Monday, June 30, 2008

NUISANCE ABATEMENT: Helping neighborhoods help themselves.!

Even with only seven members of the Common Council at their seats Tuesday night, the Aldermen are poised to enact the long overdue “Nuisance Abatement Law”. Teetsel is away and Reynolds will preside as Council President in Nobles absence.

The NAL gives the city, in all its pertinent departments, much needed tools to zero in on the owners of properties where there are chronic complaints of criminal activity or other nuisances.

Former UCDA Don Williams crafted this proposal in the waning months of his tenure, and with the support of law enforcement, and public officials of every stripe, he will see the hard work pay off.

City residents will now deal more effectively with properties that have been the source of complaints about such things as drug dealing, prostitution and noise. I bet it would be even more popular if it helped neighbors rectify dilapidated and hazardous properties, letting our building department inspect and fine places they currently have no jurisdiction.

There will be an appellate process. The Mayor, the Fire chief and the Police chief would appoint one member apiece to a panel that would review each case that chooses to file. The panel would prefer to remedy the problems before the case elevates to criminal. That would be in everyone’s best interest.

This law has teeth. The worst cases will end up with property seizure and huge fines. The minor infractions, like toxic smells emanating from the neighbor’s property will probably see department officials visiting and guiding owners toward resolution.

These are some of the steps that our government makes toward better “quality of life” standards and with neighborhood civic groups and educated property owners, we should see a gradual shift in problem properties.


This beautiful piece of uptown real estate can be yours for just…

Check out the finished product of the Arold Paving Company. A fine accomplishment where a crumbling “disaster in waiting” parking garage once stood.

I admit, I had my concerns about the experience of several of the companies that bid on the demolition, but let the pictures show, the end product looks good.

You will notice the numbered spaces. Those are numbered for a reason. The city will not handle the collection of funds the way they had in the past. This time it will be automated.

A parking Kiosk will be installed where individuals can manage their own private transaction for their designated space. No city hall visits and no space confusion.

Unlike the parking meters, parking lots have a funneled point of exit. Like train and bus terminals as well as the UC Office Building, people culminate at a focus point where an easy financial exchange is handled privately. Although not scheduled until next year, the meters have the capacity to handle “smart card” transactions. This soon-to-be Kiosk will be card ready on day one.

Now where are those stairs?

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Dredging the Hudson River is finally going to happen.

The tons of PCBs that wash over the Federal Dam every year pose a developmental threat to humans while in the womb as well as all the wildlife that thrives in the river and those who harvest from the river.

I have been a continued supporter of the EPA and their efforts to clean up the Hudson. I always thought that whether they knew the danger of the disposed elements or not, GE is responsible for cleaning it up, and to our surprise, the courts agreed.

Now the PCB dredging project on the upper Hudson River looks ready to launch.General Electric hired marine contractors in Fort Edward to build a bulkhead for barges and a huge building to squeeze dry polluted river mud.

A rail yard is being built with nearly seven miles of track for shipping out the waste.Handling the PCB-contaminated river mud will begin next spring.

It’s hard to believe it has been years since the issue first surfaced here in the Hudson Valley. We experienced decades of plans, lawsuits, negotiations, delays and demonstrations, yet here we are, 2008, finalizing the deal.

This wont be a quick fix, mind you. Plan on 5 or 6 years of scraping away nearly 500 acres of river. With several “hot spots” located close to Kingston Point Beach, we are sure to witness the barges as they carry out their ecological mission.

There is no other way to eliminate the PCB embedded silt at the bottom of the river. PCBs don’t break down naturally and have been found in silt samples miles beyond the river’s opening off Manhattan. Still there after being banned from use since 1977.

My gratitude goes off to the diligent work of ClearWater who never wavered on this challenge to hold GE accountable and get the job done.

Clearwater Presents: The Hudson River PCB Story

This document is dated, but still on target:
Facts About Dredging Hudson River PCBs

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Wednesday evening, a small group of 20+ gathered at the Unitarian Sanctuary on Sawkill Rd in the Town of Kingston to witness a panel discussion on POVERTY.

I had the privilege to catch the second half and got a refresher course on where weve been, are and going in these tougher times ahead.

The eminent financial crunch that is about to swamp every municipality and government agency is going to push more people into harms way.

