Decide What Matters

Brad Will ducks reporters at his Ethics hearing. Photo used by permission.

Brad Will ducks reporters at his Ethics hearing. Photo used by permission.

Brad Will is guilty.  The Alderman of Kingston’s 3rd Ward was judged guilty of knowingly and deliberately violating Kingston’s Ethics Law, discussing and voting on Pike Plan issues, and with lying about his knowledge of the law in order “to shield his conduct and intent from the Ethics Board.”  An extensive Order and Finding of Fact was delivered on October 6, giving specifics of Will’s intentional violations, and implicating Alderman at Large James Noble for his part in them.

Proof of his depth of knowledge of the Ethics Law is evidenced in a four-page memo from Brad Will to Alderman at Large James Noble detailing charges of conflict of interest, the appearance of impropriety, and disclosure of financial interests against Mayor Gallo.  The letter was written two weeks before Will began breaking the law.

After his testimony as a witness for Brad Will in the hearing, Noble complained that the Council will have to consider the law, saying they’ve never had to do that before.  He further suggested the taxpayers ought to bear the burden of paying for Brad Will’s lawyers.

In the wake of the Ethics Board’s findings, we have not heard one apology from Will for putting the people of Kingston through the time and expense of prosecuting this case.  We certainly haven’t heard him take responsibility for his actions.  We haven’t had any indication that he won’t break the ethics law again.  In fact, it appears that he has.

He has plenty of excuses, and blame for everyone but himself.  We have heard he was new.  Yeah, but Zweben never told him not to break the law.  He did it, but Gallo is out to get him.  Champ-Doran wants to harm him.  It’s just bad press.  He says it is the negativity of others.  Most tiresome of all, Brad Will still claims these charges are political.

Is it is political?  YES!  However, it is Brad Will’s political misconduct on which these findings are based.

There would be no conviction, no charges, and no additional charges coming if Brad Will did not continually break the law.

Instead of pointing to any evidence, facts, or conclusions in the case, Will and his lawyer scurried off to the local papers, pushing the same lies debunked in his hearing.  Spinning yarns not based in fact, and minimizing the seriousness of his wrongdoing, his press junket was designed to dupe the intelligent citizens of Kingston.

Members of the fair press have FOILed the court stenographer’s transcripts of Will’s hearing.  The taxpayers paid more than a thousand dollars for them.  Petitioners have been told no and blocked, because only Brad Will has the power to release them, and he has chosen to keep the public record hidden.  I emailed Brad directly, asking for the release of the hearing transcripts for public transparency.  As of this writing, he has not responded.

Release the transcripts.  I have no doubt that people might not like what they read from your lawyers and your witness, most pointedly from Jim Noble and his testimony under oath, especially if they hear it before the election.  I understand why Will wouldn’t want that to get out, and the politics behind his obfuscation, but it’s part of the record, and there is no compelling public good in covering up evidence of misdeeds.

In addition, Brad Will has repeatedly impugned the integrity of the Ethics Board while he hides the actual proceedings. He has an obligation to be fair, and let the people served by the Ethics board know the facts and testimony they had to work with, and from whence the judgement was issued.

With a campaign sign on your fence glaringly promising and declaring your integrity, your openness, and your communication, where is the holdup?  Do the right thing, Mr. Will.  Again, your own words, from your campaign slogans, evidence you know what constitutes that.  Put some integrity behind the transparency you advocate.


In It Together -KingstonBarn Photo

In It Together -KingstonBarn Photo

Brad Will, resign.

Jim Noble, resign.

Less than a week after being handed the guilty verdict, Brad Will has apparently broken the law again.  In a violation of the Standards of Conduct in the law, Will appeared on behalf of his business client in front of the Kingston Planning Board.

This was not the first time violations of this provision have come up.  Will was listed as representing a different client of Ashokan Architecture in the May and June meetings of the Kingston Heritage Area Commission.

