Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Brownfields be damned! After six years of waiting, the Walgreens on Broadway is finally poised to break ground.
Today's paper finally made mention of the machines doing some surface work on the site and the Mayor is pleased to see action on the corner. I too am pleased.
For to long, we waited for the clean-up process to occur. Looking at that fenced in gravel lot in the middle of the commercial district gave the impression of neglect in Ward Nine. Very unsettling.
The one factor in the re-use of the property was the loss of the trolley barn. That is probably the saddest part of the brownfield clean-up. I actually carry that loss with me as a reminder of what can be lost as a result of irresponsible handling of toxic chemicals. We've learned much since those early days...Maybe.
Walgreens , the second in Kingston, will be paying taxes; thats a good thing. They will be offering jobs too. Not the highest paying jobs, but with Burgerking on the same corner, it fits well with the Broadway payscale. I'm expecting the proximity of the pharmacy and grocery to help locals with limited mobility.
As I did with some other construction sites in the city, I'll post pictures of the progress here to show those of you who don't get around Kingston much.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Ok, so the big news of the day is the defection of Arlen Specter from Republican to Dem. The news media, Email alerts and even the world of Twitter went wild this afternoon with the shocking news.
Actually it wasn't so shocking. Arlen's votes and opinions, moderate by default, made running Democrats against him very difficult and very expensive. His independent philosophy onn most national issues kept the electorate in Pennsylvania very comfortable with him as Senator.
So what does this mean? Well, this isn't the first place you've heard about the switch. What do you think? Are more moderate Republicans going to follow his lead?
I hate to pick on the party as a monolithic throwback to the days before the civil rights movement simply because I have republican friends and family. It's tough to have the normal dinner table conversation when the leaders of the Republican party are, well, who they are.
Most agree, that the Democratic majority doesn't really know what his new "D" label will mean to the movement on healthcare, energy, education and fixing this struggling economy. My thoughts...
Arlen Specter will vote like Arlen Specter. With hardly a kind word for either of the two party leaders, his switch to Dem has more to say about how mad he is about the small tent platform that he and his former comrades were forced to embrace. Just look to their leadership to see where the Republican Party is going.
The two party system provides a "checks & balances" to the workings of government, so it worries me that one group dominates the conversation. But at the same time, I smile at the thought that the years of angry conservative rhetoric has finally cornered itself into such a small corner. As if the American public have gotten past the bedroom issues of diviciveness and see that we are all one American family.
I understand Olympia Snowe of Maine is scheduling a private meeting with Prez Obama. Is it something her electorate said?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
First, let me say that Frank Guido's Little Italy was the right place to have it. The banquet room on the second floor is perfect, the wait staff did a phenomenal job and topped off with some of the best food, made for a terrific experience.
As far as attendees are concerned...I was happily surprised at the number as well as who showed up. A mix of family & friends, constituents, and the people I work with to make Kingston a better place.
With a warming intro by Elliott Auerbach and a philosophical dissertation by Len Bernardo, I made my way to the podium to woo the crowd with my Clintonlike speaking skills. [yeah right]
For a first attempt at fundraising with a one week window, I think over 50 attendees and netting around $1,000 was pretty good. It couldn't have happened without my friend Amee Peterson and my two event hosts Elliott and Len.
I have plenty of work to do this summer as do the rest of my council-mates. Our agenda of fixing this city requires that most of us make it through this election season to serve another term. Considering who some of our opponents are, the electorate are sure to feel the same way.
Friday, April 24, 2009
World famous actress, activist and friend of the family, Mia Farrow is raising awareness of yet another global travesty.
Mia will embark on a hunger strike in solidarity with the people of Darfur. That country is currently under savage military dictatorship by the so called "Sudan Government" where people are routinely executed or plainly left to starve in the street.
Many friends of mine feel that just being a humanitarian isn't enough and what Mia is doing, although she is just one person, is bringing the issue closer to home while our general population carries out our own daily struggles. In a way, her actions may indeed, spark the conversation once again and push our electorate to pester our representaive in DC to do something.
