A Citizen’s Rights Regarding NYS Open Meetings Law on Use of Recording Devices

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By Rebecca Martin

At the last Water Board Meeting, a board member made a motion to “Make sure that those who record meetings notify us prior to doing such action and that we have a record of those doing such.” 

In other words, you can’t record their meetings unless you alert the board in advance and then, submit some form of paperwork to be determined.  It passed through unanimously and their Lawyer, Bill Cloonan, clarified and obliged (see video below. Starts at 7:31  and ends at 9:18).

What the board and their lawyer may not have realized is that what they requested was against NYS Open Meetings Law on recording devices.

Jennifer Schwartz Berky, KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning advisor, called Albany to confirm that this was the case, and crafted a letter to the Water Board requesting that they overturn the motion based on judicial precedents (see below).

Citizens have the right to record all city meetings, and as it pertains to the water board – we will continue to do so until the end of time. Or until at least the City of Kingston does it themselves.  Water management is just too important for us not to.

We hope that this instance helps to inform the public on their rights in this case.

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VIDEO: Mayoral Candidate Debate 10/22/15

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to bring you video from last evening’s Mayoral Candidate debate (10/22/15). Special thanks to Kingston News for helping us to make it possible.

Please mark your calendars and VOTE on Tuesday, November 3rd. The polls are open from 6:00am – 9:00pm. To locate your polling place, please visit the BOE POLLING PLACE site for more information.

Don’t forget that the Water Sales/Supply Referendum will appear on the BACK OF THE BALLOT!  Please consider a YES vote and give Kingston citizens the opportunity have a voice in any future water sales outside of our community.

Thanks.

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Water Sales Referendum will appear on the BACK of the ballot in the November 3rd General Election in Kingston, NY.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A Water Sales Referendum will appear on the back of the ballot in the November 3rd General Election in Kingston, NY. KingstonCitizens.org encourages Kingston voters to get out and vote ‘yes’ on what would be a positive and historic charter revision on the municipal water protection front for the community, and the region.  

Kingston, NY – A Water Sales Referendum to include the Kingston Common Council on all sales of water outside of the City’s corporate boundaries will be on the back of the ballot during the General Election on November 3, 2015.  Polling places are open on that day from 6:00am – 9:00pm.

Over the past year, citizens of Kingston and the region faced a potential threat to its water and watershed during the Niagara Bottling Company’s attempt to purchase a significant share of Kingston’s municipal water supply. During a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), it was further revealed that the Kingston Water Board — a four – five member group appointed by the sitting Mayor of Kingston (who is also a member of the group) — was independent of City Government and had the sole discretion to approve such a sale. This decision making body’s power excluded Kingston’s Common Council and, therefore, all citizens of Kingston from the decision making process.

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IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Why Does Passing The Water Referendum on November 3rd Matter?

Referendum

By Rebecca Martin

As part of our ongoing effort to educate citizens on the upcoming Water Referendum that will appear on the November 3rd  ballot,  we are happy to present this piece, “In their own words” to share insight from residents who live and work inside and out of the City of Kingston.

Our lives are intimately impacted by the decisions made by our elected and appointed officials on all fronts.  In this case, regarding water, by voting ‘YES’ to include the Common Council on all sales of water outside Kingston’s corporate limits, we have a real opportunity to assure better decisions to be made.

Please take note. The Water Sales Referendum will be on the BACK OF THE BALLOT on November 3rd.

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VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPTION: Finance Committee Meeting (7/15/15)

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At a recent Finance Committee meeting on July 15th, 2015, council members were addressed by Gregg Swanzey, Director, Economic Development and Strategic Partnerships Department (EDSP) alleging that there were ‘serious’ grant management issues of seven of Kingston’s grants, and in particular those coming from Kingston’s Parks and Recreation office.

As far as we know to date, the directors of both departments have not yet sat down together to discuss these items – line by line – with their  reports.

Based on video of the meeting, it appears that the EDSP office was charged by the Mayor to work on a report (that took approximately 8 weeks) to present to the Common Council’s Finance Committee. Apparently, the Parks and Recreation department received the report  two weeks prior to respond in time for the July 15th meeting (although without a formal communication request by Parks and Recreation to be added to the evening’s agenda, the department was not officially allowed to respond during the meeting, although there are moments where they did as you will see in the video).

Generally, elected/appointed officials or citizens who wish to move something through to council start by sending a ‘communication’ to council president to be added to an appropriate committee so to present.  An action for the committee to take is generally (if not always) requested which is then either approved out of committee and moved to council to vote or, kept on the agenda for further review and discussion.

In this case, the result (since there wasn’t any formal action being made) was for there to be an audit of all City of Kingston’s grants (suggested by Finance Committee chair Maryann Mills that evening).

The request for a citywide audit of grants, however, did not pass through Council in August. No further request or action has since been made on the subject based on press reports.

Before any further steps are taken by Kingston’s highest office that might further burden the public and cost more taxpayer monies, citizens should request that both Kingston’s Economic Development and Parks and Recreation Departments sit down face to face, having each a report of their own, to identify which are actual issues and which are not – and then, to proceed from there.

The meeting is roughly transcribed and included below so that citizens can follow along, as it can be hard to follow if you haven’t any background on this matter.

 

KEY

GS Gregg Swanzey

MM  Maryann Mills

MD  Matt Dunn

BW Brad Will

BS  Brian Seche

ND  Nina Dawson

SN  Steve Noble

JN  Jim Noble

DB  Deb Brown

SS  Steve Schabot

AZ  Andy Zweben

KG Kevin Gilfeather

 

PART  1

5:02  – Introduction and what action is the Economic Development office asking for?

8:44 – GS: This is a legitimate exercise with “primary documents”

9:59 –  GS: Review of Parks and Rec Grants.

10:11 – GS: Economic Development office gives background.

13:50 – GS: “Primary documents” and not just conjecture.

15:07 – GS: “It’s not all the grants, but it’s ones where we had the information and we were able to forensically figure out what was going on with the grants.”

15:22 – GS: “We had not gotten information placed on the S Drive”

16:30 –  GS: “Most problematic was allocation of time for the match that involved “in-kind” our applying our time to the grant.”

17:28 – GS: “Problems with process. They are requiring all documentation before they can reimburse the city You have to send everything in signed by employee and supervisor. 30% MWBE. More stringent. Didn’t just happen over night.”

18:42 – GS: Summary of grants via table in the front of his informational packet.

20:45 – GS: “There are people rallying, and I’m really impressed by their dedication. It’s not only going to help Kinderland, but the tennis courts at Forsyth.”

21:49 – GS: “Primary documents”

21:51 – GS:  Problems too with recycling coordination and outreach grant opportunities. Unless we can show 50% time on task by recycling coordinator, we can’t go for the $92,000 worth of funding. “Highly unlikely we can prove that.”