Panelists were: Michael Berg from Family of Woodstock, Rev Darlene Kelly from the Clinton Ave Church/soup kitchen, and Roberto Rodriguez from UC DSS.
The forum was hosted by Mark Halenstein, PhD, who specializes in legal and social justice issues.

The issues were numerous, many focused on the City of Kingston and the County’s handling of our most vulnerable. The working poor are under-represented and of course the charming history of the Kings Inn and the housing of homeless on Broadway right in the most troubled area.

Addiction and financial issues play a huge roll in incarceration and the 85% recidivism rate. Where do you go after your 28 day program? Right back to the hell you ran away from, without community help, there is little chance of breaking free of the cycle.

Rev Kelly suggested placing rehab centers right in the middle of the problem zone. I didn’t quite follow the reasoning. I would want to separate those who seek a fresh start from the dealers they live with. But where to place people?

There is no housing. Kingston as a City has done its share and other towns aren’t willing to step up with services because it may cost them a few dollars. I agree with the panelists who are struggling with limited resources and an increasing client load, but the economic situation and killer fuel prices are beating down the taxpayers as well.

When speaking of the invisible citizenry, Mr. Rodriguez sited a study; in 2006 approximately 13 MILLION children in the U.S. were living below the poverty line, That’s a sad statistic for a country of such wealth. The effects and the conditions of childhood poverty, destitution and despair can be devastating in a child's life and in the life of the adult that child is to become.

My question…when will Lloyd, Woodstock, Saugerties and the rest of the towns step up and provide housing for the homeless and section 8 developments? We should all help them to help themselves, but that won’t happen if you continue to ship them to Kingston and forget about them.

You can review a much more detailed review of this meeting on Nancy Smith’s “Spreading Our Wings” Blog, she was also present. Thanks Nancy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Lets just say it was warm in City Hall this evening, and not because of the lack of air conditioning.

The Mayor and most of the Council attended the scheduled meeting with the representative from GAR Associates and pressed Dave (pictured right) for more answers. Members of the Council, including myself, have been grumbling about the handling of the Reval and the tax shift from commercial to residential.

Everyone having a turn to vent, we finally got some feedback and a window of opportunity to make changes in the process.

We cannot make any percentage changes in assessments across the city in a blanket action as I suggested, but we can set the tax burden shift to a less painful, incremental transition. Those numbers were sent back as a homework assignment for next months meeting.

Robert Senor and I stepped up with a 20% shift model, that readers wont know what I’m talking about, but we have a starting point to a four or five year partial modification to the current tax burden we deal with today.

It’s true, the extreme disparity in the tax burden for commercial taxes is slowly killing commerce here in Kingston, but it took us over 20 years to get here, the Council is not about to remedy the situation with one big bitter pill. Those of us who are on a financial margin of survival wouldn’t make it.

There is another positive, we learned that the exemptions with caps of $30K and $60K have a history of climbing to double and triple those current levels, where the 100% base actually helps the benefits, rather than hindering.

In the end, the process will take years to smooth out and commercial property will still pay a higher rate than residential, but to a smaller extent. It is our acknowledgment that commercial properties use more municipal service than residential and have the additional burden noted as a “cost of doing business”.

In closing, I took a moment to apologize to Dave for being “heated” last time we had a Reval meeting. I did get in his face when the tax shift was revealed to us in May, and I should have kept my cool.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


So have you been following the “socialist” rants from the Republican Leadership against Hinchey?

It seems anything you say can be twisted around later for a campaign bombshell.
After all the years Maurice has been in either the NYS Assembly or in Congress, he would be ready for anything. Indeed he is.

Minority Leader John Boehner’s office sent out this little ditty: “Hinchey proposed a Washington takeover of the entire oil industry” to a huge list of Republican operatives in order to mobilize the fanatics. The statement described Hinchey’s remarks as a “bombshell.”

So what did Maurice do? He laughed it off. Stating that he was merely pointing out that if oil companies refuse to build more refineries, the government should consider building some of its own to boost the fuel supply and help bring down prices.

Many US citizens think the private corporations have had their time strangling the consumer, and that a new course is needed to provide energy sources, including refining more crude oil here in the homeland.

In the Ithaca Times, Hinchey was quoted: “No, of course we’re not trying to nationalize the oil industry, I’m just saying that if the oil companies choose not to build any more refineries, then they’ve got to be built in some way.”

In response to the Conservative rhetoric during this campaign season, Hinchey again quoted: “You’ll see a history on their part of falsification of information on this issue of energy, It’s so characteristic of the way they’ve been behaving.”