It is political misconduct

When you reach the point that you refuse to live by the law, can’t be bothered to uphold your Oath of Office, would rather swear out lies on behalf of your cronies than root out bad apples among your members, you should resign.

When your personal interests lead you to make your colleagues look bad, and when you are more worried about your political career than serving your constituents, resign.

Political misconduct and lies should matter to all of us.  Corruption does not start in Albany or Washington.  It starts locally, when one guy gets caught breaking the law, and another lies enough to cover up what they both did.  Somebody gets away with it, convinces some people it’s not that bad, and he does it again.  The cycle repeats.

After a while, people forget to care.  The party machines get their guys elected higher up, and the crimes and the money get bigger.  The regular person starts to think there’s nothing to do, and corruption wins.

Revising Kingston

Revising Kingston

We have an obligation that goes beyond the ballot box.  Corruption gets a foothold when good people do nothing.

If this is where it starts, then this is where we can stop it.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

*Editor’s note:  All documents referred to in this post can be viewed by clicking on the highlighted document titles, or by visiting KingstonBarn’s “The Documents” page.


Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Please Print Clearly

Our Common Council Majority Leader, Matt Dunn, said he’s had trouble following the ethics law he wrote. That’s a problem. It’s unacceptable that the people charged with making the laws don’t follow the laws.

I Promise

I Promise

After missing two annual filing deadlines required by the law he authored, the solution, he said, was to simplify the Financial Disclosure Form he finds so complicated. Our Common Council, under his pen again, passed a new form on a 9-0 vote. After the common procedure of a public hearing with three speakers (including me) pointing out deficiencies in the new form and the law, the Mayor vetoed the change in form. At the next Common Council meeting, amid promises to fix some of the shortcomings of the current law, the veto override got the 6-3 margin needed to pass as written.

The papers reported that I spoke wholly against the new disclosure form at the hearing. That’s wrong and incomplete reporting. Instead of repeat reporting the Majority Leader’s opinions (“It smacks of politics,” he said) of my motivation for speaking, they could have just asked me what I said. If they would have, I’d have told them the same thing I told the Mayor at the hearing, and repeated to the assembled Common Council; “Don’t trash the new form. It’s easier than the last. If we just disclose partnerships, and don’t give exemptions to disclosure for people who are licensed by the state, we’d have a better form. Your bigger problem is the lack of specifics in the whole law.”

Politics? Labeling Kingston citizens’ suggestions for improvement to the law “politics” is misdirection, to be sure. I am dismayed that petty allegations and personal attacks in defense of an incomplete law may distract us from finding solutions we need.  We should expect better.

This replacement form only solves one problem of many:  It’s easier to complete.  We have more to do if we want to achieve the stated purposes of our ethics law.

It’s all about transparency, openness, disclosure, and the appearance of impropriety, according to the Majority Leader.

First, I see nothing in the law that would be improved by giving the Common Council power and control over appointments to and removals from the Board of Ethics. I cannot understand why the Majority Leader has suggested this, of all possible fixes, to his law.

The definitions of Conflict of Interest in the current law are adequate. Conflicts are hard to avoid in a small town. In fact, having a conflict of interest is not the problem; it’s only illegal to discuss, deliberate, or vote under the conflict. In the face of conflict of interest, the law directs officers and employees to recuse themselves, state why, and remove themselves from all discussions, deliberations, and voting. It’s a crime to do anything less.

The following are thoughts I presented on fixing the sticking points in the Financial Disclosure Form and the Ethics Law.

Sunlight on City Hall KingstonBarn photo

Sunlight on City Hall
-KingstonBarn photo

-Make it a real disclosure form.  Let’s disclose partnerships, client lists, business relationships, and campaign contributors, including those of spouses and domestic partners. How much an officer makes, or the dollar amount of such partnerships is less important than the potential conflicts exposed in a document specifically labeled “Disclosure Form”. Without the light of this crucial information, we can’t possibly see the pitfalls in our path.

