SUSTAIN THE WORK OF OUR WATERSHED: Donate!

 

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By Rebecca Martin

Since September of 2014, KingstonCitizens.org has been at the center of the proposed Niagara Bottling Project. Because of it, our efforts have helped to ‘shed’ light on a number of issues.

As a region, we’ve come to learn the need to be mindful of water – a very limited natural resource. Of aging infrastructure. Transparency and a lack of it.  The use of public funding – and most of all, to illustrate what is possible when citizens come to better understand their role and responsibility here and everywhere.

As we move into a whole new phase of this work, KingstonCitizens.org realizes that what is necessary now is the formation of a WATER COALITION that can be all inclusive and address issues for the long haul around our watershed.

We plan to continue our work as it specifically impacts our community, as KingstonCitizens.org should.

…and so, it is with great enthusiasm that KingstonCitizens.org anticipates the creation of a WATERSHED TASK FORCE by the WOODSTOCK LAND CONSERVANCY charged to identify the work of a future Water Coalition. The group will help to define all aspects of the sustained work and its partners (that will include citizens too) to protect our drinking and ground water and who can eventually develop a comprehensive water policy for our area.

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Please stay tuned as we share task force members and the Woodstock Land Conservancy’s plans. In the near future, we will pass the water work torch over to their capable hands. We couldn’t be more pleased.

Consider making a tax deductible donation to the Woodstock Land Conservancy to provide consultants, legal advice, staff and other items necessary to do this important watershed work.

DONATE  and find ‘Gifts of Honor’. Click on “In Honor of” and then “WATERSHED” in the “First Name” Category.

We look forward to continue to serve our community and the region while we segue. Stay with us.

CITIZEN ALERT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting January 22nd

By Rebecca Martin

The next Town of Ulster Town Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 22nd. The public awaits to learn of the draft scoping document to be delivered by The Chazen Companies regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Project on this evening, or it may once more be delayed.

According to the “Proposed SEQR Schedule” created by the Town of Ulster, a date change to the projected publication date of the Draft Scoping Document (that was originally set to be 12/22, but then reported to be moved to 1/22) “may be extended by Town Board Resolution”.  We therefore expect for the Town Board to communicate with the public regarding the timeline and to address their resolution obligation.

Please plan to attend.

VISIT the meeting Facebook Event for up-to-date agenda information

City of Kingston Shares Final DRAFT Comprehensive Plan Document. Requests Public Input

Click on the image to view the City of Kingston's DRAFT Comprehensive Plan. Public comments are now being accepted!

Click on the image to view the City of Kingston’s DRAFT Comprehensive Plan. Public comments are now being accepted!

By Rebecca Martin

The City of Kingston released the final draft of the Comprehensive Plan the other day and is now asking for public comments.

This process was less to be desired – however the steering committee did a really good job to help improve the original draft created by the consultant tremendously. We are pleased and thankful for  the work that they did, particularly Julie Noble and Kristen Wilson as well as the work of citizens Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Kevin McEvoy.

VIEW the press release and how comments can be submitted

VIEW the DRAFT Comprehensive Plan (Kingston 2025)

A public presentation is scheduled for Thursday, January 29th at 6:30pm. Public comments will be heard that evening, and can be sent in advance to Suzanne Cahill, Planning Director at: scahill@kingston-ny.gov or submitting written comments to Kingston Planning Office, City Hall, 420 Broadway in Kingston.

KingstonCitizens.org has requested a longer public comment period in order to help organize public ‘break-out’ groups to help the public understand the Comp Plan process prior to the public meeting organized by the City of Kingston. Citizens can contact their Common Council Liaison to the Comp Plan Steering Committee Deb Brown (Ward 9) at 845/338-0763 to request more time and guidance too.

READ MORE
A New Draft of the Kingston Comprehensive Plan Effort 2025 Revealed on September 18th.

 

 

 

MAKING HISTORY: City of Kingston first city in New York State to Adopt Resolution to Oppose Pilgrim Pipeline.

