Host Eight-Part Educational Forum Series in 2017

By Rebecca Martin

In November of last year, when Donald Trump became our president-elect, most of the world felt as if it had shifted in an unprecedented way.  Whether citizens supported Trump or did not, there was a common feeling of either joyous or defeated disbelief.

It wasn’t long after that a list of Trump’s initiatives appeared for his first 100 days in office.  With the support of a Republican majority in Congress, Trump’s initiatives suddenly seemed plausible. I saw this as an opportunity to look more closely at the checks and balances that exist in local, state and federal government.

We jumped quickly into action, creating a google document (so that citizens could collaborate) that outlines Trump’s initiatives so to better explore their context and, to identify local and New York State policies and laws that could help guide us through this new administration.   We hosted very small meetings with a couple dozen citizens to start this important work and realized shortly after that it needed to continue and be open to more citizen’s input.

VIEW:  “Trump’s Initiatives: Local/State Policy and Laws”

The result is an educational series that will span 2017. Citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period,  an interactive work session on’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.

Thanks to Peter Wetzler and Julie Hedrick of Church Des Artistes who have donated their beautiful space so that we are comfortable and supported in our efforts each month.

Please review the list of topics, dates, and details below.   We are currently booking more guests and will make those announcements as they are confirmed.  For now, put all of the following dates in your calendar!

We look forward to meeting more of our neighbors, making new connections and becoming more educated on a whole host of complicated topics.

Knowledge is power.

### presents
Community Educational Forums: An Eight-Part Series
at Church Des Artistes
79 Wurts Street
Historic Rondout section of Kingston, NY
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Over the course of the series in 2017, citizens can expect an array of subjects with expert panelists, a question and answer period,  an interactive work session on’s document “Trump Initiatives and NYS Local/State Policy and Laws” and short tutorials to help navigate the City of Kingston’s municipal website.

Moderated by Co-Founder Rebecca Martin.

Participants are encouraged to bring a dessert to share. Coffee and tea provided.  We encourage citizens to bring along their personal computer laptop if they have one. All dates and topics subject to change.

Sunday, Feb. 26th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART I: On Constitutional Law
A conversation on constitutional law as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.


With special guest 
Dr. Lynn Mills Eckert
Associate Professor of Political Science, Marist College
VIEW:   2/26/17 Facebook Event

About Dr. Lynn Eckert:   Dr. Lynn Eckert is a political science professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.  She earned a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College in 1992 and a doctorate from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2001.  Eckert is also an Alderwoman serving Ward 1 in the City of Kingston, NY.   Her partner is Amy Eckert, a writer, and they have three children, Raymond, Lucy and Ella.

Sunday, March 19th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART II:  On Climate Change, Energy, and Infrastructure
A conversation on climate change, energy, and infrastructure as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.


With special guest
Kate Hudson, Esq.
Waterkeeper Alliance
VIEW: 3/19/17  Facebook Event

About Kate Hudson, Esq.:   As the Western U.S. Advocacy Coordinator, Kate supports advocacy teams with all U.S. western domestic campaign activities including policy, legislative, communications, investigations, fundraising and legal work. She develops and coordinates partnerships with local, state and national organizations working on water-related issues and coordinates with Waterkeeper organizations, affiliates, and partners on campaign efforts in the Western U.S.

Kate began her environmental career working in the Regional Attorney’s office of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in 1985, handling a wide range of enforcement and permitting matters in all program areas, including air quality, water quality, solid and hazardous waste and mining. In 1994 and 1995, she served as the Acting Regional Attorney.  In 1999, Kate left the DEC and was appointed an Assistant Attorney General in that office’s Environmental Protection Bureau. She was a member of the Bureau’s Hudson River Team, and was responsible for preparing the State and Federal Trustees natural resource damage claim against General Electric, for their contamination of the Hudson River with PCBs. Kate rejoined the NYS DEC in 2007 where she created and staffed a ten person unit dedicated to pursuing claims for natural resource damages against a wide variety of polluters for their discharges of hazardous substances and petroleum. As Director of the unit, she developed policy and budgetary documents in support of the Department’s natural resource initiatives, represented the Department in the development of claims, coordinated assessment and litigation activities with Federal Trustee agencies and Indian Tribes, and negotiated settlements with responsible parties.

In February 2011, Kate joined Riverkeeper and worked as its NYC Watershed Program Director and then Director of Cross-Watershed Initiatives until November 2016. Kate headed Riverkeeper’s efforts to build a powerful partnership and advocacy campaign with anti-fracking advocacy groups across New York State which resulted in the NYS Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation December 17, 2014 recommendation to not allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.  Kate and the Watershed Team also fought against NYC’s practice of muddy discharges from its Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek as a turbidity control mechanism for the NYC water supply. After a three-year campaign for an environmental review of these discharges, the state DEC has committed to ensuring a comprehensive review process going forward. Finally, under Kate’s leadership, Riverkeeper initiated a cross-program campaign against the exponential increase in crude oil transport down the Hudson River Valley and the formation of a broad coalition of environmental organizations to oppose that expansion. That campaign has resulted in bringing to halt a state DEC permitting process that was on a fast track to allow the transport of heavy tar sands crude down the Hudson River.