Where the rest of the law falls down is on procedure. Our Ethics Law doesn’t tell us what to do with the forms once we turn them in, it doesn’t tell us how to disclose the contents, or who determines potential conflict, or even how we get complaints to the ethics board. Our majority leader, in communication to the Common Council President, cites language in the law about letting the “Board…promulgate its own rules and regulations governing its own organization and procedures.” I find it ironic that a legislator doesn’t want to give up the “power” to determine which streets are designated alternate side parking in a snow emergency, but is unwilling to complete this Ethics law by laying out procedure. Our law is light on specific protocols. Let’s fix that. Given that Majority Leader Dunn recently said the spirit of the law is openness and disclosure, it should not be hard to codify.

Mirroring the county law, the City Clerk should be Information Central.

-The City Clerk should mail and email out the Disclosure Forms to everyone who needs to complete the disclosure in the first month of the year, or within 30 days of an employee’s hire, or within 30 days of an officer taking office.
-The Disclosure Form is returned to the Clerk’s office in person by the stated deadline. Get a receipt.
-The Clerk keeps a list of those in compliance against a list of those required to complete the form.
-The Clerk should make copies, and distribute a copy to each member of the Board of Ethics and the Corporation Counsel’s Office. Originals go to file.

Who examines the Disclosure forms?
-The Board of Ethics meets to examine the disclosure forms and highlight potential conflicts.

How do we properly file complaints, and how do we know complaints were properly received?
-Complaints should be submitted via registered mail or in person to the Board of Ethics in care of the City Clerk’s office. The City Clerk shall copy and send complaints to each Ethics Board member and the Corporation Counsel’s Office.

Who determines specific punishments for findings of violations? What are those sanctions? The law allows for a fine up to $10,000.00, but what triggers the fine? We have no definitions of what rises to civil or criminal penalties.

What happens with Freedom of Information requests from press and public?
-The law should state specific guidelines for release of complaints, disclosure forms, and other data in response to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. Denials should be rare.

Unfinished Barn -KingstonBarn photo

Unfinished Barn
-KingstonBarn photo

I would suggest that we follow the established conventions of redacting any specific dollar amounts, but, again, the spirit of the law is openness and disclosure. There is no language here giving guidelines to the Clerk, the Board, or FOIL Appeals Officer for release. In a well-written law, the Mayor would have minimal say in the release of information.

There should be some point where press and public are notified of significant actions.

Most of these are already addressed in our Ulster County law. Our Common Council might save a lot of time by drafting those county provisions into the city code.

We must insist that all of this be written into the law. How we get there is up for discussion, but we clearly can’t leave it up to people to “just know what to do”. For instance, Mr. Dunn’s complaint, that no one sent out the Disclosure Form, isn’t an excuse for non-compliance, though I bet the IRS gets that one a lot. The downloadable Disclosure, by the way, has long been on the City website, attached to the law.

Majority Leader Dunn didn’t know what to do, even though he insists that people should just figure it out on their own.

It’s a little sad that we need ethics laws at all. We should be able to demand better behavior than that from the people in our public trust. But, if we could count on everybody to do the right thing…

Fixing this is not politics, it’s just common sense.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

*Editor’s note: Links to all documents referred to in the piece can be found on KingstonBarn’s “The Documents” page, or by clicking on the highlighted links.  You will also find the Ulster County Financial Disclosure Form sent out this year to our County Legislators.

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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Opportunity Circles the Drain

By now, you know it’s happened.  Niagara Bottling has pulled out.  The company has apparently decided it’s just too much trouble to come here to produce bottled water.  The organized (if not always fair or even-handed) opposition, spearheaded by Rebecca Martin and her, was just too loud, too in-your-face.  Striking on every front, they amassed ferocity and force.  Booing and harassing speakers on behalf of the proposal, they over-filled Kingston City Hall and Ulster Town Hall, turning half-hour public speaking sessions into four hour marathon circus meetings.  At one point, Woodstock Town Supervisor, playwright Jeremy Wilber, went to the Kingston podium under a standing ovation.  Before saying a word, he took off his trademark fedora, spread his arms wide, slowly turned to the crowd, and took a deep ringmaster bow, drinking in the cheering audience.  It was performance.

