax for 25 years?

What didn’t get a whole lot of traction during the Kingston council debate was the fact that the Kingstonian developer will pay nearly no school tax to the KCSD, and that impact will be felt by every municipality that pays into the school tax base.

In their PILOT application, the developers say that they anticipate minimal impact on the Kingston City School District because a similar project of theirs’ in Poughkeepsie has produced no school-aged residents. To further woo decision-makers, the developers are offering a $5,000 per year (for ten years) scholarship fund through the Community Foundation for the KCSD to use at their discretion. This translates into $50,000 over the course of 10 years in exchange for no school taxes for 25 years.  Another pittance in comparison to their school tax without a PILOT is a $40,000 payment that will be apportioned to the city, county and school district. If 60% of the total tax burden – or approximately $24,000 a year – would be paid to the school district, all it would take is 1 1/2 new students to wipe that out.

What will it cost us?

So far, the developers characterize their financial information as “trade secrets” and have aggressively sought to shield that financial information from the public. Without this important information, the public does not know what portion of the $57,885,000 project is taxable and therefore, has no ability to calculate cost or potential benefits to taxpayers over 25 years. 

Though at a recent special Kingston Common Council Finance and Audit Committee meeting, City of Kingston Assessor Dan Baker said that if the Kingstonian project were built today, the full property assessed value would be $19,000,000.  Based on the 2019-2020 non-homestead tax rate, the school tax calculation of $30.10 per $1000, the school tax bill alone would be approximately $571,900 per year.  Assuming the assessed value fluctuates and increases based on inflation and cost of living from year to year, the uncollected school taxes could end up being a staggering $18 million dollars over the life of the 25 year PILOT

A tax-free deal for luxury apartments in Kingston will be felt beyond the Kingston city boundary. PILOTs result in less taxable value which requires everyone else to make up the difference. Municipalities that pay Kingston City School taxes include the Towns of Esopus, Hurley, Marbletown, New Paltz, Kingston, Rosendale, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock.  

Read more…

Request that Ulster County Legislators Censure County Officials When Violating Sexual Harassment Policies

TONIGHT:   During public comment at tonight’s Ulster County Legislative meeting, request that county legislators immediately censure any county offical when in violation of county sexual harassment policies.

Tuesday, October 15th @ 7:00pm
County Office Building
6th Floor
244 Fair Street
Kingston, NY 12401

FIND YOUR ULSTER COUNTY LEGISLATOR

On Friday October 4th, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan (D) called on the legislature to publicly condemn Legislator Hector Rodriguez (D), who has been credibly accused of sexually harassing as many as eight women according to an independent investigation.

“Clearly, these actions, had they involved any member of my own administration, would lead to a summary dismissal. Legislator Rodriguez violated the public trust, violated women, and is unfit for public service.”

In summarizing the testimony of the women, the investigator found that “Mr. Rodriguez exploited his position as a legislator to gain access to multiple women in an effort to proposition them and ‘hit on them’.” When the women declined his advances he retaliated by refusing to interact with them professionally. At least two of the women directly confronted Legislator Rodriguez about his sexually harassing behavior and one woman stated that he “forcibly kissed her.” Additionally, while working at the Golden Hill Nursing Home, Legislator Rodriguez received a written warning in 2014 asking him to cease making sexual advances after an employee reported that he engaged in unwanted physical contact and made her feel “uncomfortable.”

While individual legislators have condemned his behavior, the legislature itself has not issued a collective statement acknowledging the wrongdoing and upholding a commitment to zero tolerance.   There have been discussions at censuring Legislator Rodriguez at tonight’s meeting at 7pm, though not all members of the caucus support censure.  

WHAT IS CENSURE? 

Censure is a formal, and public, group condemnation of an individual, often a group member, whose actions run counter to the group’s acceptable standards for individual behavior.” A formal statement of disapproval is the least that the Ulster County Legislature can do in this circumstance.

Censure holds no professional repercussions beyond what Rodriguez has already revealed, but it has significant meaning to the victims and the public-at-large to know that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in Ulster County government.