22:25 – GS: Steve Noble is the grants manager and recycling coordinator. He’s got hours in for the zoo, fishing doc, one of the issues. 50% to be applied to the zoo. 50% time applied for money for recycling. 120 hours for the fishing doc. other grants that aren’t here that require more time. “There is not way in the world someone can work more than 100% of their time.  Not possible to be reimbursed at all.”

24:54 – GS: I do have ‘primary documents’ if we can look through grant by grant. Look at ‘primary’ information.

25:30 – SN: Passes out Parks and Recreation response to Gregg Swanzey’s audit. The department spent two weeks working on a response.  They, too, put together their report grant by grant.

26:07 – SN: A very brief explanation of documents and distribution (many interruptions).

26:41 – JN:  to Gregg – “Have you reached out to get answers?”  GS:  Multiple times from Parks and Rec Department Head Kevin Gilfeather (who walks in at that moment). Gregg explains that as ‘we go through grant by grant I can share with you what was not forwarded by Parks and Rec”.

27:40 – JN to GS: “Do we have copies of your requests?” GS: “I have copies of those requests here but I didn’t think those were…I am not here to defend myself.”  JN:  “Is there a procedure for grants?” A discussion ensues to understand what Gregg is looking for at this meeting. New procedure? S drive discussion and how it currently works in the city.

29:00 JN: “If I were a department head, and I want to put in for a grant, do you hand them something? Do they say I’ll do it for you?”  GS:  “A lot of grants I am directly involved with. You’ll find full documentation for those. Departments do their own grants.”

29:40 GS: It (procedure?) hasn’t fully changed, we are trying to pilot this with [parks and recs because there are many grants there.

30:05  GS: “This doesn’t come up to speed over night. It’s in progress.”

30:16 GS: “Trying to start with parks and recreation because we knew there were many problems there.”

30:27 –  GS:  “I’ll take responsibility for this.  I should have pushed harder from 2013 to get documents that we should have had. I was presuming wrongly unless there are documents that I haven’t received and have asked for, I thought they were all in one location. that’s not the case. We are doing a review. If an auditor came in, we’d be hard pressed to produce the documents”

31:05 – JN: “Are there instructions, such as ‘sign this to show that you received this’ as procedure?”

31:19 – GS: “I am working with the Jr. League, there are so many moving parts. It says right in the contract that we are responsible for sub- contractors. We can’t give up that responsibility. We must work closely with them as grantee, we are responsible for requirements.”

32:18 MM:  “We need to start going through these (items). The process isn’t understandable.”

32:36  MD: “Aren’t we using a tracking software for grants?”

32:43 GS:  “We are. Amplifund (sp?). Steve and I worked, in fact Steve found it. Unfortunately it was not implemented by Parks and Recreation even though there was some training. We have a structure on the S Drive, and there is enough capacity. We are more than able.  We won’t go after funding for that software. Not an expense that we want to have. We would need a way of training more people in city government in order to implement something like that. We tried it didn’t work as much as we had hoped.”

34:03 –  MM: Should we start from the list?   GS: Start with Forsyth (quickly responds). It’s the most complicated one (keeps apologizing for the density of the grants).

34:36  MD: “When you want to throw someone under the bus you put in all the stops you can.”

34:50 – GS:  Forsyth grant. Application submitted. Second page where the budget was. 72,000 for supplies and materials EPF funds. Highlighted because contract is not in place. What should have been in place is the contract before construction started. Design needed to be approved. Procurement policy for us to pay out 72,000 to a vendor or supplies and materials. MWBE process. We would be required to follow through on policies.  We should have worked closely with the Jr. League to begin with. Now we must wait 2 months for the contract to turn around for reimbursement as it just got signed.  We can’t commit funds. we may need an alternative strategy.

38:00 – SN: Are we at this point if there is something that he said (Swanzey) is wrong, are we going line by line? We should have done this internally.   MM:  “I created my agenda based on communications I received. I did not receive one from you so I couldn’t add you to the agenda. We were given a protocol in January.   MD: “You’re not going to let Steve speak?”    JN: “The grants manager?”   MM: (raised voice)  “Leave the room if you can’t listen to the finance chair.”  MD: “Can Steve speak or can’t speak?”  (Meeting escalates.  Maryann refuses to answer whether Steve can speak or not and attacks Matt.)  MD: “This is a unilateral conversation with Gregg Swanzey.”

40:27 MM: “I have done extensive research with Gregg Swanzy and John Tuey (JT seems puzzled, but does not speak) meeting day after day what fiscal responsibility for the CI-TY.

40:43 MD: “This is nothing but a political witch hunt”

40:47  BS:  “STOP IT! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM. WE ARE HERE TO DO A JOB AND WE CAN’T DO IT BECAUSE YOU WON’T SHUT UP.”

41:00 MD: “We have never seen one department throw another department under the bus like this.”

41:02  MM explains protocol  JN:  “Maryann, that’s on issues. You’ve got to let everyone speak.” MM: Disrespectful to me who takes fiscal sponsor seriously.  JN: “You really think you can discuss this and not have the other party respond to it?”

42:05  JN:  “Gregg is discussing issues he has found fault with, wouldn’t you want to hear from the person who is supposed to…”

42:19  MM:  “Kevin walked into Gregg’s office and said stop sending me emails because i have nothing more to provide you.”

42:21 JN:  “Did anyone ask Steve any information?”  GS: “Yes, through Kevin.:

42:29 –  SN: “There is information requesting for documents. The interpretation of those documents…”  GS: “The documents were not provided.”

42:38 – MM: “He must have as he had this prepared (Parks and Rec Report). I’m not taking sides here, but…”

42:49 –  BS to KG:  “Were you asked to did you provide documents”  KG: “Yes”

43:02 BS:  Gregg, did you  ask for more documents?”  GS:  “I did not receive all documents that I asked for.”

43:14  BS: “Steve, do you have more documents that Kevin did not turn over to Economic Development?”

43:21 – SN: “The documents are emails, timelines…”  MM: “Was this sent to economic development or not?”   SN: “We just got the audit 2 weeks ago.”  MM mentions the process began 8 weeks ago. SN: Speaks to inaccuracies.  “This Could have been done in a table setting.”  MM: “Did you suggest that?”  SN: Kevin and I talked about how to proceed with this process…”

44:20 MM: Persists with Steve “Did you request to meet with gregg?”  MD questions Maryann’s point, and Maryann screams “SHUT-UP!”

44:31 MM: “Did you reach out to Gregg Swanzey?”  SN: “I did not reach out to Gregg Swanzey…”  MM: “Thank you, that’s all I wanted to know.”  SN: “That’s not my role”

44:42 – MM: “We should hire an independent auditor.”

