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”

PART 1: Click on image to review. 

 

 

3:04 – What empowers the work of the UC Legislature and UC Sheriff’s office?

5:50  – “Sanctuary” is a term that has come up this year, that many hadn’t thought of or even have known about before the Trump administration. What is the difference between a community, city or county that speaks of itself as a “Sanctuary” and one that is “Welcoming and Inclusive”? 

JSB: “Sanctuary”  is not a legal term. It refers to the “spirit” of the statement they are making. There is a range of statements having to do with the concept to limit cooperation of government, whether we call it “sanctuary” or not.

PVB: “Sanctuary” is not a law, just a suggestion.

13:10 – The City of Kingston worked with the Kingston Police Department to craft their resolution. Given the confusion and fear currently, in being a supportive community, what might you suggest could help our County regarding this matter?

PVB:  Education.

14:37 –  What is the process of the Ulster County Sheriff’s department in how it handles members of our community who are undocumented?

PVB:  People think there is no process, and there is… you are not going to be deported because you are undocumented.

16:08 –  Are you seeing any changes in how you manage immigration issues in ulster county from one administration to another?

PVB:  No. Nothing has changed since I began this work in 1976 in Ulster County.

16:25 –  On the subject of fear, there are those who speak about members of our community who are undocumented as being ‘criminals’ or ‘illegals’ that has heightened since Trump took office.  

PVB:  The public doesn’t have to worry about being deported by local police agencies because they are undocumented. We will not allow members of the public to be targeted by their heritage.

18:00 – What is the difference between INS and ICE? 

22:50: The PEW center states that there are 1.15 million classified undocumented citizens in NYS.  How many of these estimates are in Ulster County? 

PVB (26:45) –  If you are undocumented and you have police contact, you will not be deported….it’s important for people to know that and to not be afraid.

27:30 –  The Ulster County Legislature and Ulster County Sheriff’s office did not speak at the inception of Resolution No. 138. Why? 

34:17  – After meeting a week ago, were any amendments made to it? 

36:40 – What aspects of the resolution might keep the Ulster County Sheriff’s office from supporting it? 

VIEW:  ACLU Model State and Local Law Enforcement Policies and Rules

#3) Defined Access/Interview Rule: Unless acting pursuant to a court order or a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law, no [County/City/State] official shall permit ICE or CBP agents access to [County/City/State] facilities or any person in [County/City/State] custody for investigative interviews or other investigative purposes.

38:37 –  Can you explain what is problematic with #3 in your opinion?

#6) Privacy Protection Rule: No [County/City/State] official shall voluntarily release personally identifiable data or information to ICE or CBP regarding an inmate’s custody status, release date or home address, or information that may be used to ascertain an individual’s religion, ethnicity or race, unless for a law enforcement purpose unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law.

VIEW:  “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions”

VIEW:  10th Amendment

46:21 –  If a community or county are only stating the laws as they are and as they have always been, why do some portray that there will be some form of punishment for doing so?   How might you address that?

PVB (47:06) –  “For sure it is a miscommunication, a misunderstanding. None of which ever happened before Trump was elected into office. The president can’t restrict funding on his own. Laws would have to be changed, and they are not going to change the law. You will not be deported unless you have done something terribly wrong.”

47:55 – Sheriff, you speak about education as being key here. Could the current resolution be seen as an educational tool?  

PVB:  The legislature here wants to set policy for the Ulster County Sheriff’s office. which I don’t believe that they can and if they can, and they do, how does the sheriff’s office follow these restrictions?

JSB: We would prefer that you agree not to volunteer information.

51:50 –  Let’s discuss #5 of the ACLU Guidelines.     

Don’t Ask Rule: [County/City/State] officials shall not inquire into the immigration or citizenship status of an individual, except where the inquiry relates to a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law, or where required by state or federal law to verify eligibility for a benefit, service, or license conditioned on verification of certain status.

JSB: In the intake form when you are being processed, it asks where you were born.

SVB: We don’t ask anyone your status of origin is ever. If you are locked up, the question on the booking form are given to us by the COC. We ask the questions they want us to ask.  It’s in our rules and regulations forms that we don’t ask origin.

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…

WHAT TO EXPECT: Ulster County Legislature Meeting February 15th and the Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions.

Please click on the image and for full size hand out. Print, and bring with you on Wednesday night.


FIRST, SIGN OUR PETITION

Let Republicans Richard A. Parete and Legislators Fabiano and Ronk know in advance
that you do not support a ban on memorializing resolutions.

SIGN our Petition

WHAT

Ulster County Legislature Meeting

WHERE

Legislature Chambers, 6th Floor, Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY 12401.
VIEW our event on Facebook

WHEN

Sign-up to speak and secure a seat at the council meeting 6:45pm
Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
7:00pm

Read more…

Tell Ulster County Legislature That A Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions is Undemocratic.

PETITION:  ” A Proposed Ban on Memorializing Resolutions is Undemocratic”

VIEW: Attend next session of the legislature to speak on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00 pm (arrive at 6:45 pm)

READ:  Resolution No. 32 of February 15, 2017  “Amending The Rules Of Order To Prohibit Memorializing Resolutions”

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By Rebecca Martin

WHAT IS A MEMORIALIZING RESOLUTION?
A memorializing resolution does not set forth policy or law. Instead, it creates text to cause people to remember. It is a tool to both educate and in this case, to remind us of our principles and values.

So why would members of the Ulster County Legislature want to “prohibit” this critical tool? In our opinion, it is incredibly short sited and potentially damaging to county governance.

“County Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, R-Wallkill, said he has agreed to co-sponsor a resolution (#32 of 2017) introduced by Legislator Richard Parete to change the body’s rules by banning any resolution in which legislators aren’t taking action on issues directly under their control.  Parete has repeatedly referred to these as a “waste of time.”

Such a ban is rare in legislative bodies.   Memorializing resolutions state a legislative body’s position on an issue that may be outside its purview without taking direct action.  However, they represent a significant opportunity for regional leadership and intergovernmental relationships.

In the past few years, the Ulster County Legislature has passed three memorializing resolutions on the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline and one on the proposed anchorages of crude oil on the Hudson River.  In the last year, the legislature has been unanimous in its support of these statements, which add to the voice of an entire region that stands against these potentially hazardous projects.

Citing the recent use of memorializing resolutions as a “mockery” by the democrats, Chairman Ronk pointed to Legislator Jonathan Heppner’s (D-Woodstock) resolution opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as having not being relevant to county business.  With approximately 20,000 residents now relying on the ACA for their healthcare coverage and the potential loss of $3 million in federal Medicaid funding, this is certainly the business of Ulster County.

Furthermore, do we want to lose the ability to take a stand on things that could severely impact our environment, such as pipelines and anchorages, without adding to the voices in the region who oppose them?”

District 7 Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky regarding the proposed ban on memorializing resolutions by the UC Legislature:

Please sign our PETITION and plan to attend the next session of the legislature Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00 pm to speak out on this proposed ban.  Citizens who wish to speak should arrive early at 6:45 pm to sign in be prepared to speak no longer than 3 minutes.   Address: Legislature Chambers, 6th Floor, Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY 12401.