May is Genocide Prevention Month. Activist groups had to actually dedicate a month to get the attention needed to spark this effort.
The Sudanese government expelled international aid agencies from the country last month. Farrow says she is calling on world leaders to "help build a credible peace process" to end the violence in Darfur.
Mia will be fasting with just water intake starting next week. I can imagine our regional reps bringing this to committee after a large push from the Hudson Valley urging them to step up on the issue. Wont you Email our representatives?
Recent Summary: The Darfur Conflict is an ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, mainly between the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited from local Arab tribes, and the non-Arab peoples of the region. The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, is providing arms and assistance and has participated in joint attacks with the group. The conflict began in February 2003.The conflict has been described by the Western media as “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.” In September 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 50,000 deaths in Darfur since the conflict’s beginning, mostly by starvation.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Earth Day, celebrated April 22nd, is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in in 1970 and is celebrated in many countries every year.
The movement brought together all the like minded groups that were protesting the oil spills, toxic waste dumps and poisonous smoke stacks across the country.
Since those early days of pure protest against the industrial giants and stubborn government, we've seen the idea of Earth Day meld into a social badge of honor. [as it should be]
From statewide initiatives to the home town clean-up groups to the solitary volunteer along the banks of the Hudson River; you see a shift in the way people appreciate their environment. But we still have a long way to go.
So let's make everyday Earth Day. Whadda ya say?
Well, those groups may have less influence in our NY State Comptrollers office since he has systematically dissolved the process that allowed them to do so.Today, Tom DiNapoli announced he has banned the involvement of placement agents, paid intermediaries and registered lobbyists in investments with the Common Retirement Fund (CRF).
It seems DiNapoli, is still cleaning up the mess left behind after the Hevesi debacle. Many of the firms that shaped our state pension investments are under investigation by our AG. [not good]
In a public statement, DiNapoli said. “Since I took office, we’ve worked to implement reforms that will help restore integrity and trust in this office. Banning placement agents and lobbyists from involvement in investments is the next step, and it’s a big step."
Taking a bigger step, DiNapoli said: "I ask the legislature and every statewide official to support my program bill for public campaign financing for the State Comptroller race in 2010. We can take pay-to-play out of the equation by drastically limiting what donors can contribute. I’ve already put self-imposed limits on contributions to my campaign. But public campaign financing is the best answer.”
Some people, usually with a hefty bank account, feel spending limits for campaigns is a limit to free speech. Others think it merely levels the playing field for those who would never keep up with the well connected.
No mater what you think of his job performance, DiNapoli has made his office one of the most transparent in New York State government. I think it's the model that Senator Gillibrand has used to expose her expenses.
Considering the shape of our state financial affairs, I think we are lucky to have DiNapoli handling the state pension.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
One of those genius programs started by Roosevelt and expanded by Bill Clinton, is expected to triple in size over the next eight years. Why, because the upgrade has finally found it's way to the President's desk.
There is an opportunity to fulfil people's desire to make a difference. Those of us who are active in the community know what I am talking about. This increase in funding provides new opportunities to give back.
The buzz in the media is all about volunteering and the community service that Obama sites as giving him direction in his 20's. So if helping the poor, cleaning parks, mentoring children or volunteering at the local soup kitchen is as important to you, then you too will be pleased that the National Service Bill is getting this attention at this crucial time.
Looking at articles from the web, I see the bill passed Congress last month with a $1.1 billion funding incentive attatched to it and has bipartisan support. There were some complaints about the government helping volunteers during the finacial crisis, but with both Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch sponsoring the bill, it was bound to make it to the Prez.
Today, Americorps has about 80,000 enrollees. This legislation aims to increase that number above 200,000. With our most vulnerable Americans feeling the pinch in services, and municipalities stretched to the limits, it's high time we eager volunteers get to work. Americorps may be a national program with financial aid attached to the service you provide, but we can work as individuals without a stimulus right here in Ulster County.