44:50  MD: “So are we going to continue this political discussion?”

44:52 MM: “You’re so disrespectful.”

45:06  MD:  “We know what’s going on.  This is a political issue.”

45:16 – MD: “I’m saying but for Steve Noble running for mayor… etc.  Any good manager of the city is going to say we have issues with grants. Lets deal with those issues in house, and lets figure out a solution.”   MM speaks over him.

46:36  – ND:  “Lets get things on track. I sometimes do what he does. Grandstanding. Can we bring this back to issue. this is a money thing”  MM: “Do you think? it is a money issue.”   ND: ”Steve knows I like him. You know I like the mayor.”

47:38 – MD: “We’re here for one reason tonight. we’re here to deal with a political matter  for Shayne Gallos’ reelection campaign.”

47:50  GS: “We’re looking at primary documents. This is primary documents. These are not politically motivated documents. If you took the time ahead of time to look over this. I’d like to get through the grant before comment if I could. We can digress.  MM: “The info that Steve Noble provided is also here.”

48:38  – GS:  Third page. 139,000 put out for supplies and materials for Forsyth. how can we interpret this any other way, political or not?

49:54 – Maryann stops Gregg . MM: “Steve do you have anything to add to that?”

50:06   SN: “At no point was anyone allowed to purchase anything under this grant. Our department did not authorize a single penny as there is not a contact in place. When Kevin and I met with the Jr. League on March 19th, we stated not one penny could be spent until after the contract was in place. I’m not sure where that’s coming from. It’s made up. We did not authorize money under this contract. We were clear with our partners and city on how this process works. “  JN: “Was money spent?”  GS: “Absolutely.”

51:20 BH (Jr. League) “We were told to submit receipts. Purchase materials, submit receipts.”

51:40  ND: “when did that meeting happen?” BH Confirms Steve’s date.

ND: “I’m confused.”

52:33  DB: “March 29th last meeting with Kinderland.”  BS:  “It was march 19th.  Did you tell them (Jr. League) you were starting in April?   BH:  “TI believe it was on the parks calendar.”

53:04  SS: “who was at the meeting?  BH:  “Myself and Anna Brett.”   SN: “myself and Kevin.”

53:20  MD: “What are we going to accomplish here other than smear campaign?”

53:53 – MM to JN: “What actions can be taken to stop Matt making snide remarks?”  JN:  “I’ll have to check the code.”  MM:  “I’ll call a break right now to see the code book.”  JN:  “There’s nothing that can be done tonight. This is America”  JN is accused of siding with MD.

55:09  JN: “Gregg has presented no agenda of what he wants to accomplish. we can’t do anything with personal, we can’t discuss personal issues all we can do is finance. Nothing to vote on to correct a thing. Always the purpose to come in to vote.”

56:00 ND “I’d like to know what we’re talking about figures wise.”

56:44 – MM: “You want me to write up a committee report with figures?  a discussion needed to be done first.  Pace energy made a presentation and we have to have further discussion on it”

57:40 – JN: “They came with a request. Gregg is coming with stuff I believe would be done in house. I don’t see the need for the finance committee. There has not been one single dollar lost. “

58:10 – GS:  “There are significant dollars at risk.” JN:  “At risk, but not lost. fix the at risk issues.”

58:20 – GS: “I am basing this on facts and primary documents. This is not political. Not small dollar amounts. 100’s of thousands of dollars. we could have been reimbursed with good documentation.”   JN: “You feel you need action of finance committee.”   GS: “I’m not recommending this, but we should take action of Herzogs and Jr. League. Been money out of pocket that did supplies and materials and not paid yet. Grants not in place. Jr. league carrying that debt. Like Herzogs carrying that debt. I wish you look at all of this that’s your responsibly as alderman. I beg your pardon (says twice).”

1:00 – DB: Herzog invoice. Info provided.  “I have the bills right here.

how about paying this bill sometime maybe?”

1:01 – SS: “We read about ‘at risk’ everyday. Give me an idea what percentage we are at risk: 50/50? 90/10?  What action will be done to move these grants alone? More information? Independent audit?”

1:03 – GS “For the Forsyth grant, money out the door. Time sheets, MWBE all need to be submitted for reimbursement. Design not approved by OPRHP all of money at risk of being reimbursed. That’s the amount that we could be at risk. (Herzog bills).  There are a lot of inconsistencies if we went through this pack. Can’t get around it. Certified time sheets.”

1:04 – SS – “What I’m really looking for, is it more likely or less likely we will get that money.”  GS: “We need 3000 hours documented via time sheets to get that money recovered. To get that reimbursement, we need to get those time sheets. everyone is working hard. We need that to be reimbursed. $500,00 grant. It is at risk and it’s not resolved yet. All I’m trying to do is pin down those moving parts and we restore confidence with the agency and the city as to how we are managing grants.  Breakdown it’s not the Jr. League’s fault. It’s the city’s fault. We need to take responsibly. it’s not politics.”

1:07  BS – “Kevin, meeting on March 19 w/jr. league. do you believe they were given all the requirements, MWBE, etc.”

1:07 KG – “Great organization (Jr. League). I thought at that time the information as far as record keeping was in place. The build date was made known in April 2014. A year ahead. This project would have taken place with or without the grant as it was a project that they (Jr. League) decided this was going to be their project to rebuild the playground.  That was set in place a year ago. “

1:08 –  BS: “Did anyone tell the jr. league if you do this project now, all of the $$ spent is at risk.”  KG: “What was stated was all receipts to be kept so that we can reimburse when the grant came through.  MWBE was only for company design, not equipment.”

1:10  Andy Zweben explains metes and bounds map. The city needed to provide a letter that says the city owns the property (Kinderland).  Speaks to a missing attachment in emails sent by Parks and Rec who says they were sent. In April, Kevin and Steve appeared in office quite nervous quite upset saying they needed the letter right away.”

1:12   BS – “Steve…” (maryann stops Brian). AZ reiterates there was no attachment. Janet had requested it and they didn’t get it.

1:13:18  MD:  “Are we going to do a thorough review of all the other grants we have? ALL the grants. Since we’re going through a ‘thorough’ process with Park and Rec, are we going to do the same for others.”  GS: “I welcome that”

1:14:20 – MM: Suggest hiring an independent auditor maryann. Arguing. MD “We have a biased voice right now. We have the mayor’s advocate on any number of statements.”

1:15:07 BS:  “I make a motion for the city to look into hiring an independent audit to see if they have been properly managed”

 

PART 2

0:00  resolution is created for independent auditor for all grants including documentation and proper administration. Get to the end game for neutrality.