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By Iris Marie Bloom

The City of Kingston Common Council unanimously passed a Resolution to Oppose Pilgrim Pipeline. Kingston is now the 8th municipality in the state of New York to take a stand against Pilgrim, joining 22 municipalities in New Jersey.

Councilman Brad Will, who introduced the successful Resolution, said: “This unanimous resolution is consistent with Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Committee’s position. It protects the environment, residents, and business owners, and allows us to move towards a greener economy.” He credited Jen Metzger as the “dynamo” who warned him about Pilgrim. Will provided a map so the Kingston Common Council could see how directly it would threaten Kingston unless is it is stopped.

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Kingston would be in the direct path of Pilgrim Pipeline. The five-mile evacuation radius in case of a pipeline explosion would be unmanageable for Kingston. A resident who lives on the Rondout Creek (me) testified last night that “The beautiful Rondout Creek, vital to the City of Kingston in every way, could be devastated by a drilling mud spill during Pilgrim’s planned horizontal drilling under the creek. An oil spill on the Rondout, such as the one on the Kalamazoo River, would not only destroy the Rondout Creek but cause health problems for residents and hurt the local economy. The Kalamazoo spill has so far cost $2.5B and counting. Residents there suffered respiratory, neurological and other health impacts from the intense fumes from the Kalamazoo spill.”

 

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Making History

Kingston is the first City in the state of New York to oppose Pilgrim, joining the towns of Rosendale and New Paltz, and the Village of New Paltz, which are also in the pipeline’s direct path. RochesterRhinebeck, Woodstock, and Marbletown have passed Supporting Resolutions Opposing Pilgrim Pipeline. The two-state total is now 30, a new milestone!

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 1/8/15 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster Town Board will meet on Thursday, January 8th at 7:00pm.  Although at this time, an agenda has not been posted to their site (we will continue to look for it and update this post when it is up), we expect that the board will have a discussion on the recent change to the SEQR timeline. As you know, it was reported last month that the Chazen Companies, Niagara Bottling’s consultant, had requested an additional 30 days to submit their scoping document. Originally, the delivery was to be December 22nd.   It is expected that the board will confirm the date change to January 22nd.

The public may speak at the front of the meeting on matters that are on the agenda, and then given time at the end of the meeting to speak on anything else.

 

WHAT TO REQUEST?

60 Day Public Comment Period

Last December, KingstonCitizens.org generated a letter to the Town of Ulster as lead agency requesting a total of 60 days for public input during the public portion of the scoping process. This was due in part to the process start date being December 22nd – January 22nd and in the midst of three major holidays.

The date was reported to be moved to January 22nd, giving the Chazen Companies a total of 60 days to deliver their scoping document.

The public, in turn, wishes for the same courtesy.

 

Additional Hearings/Locations to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope

Because the proposed project is a complex and multifaceted one that has the potential to impact multiple communities and environmental resources, the public should ask the Town of Ulster to consider more than one public hearing on the scoping document to include locations in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties. Additional time and hearing locations in communities that will be potentially impacted would allow for greater public participation and input on the proposed environmental review laid out in the applicant’s draft scope.

FOLLOW:  SEQR Pos Dec Review Timeline

 

BE PREPARED. 

We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length and to please show respect to municipalities where you are a visitor.

Town of Ulster meetings are generally audio taped, however we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.

 

 

 

TOWN OF ULSTER
TOWN BOARD

WHAT
Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting

WHEN
Thursday, January 8th, 2014
7:00pm

WHERE
Town of Ulster Town Hall
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

AGENDA
Click on this LINK (coming soon)

 

KingstonCitizens.org Host Free Screening of TAPPED in the Town of Ulster, NY.

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KingstonCitizens.org host free movie screening of “Tapped” in the Town of Ulster, NY on Thursday, January 15th at 6:00pm “Tapped” examines the bottled water industry and its long-term social, economic and ecological effects 

Kingston, NY - KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Esopus Creek Conservancy is proud to sponsor a free screening of the film “Tapped” at the VFW Post 1386 Men’s Auxillary at 708 E. Chester Street in Kingston, NY on Thursday, January 15th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

Niagara Bottling Company, a national water bottling plant based in California, wants to establish a plant in the Town of Ulster.  It seeks to purchase 1.75 million gallons of water per day from Cooper Lake, Kingston’s municipal water source located in Woodstock, and plans to utilize support from the Start-Up NY Program that gives 10 years of tax abatements to qualifying companies.