With 68 million acres of national land reserved for oil companies to tap, and several refinery start-ups given permission to build, the culprits responsible for the increase in fuel prices falls between the oil companies and energy stock speculators.

Drilling for oil here would require hiring US citizens at prevailing wage. Not what the oil industry had in mind. Without legislative intervention, I don’t see any willful change in the workings of the Corporetocracy. Maurice has it right, at least in the threat.

The four, five or six different conservative challengers have to keep in mind, what the citizens are feeling in their wallet, is a result of the Bush/Cheney Energy Policy.
Hinchey, a strong advocate for renewable energy development and local green job opportunities in the Hudson Valley, has a better grasp of the consumer needs within his district. Take heed my conservative friends, for the antiquated philosophies you cherish today will be the source of your eminent demise in November.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Tonight I attended the monthly meeting of the Hudson Valley Humanists.
We met at the Esopus Library. The Lower chamber serves perfectly for a range of different interest groups and we are thankful toward the library for the space.

With about 15 members present, arriving from as far as Saugerties and New Paltz, we focused on the topic of PROSPERITY and the humanistic perspective on its definition.

Funny, when you collect all the interpretations as a train of thought, you see the resemblance of classic philosophers like Homer and Kant as well as modern writers like Hitchens, Dawkins and Kurtz. (pictured left)

Everything is subjective, and depending on your awareness of the world around you, Prosperity is many things. Food, shelter, clothing and safety are binary needs, and for some, describe prosperity.

Others have an insatiable materialistic drive that cannot be extinguished, allowing no satisfaction and sense of prosperity.

Religious and non-religious agree that the One, the Family and the Community are better served when a village works for the betterment of the community together. You don’t need a divine being to understand that.

Our group, while still growing in numbers, is also evolving. Different backgrounds and generational experiences prompt the need to interact with the greater public and share the fruits of the community labor without the hassle of religiosity dividing everyone.

As a 5 year board member, I too have grown to appreciate the diverse nature of our Hudson Valley family. The objective and non-discriminate observation of people and their survival in tough times shows me everyday, that humans are instinctively creative in finding ways to make life work.

If you would like to know more about the Hudson Valley Humanists or just discover Humanism yourself, just check out these links.
You might even dare to step away from the dogma of an ancient time that has long past its time to expire.

Hudson Valley Humanists

The American Humanist Association

Council for Secular Humanism

Sunday, June 22, 2008


About 200 people in NYC got ’false positive’ HIV test results.

I cant imagine hearing those words. But with the continual spread of HIV throughout every community, many people do. As you would expect, It’s devastating.

Many of those afflicted, need a tremendous amount of family and community support to survive what is now a survivable disease. But what about a false positive?

As reported in the AP, over 200 people in the NYC area were given false HIV test results from clinics between November 2007 and April of this year and were incorrectly told they tested positive for the virus as a result of using OraSure.

Try to wrap your mind around this.

The New York Post in Sunday’s edition stated that 213 people who took a rapid mouth-swab HIV test initially were told they had the virus. City health officials, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and OraSure Technologies, the maker of the test, are investigating. A second test from a blood sample revealed they were not HIV-positive.

The New York Post also states that the City’s Health Department has stopped using the OraSure rapid swab test. (so much for that stock investment)

All fine and well, but what about the clients who suffered the false test results? Will they sue? This is anything but simple. If this had happened and someone did something unthinkable as a result, what would you expect to happen?

Just another example of poor testing of products by our government institutions. Do the right thing, go to your regular doctor and get a proper HIV test done with your regular annual check-up.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Sometime this week, Senators Schumer and Clinton will vote on the revised FISA Bill that passed in the House last week.

The House of Representatives caved and overwhelmingly passed a bill that creates loopholes for this administration to continue spying on US citizens with impunity and cuts off lawsuits against telecom companies that broke the law.

Imagine; The president simply has to claim his request was legal for immunity to be granted to telecom companies that illegally handed over personal information to the government. These are your records people!

With barely a whisper, the President can offer immunity to the Telecom Companies who engage in these spineless practices. All he has to do is give the company a note claiming their behavior was legal, and they're completely off the hook.

Our Representative, Maurice Hinchey voted against this un-American legislation, now we can only hope this bill dies in the US Senate.