Cole Brothers

Public Domain Image

Judging by self-identification of the speakers, is made up of about ten people from the Woodstock area to every one from Kingston.  Martin did claim, though, that is made up of the nearly 25,000 residents of Kingston, so it would have been nice to hear from a few more of those.

From where I sit, it looks like the process was hijacked by a high-powered lobbying group.  They claim they only wanted a seat at the table.  Well, you don’t get that by flipping the table over.

They got the result they were after, but at a cost.  Along with Niagara Bottling, we have lost some valuable opportunities.  By saying “No way,  No how,” right from the outset, we’ve raised a red flag to all sorts of businesses that might want to consider this as a place to locate.  By shouting “Keep your hands off of our water!”, Woodstock has blown an opportunity to partner with their neighbors.  By telling us that “Our water is a shared resource, and should never be for sale”, they have narrowed the definitions of both “shared” and “resource”.

One thing not lost to Woodstock was the $300,000 in taxes that Kingston pays to the Town and School Districts every year on the land and right of way that our water uses.*  Also not lost was the fact that Kingston Water Department ratepayers still cover 100% of the costs of repair, maintenance, and improvements to the 1000 acre watershed, mostly in the town of Woodstock.  Living in that town, you can fish in our water, walk around our reservoir, and tap it with your wells.  It looks as though some folks are “sharing” great benefit, yet very little burden.

We’ve seen it before.  They fought to keep out cell towers.  They fought against sharing safety net costs.  The long fight to keep out the eco-friendly Woodstock Commons comes to mind.  Keep the low income people out of Woodstock because Woodstock can’t give up the land, can’t handle the traffic, can’t take the construction, can’t afford the extra people.  A major theme in that fight returned in this; Woodstock can’t have outsiders using “their” water.

Water line repair under Sawkill Creek bridge 2/19/2015  Daily Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo.  Used by permission.

Water line repair under Sawkill Creek bridge 2/19/2015
Daily Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo. Used by permission.

It makes me wonder if their objections aren’t far more basic than Kingston’s use of shared resources.  Maybe it’s a sort of elitist class-ism that makes one group want to dictate to the rest of us.  Maybe it’s the kind of bumper sticker compassion that really wants to help, as long as it costs nothing, like retweeting a slogan.  Maybe it’s as simple as Not In My Back Yard.

To be clear, I hadn’t yet decided if I was for or against the plant.  I never got the chance.   I  wanted a  fair and complete hearing to see what they or any potential business partner could do for Kingston and Ulster County.  Niagara would have had to pay millions for the studies, the environmental impact statements, the work to figure out their draws on our systems, and what they could do to improve them.  Those opportunities are down the drain.  Some leaders of the opposition have claimed in the aftermath that they only wanted to go through the complete process.  What they showcased in public, what they put up on the marquee is, SHUT THE WHOLE THING DOWN!  Barring that, they vowed to bottleneck  the “process”, making it so onerous to Niagara that they would just stop and go away.

Well, the plant’s gone away, but where do we go from here?  Is it all water under the bridge?  We’ve got to do better than “get the money somewhere else”.  “Somewhere else” is us, the ratepayers of the Kingston Water Department.  If the folks who gave us all of the cons (with none of the pros) want to kick in a few extra bucks on their water bills to help us out, that might be a good first step, but that’s not going to happen, either.

Is the way things are the way we want them to be?  Do the quieter Kingston citizens have to shout to be heard?  We can decide the face we want to show to all potential investors in our community is a rational one.  We have to shape our future, not fear a change.  We can carefully consider all of the choices ahead, or we can listen to every Chicken Little that runs through.