Tapped focuses on industry giants PepsiCo and Nestle. The film documents the filmmakers’ visits to a town containing a Nestle factory as well as tests run on the bottles the company uses for its products. These test results showed “several potentially harmful chemicals, some known as carcinogens.” The documentary also focuses on the fraction of bottles that is recycled, noting that “forty percent of bottled water is really just filtered tap water, and every day we throw away 30 million single-served bottles of water.”

The event is free. NO TICKETS ARE NECESSARY. The public will be met by representatives of KingstonCitizens.org to answer any questions regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project in Ulster County.

If your school or organization would like to host a screening, please contact Rachel Marco-Havens for more information at rachel@kingstoncitizens.org

“Tapped” Film Screening Date and Location:

TOWN OF ULSTER
Thursday, January 15th, 2015
VFW Post 1386 Men’s Auxillary
Time 6:00pm
708 East Chester Street
Kingston, NY 12401

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About KingstonCitizens.org  KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Woodstock Land Conservancy  The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

About Riverkeeper   Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Esopus Creek Conservancy  

  • is to conserve significant natural landscapes
  • in the lower Esopus Creek watershed
  • and in the Saugerties area
  • by protecting the rural character of the environment,
  • by conserving and protecting natural habitats,
  • by promoting biodiversity, and
  • by sharing an appreciation of our natural resources with the community through public outreach, education and advocacy.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to you all.

– Rebecca Martin

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 diversification of the local economy,

 environmental sustainability, and

 opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
KingstonCitizens.org

Niagara Not Included in Start-Up NY Announcement Today (12/29/14)

The awaited decision from Governor Cuomo was issued today. Two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster were selected, but do not include Niagara Bottling. We are very pleased.

Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be on the table at a later date.

We ask for the public’s continued awareness and participation in 2015.

READ the press release from today 12/29/14

SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt: Please Share Documents To Show Niagara Jobs and Salaries.

SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt, who stands in support of the Niagara Bottling Company receiving 10 years of tax abatements.  Katt retires in the summer of 2015.

SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt, who stands in support of the Niagara Bottling Company receiving 10 years of tax abatements.
Katt retires in the summer of 2015.

By Rebecca Martin

“There’s really been some misrepresentation,” said Katt. “These are well-paying jobs.” say President Donald Katt.

READ  the article in the Kingston Times

If Katt has information on the jobs and salaries offered by Niagara that the public does not, then make it available to us. Only at which time can we place this information next to what Niagara stands to gain in tax abatements for the approximately 40 – 120 jobs that they promise to provide. 

We believe that Katt, like Supervisor Jim Quigley, have signed confidentiality agreements with Niagara. When it comes to our tax dollars being used to finance large corporations such as Niagara Bottling it is our right to know. Particularly before any decision is made regarding Niagara and Start-UY NY and the IDA.

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

1. Recently, the Niagara Bottling Company put in a Consolidated Funding Application for a reported 10.8 million dollars to help them to build their facility.  The promise for the first five years is 40 jobs. Niagara would have essentially received $270,000 per job in this case.

2. 10 years of tax abatements are really tough to qualify, but lets try by giving an example.

To be safe, lets say that 100 jobs are created and pay $46,000.00 (a stretch indeed).  Remember, that when a company such as Niagara is a part of the Start-Up NY program, they don’t pay any taxes (including employee) for 10 years.

Using a base salary of $46,000 of which 35% would be taxed (totaling $16,100).  An estimated 15% of this amount (or $6,900) would go to NYS.   Multipy $6,900 x 100 employees not required to pay NYS taxes.  That is $690,000.00 per year or $6.9 million over 10 years and that’s just the beginning. 

