By Rebecca Martin
The public is tired of the Kingstonian project. But the meaning of the Fair Street Extension public hearing on Thursday of this week stretches beyond that, and is another blatant example of our local government not doing its job to protect the interests of the community at large. Over the course of many years we’ve watched lawmakers orchestrate the Kingstonian project process to get the result it wants to appease some pretty powerful interests.
Earlier this month, the council was ready to pass a resolution that would allow all of the approvals for a public street to become an entrance ramp to a parking garage (that will be open to the public, but owned privately, though funded with public dollars) for luxury apartments in Uptown Kingston. It was only when an outside lawyer stepped in to present a real legal threat to their business-as-usual that they aborted that plan to find some other way to outwit a potential future lawsuit with teeth. In the meantime, they passed the items that they could last month and waited to tackle the real hardship of ‘abandoning’ a public street (which may or may not even be what they are doing) for a time when they had a new plan in place. Our council president set up a public hearing (Twice. First on 12/9 and then it got moved up to 12/2, likely to accomodate a full council vote on 12/7. Tricky and complicated. How would the public ever know?) without being able to explain what the city was doing.
The public won’t have any clarity until next Monday – or someday in the future when a resolution shows up in the council’s agenda packet – following the public hearing. At which point, the only thing the public can do (if their plan differs from what we know today) is to show up again during the full council meeting to speak during the general public comment period. At which time, the council will already know how it intends to vote. As it stands, your public comment on both occasions will likely not have any impact. It’s simply a box to check to allow the city of Kingston to….avoid a lawsuit.
The public’s strongest position is to write to the council president to request that she pull the public hearing and schedule it for after the time that there is a resolution that outlines clearly what the council intends to do with Fair Street. This advice is not meant to be a tactic. It’s an effort to assure that our lawmakers are upholding good government and process, because we can’t afford to further erode those things, not ever and certainly not now. Our democracy is in a real vulnerable place. If we can’t assure it locally, then it’s going to be tough to imagine we can do it anywhere else. That’s the real emergency.
Write to: City of Kingston Council President: email@example.com and copy your council member.
If lawmakers disagree with this assessment, then ask them to put in writing what they intend to do with Fair Street Extension and to clearly outline the process, including to point to the laws that support that process in our code/charter/state.