VIDEO: City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble UCRRA Public Hearing on Single Stream Recycling

Photo Credit: Phyllis McCabe for Hudson Valley One.  Click on image to view Mayor Steve Noble’s Testimony at the UCRRA Public Hearing on Single Stream Recycling and rate increases on June 14th. 

 

Mayor Steve Noble gave excellent testimony at Thursday evening’s Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency’s (UCRRA) public hearing on Single Stream Recycling and rate increases.  You may click on the image to view his testimony, or following along here:  VIEW 

The public can submit comments for the next 10 days (through June 24th) to UCRRA@ucrra.org

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“I could come before you this evening to talk about how the city of Kingston began its single stream operation. I could talk to you about how the Research Recovery Agency blessed the city of Kingston’s transition to single stream recycling. I could talk to you this evening about how much money the city has spent with both local funds and state grant dollars purchasing recycling bins for the city of Kingston residents. 

I could also talk to you at length about the amount of money spent on mechanizing our equipment to have the single stream recycling trucks that we purchased with state dollars. I could also speak to you this evening about how our recycling rates have almost doubled in the city of Kingston since we implemented this new recycling program. But in five minutes, I can’t do that.  I also don’t believe I can do that in the month in a half that we’ve had since UCRRA announced its plans to discontinue single stream recycling. 

This is viewed as something that, as you all have indicated, has been happening because of China. But I would say that the issue of recycling has been happening around our country and around New York for decades, trying to get people to recycle. And it has not been easy. And it’s been something that we’ve all struggled with. 

Whether we’re single stream or dual stream, people still don’t know how to recycle correctly. People still put plastic bags in dual stream recycling just like they do in single stream recycling. They still don’t know where to put shredded paper. And whether it can be recycled or it can’t be recycled. And I think the same issue is here. This is an important decision. What do we charge? How do we manage it? Is it dual stream? Is it single stream? 

The agency is shifting course and deciding, again, that dual stream is the only way that Ulster County should operate. Then that should be a public discussion, and it should involve the county legislature. It should involve the recycling oversight committee. It should involve a whole lot more meetings like this, and it should involve the stake holders that will be directly implemented and impacted by these decisions. That should include the large haulers like Waste Management and County Waste. And it should involve the residents of the city of Kingston that don’t speak English. 

It should involve all of our residents. And the agency needs to step up and engage with our communities and really decide how can we build a better, more sustainable and also more resilient recycling industry here in Ulster County. And there is no way that that can happen before December 31st of 2018 before the proposed switch that you’re asking us to do. 

We need to be able to spend that time working together to decide once and for all how we do this. As many of you know, it’s taken the city of Kingston four years to completely implement single stream recycling in just the residential neighborhoods. On Tuesdays, we still have dual stream recycling, for the most part, on our business commercial districts in the city. And so we still haven’t gone fully single stream. 

I do think that it’s important that this decision not being made in haste. I think that the board has created a crisis, and made this seem like a crisis, making it seem that our agency is stockpiling single stream recycling. Making it seem that we have no place to put it. Making it seem that there is an emergency happening here in Ulster County, and it’s just not true. 

And yes, we all recognize that the market is changing, and that we have a huge issue that we all have to tackle together. But again, I don’t believe it needs to be done in six months. I don’t believe it needs to be done like this.  I encourage all of you to consider that when you’re deciding on how the board is voting on these next two resolutions. And so with that said, I just want to say thank you again for letting me speak this evening.”

The UCIDA AND PILOTs: Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.

VIEW our Event Page for the UCIDA’s Wednesday Meeting

VIEW our Petition “UCIDA and PILOTs:  Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.

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Citizens have voiced concern about a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Tax)
agreement and other tax incentives currently on the table for the ‘Hudson Valley Kingston Development (HVKD) LLC’ proposal in Uptown, Kingston.

According to their application, they propose to  “build four boutique hotels in historic Uptown Kingston. There will be 43 hotel rooms in total, with a restaurant at the 301 Wall Street location. This will create a welcome space for community events and gatherings, and stimulate much-needed tourism and revenue for surrounding businesses.”
REVIEW  HVKD’s application

Last week, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) held a public hearing on the HVKD’s application. Very few members of the public were in attendance.