The worker’s salaries are still beholden to Federal Taxes as we understand it ($9,200 per year if calculated as 35% of their salary).  Based on national figures on what is considered a living wage in America, that is barely above the threshold (with the amount not calculating health care benefit costs. Would the Niagara positions all offer health care packages?) is$36,800.  It occurs to us, too – what happens to the workers quality of life after 10 years of not paying such a tax?  Take away NYS taxes and you’re down to $29,900.00.  We must reiterate, 100 jobs at $46,000 is a stretch. Based on what we have seen, the jobs typically offered to locals by Niagara pay  $12 – $14 per hour, do not include benefits and are mainly assembly line positions.  

All of which are just estimates to a thought process. But it is this kind of calculation for jobs, for the sale of water, pollution – the entire scope of the project – that needs to be done and shared with the public.  

Given that such important decisions are being made prior to our SEQR process, it is unfair for our elected and appointed officials not to make the information widely available

 

DID YOU KNOW? On Water.

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By Rebecca Martin

Did you know? A few important facts as we understand them.

1. That the City of Kingston allowed the sale of 1 million gallons per day (GPD) to IBM in the late 1950’s until their demise although they hardly ever used the full amount allocated to them?  Based on what we currently know, IBM had to purchase that amount whether they used it or not.

2. That the Town of Ulster currently purchases 700,000 GPD, but really only uses 500,000 GPD? The additional 200,000 GPD is held for their community and if used, would be charged  a higher water rate?

3. That the Town of Ulster’s water is ‘hard’ and that some of the City of Kingston’s water that is purchased is used to mix and improve water quality saving money on water treatment?

4. As the current water rates are structured in Kingston, those who use the most water are charged less and those who use the least pay more?

Feel free to clarify if necessary

…and get to know your water source.

Happy Holidays from Kingston Citizens

Click on the image to view the original "The Giving Tree" narrated by Shel Silverstein himself.

Click on the image to view the original “The Giving Tree” narrated by Shel Silverstein himself.

By Rebecca Martin

What a fall into winter it has been. I was nearly out of the game after a decade of community work in Kingston – happily moving back into music making without interruption – when news broke that a national water bottling company was planning to move into our area as early as April of 2015.  With hardly any time to respond, what became clear was that a whole host of items had been neatly placed in line to make it possible for the Niagara Bottling Company to come and to purchase up to 1.75 million gallons of water per day  (and probably ultimately more) of Kingston’s municipal water. All of which had been orchestrated without the public and many elected officials knowledge.

After months of organizing on our own we have successfully brought a host of troubling circumstances to light,  and have helped to create a strong group of citizens, elected officials  and organizations that will one day build a water coalition to protect what is a finite resource.

Although we’ve been framed as the ‘opposition’ or a ‘watchdog group’  in the Niagara Water Bottling project, what KingstonCitizens.org is – and has always been – is a platform that encourages the public to participate thoughtfully by providing important information to contemplate alongside educational opportunities.  This site has been up since 2007. Please go back and have a look at the wealth of information here to see for yourself.

We are beholden to no one other than the public having never solicited or accepted a dime to do this work. Our group has always been a volunteer effort motivated by the desire to be useful within our community – and we are here to stay.

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In the New Year, the public will have the opportunity to voice in on the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project after working hard to secure a Formal Public Scoping process and Positive Declaration in SEQR. Our collective community will need to patiently stay the course.  We must remind ourselves and together, one another.

Whatever the outcome for Niagara, with our new and growing awareness there is much that we can do to improve our city with the help of our elected officials. Charter reform, long range planning for infrastructure, creating new sustainable water rates and more.

But for today, we take nothing for granted and appreciate our old and new friends and colleagues along with our challenges and challengers, too.

May you all enjoy the holiday season.

 

Village of Saugerties “SEQRA Review For Niagara Water Bottling”

By Rebecca Martin

Village of Saugerties Trustee Patrick Landewe recently wrote a letter to the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency respectfully requesting ‘to be contacted during the course of the SEQR process as a courtesy’ to keep informed as an ‘interested’ agency.

Landewe thanks the Town of Ulster for ‘taking the lead and initiating the EIS process’.  We, too, appreciate a positive declaration and formal/public scoping process in SEQR.