1:30  GS: “I have a lot of information.” BS:  “Is there something you want to authorize tonight an action we can take?”

1:58  GS: Pause. “I think there is a lot of info here that is relevant to finance in the city. I’m a bit surprised we wouldn’t take a look at this. Actions, we have seen some coming out of this because we’re having this dialogue. Whether it’s an audit or paying Herzogs.  I’m a little surprised after all this, having passed this along and it’s ‘primary documents’ prior to the meeting.”

3:10 – MM: “Are we looking to reimburse Herzogs?”  GS:  “I was not going to bring this up, not my role.”

3:45  – MM: “What actions do we need to take?”

3:53 –  GS: “We should pay them XX money.  But we don’t have those numbers yet. There are outstanding issues re: jr. league and Herzogs, two that I know of. You should be aware of those. It is possible not to have a decision at the end of the conversation here. You are being informed. I am helping you to understand the intricacies of grants that come up increasingly. We have millions of $$’s in grants we are managing now. There are implications right now. We have not been reimbursed for most of this because of issues.”

5:13 – BW “I think our purpose isn’t to get into the minutia in the grant process. That happens in the city, should work well, not our task. Nothing on the table to reimburse Herzogs tonight. We should understand and be careful how this impacts the city what’s the domino effect? Came together quickly, worked hard. I don’t think it’s about fault in any direction. Money is still out there. We do the best job we can to get it. Take this info from Economic Development for a closer look,  If we feel an independent audit is necessary…”

6:50 –  MM: “We got this info early to review.”

7:00 –  BW “Yes, but a long review is not the purpose tonight. No action tonight. Stamping it. Been received.” MM:  “Time is of the essence.”  BW: “I don’t think it is.”  Explanation of grants in NYS

8:18 –  MD  “Instead of going through the minutia, have a committee report and vote on it.”

8:34 – AZ “Let me frame around the timing of the issue here. Grant application 72,000 of supplies and materials, 12,000 would be grant funds. Legitimate concern about the availably of those funds and reliance of those funds and expenditures already made. Jr. league intends to enforce the rights that they have (implies litigation and that there is a timeline now).  I’m not trying to force you to vote tonight, but this is not something you have time on.”

11:32 – MM reads committee report to hire independent audit.  BS/DB first and second,  opposed by MD and BW.

11:56 – ND to JN:  “Why is this so sensitive? is it because he’s your nephew?”

12:45 – JN: “When we lost the grant for the treatment facade, we never  discussed it one bit. What was the deal with that?  That was over 1 million $:

13:10 – GS: “Rest his soul, Steve Finkle did not realize the match wasn’t good on that issue.  Not only did I take a look at final grants, a lot were extended. We are doing them now. We are trying to change the way government works”

13:58 – ND to JN:  “I don’t know why you’re saying that. Is it because he’s your nephew?”

14:01 – JN: “This is the second time you’re saying that. Why are you saying that ?”  ND:  “Because you’re overly sensitive.  MD: “ You’re being political.”  ND:  “I’m not trying to grandstand.”

14:26  – JN: “Didn’t we pay $45,000 match?”  GS:  “Related to the facade, not a good match going back to 2011.  Not to excuse it. maybe we should have brought that up. These are severe problems. I hope these notes build confidence in how we are working to manage grants in the city.  We care about our partners, like the jr. league.”

15:45  – MM:  “The fishing doc, five minutes to address this. labor parks/rec, DPW, etc. Not sure how this is without a doc in the water. Was this money paid?”

16:29 – GS explanation regarding fishing doc grant.

17:22  – GS: “Sorry this is so dense. I live and breath this stuff.”  More on grant. work and expenses take place in the time frame. “Trouble is, none of this time was actually done. the docs not here, it’s in Vermont (dock) to my knowledge. Another 10k needs to be sent to them to my knowledge.  Ralph put in 2 hours. No DPW work done, nothing on the books. An auditor would look at this and say the work didn’t happen. We need to have these records in place, we need them in hand. We just received a permit to put it in the water.”

20:10 – SN:  “The fishing dock was ordered by Brian Woltman 9/25 when we started the process. City was satisfied and paid them on 12/23. If a grantor is not happy, they don’t pay you the money. Certified time sheets keeps coming up.  DEC, DOS they give you a sheet for time and we use them. Others require you to simply keep records and they are kept with the comptroller office and our payroll. One of the recommendations that may come out of this process is that we have no time management system for employees who are grant funded. We met with Tuey about this issue. Employees don’t check in and out. There is not city system. One of Gregg’s concerns are no time sheets. I worked on this grant for 18 month’s. I’ve put in at least 2 hours per week (8 hours per months), of course. I can produce evidence of this time. Procedures the city could put into place is a system. Our department is also maintaining TR Gallo park, along with DPW. Grantors were happy with process to reimburse us as they have. For you to say this is fabricated, a lie, or you’re being swindled….” Interrupted by MM.

23:20  –  MM: “You could have provided time sheets before hand.”

23:54  MD:  “Where are you going with this Maryann? Move on.”

24:03 – SN: “I think you can see the work that we do.”  MM:  “I’m not a ghost in this city, I see what goes on, thank you.”

24:18 –  AZ: “I called the DPW. No work order, no name of supposed worker or what equipment used nor how $2000 was calculated. Gilfeather  signed off on this. I took it upon myself to call DPW.  There’s a mysterious DPW worker that noone knows who it is. We certified a document for someone working 97 hours and equipment when the work hadn’t occurred.”

26:22 –   SN: suggests DPW can apply time to put in and take out Dock at TR Gallo Park.

26:45 –   GS:  “How can i interpret it any other way then how grant requirements read? Looking at this can only be interpreted one way. No document part of the contract.”

27:40  – SN:  “We did not put in any reimbursements after that date.”

28:05 – GS:  “Recycling coordination grants. Steve says he spends 50% of his time. Another grant says that over 5 years he spends 50% on this grant. That means zero time for anything else.  I hope the other grants are on track. “

29:04 – GS: “That’s double dipping.”

29:26 –  MD: “Looks like we can look forward to the termination of Steve Noble if he looses the election.” (sarcastically). “That’s where we’re going.”   GS: “This is not political.”  MD:  “It is political.”

30:04 – SN: “Using the term double dipping is big to use. In our packet, it lists funding by agency and matching funds by grant that we worked under at that time. It explains the numbers and time for two environmental educators.”  MM cuts SN off.

31:14  – MM moves committee on. GS tries to speak to Steve’s response to double dipping.

31:36 Item #3 to execute the docs.

33:17 – GS: Double Dipping term used again regarding CAC grant.

34:10 Dan Gartenstein sits with Jr. League lawyer.

35:28  Zweben, Gartenstein and Jr. League leave together to have a discussion in council chambers.

