Monday, June 29, 2009
Several months ago the Legislature voted to create this position to get a better handle on the 300+ fleet owned by the County. The details about what the departments use is in print, but I wanted to follow up with some questions.
If needed, why didn't the Legislature jump on this ten years ago under the past leadership? We had approximately the same number of vehicles then as we do now. Is it the stronger attempt to cut spending?
At $50K/year, couldn't this position have been morphed into another position we already have? Perhaps someone who already handles a similar task? Assuming it is permitted contractually.
(I'm sure a commenter will answer that)
When the position is filled, and I expect it will, will the unruly expenditures be cut enough to surpass the salary of the employee? I had asked these questions of the Code Enforcement position here in Kingston and found the answer to be YES. That position was eliminated anyway.
I expect Jeanette and the rest of the Services Committee had plenty of research to digest before sending the request to the full chamber. Those of us who attend these committees in the name of our constituents are expected to act according to what we learn there. Unless the public attends these meetings, we may not understand. So we have to place our faith in the committee process and hope the actions of the newly appointed employee save the taxpayers money in the long run.
I want this to be successful. I have to agree with the sentiments of Provenzano when she says: "This individual is going to be eyes and ears of legislators, it will be one person, rather than each department head, making the final decision about how the vehicles are used and putting in requests for new vehicles.”
I really like the idea of keeping track of all vehicles that are taken home by employees. If we are going to have this position, lets include the GPS to each vehicle, so that we know their activity at night. Also, with the disaster in the US auto industry, shouldn't we take advantage of lower prices and modify our prolonged contracts?
To Executive Hein, We all agree that you have an impressive staff. Please appoint someone of the same calibre. For the taxpayers sake.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The event will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the university’s Lecture Center Room 102 at 1 Hawk Drive. Because of the summer class levels, parking should be less of an issue, but get there early anyway.
I always find it odd that such events aimed at helping small business are scheduled for the middle of a work day rather than an evening schedule. Just an observation.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Did everyone hear that President Obama signed legislation that places the control of tobacco (primarily nicotine) in the hands of the FDA. This is a big deal.
The bill, for the first time gives the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products. That means it can decide what's in them and what has to come out of them and rule on the introduction of new products. The industry has fought this for decades.
What many people in several everywhere ask is whether the FDA will enforce what it dictates. To me, I'd be happy if they took small steps tomorrow. Really, I have my reservations that this could change all smoking habits overnight. It wont, but it will chip away at the number of new smokers annually.
The legislation forces all cigarette packs to have "warning" notices on the front and back. Not just on the package, but over 50% of the space. That's terrific! The ability to sponsor sporting events is history and the sale of tobacco will be limited to "adult" only facilities. So the CITGO on Broadway will no longer be the "Blunt" capital of the city of Kingston.
More than 3,000 young people smoke their first cigarette each day, even though the cost has skyrocketed and the anti-smoking campaigns rage on. Sure the numbers have decreased, but not fast enough. Those of you who are currently adicted may feel like the victim here, but you can identify why we want kids to NEVER start smoking.
I was looking at the surface of the mounting foundation where the steps are placed and there is a poly-based membrane as an underlayment where the mortar is applied. Similar to the weather shield that us roofers use under modern shingles. I didn't expect this but there it was.
So I took a few pictures and thought to post them here.
I'll just say, it's great that the job is finally under way.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
So, there's a big article in the Freeman about the fiscal impact the new rules will have on the 10 local eateries along the Broadway gauntlet in front of the high school. It's focused more on the merchant impact more than the education and safety of the students.
I know the shop owners in this area because I actually patron these shops. I have been there during school hours and during summer vacation and there is a difference in the level of business. However, when you have a more developed dialogue with the owners, you get past the initial shock of the situation and realize that after a short period of transition and diminished sales, it's expected that folks who avoided these shops during the day, will come in for your product.
Employees at the Hospital, Verizon, YMCA and even City Hall will no longer avoid the mid day mayhem that has continually plagued the area. For those who do not live and work around the high school, I don't expect you to understand, but when taking alternative routes to get through town becomes the norm, that's when it hits you that something must change.
The threat of losing business must be scary for anyone during this time of economic stress, more so in New York State. But take pizza for example...havent we all patronised just about all of the pizzarias in the area? I have.
(just look at the size of me).
Customers will come to where the product is good. Sami's will do as well as the other pizzarias that arent across the street from a high school so long as they continue to make great food.