READ the article in the Saugerties Times “Saugertisians Urges to Oppose Ulster Bottling Plant”.

 

Click on image to read the letter in full.

Click on image to read the letter in full.

 

Scenic Hudson, City of Kingston Alderman Request Longer Public Comment Period in SEQR

By Rebecca Martin

Recently, it was reported that The Chazen Companies (Niagara Bottling Company’s consultant for the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project) requested an additional 30 days to submit their scoping document (originally due on December 22nd, thirty days from which Lead Agency was determined).

At last night’s Town of Ulster Town Board meeting, however a new resolution was not passed that would have indicated any changes to the Town of Ulster’s (as Lead Agency) original SEQR schedule.

KingstonCitizens.org will follow this closely by keeping up with the Town of Ulster’s Town Clerk daily to learn and confirm whether or not the Chazen Companies has or will turn in their scoping document prior to January 22nd.

In the meantime, we are pleased to share letters from both Scenic Hudson and Alderman (and Majority Leader) Matt Dunn of the Kingston Common Council who submitted letters to the Town of Ulster in support of our request of a minimum of 60 days for public comment in the SEQR scoping process.

All eyes on SEQR now, Kingston citizens – and in working to provide you with the proper time required to respond.

 

Letter from Scenic Hudson:

 

Scenic Hudson 1

Click on the image to read the letter in full.

 

From Matt Dunn, City of Kingston Ward 1 Alderman and Majority Leader:

 

Matt Dunn

Click on the image to down load the letter written by Ward 1 Alderman and Majority Leader Matt Dunn.

Can We Do Better? KingstonCitizens.org Asks the SUNY Ulster Board of Directors not to Enter into the Start-Up New York with Niagara Bottling

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By Jennifer Schwartz Berky, speaking to the SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees, 4 pm, December 16, 2014.

I am here with KingstonCitizens.org, an organization that now has over a thousand supporters and approximately 25 professionals in a region-wide coalition engaged in our work. (See Introduction to KC.org). We have been working since 2005 to increase transparency and civic engagement in Kingston, New York through public interest research, educational forums, and working in a non-partisan manner with our elected officials to support open government.

I am an urban planner with many years of experience in economic development and environmental conservation research, policy, and development work. As the Policy and Planning Advisor to Kingston Citizens and a trustee on local, regional and state boards, I am committed to providing well-documented information regarding discussions of public concern.

Your packets contain articles and references to support the statements I am making here today, so that you may evaluate and further discuss the points in this presentation. I and the members of our team are available for further discussion on this issue and welcome your questions.

Kingston Citizens has taken on the issue of the Niagara Bottling proposal because of an unprecedented outcry by residents in Kingston and surrounding communities that will be affected by this proposal. Hundreds of people have attended meetings in Kingston’s City Hall, scores have attended the Town of Ulster’s meetings, and 1,587 signed a petition within a 5-day period objecting to the State’s potential funding of Niagara’s 10.8 million-dollar grant proposal last week.

I have outlined 10 reasons why our organization and our many supporters are asking you not to enter into a partnership with the Niagara Bottling Company as part of the Start Up New York program. In your packets are the key references in this outline. A full folder of the resources we cite is being shared with Ms. Zell and Mr. Katt for your further analysis.

1. Alignment with the College Mission

The Niagara Bottling Company is not an appropriate fit for the SUNY Ulster mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.”

With what we present next, we ask you to fully consider whether the Niagara Bottling plant and your Start Up New York proposal are aligned with your mission. Furthermore, this is not an industry that links to SUNY’s educational mission articulated in The Power of SUNY, including 21st century, sustainability-oriented and environmentally-conscious education and job opportunities.

2. Student Goals for Academic Excellence

Students in the United States are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability in social, environmental and economic terms. The Princeton Review recently reported that over 25% of applicants said that commitment to the environment would “very much” impact their decision on a college or university. The SUNY Ulster students must learn to compete in a global marketplace and, as they have said in their own words, “SUNY Ulster’s interactions with the Start-Up NY program, it has the capability to aid in the introduction of sustainable jobs and companies, as well as the potential to introduce unsustainable or environmentally harmful companies to the local area.” They are asking you to work with the former. They want to learn from socially-responsible companies. I hope you want this for them, too.