Etc.

 

VIDEO: Kingston Mayoral Debate

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We are pleased to provide the Mayoral Debate in its entirety from tonight (8/24/15) organized by Temple Emanuel and moderated by the League of Women Voters.

Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News for filming tonight’s event.

 

 

PART ONE

00:00 – 5:00  Ground Rules
5:18 –  8:26   Steve Noble, Opening remarks
8:37 – 11:59   Shayne Gallo, Opening Remarks

#1 – What is the most pressing issue for the City of Kingston?
12:17 – 13:39    Shayne Gallo
13:42 – 15:30   Steve Noble

#2 What are you proposing for job growth in the City of Kingston?
15:50 – 17:42    Steve Noble
17:50 – 20:29   Shayne Gallo

#3 Do you believe the City Mayor should have more input or oversight into the Kingston school district and their budgets and board of education?
20:52 – 21:55    Shayne Gallo
21:57 – 23:50    Steve Noble

#4  As Mayor, what will you do to resolve the ex-fire chief litigation without raising taxes?
24:08 – 25:27  Steve Noble
25:28 – 27:35  Shayne Gallo

#5 What is your position on drug policing in Midtown, do you think URGENT has been excessive and bad for community or important for bringing safety to the community?
27:56 – 29:53  Shayne Gallo
29:59 – 32:15  Steve Noble

#6 Do you have any plans or proposals to improve the complaint process, and would you support or work towards some form of civilian oversight of the city police?
32:40 -34:42  Steve Noble
34:45 – 37:01  Shayne Gallo

#7  Do you support initiatives such as the Rail Trail, ‘Building a Better Broadway’ and the Riverport?
37:15 – 38:40  Shayne Gallo
38:47 – 40:55  Steve Noble
41:00 – 41: 28  Shayne Gallo rebuttal

#8 How important do you think the traffic flow problem in Uptown Kingston is and what will you do to move it forward?
41:45 – 43:46  Steve Noble
43:54 – 45:55  Shayne Gallo

#9 Do either of you have concerns about nepotism in City Government?
46:27 – 48:05  Shayne Gallo
48:07 – 50:04  Steve Noble

#10 Explain the logic behind the sale of the fireman’s museum, and can you explain what happened with the fishing pier project and how can this be avoided in the future?
50:39 – 52:42  Steve Noble
52:46 – 55:06  Shayne Noble

#11 Considering the issues highlighted by Black Lives Matter, how would you move Kingston towards a police force that exemplifies excellent community policing?
55:27 – 56:50  Shayne Gallo
56:51 – 59:03  Steve Noble

 

PART TWO

#12 There are numerous questions about community. How will each of you include the minority community in your administration and what could the city do to communicate with the residents?
00:40 – 2:35  Steve Noble
2:40 – 4:11     Shayne Gallo

#13  Do you have a plan to improve the housing stock for the poor without forcing them to sell?
4:20 – 5:55  Shayne Gallo
5:56 – 8:07  Steve Noble

#14 What is your position on the upcoming water referendum and the appointment of new water board members?
8:25 – 10:09  Steve Noble
10:15 – 11:30  Shayne Gallo

#15 If you think in terms of the two most important initiatives for the mayor, what would you be most concerned about continuing if you were elected, what would you be most excited about promoting if you were elected mayor?
12:31 – 14:00  Shayne Gallo
14:02 – 16:28  Steve Noble

Closing Statements
16:50 – 21:49  Shayne Gallo
21:50 – 27:07  Steve Noble

Water Powers Public Hearing on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:00am

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A great day. The Kingston Common Council sends the Water Powers legislation to the Mayor’s office for a final signature. The decision to do so was unanimous after each reading (there were two).

By Rebecca Martin

This week, many anticipate the scheduled public hearing on the Water Powers legislation on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:00am at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers (this event will be filmed).

It is the final step in the process that would include both “the Common Council and the Mayor of Kingston for any water sales outside of the City of Kingston’s corporate boundaries.”   It is expected that the mayor will sign off on the legislation on Thursday, sending it to the ballot as a referendum in November for the public to decide.

It’s our water. We are INVOLVED.

As it is currently written, Water Powers in the City of Kingston’s charter excludes an elected body (although the Mayor of Kingston does sit on the water board of commissioners)  in decision making on how the public’s water supply is sold outside of the city of Kingston. The public’s most valuable resource therefore is in the hands of about five-six people.

If the public votes in favor of the referendum this November,  water sales outside of our corporate boundary will be made with the inclusion of Kingston’s common council. This action will allow the City of Kingston a ‘seat at the table’  in the case of a SEQR review, something that we did not have and that was terribly frustrating last year.

The inclusion of the common council for water sales would give our  community a ‘discretionary decision’ to make as an involved agency in SEQR (we were only an ‘interested agency’ last fall and as you might recall, we had to fight tooth and nail for it.  That hard won status still gave us little to no authority).  As an ‘involved agency’ we would have a say in determining who the ‘lead agency‘ in SEQR would be, creating an important opportunity for the collective community voice.

Taken from the SEQR handbook:

As an ‘involved’ agency, the City of Kingston would be allowed to 

  • Make certain the lead agency understands the extent of the involved agency’s jurisdiction; and
  • Provide the lead agency with observations and concerns about the proposed action and its potential environmental impact so the lead agency may consider them in making a determination of significance.

When a lead agency has made a negative determination of significance (negative declaration) each remaining involved agency may make its final decision on the action after completing any other required procedures.

When a lead agency has made a positive declaration each involved agency could:

  • Participate in scoping, making the lead agency aware of that agency’s concerns and technical requirements identify potential significant environmental impacts and suggest alternatives and mitigation;
  • Assist the lead agency in reviewing a draft EIS for adequacy, if requested;
  • Participate in any hearings, as appropriate;
  • Provide formal agency comments during the public review period;
  • Assist the lead agency in responding to substantive comments on the final EIS, if requested; and
  • Prepare the involved agency’s own separate SEQR findings before making its final decision.

An involved agency can also influence the determination of significance by the lead agency.  All involved agencies are encouraged to submit comments during the coordination period. Comments that deal with an agency’s specific area of interest or jurisdiction are especially appropriate. 

It’s an important safeguard, particularly when municipal water is involved.

Oversight and Transparency. 

The City of Kingston is fortunate for many reasons – one of which is that it has its own water source.  In amending the charter and including the common council as a determining body in water powers, some are concerned of political antics intruding upon their sales.  But this inclusion isn’t about personalities,  as council members and those in executive office come and go.  This is about making certain that policy and the law are applied for decision making as it pertains to our water and water infrastructure.

In the spirit of community and in seeing our region prosper, with proper oversight, good science, climate change modeling and all other matters we can help to support sustainable economic development while placing the health of our watershed and the impacted communities first.