Kingston’s experience with water companies has been positive.  We are fortunate to have a local, family owned water company, right here in the heart of the city.  Binnewater Ice and Spring Water has been doing business and paying taxes here for over 100 years.  Binnewater have been good neighbors.  I live three blocks away, and hardly know they are there.  They deliver all over the region.  Can those that buy water, ice, coffee, and firewood buy it from them?  Good golly, they even make snow.  Would it make sense for Kingston and the company to explore a partnership with some of our good local tap water?  It would have a bigger positive impact environmentally and economically, and be far easier to accomplish, to buy local bottled water than it has been to say bottled water is bad.  What ideas can we come up with that enhance life here?

KingstonBarn Photo

KingstonBarn Photo

I’ve often heard it said that good environmental policy is good economic policy.  If that’s true, then it’s reciprocal, and good economic policy is good environmental policy.  I trust the people of Kingston to know when the two come together.  How much better would it be if we let all the facts get out there.  Once we have all of the facts, the good and the bad, we will make the right decision for us.

If we can’t come up with something better, can we at least listen as much as we advocate?

We cannot have the Kingston we want if we can’t change the Kingston we have.

-Andrew Champ-Doran


*Kingston Water Department 10-14-2014.


Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Sometimes, the answers are simple.

Gerald Berke wants to know what’s going on in his city.  He shows up at meetings and events, reads the papers, listens to the radio, and pays attention to local blogs.  He asks questions, and he wants answers.  Berke gives feedback.  He considers this his town, too.

He is an interested, well informed, thoughtful, involved, and sometimes opinionated resident of Kingston’s 4th Ward.  When he got the chance recently at a Kingston Citizens forum to ask Aldermen James Noble, Matt Dunn, and Deb Brown anything about the Common Council’s workings, he got right to it.  His problem is simple.  He doesn’t know when his Alderwoman is holding her ward meetings.

She does hold meetings, Saturdays, at her neighborhood diner.  I asked, and she told me she brings in guests to answer questions and meet with neighbors.  Alderwoman Deb Brown holds monthly meetings, and jokes they are well attended because she brings food.  The 7th’s Maryanne Mills and the 5th’s Bill Carey are regulars with their meetings, and others’, too.  Elisa Ball meets constituents at the Quick Check in her ward.

Kingston City Hall

Kingston City Hall

As Mr. Berke said, though, people don’t always know.  Ward Meetings:  Where and when are two questions that come up a lot, and the answer often changes.

Let’s keep it simple.  We don’t have to make a law or pass legislation.  We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  We only need to agree.  How about a monthly “Ward Meeting Day”?

We agree that we can do this on a particular day, the same every month.  Whether it’s the fourth Thursday at 7:00 or the last Saturday at Noon, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s consistent.  It should be after the committee meetings have been held, and before the Caucus and Common Council meetings, so the Aldermen can present what’s before them to their wards, and the people can tell their Aldermen what they want done with the issues.

We agree that every Alderman can find some free venue in the ward to hold the meetings.  While campaigning last year, I found people at George Washington School and the Hudson Valley Senior Residence more than generous, and happy to provide a space for the meetings here in the 3rd.  Other wards might find a church hall,  a community center, or theater willing to open their doors to their neighbors.

We agree to have guests at meetings that can help answer the questions of the day, or explain what they do.  The Mayor, Police Chief, Alderman at Large, City Engineer, Firefighters Union President, Development Director, Assessor…the pool of potential official speakers is deep.  Many already do this, and tell me they’d be happy to do more.

We agree that this is a back and forth, where people can talk about their solutions as much as their problems.  It’s an open forum, and the agenda is flexible.