3. Transparency

The public became aware of the Niagara Bottling proposal several months after it went through several steps that would normally require public disclosure. Chief among these is the provision of water through the Kingston Water Department, whose “will serve” letter was issued, but not made publicly available until FOILed by KingstonCitizens.org, despite a potential lack of capacity and a known construction and maintenance decision that would require the assent of the Kingston Common Council, according to our City Charter.

When asked by the SUNY Environmental Club whether the students would have any input into Niagara’s proposed Start Up New York venture with the college, the president told the students that they could not participate in the college’s development of the Start Up New York plan.

4. Known Dangers of the Water Bottling Industry

The water bottling industry has become one of the world’s most wasteful industries. In 2007, when the last federal industrial energy data were published, the industry utilized 32 to 54 million barrels of oil, which is a third of a per cent of total US primary energy consumption. The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil. Consumption of bottled water has grown 10 percent each year since these data were published. The bottling industry has managed to convince the public that bottled water is safer to drink than tap water. In truth, the industry is hardly regulated at all, with regular reports of contamination in the products. By comparison, municipal water supplies are tested at least hundreds of times per month and have a better safety record than bottled water.

5. Comparison of Costs vs. Benefits

The $10.8 million Regional Economic Development grant proposal, if awarded, would have provided Niagara with $90,000 per job created for 120 jobs and $270,000 per job for 40 jobs. Because the public has not been provided any information regarding the amounts associated with the tax incentives associated with Start Up New York, we are concerned that these are commensurately high in relation to the jobs created. The concept of “opportunity cost” must be considered here. According to the Start Up New York program regulations, here is a 200,000 square foot ceiling on the incentive award. Has the Board of Trustees evaluated other options?   Have you considered what this may prevent our community from doing in the future?

6. Economic Analysis

According the country’s leading economists in regional economic development and regional migration studies, “large incentive packages even when they are risky, unnecessary, damaging to the fiscal future of the locality, displacing, or place extraordinary burdens on constituents to fund future services (Markusen and Nesse 2007). “Companies that least need incentives have the resources to most effectively engage in opportunistic behavior. They cite documented cases where, after large incentives packages had been granted on the presumption of competition, corporate executives admitted that other sites were never seriously considered.” Timothy Bartik and other economists doing labor migration studies, have found that “a sudden increase in jobs as a result of a new plant or plant expansion—indicates that for every 100 new jobs in a region, about 7 will be filled from the ranks of the unemployed, about 16 by drawing existing residents into the labor force, and the remaining 77 from in-migration (Fisher 2004).” That study evaluated numerous cases of tax incentives in different regions, and noted that for “a fairly typical incentive package amounting to a 30% cut in taxes, only 9% of the new jobs arriving in a community will be attributable to the tax cut. The incentives provided to the other 91% are a pure waste of money.”

The leading scholar in this field, Timothy Bartik, has said that only 10 – 40% of jobs in these new industries go to area residents. He is with one of the country’s leading think tanks on labor studies, the Upjohn Institute in Michigan.  His work is the basis for my statement that fewer than half the jobs to area residents.  A literature review by economists Partridge and Betz from Ohio State University, who cite Partridge and Rickman (2006), Rowthhorn and Glyn (2006), and others, find that “in the long-term (about 7 years), approximately 80% of the new jobs go to migrants, leaving 20% of the jobs to original residents, with a larger share going to original residents in the short-term.

These economists also find that economic policies such as those being used to justify support for the Niagara Bottling plant “are really aimed to help politicians not residents, these policies slow needed adjustment mechanisms from poor to prosperous regions, and any benefits are dispersed to those who are already economically well off.”  The authors conclude that “economists are often highly critical of these policies because they focus on the place and not on the “people”. Economists also suggest such policies may slow the regional adjustment process and that the winners may be wealthy business owners or landowners—not the intended low-income residents (Glaeser, 2008; Pettus, 2006; Polese and Shearmur, 2006; Vigdor, 2007; World Bank, 2009).”