Joe DePoala told the Freeman: “I don’t think everyone will close, but one or two places might have to.” I would have to agree that some of the shops did rely completely on the school trade. That would reveal a faulty business model in my opinion. Joe also told the paper that businesses have to adapt to marketplace changes. Sounds like he went to business school.
I chatted with Gabe Cicale, owner of the Monkey Joe's right down the block. We talked about this issue since reporter Kyle Wind had just interviewed him regarding the campus. His quotes in the atricle are right on in that there is a large demographic that choses not to patron these shops because of the students and the business model that depends solely on the influx of students to survive is flawed.
Ironically, here I am in my last six months of serving on the Common Council, and the changes we pushed for in this portion of Ward Nine for so long are finally coming to life. Imagine, the numerous calls about the parking, litter and mid-day rumbles in the neighborhood will diminish just as I'm heading off to other adventures.
To the next Alderman...your job just got easier.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
That list provides the building department with a city wide map of all the rental units and schedules their inspections accordingly. Landlords are required to make their property available to the inspectors when an appointment is worked out between the parties.
This has long been viewed as an attack on landlords, as if we were the only reason for properties to fall into disrepair. Well, I can attest that quite often, landlords fall victim to some unsavory tenants.
There is some good news on the horizon. The City's Laws & Rules Committee started the conversation on creating a tenant registry last Thursday. The subject was initiated by members of the Sheriff department: Don Ryan and Frank Faluotico and with preliminary details laid out before the committee, the project seems possible.
Several years ago, while having problems with one of my own tenants, I discussed creating a website for landlords who wanted the scoop on chronic apartment abusers. Don informed me back then, that it requires money so that it would be done right, and the possibility of an Alderman or civilian getting sued was very likely. I took his advise and stayed clear of the notion. So Don set off to merge his DATA retrieval system with the means to help landlords better research potential tenants.
I think most landlords would agree that the one sided listing approach gave the impression that we are the main cause of the degradation in some of our neighborhoods. Truth is, it requires a better source of information to filter out the problem tenants. That is where you'll find the better property owners willing to engage the DATA source and affect the quality of life in our heavily rentalized neighborhoods in a positive way by refusing those with a history of trouble. Maybe.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The announcement was made by Silver and Kolbe, but the KUDOs go to our own Kevin Cahill [energy chairman] and his ranking member Tom O'Mara for putting this together. I know what youre thinking, it has to get through the Senate. There's still a few minutes before the end of session.
This is basically a retrofit program for homes, small businesses and not-for-profits across the state. The seconsary intent is to help revitalize the economy in an energy-independent and environmentally responsible way. The industry that will create the materials for the Greening of New York, must be located in the region to make this two prong stimulus a success.Cahill was quoted in the press release: "This program will help revive New York's struggling economy while simultaneously protecting our environment. By switching to more efficient lighting and lighting systems, programming thermostats, plugging air leaks, using ENERGY STAR fixtures such as furnaces and water heaters, reducing water use and installing thermal solar heat or water systems, we can make a solid investment in our future. New York will take positive, proactive steps in carving out a healthy energy future for our communities."
Assemblyman O'Mara then added: "Strengthening New York's economy and protecting our environment are our priorities. The bi-partisan legislation my colleagues and I approved during today's session will grow our economy, create more jobs and promote the important goals of energy conservation and sustainable growth."
Don't you love it when a good plan comes together?
The Common Council was supposed to pass a similar Bill during it's monthly Laws & Rules meeting, but there are elements within the administration that are opposed to such initiatives. The issue was pulled from the Agenda at the request of the Mayor. I'm not sure what the reasons are, but it would have been nice to have Kingston right up front as this fresh emerging industry takes off. We'll see what happens.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
For all the complaints that some of us worry too much about Albany politics and not enough about the workings of Kingston...I'd say there should have been more attention on the fragile workings at the State capital.
The County of Ulster and the City of Kingston are about to feel the results of the leadership struggle in a big way, unless the loonies up there settle this battle for control of the chamber real soon.
Our own Exec, Mike Hein is in today's paper pointing out the number of issues pending in the Senate which have intimate affect on the way Ulster County funds the system. Other leaders in Dutchess and Greene were quoted with equally alarming concerns.
You've heard names like Skelos and Smith here for years and wondered what do they have to do with Kingston? Well, If you're paying property, school and sales tax in New York State and their antics cause a drastic increase in each across the state, you'll feel the impact as much as the next guy. I've always felt that my friends in the Kingston area should know them and at least get my personal take on what they do from time to time. Plus it makes great copy when youre doing a daily like this one.