We agree to publicize the whole event, city-wide, for cheap to free.  Use your Facebook, Twitter, and email lists.  Ask residents to share listings with friends and neighbors.  Use the City’s improving website, get it to KingstonHappenings, and ask every local blogger to do his part.  For people without regular internet use, we can take advantage of calendar listings and stories in the papers, Public Service Announcements on the radio and TV, and post listings on local bulletin boards.  Heck, find out if we have some printing money in the budget, hire a local printer to produce schedules on quarter sheet cards, and put some of the franking fund into a one-time Every Door Direct Mail blast.

We agree to take November and December off, and give us all one less thing to worry about for our holidays.

We agree that most members already do some version of this, so it shouldn’t be considered a giant leap forward.  It is just one more step in service to the people of your ward and our city.

Mine the collective intelligence of the people of our city, and strike the rich veins of individual gumption we find there.

Simple.  Agreed?

-Andrew Champ-Doran



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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Why I Would Vote Yes

Kingston City Hall, Monday night in a crowded Finance and Audit Committee special meeting, Conference Room 1.  The moment is now.

The Committee Report

The Committee Report

Time to openly vote on moving the sinkhole project ahead, finishing it off, once and for all.  What does Brad Will do?  Chair Mary Ann Mills calls for “Yes”; our 3rd Ward Alderman says nothing.  The vote is called for “No”, the room goes silent.  Only when the report is passed for signatures do we get an indication of Mr. Will’s intent.  Quietly, he adds a column, “Abstain”, and makes his mark.  At some point, before the meeting is adjourned, and without comment, he covers up his abstention, and makes his vote “NO”.

Late that night, he posts on his facebook, “…Why I Voted No”.  It rings hollow. Frankly, I am mystified.

I would vote YES.

My Alderman voted no, he writes, because he “was not confident that the best – and most cost effective – alternative was put forward.”

My Alderman voted no, he writes, because he wants “a short pause of a week or two.”

I have been at the public meetings, the committee meetings, and spent much time with neighbors of the sinkhole, and people that are affected by this every day.  I am one of those people.  Each person I talk to wants the same thing.  Fix it.  Fix it right, fix it now, fix it forever.  Do you know of one person that wouldn’t say they’d spend the million more than a half-measure, incomplete, risky Option B to fix it if they never had to deal with it again?  No.  And I’d vote YES.

August 13 last year, the two engineering firms, GEA Engineering and Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers  submitted a report to the City, outlining the history, problems, and four proposals to fix the problems of our Washington Avenue Sinkhole.  I asked for that report and permission to distribute it to 3rd Ward neighbors, and I did in early October.  Those 44 page reports were handed out at the October 21 meeting, where speakers from those firms laid out four options, A through D, and explained in fairly clear terms how effective, how expensive, and how comprehensive those choices might be.

Recommended by the firms that built the World Trade Center Towers and Memorial:  Option A Shown as our best “home run” chance for a permanent end to the Sinkhole Nightmare, by the foundation designers of New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field:  Option AOffered as our “safest option” by the team that built the ConEd tunnel under the Harlem River:  Option A.

Option A is 7′ thick supporting sides, a 15′ thick roof, and 150′ long, all anchored to bedrock, protecting the repaired and supported tunnel as it travels from one mined end to another.  It’s 50′ deep, twice-compacted soil densification supporting the roadway above.  It is a relined, redesigned shaft, swirling storm water down, exchanging and balancing air to allow water to flow, and not hammer down.  It is a system designed to let overflow cross under Washington and find it’s natural way down.

I’d vote YES.

Washington Avenue Do we want another year? -KingstonBarn Photo

Washington Avenue
Do we want another year?
-KingstonBarn Photo

We don’t have to trust Mayor Gallo on this.  We don’t have to trust City Engineer Ralph Swenson on this.  In fact, long ago, when they found out the real extent of the problem, they both said this is a bigger problem than we can handle.  We need the real pros, they said, and they asked the Council for help.  They went out and got the companies that built Bronx Terminal Market and the South Transitway Tunnel under Boston’s Russia Wharf.  I put my trust in them.