In our opinion, that’s probably because UCIDA’s process can be difficult to follow, especially for something like a PILOT agreement or tax abatements. Often, meetings are insufficiently publicized leaving many citizens in the dark.

Incentives are important tools in attracting and supporting business. Allocations of tax dollars in this context are governed by state law and to that end, there are real checks and balances here.

However if the public is not properly made aware of the opportunities that they have throughout the process, then only a handful of appointed officials are in a position to make decisions that will certainly extend beyond their tenure. For that reason alone, it is in everyone’s best interest for a transparent process to be a priority, one that will allow citizens a better understanding and to enter into a more robust discussion.

The next meeting on the proposal is to occur on Wednesday, October 11th at 8:00 am (in the Karen Binder Library on the 6th Floor of the County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY).  To help the public proceed in an organized manner, we offer the following information and a recommendation for the public to make to the UCIDA board for their consideration.   

VIEW  our Event Page for more information on Wednesday’s meeting.

Background on Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) From the NYS Comptroller.

First, appointments to the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency are made via resolution by the membership of the Ulster County Legislature.  Members serve at the pleasure of the Legislature.  

The Ulster County IDA must follow State law, based on background provided by the NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the role of IDA’s in New York State are charged with the following:

“Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) are authorized to provide financial assistance for certain types of projects. Financial assistance includes the issuance of bonds by the IDA to finance construction of a project and straight-lease transactions. Because IDAs’ property and activities are tax exempt, the IDA may pass the benefits of certain tax exemptions (e.g., real property, sales and mortgage recording taxes) to the private entities that undertake the projects. The loss of revenue associated with these tax exemptions can be offset with an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), under which the private entity agrees to pay all or a portion of the taxes that would otherwise have been imposed had the project not been an IDA project. The IDA’s role is not just to act as the conduit for financial assistance, but also to monitor the success, progress, and cost-benefit of projects, including whether projects are honoring their commitments and agreements.”

In addition to making these decisions, the IDA must also provide follow-up on the projects where they have provided support.

“The IDA’s role is not just to act as the conduit for financial assistance, but also to monitor the success, progress, and cost-benefit of projects, including whether projects are honoring their commitments and agreements.”

The 2016 New York State IDA Law

In 2016, laws were put into place to increase the accountability and efficiency of IDAs.

“In June 2016, new legislation became effective to increase the accountability and improve the efficiency and transparency of IDA operations. For new projects, the law requires standard application forms for requests for financial assistance, uniform criteria for the evaluation and selection for each category of projects for which financial assistance is provided, uniform project agreements, annual assessments on project progress including job creation and retention, as well as policies to recapture, discontinue or modify financial assistance or tax exemptions.”

 

Next Steps in the process for the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC PILOT agreement and tax incentives.

On Wednesday, October 11th at 8:00 am, the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC is listed in the (Draft) AGENDA #12: Projects “Hudson Valley Kingston Development (Public Hearing held on October 4, 2017)”.  There isn’t information listed as to whether or not the board will be making a decision regarding PILOTS or other available tax incentives for this proposal.  Therefore, it’s important to make your voice heard now – and you can do so by

SIGNING OUR PETITION:  UCIDA and PILOTs – Accountability to Taxpayers and Citizens.   VIEW 

The County must carry on its important business for the residents of Ulster County. We also support and appreciate new business opportunities in our area.  However, given the concerns of the public, we request that any approvals of tax incentives for the Hudson Valley Kingston Development LLC be delayed by the board to allow the following:

  1. Provide additional public educational opportunities on the UCIDA’s process in assigning PILOTS and tax incentives to proposed projects, including, but not limited to:

    * The necessary documentation that is required as evidence that an applicant demonstrates a need for a PILOT or other tax incentives as well as to show that the applicant has exhausted all other available options based on NYSEDC recommendations.
      VIEW

    * Explain UCIDA’s Uniform Tax POLICY that, based on the MATRIX determines the Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) hourly rates assessed as per the number of jobs it will create.