Many of us already do. You know who you are! Keep up the good work, encourage your friends to join in and appreciate the idea that our President not only supports your efforts publicly, but has increased the opportunity for you to join the National Cause.
> Learn more
U.C. Comptroller Elliott Auerbach and Independence Chair Len Bernardo
for my kick-off re-election fundraiser Wednesday, April 22, 2009
6 pm until 8 pm
Frank Guido’s Little Italy is at 14 Thomas St. Kingston, NY 12401
Light fare and cash bar upstairs.
An amazing mix of guests have already planned on attending. You should too.
This is the first time I have put something like this for ME on the Blog. I figured, If I have it, I may as well use it. It should be a fun event for everyone.
Special Note: I will be providing a 50/50 where the kitty will be added to the donations collected locally for AIDSWalk2009 in NYC May 17th.
This is an annual journey for me and have been proud to deliver hundreds of dollars each year from City employees, friends and neighbors for over a decade.
Monday, April 20, 2009
New York, Connecticut and Oregon have joined California, Maine and Hawaii this year in making non-carbonated beverages part of deposit laws.
New York will add a nickel deposit on bottled water starting June 1. The state has had deposits on carbonated beverages and beer bottles and cans for 26 years.
At that point, any uncollected nickel deposits are to be diverted from the bottling company's pockets to the EPA to better fund clean-up efforts and public education on reducing waste content and cost.
I'm willing to bet a barrel full of water bottles I'll see less litter along our highways and throughout the City next year. Works for me.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
As advertised, the Victory Garden group was busy at City Hall. They got the base of the new 8X8 garden bed installed by 2pm this afternoon. The final dirt deposit occured after I left.
[I'll insert those pictures here later]
I took off because I had recovered an old City Directory sign on 9W. Took it home, Cleaned it up and bought a fresh post.
Not the most astounding job, but the sign laid against the chain-link fence neglected for two years until I couldn't help fixing it.
Our sign maker puts the time in to create these directories at a cost to the taxpayer, only to have them tossed aside like they are disposable. I know I gripe about the waste and lack of caring in the city, but it's for good reason.
The collection of trash and trimming of the small trees was compulsive. There was no stopping me once I got going.
For those who may have listened to WKNY around noon, you'll have heard my voice during the RADIO FREE KINGSTON program. Seems I've been asked to co-host the show for a while. Feel free to tune in, call and give me hell once in a while.
There's a story on the AP about a Mayor in the sate of Michigan regarding a speeding ticket. The Mayor said a warning wasn't enough after he was stopped for speeding. So he asked for a ticket instead - and got it.
From the article:
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts was pulled over Monday on the way to City Hall for going 45 mph in a 40 mph zone. The officer told him to watch it next time.
Fouts says he was uncomfortable the entire day with just a warning, thinking it might be construed as favoritism. So he called the deputy police commissioner and demanded the ticket.
Police delivered it to Fouts' office and Fouts paid the $100 fine.
Fouts told The Detroit News that he "had to set an example."
So why would I post this episode on the Blog? Well, when is the last time you heard of a speeding ticket issued in Kingston? If there were, would our own public officials be as willing to be treated as the rest of the public? Hats off to Mayor Fouts!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I was doing some work around the city today, and ran into dozens of people I knew who were genuinely thrilled at the prospect of former Alderman Mike Schupp stepping into the leadership roll at DPW.
Mike had been a household name here in Ward Nine for several terms on the Council before retiring and moving closer to work. His last years engaged with Mayor Gallo were more like fireworks than teamwork and his exodus from the Council was expected to signify the end of a rebellious Ninth. Guess I proved that wrong.
The Freeman article says: The mayor hasn't received an application from Schupp yet, though he noted the superintendent’s job was just posted this week. The man currently in the job, Steve Gorsline, plans to retire next month.
The combination of the sexual harassment case, the long years in the department and the $12K retirement incentive were enough to draw Gizzy to walk away from DPW.
The paper points out that the Superintendent position is paid $66,332. With benefits, the total compensation is $86,628 per year. We repealed the stipend for the Dock Master title during the last budget.