Sunday, April  30th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART III: On Immigration

A discussion on the Ulster County Legislature’s upcoming Resolution No. 138 “Creating A Policy To Maintain A Safe, Inclusive Government And Ensure The Protection, Order, Conduct, Safety, Health, And Well Being Of All Persons In Ulster County,” with guest panelists District 7 Legislator (Kingston) Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Ulster County Sheriff Van Blarcum. Other guests TBA. 

The discussion will review this and other local proposals using the guidance provided by Attorney General Schneiderman and the ACLU to help communities understand their rights under the proposed changes in Washington.

With special guests
Jennifer Schwartz Berky
District 7 Legislator

Sherriff Paul J. Van Blarcum
Ulster County Sherriff

VIEW:  4/30/17 Facebook Event

About Jennifer Schwartz Berky:   Jennifer is an urban and environmental planner and historic preservationist with over 30 years of experience in urban planning, design, and revitalization in historic cities. As the planning and policy advisor for Kingston Citizens since its inception in 2006, Jennifer has helped guide many community-driven initiatives, including the trails work of the Kingston Land Trust, the push for a new comprehensive plan, and the campaign to protect Kingston’s water supply. She is also an ardent supporter of citizen engagement in planning, has served on numerous boards and currently is on the Hudson Valley Greenway Conservancy board and the Hudson River Sea Level Rise Task Force.  Jennifer is now embarking on a plan for Midtown Kingston in collaboration with the City of Kingston, RUPCO, Family of Woodstock, Midtown Rising, and the Arts District Steering Committee. She was a project manager for NYC cultural institutions, including prominent additions to Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History.  She was also a consultant to the World Bank for their largest global study on cultural heritage in collaboration with UNESCO their new community-driven development program in Eastern Europe.  Jennifer studied architecture at Pratt Institute, urban planning and real estate development at Columbia University, and historic preservation at ICCROM in Rome, Italy.  She is also currently serving her first term as an Ulster County Legislator for her adopted city of Kingston, New York, where she has lived for 13 years full time in the Rondout after convincing her parents to relocate 25 here years ago because she fell in love with it.

About Sherriff Paul J. Van Blarcum:   Sheriff Van Blarcum serving his third four-year term as Ulster County Sheriff. Accomplishments during his administration include the formation of the inter-agency Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (U.R.G.E.N.T.) to fight the scourge of drug-related crime, the Sheriff’s Office’s continued participation in and leadership of the Ulster County Emergency Response Team (U.C.E.R.T.), the installation of garage shelters to house the Sheriff’s Office Mobile Command Post and other specialty vehicles using grant monies, and a sustained campaign targeting child support violators, among other initiatives. He takes pride in his agency’s emphasis on working cooperatively with other law enforcement and governmental agencies to prevent crime, catch offenders, and improve public safety, as a way to strengthen the efforts of all and best serve the public.

Paul VanBlarcum joined the Sheriff’s Office in June of 1976. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1987 and has served in every division including patrol, investigations, corrections, security, civil, training, marine, and S.C.U.B.A. He is a 2009 graduate of the FBI National Academy, and in 2008 he graduated from the National Sheriff’s Institute in Colorado. His career also includes having been past president of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Employees’ Association and past vice-president of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association. The Sheriff has completed numerous law enforcement and corrections training schools and courses. His background includes a 1998 tour of service for the United Nations International Police Task Force in war-torn Bosnia. He has been awarded the Ulster County Police Chief’s Award and the Pride of Ulster County Award. Having also served on the Onteora School Board and the Shandaken Town Council, Paul is a lifelong resident of Ulster County.


Sunday, May 21st, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART IV:  On Public Education
A conversation on public education as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests
Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D.
Director of Education Projects at The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz, Trustee, City of Kingston Board of Education and Executive Committee of Ulster County School Boards Association

James F. Shaughnessy, Jr., Officer
City of Kingston Board of Education

VIEW:  5/21/17 Facebook Event

About Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D.: Robin Jacobowitz is the director of education projects at the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz. She taught for many years as an adjunct in SUNY New Paltz’s School of Education. Previously, Jacobowitz worked at New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy, where her research centered on the growth and development of charter schools in New York State, the organizational structures that facilitate teaching and learning in New York City small high schools, and leadership transitions in new schools in New York City. She also worked with the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children, where her research focused on the relationship between constituency building and policy work in affecting systemic school reform in New York State. Prior to beginning her career in research, Jacobowitz worked with the Public Education Network in Washington D.C., where she provided technical assistance to local education funds around the country on issues of school governance, school health, and public engagement. Jacobowitz holds an M.Ed. in education policy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. She is currently a trustee on the Kingston City School District Board of Education and a member of the executive committee of the Ulster County School Boards Association.