In less than a year from the time that we first heard and spoke out on our concerns of the Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal in the Town of Ulster, the public will have the opportunity to make itself  ‘involved’  in water sales outside of our ever changing community, a voice in the protection of our water supply today and for future generations.

We’ve come a very long way.

Water Powers Amended Legislation Passes Through Council

L/R  Kevin Smith (Woodstock Land Conservancy, Alex Beauchamp (Food and Water Watch), Kate Hudson (Riverkeeper), Heather Schwegler (KingstonCitizens.org), Steve Schabot (Ward 8 Council), Rachel Havens (KingstonCitizens.org/Earth Guardians NY), Aiden Ferris (Earth Guardians NY), Matt Dunn (Ward 1 Council), Deb Brown (Ward 9 Council), Charlie Grenadier (Kingston citizen!),  Rebecca Martin (KingstonCitizens.org), Bill Carey (Ward 5 Council), Jim Noble (Alderman-at-Large), Steve Noble (Environmental Specialist and Mayoral Candidate), Mary McNamara (Esopus Creek Conservancy).

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, the Kingston Common Council unanimously passed through an amended Water Powers resolution.

We will be following up with the Mayor’s office to get a date on the public hearing that is to occur in the next 10 days (the Daily Freeman reported 20) so that you can organize your schedules in advance to attend.   This – after ten months – will be the last meeting of this sort and ask prior to the November ballot.

Thank you for your participation.

READ: Kingston Times Editorial “Moral, Business and the Moral Imperative” by Dan Barton

 

“We are pleased to witness the second reading of the amended local law regarding Water Powers to include the common council in municipal water sales outside of Kingstons corporate boundary this evening. Once passed, the legislation will be on its way to a referendum and a public vote this fall.

Shortly after February 13th of this year, when the Niagara Bottling Company choose not to locate to the area, our community was left with an opportunity to examine our charter and to consider who was to be included in the decision making process for water sales outside of our community.

Since then, KingstonCitizens.org and our great partners – some of which we am pleased to say are here tonight – have had the distinct pleasure to support you, our common council, as you have taken a very important step in identifying a solution to effectively protect the interests of the public whom you represent.  You understand that the more eyes that are watching, the more minds that are aware of how their government functions – the more likely we can expect transparent outcomes. 

Thinking about water and our watershed together as a people and elected/appointed body is new for our community. Some are calling it historic.  That, is now a part of your legacy and its something to be very proud of.

So thank you, to all of our council members and council president for your collective concern, smarts and follow through on this matter. Swiftly, you addressed a glaring item and your action tonight illustrates great leadership to our community.”

– KingstonCitizens.org

 

PUBLIC SPEAKING 

Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org:   4:38 – 6:55

Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch:  7:00 – 9:10

Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper:  9:21 – 11:05

Kevin Smith, The Woodstock Land Conservancy:  11:07 – 15:59

Jennifer Schwartz Berky:  16:03 – 18:27

Johannes Sayre:  18:34 – 22:34

Rachel Marc0-Havens, Earth Guardians NY:   22:52 – 24:44

Aiden Ferris, Earth Guardians NY:  24:52 – 26:14

 

SECOND READING, COUNCIL SPEECHES. RESOLUTION PASSES!

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Global Trade Deals, Water and You

tpp

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

There’s been a lot of chatter on social media sites, in blogs and – more recently – mainstream news sites about “TPP” and “fast tracking.” It has something to do with jobs and it could help or hurt the economy (depending upon who you ask). President Barack Obama is involved, and Democrats and Republicans are gnashing teeth over the darn thing. Ring a bell?

But what exactly is TPP and why should we care?

Without boring you to death, here’s a quick rundown of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal:

  • TPP involves the U.S. working with 11 other countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) to reduce trade barriers.
  • The U.S. Trade Representative states that the “TPP is the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s economic policy in the Asia Pacific. The large and growing markets of the Asia-Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and services suppliers, and the TPP will further deepen this trade and investment.”
  • And further, the USTR says as a group, “the TPP countries are the largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exports to TPP countries totaled $698 billion in 2013, representing 44 percent of total U.S. goods exports. U.S. exports of agricultural products to TPP countries totaled $58.8 billion in 2013, 85 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports.”
  • President Obama has worked on TPP for the past six years – but mostly in private with about 600 business leaders and policymakers.
  • Recently, steps to make TPP a reality have been taken up in Congress, and lawmakers have struggled with a variety of proceedual aspects, including the so-called “fast track” policy that gives the President the power to negotiate trade deals (including TPP) on his own authority.

At first glance, TPP sounds like a great idea. It will bring down trade barriers that make it hard for U.S. to export goods to other countries. U.S. companies that would benefit from this include large manufacturers, multinational chemical companies, meat and processed food producers, drug makers and retailers.

Retailers in particular are interested in seeing this pass because TPP would lower the costs of goods they sell, which would boost their profits. And that’s good because two-thirds of our economy is fueled by spending on retail goods and services. And the retail industry is the largest private-sector employer in the U.S. with 42 million Americans working at retail, and in related services.

One key reason retailers are supporting TPP is that consumer spending and behavior is shifting. When the so-called “Great Recession” struck, consumers were essentially traumatized into earning less and spending less. Overtime, as economic conditions improved, shoppers remained cautious. And the consistent, year-over-year sales gains that retailers experienced was suddenly in flux. Consumers are more wary of where and how much they spend, and they are increasingly spending their money on “experiences” instead of on “things.”

And we see the ramifications of this locally. At the local mall, J.C. Penney shuttered its doors (and 75 jobs) due to a softer retail sales market. And Office Depot closed as its competitor, Staples, acquired it and closed stores.

So, who again would want to jeopardize this shaky industry – one that employs so many people? Well, taking down trade barriers is a two-way street. As noted above, the trade deal would help many businesses. But it would also harm many others as well. Such as smaller manufacturers and farmers, which is why Congressman Chris Gibson is cautious on TPP. In a letter to constituents last week, he wrote:

“Last week, I finally had the opportunity to read the TPP. I am opposed to this agreement as it is written currently. I have many concerns surrounding agriculture, small business, workers, the environment, our personal privacy, and national sovereignty. Specifically, I believe the TPP could do the kind of harm to agriculture that NAFTA did to manufacturing in our country, undermining the ability of our farmers to compete with our global competitors. I am confident that if we got a fair trade agreement that put our farmers, small business owners, and workers on a level playing field with our global competitors, we would do very well. The proposed TPP draft would not achieve that goal.”

One example of who would be harmed is local dairy farmers and milk producers, like Boices Dairy. If TPP was passed, the market could be flooded with cheap milk from overseas and our local producers would not be able to compete. Apple farmers would also be threatened. Ulster County is the largest apple producer in the state, which is the second largest supplier in the U.S.