My question would be, what did this administration offer for those affirmative votes? What amount of additional pork will the taxpayers shell out to accommodate the spending whims of elected officials across the country, simply to turn away from the daunting reality of these freedom-stealing proposals coming out of the White House?

We all have followed the news on this issue as the debate rages on, I am still shocked that the House caved in at this final hour before recess. We wouldn’t want them to stay after class and get some real work done. What do you think?

Thursday, June 19, 2008


After hearing an interview of John Perkins (pictured right) on NPR last year, I went out and bought his book CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN and did I get a wake-up call !

For years now, Perkins, Lindsey Williams, Scott Ritter and a host of others have spoken out about the hidden and not so favorable actions of our government and the third world countries that suffer as a result.

I had the opportunity to guest on a friend's local access show after reading Perkin's book. I ended up railing against the World Bank and the IMF for an hour with no warning to the host.

So when another friend sent me yet another link to a YouTube video on the energy crisis, by Lindsey Williams (pictured right) I had to pass them on through a blog posting.

Take your time, they are time consuming and unless you are making a killing in Exxon/Mobil stocks, you will be upset. Like the American consumer from California to New York, we mill around with our own small purpose, work, raise our kids, safe up for retirement.

These plans are threatened and here are a few links to explain why.

The Energy Non-Crisis 3 ten minute clips

Go out and buy these books! They should be in paperback by now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The three business districts in the City of Kingston got together in one setting this Wednesday evening. Well, substantial membership of each district.
The location was the newly renovated Kirkland Hotel on Clinton Avenue.

Reason? As a favor to our newly appointed Alderman Thomas Hoffay, New York City’s Commissioner of Small Business Services, Robert Walsh offered extensive dialog on the ripe opportunity for small business growth in the three districts.

Rob Walsh is the former Executive Director of the 14th St. / Union Sqare LDC and Business Improvement District. He was recruited by the Bloomberg Administration to take over SBS, where he has become a nationally recognized authority on building successful coalitions for the small business community.

With the three business associations struggling to make sense of the economic downturn while their members are trying to break even, the time to merge forces has never been more clear.

Walsh, with his history in the Ed Koch Administration, development history in Charlotte NC, and the renaissance at Union Square, laid out a possible relationship for the successful management of the small business neighborhoods and the level of investment that has to be made to achieve the goals.

I recognized the points he made, having studied the city and it’s neighborhoods for most of one day, and knew he was a quick learner. Tom gave him a crash course on the issues from block to block.

Tom, you did a good job. Now if we can only harness the enthusiasm we saw in your buddy Walsh as we rethink our city’s comprehensive planning project!

Walsh made mention that he would be looking for work after Bloomberg’s term in NYC is over. I bet Mike will bring him and the rest of his team to Albany when he becomes Governor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, has offered a valuable tool for the public to track government spending.

This is terrific news!

Through his office in Albany, Project Open Book NY is helping anyone with a computer follow and understand the complex spending habits of our elected representatives.

This should thrill everyone contributing to the system as this program details the 113 state agency expenditures, like: salaries, travel costs and outsourced consultants.

You can also search State contracts in real time to see who is doing business with the State. Mind you, this site is in it’s infancy, with plans to expand the breadth of financial spending in our state in the not-so-distant future.

DiNapoli said: “We’re trying to increase transparency and “open the books” on state government so New Yorkers will have a better understanding of how state government works.”

I think you’ll join me in applauding our state comptroller for this advancement in information dispersal. For too long, we have suffered in the dark, subjected to whatever the leadership offered us in the way of info scraps.

Sure, we could FOIL for the individual expenses we discovered through diligent research, but nothing will compare to the free flow of info we are about to access.

Thank you Thomas.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I have come to the conclusion that GAR Associates assumed we, Kingston property owners, were actually in Westchester County.

The long drive from Rochester must have given them the illusion that Manhattan was just a few miles further down the thruway.

Every property owner that I have spoken to has the same impression that their property was assessed at 20 – 30% higher than any imagined selling price for this area. Thus…we must be in Westchester County.
Below is the no-brainer re-assessment flow chart. I suspect this was not the case in Kingston.

I will ask that the council consider a mandate that the assessor’s office decrease all of the property assessments by 30%. Not including the successful grievances. They would be included in the original category and start from there.

Once the fantasy numbers are eliminated and we get back to reality, we can discuss the incremental tax burden shift that I called for back in May. The lump transfer will not happen, if I can help it.