If my Alderman had shown his as-yet-unnamed Engineer “very close friend” as having the same depth of experience and wealth of expertise as these combined companies, we’d have more to hang our hats on.  But, until he does, I’m trusting these guys.

I put my faith in Fran Hart, whose home has been hit hardest of all by the sinkhole, Tannery Brook, and all the efforts to repair the damage done.  She says she doesn’t care about the noise, she can live with the work, she just wants to use her garage, have her driveway and yard back, and get her century-old house back up to livable.  She wants the sinkhole done right.

I put my faith in Richard Van Kleek, who is tired of waiting for it to end.  He doesn’t trust it can be done by the end of the year, but he’s willing to try.  He wants the sinkhole done right.

I put my faith in Art and Barbara Althiser, who have seen their Red Sox win three World Series, but feel like they will never see the end of the sinkhole.

The Future of Tannery Brook-KingstonBarn Photo

Tannery Brook as it runs through Kathy Eberlein’s yard. Neighbors just want it to be done.
-KingstonBarn Photo

I put my faith in Kathy Eberlein, who wants to work in her garden, in Sharon Becker, who wants to keep the bluestone patio and garden her late husband built, and in Joyce Barnes, who is against the project.  They are all willing to let the city work on their properties, just to put an end to flooding for their neighbors on Tannery Brook.  They want it done right.

I put my faith in Renato DiBella, who, against tremendous losses, keeps his business going here when he could just move it out.  He wants his business back.  He wants it done right.

We have lived on their faith for too long.  It’s time to show them some of ours.  For all of these people, and all of the people of Kingston living with the specter of this dangerous hole in the ground, I’d vote YES.

Putting it off for a week or two delays the Common Council vote by at least a month.  A month added to the schedule means we don’t have a chance of finishing by Thanksgiving.  If we don’t finish by then, the ravages of another Winter take their toll.

When the question is called again on Tuesday night, I want my Alderman to stand up, speak for us, and vote YES.

Yes, the moment is now.

-Andrew Champ-Doran
Editor’s Note:  Documents referred to in this article, including the GEA/Mueser Rutledge Powerpoint presentation from Monday’s meeting, and the August 2013 Kingston Report can be found on our new page, “The Documents”.

Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Bond…School Bond

KingstonBarn Photo

KingstonBarn Photo

The Kingston School Bond Vote is tomorrow.  Simply put, the school district is asking for us to borrow $137 million to fix the tremendous problems of the hundred-year-old Kingston High School physical plant.  If the bond passes, construction is scheduled to begin in 2015, or about the same time as the SUNY Ulster’s Sophie Finn campus is completed right across from the high school.

The Kingston City School District has published some information on their site.

From brick falling out of walls, to antiquated steam heat, to buildings that have to come down, the work has been neglected for far too long.  One friend, a 1950’s graduate of KHS, says some of the existing troubles have been around since she was a student.

How we got to this place has been discussed at length.  Neglect, bad decisions, short budgets, and age have all been a part of the picture.  I won’t go over old ground.  Our decision now is to pass the bond or not.  The question hinges on what we want for the centerpiece of our public schools, and literally, our city.

At $137 million over the life of the bond, this is no small question.  Even with the state kicking in 60% of the tab, the Kingston City School District figures that the annual cost to each homeowner will be about $0.72 per thousand of assessed value, or nearly $100 in our case.  Can we find another eight or nine dollars a month to pay for this?  Probably, but the city and county tax will ask for more, and our insurance bill doesn’t go down.  It’s a lot to ask.

One argument circulating against the project is that our school population may not meet the Superintendent’s ten-year projections.  This does not hold water.  Whether we choose to educate 1600 or 2400 students in dangerous, dilapidated buildings is immaterial.

I have heard people ask why, if they don’t send their kids to Kingston schools, should they care?  They pay taxes, but they get nothing for it, the thinking goes.