The home rule offered Ulster County to maintain the additional 1% sales tax could be lost in this sessions power shuffle. The financial quote for that impact being almost 2 million/month lost for our county. 23 Million/year is nothing to laugh about.
As noted in the paper: the City of Kingston will feel it in a big way as well.
There are no special links here for readers to click asking that regional viewers petition the State Senate to get back to work. It wouldnt do any good. They have to settle this in Albanyworld by themselves and quickly. YOUR tax dollars and OUR quality of life are depending on it.
Without going further to lay blame on either side, I'll stop right here.
Glad to be back after a short break.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
There was the promise of efficiency, singular responsibility and openness when we enacted the new charter that separated the powers of lawmaking and executive duties. Yet we hear some of the same old songs from the same representatives, engaged in the same old bickering. It's getting tired.
Every election term since, we've heard from several of the senior members that each of the following terms would be their last, that they would retire and make room for the next generation of public servants. That day never comes.
What we do know, is that change is sometimes difficult to embrace. After almost 20 years in the Legislature, it's expected that the old ways of doing business, as comfortable as it is, must come to an end. I also know that you cant blame the long term incumbents for continuing as they always have. It's what they know. But they are no longer the executive branch.
After 7 years, I too have gotten comfortable in my role as Alderman in the Ninth Ward. It wasn't until I was challenged for my party's nomination that I realized that this is an opportunity to refocus where I want to be and when.
To quote one person in the committee, “Primaries are good for the party, and you'll do just fine”. Well, I took her up on that and have since entered the race for Ulster County Legislator in the 6th District. She says she doesn't mind and that we all have the right to do so. Thank you Jeanette.
There will be three Democrats to chose from in September. Two have been there since the mid eighties, and me. Still in my 40's, I hope to bring some new perspective to economic development and tourism issues that plague our county in these tough times. The county's infrastructure has been an issue and the Real Estate collapse has added to the fiscal crunch that threatens our quality of life.
While on the Common Council, I helped to cut the budget annually, voted against a few that I felt weren't trimmed enough and have sought new ways to generate revenue in hopes to increase taxes less than expected. Not an easy task. This next city budget is going to hurt many more people. So get ready for some serious program and service cuts in 2010 as well as another tax increase.
I have no hard feelings toward my running mates, just as I had no hard feelings toward those who challenged me for Alderman. This is democracy in action and so long as it is a clean campaign and I provide a clear choice in 2009, then all is good and we will have a terrific go at it. If I didn't think I could build on the success of those before me, I wouldn't be running.
If the Democratic voters in the 6th District are looking for a change in the County Legislature or more of the same, the opportunity is theirs at September's primary.
Friday, June 12, 2009
One of the many casualties of the turmoil in Albany is the repeated failure of the "Dignity For All Students Act". The legislation would prohibit harassment and discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
Unless I'm mistaken, I think a contingent of supporters from the Community Centre on Wall St had gone up to Albany on a past lobby day regarding this issue. The Kingston chapter of GLSEN and a number of community organizations, including the Teacher's Unions, have made their desires known and have worked a long time for it's passing.
The problem of bullying is very real. It happens in every school in the country. So Kingston wouldn't be any exception to the rule. Studies show that in middle and high school, the kid who is being regularly harassed and is terrified cannot succeed academically.
A number of New England states have already enacted such legislation with measurable results. With the closed campus starting next fall, I would expect that in close quarters, there may be more occasions of harassment. If the Senate gets there act together and gets this on the schedule before the close of session, we may have a tool to help keep the peace next year.
The anti-harassment bill is numbered: S 1987-A.
And they say what goes on in Kingston has no affect on the workings in Albany. Now we know different.
It seems our own Judge Karen Peters has presided over the appeal to place a restriction, called a TRO restraining order, against Senator Pedro Espada from acting as President Pro Tem. Have you been paying attention to the mayhem at our State Senate?
The decision was made at the appellate level at the Ulster County Courthouse late Thursday afternoon and set in motion the means to get Malcolm Smith and the Senate Democrats back in the chamber, that is until later today, when the State Supremes get their shot.
Yesterday, my friends on the Republican side, got to gavel in and out of session just to say they did. No bills were acted on.
Walking around our quiet uptown neighborhood, you'd never know that the chaos in Albany was being discussed and possibly influenced right on Wall Street.
I'll modify this post as I hear more. To think, we actually feel we have leadership problems here in Kingston and Ulster County. I wouldn't want to be in the middle of that one.
Update as promised: The latest is that we don't have any leadership in the State Senate for the weekend. That may be a good thing.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The message is short, to the point and full of personal shorthand, depending on what generation you are in. So naturally, the act can get you or others killed if you are stupid enough to do it while driving.