I dont know what Mike was getting paid in his current job with the state but the opportunity to come back to Kingston must be too strong to ignore. He said: “I have had a career with the state, and it has been a good one, but my roots are in Kingston." Mike went on to say: "I like the challenge.”
It will be a challenge. There's alot of work to do all over the city. The crews do a good job at what they do and their training allows them to do the tasks they are scheduled to do, but it's the morale within the ranks that need attention.
They've been through so much this past year alone. So much that the Mayor, Council and Union leadership agree that Schupp's appointment would be instrumental in DPW recovery. That's saying something.
Submit your application Michael and lets see what your years with the state will bring to the table.
[I dont have a picture of Mike yet for these posts]
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The media have been all over this FOX sponsored activism and have been keeping track of how much the one news channel, owned by Rupert Murdock, has been pushing people to join the Tea Parties across the country.
One thing the that is lost in the frenzy to protest Obama's stimulus package and proposed tax structure for 2010 is the fact that the percentage of income tax and the increase in spending, resembles the Reagan percentages during the 80's. Those increases followed a severe downturn in the economy during the Carter presidency. Reagan raised that limit for the wealthiest Americans to 39% and only for the income that exceeded the 200K limitations, just like Obama's proposal. What you think of the stim, is up to you.
There was a large group of enthusiastic promoters associated with the Tea Bagging Parties until the Media picked up on the double meaning of Tea Bagging and then we saw Hannity, OReilly, even Gingrich stepping away from the authorship.
(picture on left from Freeman)
I say fine with people protesting big government; the kind that spends tax dollars without thinking. We just experienced several years of government growth with little or no complaint from these same protesters. Where were they then?
Want to see where a fiscally prudent municipality does more with less, look no further than our Common Council. Sure the taxes are higher than they should be, but we toil over these numbers daily with little help from the state and it's diminished ability to help. We've still got alot of work to do. But the protesters have got to define their message better. Letting the talking heads on FOX NEWS define your cause does no-one any good.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I had just received this notice that the League of Women Voters will present a program in order to come to consensus on the future of the Golden Hill Health Facility.
They will have an open public forum to discuss and review the issues surrounding the facility and what impact each option would have on the community and the county.
The forum will be an overview of our study and the pros and cons of the consensus questions while we determine the broad areas of agreement and disagreement that emerge.
The notice said: This will enable the Mid-Hudson LWV to initiate, support or oppose a variety of legislation.
To prep the members and the public, the following questions were posted:
1. Under the current fiscal climate, is maintaining and or renovating the Health
Related Facility a feasible option?
2. What would be the financial impact of closing the facility?
3. What is the social impact of closing the facility?
4. What options are available to the County to lessen the impact on patients,
families and employees is the HRF were closed?
The gathering will be at the Esopus Library on Canal St in Pt Ewen from 10am to Noon on April 18, 2009. So plan your weekend wisely.
To download your current copy of the LWV Commentator! Just click http://midhudson.ny.lwvnet.org/files/Commentator_April_2009.pdf and your browser should open with the Commentator displayed.
April 18th is also the UCRRA bargain collection day for Toxic chemicals and electronics, but you need to schedule the drive in time to take advantage of the $7 carload special they are offering.
To register, go to www.ucrra.org or call (845) 336-3336.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
With Chris running the meetings we had DPW staff and key personnel from local groups interested in helping with the effort. The Reform Committee met throughout the year, but little was hammered out because the task of changing the collection operation in DPW hit strong resistance. To give him credit where due; Gonyea did try.
Fast forward to 2007, Alderman Teetsel and I engaged in another attempt to make sweeping changes in refuse collection. Teetsel had little time to address these issues before dealing with family issues. Leaving myself, Larry Bergoti, Dave Wolff and others to review what had been left from the prior attempts.
By the time our dozen meetings came to a close, we had an inch thick document of changes that we would offer the Council's Laws & Rules Committee. Very little was acted on. I know, you're shocked.