On the manufacturing side, TPP presents more problems than it solves. Last month, Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business & Industry Council, said in a letter to council members that since 2000, “the U.S. has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments. This lost manufacturing has come at a real cost for America’s middle class. What should be paramount on the minds of our elected officials is how to rebuild this lost industrial capacity. The TPP is emphatically not the answer. Instead, it’s simply the latest in a long line of trade deals (like NAFTA, China, CAFTA, South Korea, etc.) that have opened the door to predatory trade with countries that have only their own interests at heart.”

Kearns is angry, and rightfully so. Economists repeatedly urge for policy that encourages bolstering manufacturing and related infrastructure. Why? Because these types of jobs pay the best and without it, the middle class can’t exist, and our economy would tank, which is what is slowly happening, according to economists from the Pew Research Center who say the middle class is evaporating.

Ok…so aside from harming dairy and apple farmers, how else is TPP a questionable policy? Well, according to drafts of the TPP released by Wikileaks and media outlets such as The New York Times, there’s a policy in TPP that would allow multinational companies to overturn local laws that impede their path to profitability via appealing to an international tribunal. But what would that look like? And why would that be bad?

Consider this possible scenario:

A major drug maker such as Pfizer – under the TPP policy – could say that certain laws in the U.S. (or any of the member countries) are limiting its ability to make profits. This could be laws that prevent the drug maker from releasing products without testing its safety on humans first. Pfizer could appeal to the tribunal and overturn these laws.

Or it could be a food company that says certain laws that prevent food additives thwarts its sales and profitability, and could appeal to the international tribunal to overturn these laws.

Another example would be Monsanto saying that local laws that ban pesticide use is reducing its sales and profits. It too could appeal to the international tribunal and have those laws overturned.

And the examples go on and on, which is why many environmental groups are against TPP. And they are joined by some strange bedfellows: Tea Party activists who see this as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. The biggest threat, though, is to environmental and consumer protection laws.

Last year the Sierra Club inked a position letter on the chapter in the TPP that allows for the tribunal review. Read it HERE

The Sierra Club said in a separate statement “a joint analysis by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals that the current TPP environment chapter…could lead to increased stress on natural resources and species including trees, fish, and wildlife.”

Here’s another example of how this could be harmful. Consider this scenario – one that strikes close to the hearts of Kingstonians:

Let’s say Niagara Bottling (or another company like Nestle) decided to reconsider its business strategy. So they decide to go ahead and build a distribution center for their fleet of vehicles that serve the Northeast at Tech City. There will be no bottling at the plant – at least initially.

And then one day they decide to start drawing water, filtering it and then bottling it to augment their product supply. It could just be drawn from the current supply at Tech City and it could be a very small amount, say 40,000 gallons a day.

After a year, they could document that local laws in Kingston that regulate corporate or commercial use of large quantities of water via the Town of Ulster or directly with the Kingston Water Department is impeding their path to better profits – noting that their strategic plan is to expand water bottling in the Northeast region.

In that scenario, they too – under TPP – would be allowed to have an international tribunal review and overturn any local Kingston City law that thwarts their path to profits.

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed one of the steps that would allow TPP to happen.

The National Retail Federation, which represents the retail industry, immediately sent out a press release applauding the move. As mentioned above, retailers have a lot riding on passage of TPP; remember that their profits and long-term outlook depends upon it.

“Today’s vote on trade promotion authority will grant Congress new powers and responsibilities to craft and monitor our 21st century trade policy, and aid our trade representatives as they work to negotiate pending and future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” the NRF statement said.

Up next is a senate version of the bill. They could include language that allows for Congress to give input on the component policies within trade agreements, including TPP. That might help protect consumer and local environmental laws. We’ll have to keep an eye on how things progress in D.C.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Get informed about TPP by checking out the USTR website HERE

And the Sierra Club SITE

And here is the TPP draft pages from WIKILEAKS

###

Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW, is an editor and writer with over 20 years of journalism experience. He is also a social worker and a community educator and organizer, and a Desert Storm combat veteran.

VIDEO: Kingston Water Department. An Easement From 1884 to Allow Free Water?

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By Rebecca Martin

Yesterday afternoon, the Kingston Water Board had their monthly meeting. Attached is the agenda. Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley was not in attendance, and the discussion as noted on the agenda did not occur (unless it was done in Executive session).

One item for the public to take note of here that was a surprise to us  is the “Request for water at 160 Esopus Ave as per Easement”.   The parcel is in the Town of Ulster with water rights from the City of Kingston.

(STARTS 7:05 – 19:47 on the Video below. Watch in its entirety).

“In 1884, the Kingston Water Company obtained easements for the “old” 20-inch transmission main from Binnewater to the City line. The easements provided to the owner of the 26 acre parcel in the vicinity of 160 Esopus Ave provides for the owner to have water for farm purposes (although the Kingston Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen describes this in the video as “loosey goosey”)  in perpetuity and at no cost to the owner.

The property owner would like to enter into a lease/purchase agreement with a commercial organic farm operation.  The Kingston Water Department has met with the two or three principals of the farm operation and they have expressed an interest in re-activating the water rights associated with the easement.”

Superintendent Hansen has asked for their water use projections.

When a Water Board Commissioner asked “how much water are we talking about here?”  Cloonan, the Water Board’s attorney responded “A lot.”

Free water for a 26 acre farm operation in today’s climate?

At this point in time in our area, everyone is aware of the need for revenue from water sales given Kingston’s infrastructure and operational requirements.  The owner of the property is local. Might he reconsider the easement and renegotiate the terms with the Kingston Water Board? If not, what other options might there be?    A new organic farming business is a great addition to the area,  but to not pay for a drop of the water that it uses to then turn a profit from crops seems unfair at best.

Could the Water Department purchase the land in order to resolve the easement? By doing so, it would not only protect our water supply it could also sell the property and create water revenue that the Kingston Water Department needs.  If possible, then at this early phase in information gathering, we support the Kingston Water Department to pursue this option (which is also discussed in the video).

First Reading of Water Powers Charter Amendment for Referendum

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, after many terrific citizen public speakers (see 1:44 – 15:35 in the video above), the Common Council did the first reading (at 44:15 – 45:00) of a charter amendment for Water Powers outside of Kingston’s Corporate boundaries.

Alderman-at-Large James Noble explains (at 15:48 – 16:26)  stating that “the original resolution has been changed to another resolution. #134 is going to be a local law change, because it’s stronger legislation.  This evening we will do the first reading without discussion. Next month, we will do the second reading and vote.”