The Ulster County Legislature voted overwhelmingly to prohibit texting, twitter and Email while driving. OK, did I say twitter? If you have no experience with texting, I wont waste your time explaining Twitter.
Other counties across New York are ether looking at or have passed similar legislation. There had been a tragic accident related to this issue described in detail in the local papers prompting action from municipalities everywhere.
There was resistance to enacting another law that may not be enforced. It is already illegal to use a cell phone while driving and a few legislators pointed out that not only do not take the law seriously but we see our own police officers using the phone while driving.
I had to chuckle when I heard Ken Ronk, from Wallkill say you can read the paper, eat a hamburger and put on make-up while driving but not text or use the phone. The minute Ken said eat a hamburger, Felicello perked up and said "Don't go there!"
Although I agree that the use of your device for texting and other visual communications should be restricted to your passengers, I understand why the few made their point about enforcement.
Lesson; keep your eyes on the road and drive safely. Its your only defence against becoming a twitter statistic.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The event, dubbed the Healthy Living and Community Awareness Street Festival will be from 10am to 4pm and will occur right on Franklin St like a block party.
Some 40 plus community based organizations will be on hand sharing information on "Keeping it Green, Keeping it Clean & Keeping it Healthy".
The main sponsors: Kingston Library, Kingston CARES, UC Office of the Aging and the Boys & Girls Club (pictured right) have really prepared a full day of education and entertainment. Including a DJ and live music and dance performances. Featuring our own local rising R&B star SHALEAH, right off her tour with Jagged Edge. You know the afternoon wouldnt be complete without our impressive drum troup POOK and the dazzling ENERGIZERS dancers.
This electric day of fun starts with a greeting by Ward 4 Alderwoman Shirley Whitlock (pictured with Bill Reynolds) at City Hall around 8am where the Victory Garden on the west lawn is to be reviewed by Rebecca Martin, followed by a Historical Walking Tour with Jennifer Swartz back to the street festival. Establish your parking plans early if you are joining the walking tour.
If you plan your day correctly, you can witness Assemblyman Kevin Cahill reading to the children at 1pm at the newly designated Lena Maultrie reading corner at the Hodge Centre.
There is a bike rack located at the Centre for those who wish to ride to the event.
For more info; contact Sandy Thompson-Hopgood at 331-9683
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
The City Committee, the half who showed up, chose to back one of my many opponents to run for Alderman with their blessing. I say good for them. This, as you know by now, is democracy in action. Everything political starts in committee and develops from there.
It is not the end of the process however. There is little that my friend Andy Zweben can do to stop me from mounting a primary campaign. Andy is backing Mark Halwick as you know.
So I have a long summer of campaigning ahead of me with just a small twist. Petitions will be circulated and the ballot offered in September. With support from the Independence Party, there will be either a two way or three way race in general election come November.
As for the rest of the slate...I say congratulations! Most of the democratic candidates are sure to keep or take seats this year. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, steps into Ward Nine to help either of us before the primary. For the half of the remaining committee members who voted for me, a sincere thank you for your trust in me and I will put forth my best effort to secure the line.
As for the County Clerks race. Thank you Gilda Ricardi for running. You'll be the first Democratic Woman to hold a county wide position. You're going to do terrific!
Note: I tend to keep my own campaign stuff limited on the blog because there is so much out there bigger than the Common Council. So I will continue to mix it up as I have.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Back in 2005, the city sold this property through the surplus property bid process. Henry Valencia was the preferred bidder and has since invested a great deal to get the place up to code.
It may not be beautiful, bit its a far cry from the dilapidated shell that he bid on. He now wants to sell it to his brother who has obtained a mortgage from Ulster Savings Bank. Good for him!
The reverter clause is a tool the Council uses to insure that the winning bidder of a surplus property achieves the scheduled repairs that entice the councilmen to award he/she the house.
Shirley Whitlock was thrilled at the thought that the ownership transfer would possibly push the project along since it had stalled for a while. She said: "The baby steps we are taking to make mid-town better shouldn't be delayed by city made issues."
I would have to agree and I add my thanks to USB for believing in Mr Valencia and providing the additional construction/purchase money to finish this job.
So, I found a news article about that topless coffee shop in Maine. Remember the posting I did on it quite a while ago? Well the coffee shop is no more.
It seems a few of the local town folk decided to eradicate the business by burning the building to the ground.