7. State Environmental Law

State agencies are specifically prohibited from funding an action until it has complied with the provisions of a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) (see section 617.5). Before considering the Niagara Bottling proposal for a Start Up New York tax abatements, we urge SUNY Ulster to allow the full environmental review process to occur so that all its related impacts can be evaluated, including the construction and operation of the plant, the sale of the water, the implications for Kingston’s overall water supply, the infrastructure required for withdrawals, and the potential impacts to the water bodies from which Kingston draws its water supplies.

 

8.  Niagara Bottling Company’s Track Record

  • The Niagara Bottling Company was found to have violated environmental regulations in California and Arizona.
  • Niagara Bottling sued the City of Groveland, Florida – with a population of just over 7,000 residents — which had to spend more than $1.4 million in its battle with Niagara and had to settle for $1.24 million credit toward sewer-utility payments and pay some other costs for the company. Niagara can use as much as 200,000 gallons a day in sewer service from Groveland for as long as seven years without being charged, which is among the most expensive of municipal services in any community.
  • Niagara employees, current and past, in plants across the country, have logged dozens of complaints about the company’s lack of training, safety procedures, criteria for performance its high turnover, forced overtime, and corporate culture of favoritism. If this were one plant, or just a few employees, we would not share these with you, but these reports came from several locations.
  • Industry reports show that – among the 90+ job categories at Niagara – many of the jobs, particularly in labor (not management) lower-paid than other employers in this industry. We are providing these for you in the digital file to Ms. Zell.
  • TheBureau of Labor Statistics (BLS is my source for the claim of lower pay and injury/illness at bottling plants. They issued several reports on this problem. Your packet has a page from a BLS report on this.

9. Your Role as Trustees

According to SUNY’s “Statement on the Governance Role of a Trustee or Board Member,” trustees or board members:

“…must act in good faith and exercise the degree of diligence, care, and skill that an ordinary prudent individual would use under similar circumstances in a like position. To conform with this standard, trustees and board members should:

  • Regularly attend and participate in board meetings and committee meetings where applicable;
  • Read, review, and inquire about materials that involve the institution, especially board minutes, annual reports, other reports, plans, policies, and any literature that involves the institution;
  • Have a fiduciary responsibility for the assets, finances, and investments of the institution and exercise due diligence, care, and caution as if handling one’s own personal finances; and
  • Use one’s own judgment in analyzing matters that have an impact on the institution.”

Among these fiduciary responsibilities, “When matters of fiscal governance become very technical and require greater expertise in assessing the fiscal condition of the institution or its long-term well-being, a board should seek the advice of experts.” Examples of this include:

  • Assessing any risk associated with the validity and reliability of financial data; and
  • Monitoring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to the institution’s operations.

10.  Leadership

Today, your students are asking you to make a commitment to exert leadership in your decisions regarding your relationship to Niagara Bottling. In order for Ulster County to give its students the tools to compete in our global market, they need to learn not only skills or to be trained in specific tasks. They need role models whose decisions reflect a respect for the public good and for the protection of our public resources. They deserve to see our leaders hold themselves to the highest standards and show that they are striving for the best opportunities they can secure for them.

Surely we can do better than this. We can evaluate proposals with a more inclusive process, one that is based in science and economics, and we can show our community that we want to fulfill a mission of academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.”

Again, we are at your disposal to discuss this further. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Specific References

Bartik, T. J. (2012), The Future of State and Local Economic Development Policy: What Research Is Needed. Growth and Change, 43: 545–562. doi: 10.1111/j.14682257.2012.00597.

Fisher, Peter. 2004. “The Fiscal Consequences of Competition for Capital.” Prepared for the Conference “Reining in the Competition for Capital” Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs University of Minnesota February 27-28, 2004

Glaeser, Edward L. and Joshua D. Gottlieb. 2008. “The Economics of Place-Making Policies.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity:155-239.

