“Holding a gun to our city” Censure Ward 5 Council member Don Tallerman

Tonight, as the council discussed a draft resolution for charter reform that we helped to create, we listened in shock as Ward 5 Council member Don Tallerman accused KingstonCitizens.org of corroborating with Neil Bender’s Kingstonian lawsuits, saying that our volunteer advocacy group was “Holding a gun to our city”.

When charter reform was introduced last year, the concept was delayed in part because of Council member Hirsch’s concerns of KingstonCitizens.org’s support of a city manager form of government.

Resisting charter reform means a delay, in part, of the council being able to hire their own staff and having a voice in the decision making process for boards, committees and commissions. This is all due to the City of Kingston having a strong mayor form of government governed by a city manager charter from a 1993/1994 decision. It is well documented and it is why our current strong mayor system holds so much power over our legislative body.

A year later, and in support of our entire community, we created draft language to help our council, taking the time to do some research and looking at communities similar in size and scale locally (all of which is cited in the original google document for the entire city to review) for a resolution that would allow the council to hire its own staff, have a say in the appointments/removal of committee, boards and commission members and formalizing mandatory training for council members (the Board of Education has yearly trainings).

Disregarding the substance, Tallerman said that KingstonCitizens.org’s main supporter is engaged in a dozen lawsuits. “Why would we entertain a suggestion from an entity who is holding a gun to our city…if a constituent comes to me with a good idea, and at the same time they are holding a gun up to the head of my family, no I’m not going to listen to that constituent when they are holding a gun up at my family’s head.”

Is it appropriate for an elected official to use a gun reference to describe the advocacy work of constituents? What’s the message he is trying to deliver? He ought to be censured for what he said tonight.

“Holding a Gun to our City”

Let’s set the record straight.

  • KingstonCitizens.org has been advocating for a transparent process from the start as it pertains to the Kingstonian project. As community members, we have that right;
  • We do not condone a $25 million dollar/25 year PILOT for luxury housing;
  • We haven’t any lawsuits against the City of Kingston;
  • Our organization hasn’t a relationship with Neil Bender.  

We are not alone with our concerns about the Kingstonian project.

Why is Ward 5 Alderman Don Tallerman Angry at KingstonCitizens.org?

Over the years, we have called for Council member Tallerman to recuse himself from any Kingstonian project vote due to his conflicts. We’ve created a timeline of those items as well as to how it pertains to our recent charter reform request. REVIEW the timeline

Kingston Resident Changes NYSDOT Sites Statewide

WATCH/LISTEN: “Here is the audible improvement, the last of the three segments is where we are now. The birds are louder!” said Lisa Darling

This is such a great story!

AFTER ONE WOMAN’S PURSUIT OF PEACE, CHANGES COME TO THE NYS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION SITES STATEWIDE 

Kingston, NY: Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s office ensured positive change for neighbors of 60 NYS Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) facilities throughout the state, an initiative stemming from efforts spearheaded by Kingston, NY resident and sound healing artist Lisa Darling. A few months after moving into her new home, Darling was stunned to hear the ongoing sound of a loud-piercing backup beeper throughout the night as the facility operated to maintain winter roads. When Darling approached the DOT, their response was that they were getting accolades for the good work they were doing, and they were not going to change anything”. They said, “this is how it has always been”. 

In her original outreach, after making calls to state officials with no response, Darling took the advice of a friend and reached out to KingstonCitizens.org, a local non-partisan citizen engagement organization. They provided a roadmap of Kingston’s local government, along with a direct introduction to Darling’s council member Jeffrey Ventura Morrel (D-Ward 1). Darling created a petition with her neighbor Chas Gritman and together, collected 40 names asking DOT officials to consider alternatives to the high-pitched alarms. Morrel involved Darling’s County Legislator Abe Uchitelle (D-District 5), and leveraging the petition, Uchitelle gained the attention of state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston)’s office. Darling also reached out to noise-reduction advocates, researched the link between noise and erosion of health, and looked for OSHA-approved alternatives, discovering that federal workplace safety rules offer options to traditional backup alarms. The equipment used by the DOT was in use for the simple reason that it came pre-installed on the agency’s loaders and other vehicles.

Staff at Cahill’s Kingston office reached out directly to the DOT, who agreed to pilot a less intrusive white noise reverse alarm, finally deciding to approve the alternative device at the Kingston location and at all DOT facilities statewide. 

“It’s thrilling to make a change in your local community and transform a problem at home and for communities throughout the state,” said Darling. “I hope that others can become inspired to work with their local officials. Being civically engaged really works.”

For more information, please contact Lisa Darling lisamdarling (at) gmail.com

No Time to Waste: Zero Waste in Ulster County

By Rebecca Martin

With much emphasis on solid waste management issues in the Hudson Valley, what short term solutions are there to our current unsustainable consumption of stuff?