What we get is a high school.  What we get is an anchor for the schools, for Midtown, and for Kingston.  What we do now is a decision on whether the anchor gives us a mooring spot or drags us down.


KingstonBarn Photo

People are looking at all of Kingston when they make the decision whether to move here.  The owners and officers of businesses considering a new home need to know what we have for their families.  One thing I know for sure is that people won’t want to move here, and businesses will not want to locate their families here if there is no decent school to send their kids.

If we don’t pass this now, Superintendent Paul Padalino says, “it’s back to the drawing board.”  There is no cheaper Plan B waiting to take its place.  Construction costs are not going to go down over the next five years.  Compliance with codes, heating, asbestos remediation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act are not optional.  Emergencies are always more expensive than good plans.

I have just one vote, but I am going to cast it for the plan.

-Andrew Champ-Doran


Posted by on December 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The Heart of the Matter

Desperation.  Frustration.  Resignation.  Resolve.  You can hear all of that when you listen to Renato DiBella.

KingstonBarn Photo

KingstonBarn Photo

He’s owned DiBella’s Pizza at the corner of Washington Avenue and Marius Street for the last sixteen years.   Thank you, Mr DiBella.  Thank you for working for your business, your employees, and your neighbors.

He has fought for and worked in this neighborhood all of that time.  In the beginning, he took out a small business loan from the City with just two employees.  He finished paying it off three years ahead of schedule, and grew his business to eleven employees.  No plaque, no recognition, no official thank you.  He hasn’t asked for any.  He just keeps it going, hiring people from all over the neighborhood.

His fight is bigger now.  Extraordinary circumstances have become ordinary days.

Most of you know that the sinkhole on Washington Avenue has been the city’s biggest problem for the last two years.  We have put nearly four million dollars into repairs and fixes over that time.  People who live and work in the area of the hole, and have been affected by traffic and repairs and surveying should be commended for their patience.  The people that live closest should be nominated for sainthood.  They have put up with broken sewer lines, water stoppages, cracked foundations, sewer gas smells, loss of yards and privacy, and homes with little or no value on the open market.  DiBella’s has been there a long time, but, without the business the closed street has taken, they have to move.  Other people want to move, but can’t.  Some don’t want to, but can’t see the end.  All of them just want their lives back.

These people have paid so much in dues that we owe them change.

Mostly, the people here feel that they have not really been listened to.  “If this had happened on Albany Avenue or Broadway, this would have been done by now”, one said.  We can’t leave them feeling like their complaints are the problem.  Their complaints are just describing the symptoms of the illness.

They have been to their Aldermen, their Mayors, their Assemblyman, and their Governor.

Renato DiBella soldiers on.  So do his neighbors.  They all know each other.  Their lives have crossed for years.  He is one story in this neighborhood, and he is going to stay here.   He still owns the building, and has other properties nearby.  His family lives here.

The sinkhole is a big problem, and it belongs to the entire city.

KingstonBarn Photo

KingstonBarn Photo

What can we can do for each other?  How can we turn this into a model city?  Well, we can advocate for others in city hall.  We can make a difference if we speak to the common council at meetings, or just be there to hear a neighbor who does.    Can it be as simple as cutting our own bushes back at the corners so people can see oncoming traffic?  None of these things will increase taxes, but they will add value to real lives.  Do we really need “official” Make a Difference Days?  Renato passionately explained that it is expected and ordinary that we all come together in a crisis and, of course, it is valued.  However, it is how we come together and connect on ordinary days that makes a difference.

I want to represent and champion Kingston neighbors like Renato while serving on the Kingston Common Council.  KingstonBarn came from the desire to bring people together, and find out what we can do to help Kingston.  We can stay positive and work together.

I believe together we can make our ordinary days extraordinary.  It is my desire, my passion, my heart.  It is a mission which can inspire and unite all of our 3rd Ward residents and the Kingston City community.

We don’t have all the answers, but who would we be if we stopped trying to find them?

-Andrew Champ-Doran

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


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