  2. How the UCIDA applies recommendations to this, and all project considerations, provided by the Ulster County Comptroller from his 2014 report “A Study of the Impact and Best Practices for Industrial Development Agencies”, specifically:* Support only Projects which likely will not proceed but for IDA assistance;* Require market analyses for “retail” (and services) Projects;* Calculate costs and benefits specifically attributable to IDA assistance;* Give PILOT points only for jobs attributable to IDA assistance;

    * Interpret the cost-benefit analysis with care;

    * Require proof of pre-assistance employment levels;

    * Maximize public access to information;

    * Consider a scoring category for local support.

  3. The UCIDA’s follow-up procedures after-tax incentives are awarded.

  4. Additional public hearings to be scheduled and publicized for more public input.

 

A Helpful Guide to the City of Kingston 2017 Primary Elections.

 

The 2017 primary election will occur on Tuesday, September 12th. The polls are open from noon – 9:00 pm.

We know that primary elections can be confusing, and that’s why we created a guide intended to help City of Kingston residents successfully vote for their candidate tomorrow.  Please be in touch if you notice any errors or to make suggestions in the comment section.

The best of luck to all candidates.  Get out and vote Kingston citizens!

 

 

 

 

Can I vote in in the City of Kingston 2017 primary elections?
In a closed primary a registered voter may vote only in the election for the party with which that voter is affiliated. For example a voter registered as Democratic can vote only in the Democratic primary and a Republican can vote only in the Republican primary.

How can I find what district or ward I live in in the City of Kingston?
Please view the City of Kingston Ward map HERE

How can I find my polling place?
You can find your polling place  HERE

What does it mean if someone is listed on the ballot?
When a candidate’s name is listed on the ballot, it means that they are in an actual primary (such as in the Kingston Common Council race in Ward 8).  The other ward races are OTB primaries, where only endorsed candidates are listed.  The others must be written in.

What does “Opportunity to Ballot” mean? (OTB)
An “Opportunity to Ballot” (or write-in) means voters affiliated with the party that is on the ballot are free to write any individual’s name in. For instance, if you are a Republican and you have the option to write-in a candidate in your ward or district, you may do so instead of voting for the listed candidate.  An opportunity to ballot is the result of petitioning within an election district and if valid petitions are submitted with enough signatures, this opens the ballot for a write-in.

Where can I find information about the party’s in this year’s City of Kingston primary race?
In this year’s 2017 City of Kingston Primary races,  the following party’s are involved (in alphabetical order):

CONSERVATIVE
The Ulster County Conservative party can be found on FACEBOOK.

DEMOCRAT
The Ulster County Democrats can be found HERE.  The City of Kingston Democrats can be found HERE.

INDEPENDENCE
Not to be confused with the “Independent” party, the Ulster County Independence party can be found on FACEBOOK for more information.

REPUBLICAN
The Ulster County Republican party’s website can be found HERE.

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Read more…

VIDEO: “On Immigration” – A Public Educational Forum in April

By Rebecca Martin

Our recent educational forum “On Immigration” was focused around the Ulster County Legislature’s Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government to Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health,  And Well- Being Of All Persons In Ulster County” structured around ACLU guidelines. VIEW

With guest panelists District #7 Ulster County Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum, it was my favorite educational panel discussion so far this year, where we had the opportunity to focus on a single piece of local legislation with at times two opposing points of view.

Resolution No. 138 is important and worthy, but it doesn’t have the support it needs to pass through committee to the legislative floor. It also doesn’t have the Sheriff’s support for reasons you might not suspect.

Empowered by New York State law and the County charter, the Sheriff’s office is independent in the way of policy making and procedure (though in reviewing the county CHARTER, it does state that “the Sheriff shall have and exercise all the powers and duties heretofore or hereafter lawfully granted or imposed by the Charter, Administrative Code, local law or resolution of the County Legislature“. My interpretation is that the Legislature would have oversight in some cases). In the resolution, there are several points in the model language that the Sheriff feels would infringe upon his office.

I wish that the Ulster County Legislature would have taken its time with this, starting with a small item that they and the Sheriff’s office could agree to.  For instance, sensitivity training on immigration by all county officers was something that was brought up on Sunday by a community member.  All the while, building support both internally and externally for a Resolution as important as No. 138 to have a fighting chance.