Many of you who saw the post on here told me recently that had Muddy Cup gone topless, it would still be in business. Of course it was in jest. 96% of their regular customers would have found another place to get coffee.
Point of the article is that who ever did the arson job didn't consider that the home attached to the business had people in it. Yes they got out without harm, but wow, what a dangerous way to shut down a business.
The owner says he plans to have clothed waitresses collect donations in the parking lot to raise money to rebuild. Under town zoning rules, Donald Crabtree would need a new permit to start operating his business in a different temporary structure.
Crabtree says he had just mentioned the idea of making the business a strip club to a few people and this happens. Go figure. Now there will be 30 employees out looking for work. I wonder if this job will be on their resume?
Friday, June 05, 2009
This has been in the works for quite a while and frankly us over taxed New Yorkers have been waiting for such news for years. Andy has been touting the push for Government Reform as if it were his offspring. Now it's out there.
Cuomo was at an event in Long Island when he said: "We represent the people as consumers, when I became attorney general, I added a new priority, which was government reform." Wait, I found another quote: "This bill arises out of the need to represent citizens as taxpayers against government." Interesting concept.
So what does this mean? Towns & villages, through public petitions and referendums can now dissolve and merge with a neighboring municipality. Our best local example would be Kingston & Ulster. [could you imagine?]
Up until now, there were regulations in Albany that prohibited the process; From public initiative anyway.
Everyone knows I pay attention to the State Senate and am concerned the betterment of the citizens in the 39th District, and as a Democrat, everyone expects me to pick on Bill. But what is Bill thinking? Lets embrace this push for reform already.
With over a year to go, Larkin has already had several fundraisers in Orange County. Is he wasting his time? Will he collect and run? Or is he really going for one last run on this kind of record? I would advise him to get on board with this proposal. It would so help us through the tough times ahead. Ask Sottile!
Thank you Andrew Cuomo for offering this option to the people of New York. Merging towns, cities and special tax districts can only open up the opportunity to save needed funds and reduce duplication of services. Can I suggest running for Governor?
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Candidates who are serious about getting elected in November, tend to make an appearance at the Independence Party event of the year. The large crowd was a good indicator of just how many people are serious.
What is also quite interesting is, other than formal meetings, this is the rare time to mix it up with members of the opposition and probably your opponent. All said, everyone vying for an elected position, for the most part, has the betterment of their community in heart and feel they could serve their district better.
Len Bernardo and his team did a terrific job putting the event together. Candidates who feel they have a shot at getting the nod from his team made the effort to be there. In reality, only half are going to be thrilled when the choices are made.
I must say, it was nice to see some of the candidates having civil chat at such a well attended function. Gilda Ricardi chatting with Nina Postupack in one corner, while Jonathan Katz was joking with Don Williams in the other. Even Glenn Noonan showed up and mixed it up with some Democratic Legislators. Fun stuff to watch.
There was one altercation half way through the evening when Legislator Frank Felicello used an ethnic slur at a food server in front of Todd Langon. Seems the face to face arguement got a bit heated and Todd had to step away for fear of it going further. [very smart] Todd's better half is of latin decent and the words were not flattering toward the Holiday Inn staff. Shame on Frank.
The list of candidates missing was also quite a surprise. Did they just expect to get the line, or did they dismiss the validity of the Independence Party as a key factor in winning their respective races. We wont know until election day will we?
Well done Len and the officers of the Independence Party and thanks again for your support.
What you may ask is, if the minority has shown no support for anything the Majority proposes, why dilute good legislation just to bring a few on board? They'll vote against it anyway and you'll have a law that satisfies no-one.
A plan that includes a public alternative will compete with private insurers and is opposed by nearly all Republicans. I know that's troublesome.
Obama had kept his answers vague on the issue until he released a letter to Senate Democrats saying he supports a new public plan.There are articles all over the web stating that the Republicans are furious about including the public alternative. They are saying the inclusion will not get congress any closer to a Bi-partisan Health Care plan. I'll ask, is that the end all at this point?
I realize the minority is less than enthused about people having choices in many facets of living our lives, but where did having a choice between health coverage plans become a political football? Because a big chunk of profits may be diverted to healthcare facilities and service? Oh, I understand now.
This should be about competition and keeping insurance companies honest. I know, that's a stretch. Opponents say private insurers could not compete with a public plan that didn't have to make a profit. When it comes to getting your family covered and heaven forbid emergency procedures done on your kids, I don't care about some insurance company making a profit.
That's how it works in the street level marketplace. If your competition is making a better sandwich and people stop coming in, don't blame the competition...make a better sandwich.