Gleick, P.H. and H S Cooley, “Energy implications of bottled water” Environmental Research Letters Volume 4 Number 1

Markusen, Ann, and Katherine Nesse. 2007. “Institutional and Political Determinants of Incentive Competition.” In Reining in the Competition for Capital, Ann Markusen, ed. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, pp. 1-42. http://research.upjohn.org/up_bookchapters/237

Partridge, Mark D. and Dan S. Rickman. 2006. “An SVAR Model of Fluctuations in U.S. Migration Flows and State Labor Market Dynamics” Southern Economic Journal 72(4):958-980.

Pettus, Ashley. 2006. “Rethinking New Orleans.” Harvard Magazine, January/February, Available at: http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/010673.html.

Polese, Mario and Richard Shearmur. 2006. “Why Some Regions Will Decline: A Canadian Case Study with Thoughts on Local Development Strategies.” Papers in Regional Science 85(1):23-46.

Renkow, Mitch. 2003. “Employment Growth, Worker Mobility, and Rural Economic Development.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 85(2):503-513.

Rodriguez-Pose, Andres. 2010. “Economic Geographers and the Limelight: Institutions and Policy in the World Development Report 2009.” Economic Geography 86(4):361-370.

Rowthorn, Robert and Andrew J. Glyn. 2006. “Convergence and Stability in U.S. Employment Rates.” The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics: Contributions in Macroeconomics 6(1).

World Bank. (2009) Reshaping economic geography. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

 

General References on Sustainable Development

Anderson, Ray C. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, and Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

Bartlett, Peggy F. and Chase, Geoffrey W. (eds.). Sustainability on Campus. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.

Beavan, Colin. No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process. New York: Picador, 2010.

Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997.

Brown, Lester R. Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. New York City: W. W. Norton & Co., 2003.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

Cox, John D. Climate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2005.

Daly, Herman. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Farrell, James J. The Nature of College. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2010.

Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How it Can Renew America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Green Building and LEED Core Concepts. Second Edition. usgbc.org/store.

Gore, Al. Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest. New York: Penguin, 2008.

Hawken, Paul. The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Katz, Greg. Greening Our Built World: Costs, Benefits and Strategies. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2010.

Martin, James and Samels, James E. (eds.). The Sustainable University: Green Goals and New Challenges for Higher Education Leaders. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.

McDonough, William and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press, 2002.

Meadows, Donnella. Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, 1972.

Orr, David W. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1994

Royte, Elizabeth. Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. New York: Little, Brown, 2005.

Worldwatch Paper #170: Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems

July 2005
Sandra Postel
ISBN: 1-878071-76-9
78 pages

By taking advantage of the work that healthy watersheds and freshwater ecosystems perform naturally, cities and rural areas can purify drinking water, alleviate hunger, mitigate flood damages, and meet other societal goals at a fraction of the cost of conventional technological alternatives.

But because commercial markets rarely put a price on these “ecosystem services,” and because governments around the world are failing to protect them, they are being lost at a rapid rate. Global warming is the wild card that could further exacerbate the impacts of human activities on the natural systems that safeguard our water supply—impacts that include falling water tables, shrinking wetlands, vanishing species, and a decrease in both the quality and quantity of available freshwater.

The biggest enemy is tap water,” said a Pepsi VP in 2000. “When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to irrigation and washing dishes,” said Susan D. Wellington of Quaker Oats, the maker of Gatorade. But its more than just words: Coca-Cola has been in the business of discouraging restaurants from serving tap water, and pushing “less water and more beverage choices.”

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Niagara and SUNY Ulster? Petition Created by SUNY Ulster Students. Please consider signing!

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION CREATED BY STUDENTS AT SUNY ULSTER.

“He (SUNY Ulster president Donald Katt) was very focused on the economic benefits….If you’re going to be sustainable, you need to be culturally sustainable. You need to be economically sustainable and you need to be environmentally sustainable.”

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Click on the image to view SUNY Ulster Students speak on the community college’s collaboration with Niagara.

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“How can you say that we are going to create internships and assure jobs for students when we aren’t being taken into account”

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