RESOURCES:

VIEW: Ulster County Resolution No. 138
VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky Powerpoint on Immigration
VIEW:  ACLU Model State and Local Law Enforcement Policies and Rules
VIEW:  “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions”
VIEW:  10th Amendment
VIEW:  Ulster County Charter Article XX “Sheriff”

Read more…

PARTICIPATE! Attend Regular Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Council Meetings.

By Rebecca Martin

How can we improve local government? By becoming more civic-minded rather than a single issue participant and attending regular, monthly meetings of both the Ulster County Legislature and City of Kingston Common Council.  That’s a potent and simple place to start.

To help you to get on your way, KingstonCitizens.org has put together a schedule of 2017  for both elected bodies.   “Many hands make light work” as they say. If each of us attended one or two meetings a year and shared what we witnessed – the landscape would look and feel very different.

Here are simple steps you can take to become a more engaged, local citizen.

  1. Sign up for the dates and times that are most convenient for your schedule (see below)
  2. Attend meetings. Make sure you check the calendar prior to attending, as all dates/times are subject to change (see below).  Make sure you add the dates to your personal calendar so you are reminded of your commitments.
  3. Write a one-page (or more) summation of your experience.  What happened that evening? How many citizens were present? Did you speak during public comment? What issues were discussed?  What significant decisions were made?  What did you learn and what outcome would you like to see on the issues that were discussed that evening?
  4. Submit your piece to KingstonCitizens.org:  rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org to be shared in our “Citizen Opinions” section (rules apply).
  5. We can help you to identify your council and legislative representatives and will encourage you to send a copy of your report directly to them as well.

 

Get Started. 

  1. Ulster County Legislature:  Dem/Rep Caucus and Regular Legislative Session
    1. VIEW:  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW:   Check the Ulster County Legislature Calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change.  You can also access an agenda at the legislative site.
  2. Kingston Common Council: Caucus and Regular Meeting
    1. VIEW  Visit this link and choose dates and times that work for your schedule.
    2. VIEW: Check the City of Kingston municipal calendar a week prior to your meeting. Dates/times may be subject to change. You can also access an agenda at the City of Kingston website.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Join us in becoming familiar with local government.

VIDEO: The Ulster County Legislature Bans Memorializing Resolutions.

 

By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, with a 13/9 vote, the Ulster County Legislature banned memorializing resolutions.   Although our group is deeply disappointed in the outcome,  we will apply our new knowledge  about the legislature to our work throughout the remainder of the year and beyond.

Outside of a ban on memorializing resolutions, we learned that Local Law 18 from 2016 (Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity) had been held back in the Laws and Rules Committee for over a year. In other words, a simple public hearing on transgender rights was stalled and in essence, denied.

In other news, what appeared to be a dozen or so members of a local sportsman club in attendance,  the group appeared to mostly be there to oppose Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government And Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health, And Well-Being Of All Persons In Ulster County“.  Illustrating the law as Ulster County becoming a ‘sanctuary county’, at one point during public testimony, a member of the group stated, “…We know you will do the right thing. #138 has to go down. We have your back. Thank you very much”  (VIEW Tape #2 @ 21:00)

It was an evening that left me questioning motives. Why would our elected officials wish to limit free speech? Or deny the public a chance for public comment on gender equality? Or, be opposed to wanting to ensure “protection, order, conduct safety, health and well-being of all persons living in Ulster County”?  I haven’t any answers, only a sense. Control and fear. Both will wreck havoc, too. The public must remain diligent.

KingstonCitizens.org is seeking volunteers who are interested in attending monthly Ulster County Legislature meetings and report back to the public via KingstonCitizens.org. It’s our goal to build a larger base of public participation and, as always, encourage new potential candidates.  All legislature seats are up for election in November, 2017.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Special thanks to Clark Richters of the Kingston News for helping us to document the evening.