We did achieve a fee structure for TV, monitor screens and electronics as well as changing the method of public access to the transfer station on Rt 32. But that was it. Shortly after that, Dave retired, Larry moved on in frustration and the slim chance of getting “Non Profits” contributing to the cities tipping fees was lost. Until Now!
In recent conversation with current Alderman Polacco regarding "Non Profits” and the attempt to bring them in, I did a quick review of the past efforts and he suggested just focusing on just those groups and see what other towns got away with regarding their legal limits. I said, you can talk to Corp Counsel and get another initiative started. Maybe something changed in the state.
We have long understood that there is a great deal of property in the City of Kingston that is not taxed. Almost 45% to be precise. Mixed in that figure is all the property consisting of City, County, State and Federal Property, School and Library property as well as Churches, Grave Yards, Jails & Hospitals, UPAC, City managed housing and all the Parks. You end up with a small portion of property that makes up the focus of this refuse collection proposal. About 3% actually represents social organizations.
Those institutions include the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA & YWCA, Family of Woodstock, RUPCO, Trolley & Maritime Museum, Catskill Mt Rail beds, Queens Galley, LGBTQ Center, and a host of others that provide an unmeasurable contribution to the fabric of our city.
Once we understood that the group that we were looking to bring in, was small, not that financially burdensome and provided such intrinsic services, the push for change in refuse collection shifted back to a city wide bag system...hoping to encourage recycling efforts there.
Steve Noble and staff, with the support of Alderman Reynolds presented the latest effort under the program: RecycleBank. Which, on the face, seemed an ideal concept. The Council once again had many meetings on the subject of changing the methods of collecting refuse. This time, the Unions came in and offered their opinions. Somehow, the project slipped into limbo as the budget talks consumed the conversation.
Let it be known, Steve & Julie Noble will be presenting the General Government Committee with a new refined approach to bringing “Not for Profits” into the fiscal contribution pool by offering a Pay As You Throw option.
I am looking forward to what Steve has to say. I have been a strong advocate for recycling enforcement and have even petitioned our state lawmakers to advance the Bigger Bottle Bill to help in this effort. I encourage members of the public who are interested in this issue to join us MAY 21 at City Hall at 7pm.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
How many years now, have we heard the cries for healthcare reform? How many reports to we have to study to realize just how cost affective it would be to provide inexpensive preventative medicine to all Americans?
Is it any surprise that with the continued rising cost of medical insurance and the instability in the job market, we have a surge in the number of public forums on this subject?
Well, last Friday, a number of us went to the St Johns Church on Albany Avenue to attend such a forum. Hosted by the Hudson Valley Progressive Coalition.
The two panellists who spoke on the two coverage options were Len Rodberg PhD from Physicians for National Healtcare: advocate for Universal Single Payer and Jessica Wisneski from Citizen Action of NY: advocate for Health Care for America Now. HCAN
It was a good turnout considering the short notice. I have to say getting people out on a Friday evening to talk about health care is impressive.
The Universal Single Payer concept has been out there a while but has had continued resistance by prior State and Federal administrations. What's new is the change in leadership in both, and that the President has offered his own version of comprehensive universal coverage.
Admit it, our current system is'nt affordable to most middle class families and with the exposed greed on the corporate level, being exposed on all ends, you can expect the public to start clammoring for a system overhaul in every department.
It's become common thought that if you create larger client pools, like county or state wide, you can achieve affordable - quality coverage for the entire population and share the burden equitably.
Obama's plan offers the American Public the option of keeping your current private plan oir joining in a national plan. The Single Payer advocates are uneasy about the ability of the two options to work together.
Both of these plans are expected to make coverage supplied by employers less of a burden financially and administratively. Resting on standardised claim forms, secure medical records and community purchase power to bring down the cost of medication.