City of Kingston Recycling

The City of Kingston has a weekly recycling program where the materials are taken to the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA). It removes accepted materials out of the waste stream, but there are many gaps where we end up throwing much of what we consume away in the trash. From clam shells and toothbrushes to single use batteries and latex paint, in Ulster County, these are just some of the materials that end up in the Seneca Meadows landfill that is set to close in 2025 some 235 miles away from here.

Ulster County Recycling Oversight Committee and UCRRA

The Ulster County Recycling Oversight Committee is a committee that meets quarterly and has some authority in determining any new types of recyclable materials accepted in Ulster County. This becomes complicated, as the potential investment of equipment and capacity must also be accounted for for any new materials not currently accepted. This can be costly out front. However, the costs to travel our waste so far away and with tipping fees, or establishing a new landfill in Ulster County? How about calculating the environmental harms? What are those costs and in the long run, would they offset the needed investment? Imagine if companies were made to include the backend of disposing of their packaging? There are probably large lobbying efforts against it, because it would be cost prohibitive for them. But if lawmakers are serious about solid waste, then those brave souls who are in it for the public good come together and push back to succeed, it would certainly provoke a nearly immediate culture shift. (1)

Last I knew, the Zero Waste 2020 plan in Ulster County stalled in the Energy and Environment committee due to timeline differences between the legislature and UCRRA. UCRRA recently was selected as “one of eleven recipients of the 2020-2021 Community Grants Program, a project of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I). UCRRA will launch a county-wide community engagement campaign, the UCRRA Zero Waste Seminar Project, to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of single use plastics, and how waste reduction and reuse can be practical strategies for pollution prevention.” So it appears to be coming.

Out of site, out of mind

Meanwhile, the Ulster County Solid Waste Management plan was recently approved by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Written into it, an “emerging technology” known as BioHiTech that we lobbied against. BioHiTech is merely a Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF), first in collecting municipal waste. After removing any valuable metals, the plastic and fibers are dried and shredded into confetti.  They are then trucked away to cement plants where it is incinerated to supplement coal in creating energy. The remaining waste is dumped in unnamed landfills or garbage incinerators. It is unprincipled for materials to be trucked away as far as Pennsylvania where the output of the incineration is dealt by the neighboring communities several states away from where the waste was generated. Most of the time, these are environmental justice communities that lack resources or a voice to improve their circumstances. We mustn’t contribute to it.

Last year, KingstonCitizens.org reached out to Institute for Local Self Reliance who generously reviewed Ulster County’s Solid Waste Management Plan. They summarized the good and the bad, stating that “Citizens should request participation in the decision-making process used by UCRRA to determine how the Plan will be implemented. The City Council of Honolulu just passed a resolution calling for zero waste experts to be part of decision-making for the $2 billion of federal pandemic relief funds that have been allocated to the city. The County should develop a zero waste purchasing/procurement guidelines that are available from organizations. These programs reduce costs and reduce the County’s environmental footprint.”

Zero Waste now

In the meantime, there are a couple of local opportunities that can help.

In Red Hook, The Ozone Sustainability Center provide options, including taking in some of those hard to recycle items by partnering with Terracycle. (2)

They also accept single use alkaline batteries that are currently being encouraged to be thrown in the trash. This is partly due to the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act passed in 1996 that phased out the use of mercury in alkaline batteries, making them less of an issue when disposed in landfills. But this doesn’t mean alkaline batteries are not recyclable. The Ozone in Red Hook is the only place we’ve found within 25 miles of Kingston that takes them. The cost is $0.10 per battery, and a non-conductive clear tape must be used on the positive ends when they are returned to keep them from sparking. I personally haven’t felt comfortable throwing them out and I’ve kept a bucket in the basement for them for years. Today, we delivered nearly 200 of them and the effort and the cost gave me pause. It’s easy to understand why they will mostly end up in the dump.

In Kingston, the brand new Village Grocery & Refillery located at 2 Jansen Street in downtown Kingston has a fill-up station for laundry & dish soap, shampoo and all sorts of other household and personal items. Check it out.

We’ve got a “mountain to climb

Seneca Meadows’ mountain of trash is going to come to a screeching halt soon. Those who are passionate about this issue can reach out to the Ulster County legislature, who have direct oversight of UCRRA, to learn how to plug in. You can also contact your Kingston Council member and let them know that you want Kingston to do more on the zero waste front. It’s a problem that can only be solved when we are all involved.


ADDITIONS (7/5 @ 9am)

(1) The proposed “Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act” (Federal), offers some hope that we can stop some of the production of plastic and hold producers accountable.  Learn more and take action by clicking the link. (Thanks Tanya!)

(2) Unfortunately, Terracycle also sends materials to the incinerator. https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/about-terracycle/how_we_solve