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Those in favor of a ban on memorializing resolutions were (RED: Republican, Conservative, etc;  BLUE: Democrat):

District 1 (Town of Saugerties)   Mary Wawro
District 3 (Town of Saugerties/Town of Ulster)  Dean Fabiano
District 4 (Town of Ulster/Town of Kingston) James Maloney
District 8 (Town of Esopus)  Carl Belfiglio
District 9 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Plattekill)  Herbert Litts III
District 10 (Town of Lloyd/Town of Marlboro)  Mary Beth Maio
District 11 (Town of Marlboro)  Richard Gerentine
District 12 (Town of Plattekill)  Kevin Roberts
District 13 (Town of Shawangunk) Ken Ronk
District 14 (Town of Shawangunk/Town of Wawarsing)  Craig Lopez
District 18 (Town of Hurley/Town of Marbletown)  Richard Parete
District 21 (Town of Rochester/Town of Wawarsing) Ronald G. Lapp
District 22 (Town of Denning, Hardenburgh, Olive, and Shandaken)  John Parete

Those opposed:

District 2 (Town of Saugerties/Village of Saugerties)  Chris Allen
District 5 (City of Kingston) Peter Loughran
District 6 (City of Kingston)  Dave Donaldson
District 7 (City of Kingston)  Jennifer Schwartz Berky
District 16 (Town of Gardiner/Town of Shawangunk) Tracey Bartels
District 17 (Town of Esopus/Town of New Paltz)  Jim Delaune
District 19 (Town of Marbletown/Town of Rosendale)  Manna Jo Greene
District 20 (Town of New Paltz/Village of New Paltz) Hector Rodriguez
District 23 (Town of Woodstock)  Jonathan Heppner

Absent:
District 15 (Town of Wawarsing, Town of Ellenville)  Thomas Briggs


VIDEO: Resolution No. 91 “Amending the Rules of Order to Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW:  Legislative Discussion/Debate


Legislator Highlights
:

VIEW:  Ken Ronk and David Donaldson

VIEW:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky

Public Comment Highlights:

VIEW: Amy Fradon, Ban on Memorializing Resolution

VIEW:  County GOP Chair Roger Rascoe, Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

VIEW: Andrea Callan,  Law Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity (Local Law 18 of 2016) 

VIEW:  Candace Teetsel and Friend, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW: Jeff Rindler, ED of HV LGBTQ, Local Law 18 of 2016

VIEW:  Evie Starr, Local Law 18 of 2016

 

To view all public comment:
VIDEO #1   Starts at 36:30

 

 

 

 

FAQ Sheet and Call To Action: Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions Vote April 18.

CALL TO ACTION.

Legislative Members  VIEW

Please call your Ulster County Legislator today and ask that they reject Resolution No. 91 “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions” on April 18th.     “It is important to me that you do not support a ban on the memorializing resolution process. A ban is undemocratic and infringes on my first amendment right to petition.”

Plan to attend the next Ulster County regular legislative meeting on Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00 pm at the Ulster County Office Building located at 244 Fair Street, 6th Floor in Kingston, NY.  Arrive at 6:30 pm to sign-up to speak and to get a seat.  Citizens are encouraged to create a two (2) minute testimony that is respectful and succinct.

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In March of 2017, Resolution No. 91, a proposed ban on memorializing resolutions,  had its first reading (see video below).  In order to change a local law, that’s step one in the process.  On April 18th, the resolution will be read a final time before it goes to vote.

Here are the facts. (**)

Is a letter from the legislature as effective as a memorializing resolution?

No. Memorializing resolutions must be submitted to the Clerk of the Legislature by the sponsor(s), along with all other business of the session, by a specific deadline.  The appropriate standing committee is chosen based on the issue.  It is placed on the committee agenda and discussed at the regularly scheduled meeting, which is open to the public.  The members of the committee have the opportunity to discuss the MR in committee before voting to send it to the “floor” of the legislature for a vote in the upcoming session.  A letter is not an act of the legislature that invites group discussion in committee, requires a vote by that committee to be sent to the floor, and is then a part of the public process where the public sees the memorializing resolution and can attend the session to weigh in.

Why do proponents of the ban on Memorializing Resolutions claim that they take up too much time during regular legislative sessions?

In 2016, the rules were changed prohibiting discussion on Memorializing Resolutions during the legislative session.  However, procedure allows for members to call for a “long roll” (i.e., a one-by-one vote) so that they may speak on the issue.  KingstonCitizens.org believes that engaging in debate in a way that represents and involves the public is the legislature’s business. They are protecting our “right to petition” by creating an opportunity for our voices to be heard and for our petitions to have a real forum. A ban on memorializing resolutions discredits public participation, civic dialogue, due process and the First Amendment.