U C Democratic Chairman Julian Schriebman challenged both panellists to define the differences in their efforts more clearly, while State Senate candidate Larry Delarose, who's daughter works as a nurse, pressed them for who was backing them on this promotional roadshow. The answers seemed to satisfy the audience (sort-of)
Phil Guirirri stated his position on the lack of comprehensive testing by physicians while reminding everyone of the dangers of pesticides in our households. He certainly is consistent.
When you consider the importance of rethinking our health care options and comprehend how much is at stake for the next generation's care, you understand why the question was asked..."Where is the Freeman coverage?" There was none. They didn't even bother to send anyone out to get pictures.
There are over 48 million Americans without any coverage and millions more with inadequate policies. Streamlining these bureaucratic procedures though a complete system overhaul would greatly reduce the overhead for most companies. Including the Daily Freeman.
This past Tuesday, our new County Executive Mike Hein, laid out his accomplishments for the first 100 days. Unlike our President, Mike got to start work officially on January 1st.
Having missed the event due to the Common Council meeting I get to read the article in the Freeman and chat it up with Legislators who joined us at Ugly Gus after that evenings meeting.
I'd say most of us who are paying attention, about 20% of the electorate, are pleased with the handling of the newly formed office. Mike has done the job well and continues to impress many of us who manage the workings of municipalities at any level.
One of the many facets of the Executive position is hands-on contract negotiations. Mike claims to have saved the county taxpayers almost $900K through this capacity. I don't doubt it and applaud him for it. We chose this form of government for this purpose and it has already shown us our reward.
The subject of municipal shared services and diminished personnel costs were sighted as virtues of his leadership. Lets be cautiously optimistic that we can continue to find avenues to lower the cost of operations in the county. Mike has a dynamic staff that's second to no other county. But these economic times are testing us all.
Let me say that we are all in this together, looking for any means to lessen the burden on the taxpayer. In the City, County or State...everyone has their focus on "doing more with less". The Ulster County Legislature is no different than the City Council in this effort. I have to point out, this is one of the most fiscally conservative councils I've experienced so far.
Whether the Council and Mayor are embracing waterfront development or Hein and the Leggies are promoting the IBM complex and Solar Consortium...every township is doing their part. As for the first 100 days in office? [with that title anyway] Congratulations on a job well done!
A select few of us worked very hard to make this a reality. We like what we see.
Monday, April 06, 2009
One of the many jobs of an elected official, is protecting the public from harm. As budgets tighten and personnel diminished, the duty of protection becomes that much more difficult.
Our police officers cant be in every home or parked on every street corner, but there are ways we can help them do their job.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 22 percent of all traffic accidents in the United States are caused by drivers running red lights. You can't say you've never had a close encounter with a reckless driver in Kingston.
If you look at New York State statistics, intersection accidents kill some 800 people every year. What's worse is that these numbers have been on a steady rise for the last decade. Cities like Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Kingston have followed this trend very closely.
You might think you're cautious and limit your driving to daytime hours, but the overwhelming costs associated with car accidents across the state, forces your insurance company to charge a higher rate for everyone.
So here's the reason I bring this up: Several cities in New York have petitioned our state government to provide funding to install Stop-Light Cameras with the intent to decrease the advent of driving through the RED. Yes, there would be ample warning signage.
They are fully automated and collect all of the evidence authorities need to prosecute light-runners. If a camera catches you speeding through the intersection, you can expect a ticket to arrive in your mailbox a month or two later. [with a picture]
Yonkers, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester are first in line. The Assembly has already voted in favor of this pilot program. I want to know how soon after, our Hudson Valley Cities can apply for this funding?
Understand, this tool can also catch those who drive without insurance or unregistered. Oh yes, they could end up pushing rebel drivers to the smaller towns and villages. Good for Kingston, not so good for Woodstock.
I did have this arguement about over reaching the duties of the camera with some friends, and we decided the prosecution of non-insurance would be limited to Light Runners who were already being processed. This would cut the paperwork down a bit.
As the week goes on, we'll see what the State Senate does with this issue and then I'll follow up with some conversations with Corp. Counsel, our grant writers and our purchasing agent. Who knows, maybe by fall, we could have some bids on the table!