About James F. Shaugnessy, Jr.: James joined the Kingston City School District’s Board of Education because he felt he could make a positive contribution. “I have a daughter who attends school in the District. I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable with the School Board leadership of the District and that the philosophies practiced would be compatible with an environment I would want for my daughter.” In addition, James believes, “The Board also has a responsibility for looking forward to the future needs of the District.”  If James could achieve any educational goal while serving as a Board of Education member, it would be to see excellent programs implemented for all students so that each student can reach his or her maximum potential.  Current Board committee involvement includes serving Chair of the Audit Committee, as well as a member of the Jefferson Committee and the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan Committee.


Sunday, July 23rd, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART V:  On Women’s Issues
A conversation on women’s issues as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests: TBA
VIEW:  7/23/17 Facebook Event COMING SOON



Sunday, September 17th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VI:  On Economics
A conversation on campaign refinance, redistricting and election law as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guest economist and energy analyst Evelyn Wright.

VIEW:  9/17/17 Facebook Event


“On Economics” A conversation on Economics as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.    Sunday, September 17th from 1 – 4pm.


Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VII:  On Strategic Organizing:  Looking Forward
A conversation on strategic organizing as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guest
Callie Mackenzie Jayne
Lead Organizer
Citizen Action of NY
Hudson Valley Chapter

VIEW:  10/22/17 Facebook Event

About Callie Mackenzie Jayne:  Callie is the Lead Organizer for Citizen Action of New York’s Hudson Valley Chapter. She came to the Hudson Valley after growing up as a black person in a predominantly white, affluent town. Struggling with exclusion due to income, racial status, and high suspension rates, Callie began organizing around issues of gender equality, worker’s rights, and racial justice. Her focus began to shift as a result of her experiences moving to and living in low-income communities as a single mother in her early twenties.

During this time, she discovered the institutionalized issues that were preventing her from moving up and put her focus into finishing her undergrad and graduate degrees in order to provide leadership and promote change for others facing the same struggles. Having experienced first-hand many of the challenges and roadblocks faced by the communities we organize, Callie is able to connect with people on the basis of shared life experiences, while simultaneously providing strategy and organizing skills to help people take action on the issues that directly affect their lives.


Sunday, November 12th, 2017
From 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
PART VIII:  On Local and NYS Clean Energy
A conversation on local and NYS clean energy as it pertains to President Donald Trump’s proposed initiatives.

With special guests
Jennifer Metzger
Citizens for Local Power

Pat Courtney Strong
Courtney Strong Inc.

VIEW:  11/12/17 Facebook Event

About Jen Metzger of Citizens For Local Power:  Director of Citizens for Local Power, Jen holds a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in environmental politics and policy. She is also a Rosendale Town Councilwoman and introduced the first resolution in New York State opposing the Pilgrim Pipelines in November 2014 and various resolutions relating to the SEQR for this project. As a Councilwoman, she has been working to inform and engage other affected municipalities along the pipelines’ path on this issue.

About Pat Courtney Strong of Courtney Strong Inc.:  Patrice Courtney Strong has been president of Courtney Strong Inc. since 2006. Based in New York and Washington, D.C., her firm provides marketing communications services to market influencers who are leading the transition to a clean energy economy. Clients include the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Institute for Building Technology & Safety, serving the New York State Power Authority.  Past clients include The Solar Energy Consortium where she served as vice president, Industry Attraction and the State University at Ulster and Orange Counties.  Earlier, she worked for six years as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rebuild America Business Partners program. This group of 200+ technology companies provided energy seminars across the U.S. to local governments, school districts, and others.  Pat is a board member and chair of the marketing communications section of the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment, based in Washington, DC. She serves as president of the Business Alliance of Kingston, a group of 50-plus businesses working on revitalization through the national Main Street program, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects, and formation of an arts district.

9 thoughts on “ Host Eight-Part Educational Forum Series in 2017”

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    Is it possible to sign up for some but not all of these exciting workshops? Schedule, focus and energy-best-spent would dictate this approach for me. There are several that give me a be-still-my-beating-heart desire to attend, and others that a seat for someone more involved with that particular issue would be more productive for all.
    Thank you for the series, and for taking your time to read my comment.

  2. Of course! The public is invited to come to one or all of the panels, with or without signing up. So happy to have your support, Catherine. Looking forward to finally meeting you, too.

  3. Thank you so much for doing this!! It is just what I need to go forth into this tangle and actually know something about what and how and who I am fighting!!!
    Looking forward to Sunday and feeling proud to be an American with all of you!

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    This looks fabulous. It/when words gets out about these panels you might need a larger venue….
    Andrea Russo
    Getman,Sweeney & Dunn

    • Hi Andrea! We now have streaming capability to accommodate more participants via viewing.

      Great to see you here.

      – Rebecca

    • Yes! Supervised children are always welcomed. It’s good for them to be a part of this process. Thank you, Brad – see you soon. – Rebecca


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