Why are memorializing resolutions important? 

Memorializing resolutions are statements of principles that do not become a local law or policy. They are “non-binding”. It is, effectively, a petition by one legislative body to other legislative bodies and lawmakers to provide a mechanism that allow citizens and the legislature to take a stand on important issues.

Why do the ban’s sponsors claim that Memorializing Resolutions have been used as a political tool? 

The sponsors have said that memorializing resolutions were used recently by the Democratic Caucus to polarize the legislative body over issues we have no control over.  Memorializing resolutions are a governing tool. Governing tools are non-partisan.

Two controversial memorializing resolutions were recently sponsored by Republicans and passed by the majority of the Ulster County Legislature. One, in fact,  just occurred in March of this year.  It was Resolution No. 92 “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05” (March 22, 2017). The other was  Resolution No. 253  “Opposing The Process Of Enactment And Certain Provisions Contained Within The New York SAFE Act”  (June 16th, 2015).

 

SOURCES  (**)

VIEW  “Commentary:  Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic” by Jennifer Schwartz Berky (Kingston Times, March 22, 2017)

VIDEO:  Ulster County Laws and Rules Committee Discuss Prohibiting Memorializing Resolutions Legislative Session

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17: First Reading of Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions

VIDEO: Ulster County Legislature 3/22/17 – Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions. Public Comment and First Reading.

“Why would we want to diminish our voice and power as a legislature? Are our actions any less important than any other legislative body or branch of government to our constituents? If we think so, we should not hold the office.”   –  Jennifer Schwartz Berky,  Ulster County Legislator (Kingston, District 7)   from “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times.   VIEW

On Wednesday night, the Ulster County Legislature held its regular legislative session where the proposed ban on memorializing resolutions had its first reading. Other important items were debated (and adopted) including a memorializing resolution to request the NYS Legislature expand hate crimes (to include first responders and police officers) and, a resolution to prohibit cyber-bullying.

Thanks to all of the citizens who came out to speak that evening on a number of issues. We trust that watching these processes as thoroughly as you are will help to better assist you in speaking to your legislators on these important matters.

Speeches that were made by the Chairman, minority and majority leaders are located at the bottom of this post.

Filmed by Clark Richters of the Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

FOR YOUR REFERENCE:

Resolution #91: “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

VIEW: “Commentary: Ban on Memorializing Resolutions in Ulster County Legislature is Undemocratic.” in the Kingston Times by Jennifer Schwartz Berky, District 7 Legislator

Resolution #92: “Requesting The New York State Legislature Introduce Legislation Expanding The Hate Crimes Law, New York Penal Law §485.05”

Resolution No. 89  Adopting Proposed Local Law No. 17 of 2016 (A Local Law Prohibiting Cyber-Bullying In Ulster County)”  

 

                     VIDEO ONE:  Public Comment Footage. See names and times below. 

Read more…

VIDEO: UC Laws and Rules Committee Discuss Prohibiting Memorializing Resolutions. Legislative Session Postponed to Wednesday Due to Snow.

Last evening, the Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules Committee had their monthly meeting with one of the items being to discuss Resolution No. 91  “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”.  It passed through committee by a 4 / 3 vote.  We filmed the meeting thanks to The Kingston News (brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org) so that you can see the debate from last night. We also took the liberty to note the legislator’s districts and localities they represent in the case that one of the members represents you and you wish to contact them directly.

Due to today’s snowstorm, the regular legislative session that was to be for this evening was moved to tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 15th at 7:00pm in Legislative Chambers (6th Floor) of the Ulster County Building located at 244 Fair Street in Kingston.  Residents can sign-up to speak when they arrive.

We ask citizens consider coming to speak tomorrow in opposition of the Ulster County Legislature banning memorializing resolutions.  Please keep comments respectful, succinct and no longer than three (3) minutes in length.

In the case that the meeting is moved again, we’ll send out an update.

 

VIEW
Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules Committee Meeting
Video from Tuesday, March 13, 2017

Read more…