After which, Mayor Shayne Gallo will have 10 days to organize a public hearing before signing off on the legislation. It would then be prepared and sent to the Board of Election to include on the November ballot.

All summer long, KingstonCitizens.org will focus its energies to inspire and to energize our community to vote like it has never done before.  Which way that you do  is a private matter – but to vote is a right that was hard earned. If this referendum is placed on the ballot – so was it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. Please be responsible and do your part and vote.  Place November 3rd (Election Day) on your calendar today.

 REGISTER TO VOTE IN ULSTER COUNTY

UPDATE: Council Caucus “Water Powers” Referendum Discussion Shows Full Council Support. Mayor Gallo Agrees to Sign off on Local Law Amendment for Referendum if Passes.

By Rebecca Martin

At last night’s Common Council Caucus, Council members discussed Resolution #134 to “Amend Charter to Authorize Public Referendum re: Water Powers”. Alderman-at-Large James Noble and Corporation Council Andrew Zweben were in attendance.

It appears to have been determined that the Charter amendment of Water Powers would be a local law change, which would require two readings and a public hearing to be set by the Mayor within 10 days after the first reading. The first reading would take place tomorrow night if the Council votes to approve the referendum.  A public hearing would occur sometime in or around June 12th. The second reading would then be read at the July 7th Common Council meeting with a full council vote to follow to pass (or not) the referendum through to the November ballot.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 11.22.33 PM

On May 28th, the Water Department Board of Commission Chair Joe DeCicco issued a press release cautioning the public to ‘think carefully before you agree to change the governance (of water sales outside the city of Kingston)’   The press release was issued on Kingston Water Department letterhead, that included all the names of the Water Board of Commissioners,  Superintendent Judith Hansen and Mayor Shayne Gallo.

At last evening’s meeting, Corporation Council Andy Zweben clarified that “The press release that was issued by the Water Department was not authorized by the Mayor, or the other members of the Water Department to the best of his knowledge and does not represent how he feels on this issue.”  Andy Zweeben also relayed that speaking to the Mayor today, he stated that “…if the local law is passed, he will sign it.  They’ll be a referendum and the voters will decide.”

Zweeben also expressed his discomfort with “the speed in which the referendum was moving” (* Please see below). But the Public Safety/General Government Committee has been working on this since March of this year where his office has been in attendance. That’s three months of discussion and it being on the Corporation Council’s radar.   Regardless, we appreciate Corporation Council’s efforts here. Whether willingly or not, they provided the council with the information that they needed to move this ahead.

In order now for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, the council will need to pass through the resolution for referendum tomorrow, and a public process as described above must take place. All of which needs to be accomplished by the end of August in order for it to be submitted to the Board of Elections.

* Clarification:   Watching for many months in this case, we have seen the Water Powers change go from a local law change, to a referendum to a combination of the two. As citizens, we depend on the good advice of our elected and appointed officials to understand the proper process. 

We received a communication from Corporation Council Andrew Zweeben who said that we had misrepresented what he said at the last Public Safety/General Government committee meeting (see above and below).  On the subject of the speed of the referendum,  what he was referring to was that it was quick to draft an amended local law in just one week (5 days) which is true and he would have preferred more time to do so.  Given the tight deadline to get this passed and onto the ballot in November, it is the case. We apologize for the misunderstanding. 

 

You can view video from last evening’s meeting:
11:16 – 17:08   Resolution 134
“Amend charter to authorize public referendum re: Water Powers”

Tonight (June 2nd),  the Common Council will vote on whether or not to pass a resolution for a referendum. If it does, the first reading of the proposed amendment will take place for the clock to start ticking.

Citizens are encouraged to speak tonight to support (or not) of a referendum for the November ballot.  Public Comment will begin tonight at 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to secure a seat and to sign-up.  This event will be filmed thanks to Kingston News.

Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY

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

 

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

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

Both meetings will be filmed. 

 

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

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

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

WHAT TO EXPECT: June 1st 

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

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: June 2nd

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Reading from KingstonCitizens.org:

Resolution for Referendum Passes Unanimously Through Kingston Public Safety Committee

Moving Towards a Referendum

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

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

Niagara Bottling Proposal Timeline: 116 Events

 

Resolution for Referendum Passes Unanimously Through Kingston Public Safety Committee.

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By Rebecca Martin

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” – Jacques Cousteau

Tonight, Kingston’s Public Safety/General Government Committee passed a resolution unanimously for a referendum that would include the Kingston Common Council for any water sales outside of Kingston’s City Limits.

WATCH VIDEO OF LAST NIGHT’S REFERENDUM DISCUSSION

Why is this important?

First,  a referendum would allow the City of Kingston residents to vote on whether or not it should have a voice in water sales outside of our community. Cooper Lake, our reservoir that resides in the Town of Woodstock, is Kingston’s responsibility to manage for its residents and our neighboring communities.

As we learned with the Niagara Bottling proposal, the water department that was organized in 1895 designed to keep politics out of water couldn’t have imagined the politics that would emerge through the interpretation of their original intention. Or climate change. Or water bottling companies. Or fracking. Or any other large extractions of water that would bring great profits to some while potentially decimating the locals ability to grow and to prosper.

Today, we are living in a very different time with the opportunity to reform the way our natural resources are managed. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to municipalities who are also impacted by our decisions and counting on Kingston to be good stewards as we proceed into the future.

Second, throughout the Niagara Bottling proposal, we were told that the City of Kingston hadn’t a seat at the table in the SEQR process because of the Charter. The Town of Ulster, who was hoping to attract Niagara to their community, relied on Kingston’s water in order for them to do so. It took many months of hard work to make the SEQR process a public one and even then, the city of Kingston had no right to be an ‘Involved’ agency.

We will support our Common Council to correct that in November and are pleased to speak more on the subject here all summer long to help the public to make an informed decision.

While we are all at it – the Kingston Water Department needs to do an up-to-date safe yield using climate change modeling.  Simply put, a safe or dependable yield projection is the amount that you can safely remove from a reservoir that can be naturally replenished within a certain amount of time.   6.1 million GPD (gallons per day) was what it was over 50 years ago. We are using close to 4.5 million GPD now.  It’s a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and time to apply modern strategies to our knowing.

A big thanks to Common Council members Bill Carey, Deb Brown, Matt Dunn, Brad Will, Steve Schabot and Brian Seche for three months of discussion. Your support tonight as a result is greatly appreciated.

Thanks, too, the Kingston’s Corporation Council for their support in helping us find a way to move this referendum through to the next step.

What’s next? This evening’s vote will result in a public referendum in November provided that the full Common Council votes in favor of the amendment in June, and the Mayor signs the legislation.

Please stay tuned and involved. There is more work to do.

 

RECOMMENDED READING:

Water Follies by Robert Glennon  (thanks Candace!)