For years, the council set out to explain the “1/3 up, 1/3 down and 1/3 stay the same” concept, only to have the tax burden shift thrust into the equation. Every residential property ended up higher than we promised.

In time, the Common Council will sort this mess out, but until then, have patience with the process. Nothing sticks until the Council approves the changes and the Mayor signs it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


The Star Ledger in New Jersey had this story Sunday June 15th I thought it was worth passing along to those of us who cherish the rule of law.

The federal government has begun requiring vetting the immigration status of millions of workers by an online data search system called The E-Verify system.

E Verify was a voluntary program until last week, instantly compares workers' identification information with millions of records stored at the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

The government announced it was making the program mandatory for employees of all federal contractors, and key lawmakers are working to expand the mandate to include all the nation's employers.

Amnesty and open borders advocates claim the system was troublesome enough when it was voluntary. Making it mandatory for federal contractors, they say, will only make a bad situation worse by forcing its use in industries that make up a $400 billion-plus sector of the economy.
The advocates charge the system is full of inaccurate data, that it generates false negative results, that employers abuse the system and that it does nothing to address the increasing need for workers to fill low-wage jobs.

Supporters of E-Verify scoff at complaints that it doesn't work and encourage all employers, whether they do business with the federal government or not, to use it. Arizona requires all employers to use it, and other states have enacted limited mandates.

Anna Johnson (pictured left), owner of Super Embroidery and Screenprinting in Phoenix, says the Web-based E-Verify program has made it easier for her to determine the eligibility of her staff.

"The system works," Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff said last week in explaining the decision to make it mandatory for federal contractors. "Of those workers who are legal, 99.5 percent of them roughly are verified essentially instantaneously. And those workers who have a mismatch ... are able generally to resolve their issue within less than two days."

In 2006, employers ran nearly 2 million employment eligibility verification queries using E-Verify. The top industry users were food services and drinking places, administrative and support services, professional and technical services and clothing and accessories stores.

To sign up to use the E-Verify system, employers must provide their tax numbers and other information and agree to a series of restrictions, including that they won't pre-screen applicants and must give those who are flagged an opportunity to contest the results.

Once they are authorized to use the system, employers simply enter worker identification data and Social Security numbers to check 425 million records in the SSA's database and more than 60 million records in DHS immigration databases. The process is free and takes between three and five seconds.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Cal.), who wrote the law that created E-Verify, now wants to make it mandatory nationwide. He told Congress last week that, while it has its flaws, the system is performing well overall.

He pointed to a study by the Washington-based research group Westat that showed the vast majority of the 5.8 percent of employees who do not receive instant verification of their employment status do not contest the results.

"Why do they walk away? Because E-Verify is denying jobs to illegal workers," he said.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


On a stormy Saturday evening in Kingston, the first annual NAACP meeting was a success. Rev Freeman and Rev Childs Sr. presented a quality forum for a fair attended but much needed meeting at Point Of Praise church on Hurley Avenue.

The crowd of about 30 attendees included Mike Hein, Chief Keller and Carroll St Rose.

Speakers from the NYS Dept of Justice and the HV Regional Director of NY Chapters stressed the imperative need for education, parenting and system modification geared toward structured free time for today’s youth and family unity as means to diminish the disparity in Black and Hispanic incarcerations.

The recidivistic nature of the culture of crime lends itself to a downward spiral in neighborhoods both economically and quality of life.

In this region, the issue of jobs plays a big roll in the rate of crime. Youth who experience employment and worthy roll models tend to stay out of the court system. Our local and state job situation isn’t helping.

The food at tonight’s gathering was donated by Adam’s Fairacre Farms in Ulster, NY.
I was impressed. Thank you Adam’s!

With the membership well over 100, the first annual dinner will be marked as a great beginning for a needed community advocacy source. I only wish more of my elected comrades took these events more seriously.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I am shocked and saddened at the loss of Tim Russert.

58 is much too young to leave us.

Russert was the "standard" for all aspiring journalists. It will be days, weeks, perhaps years before we realize just how much Russert influenced television news.
There were many journalists before him, who captured the attention of the viewing audience, but this was his time.
Sundays were reserved for Meet The Press, and then you were allowed to carry on your day.

I only walked past him in NYC once a while ago, so I dont have a personal story to tell, but the news has affected everyone in the world of Politics, and thus, I expect to hear all my political friends express their shock as well.

58 is too young.