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Monthly Archives: May 2012

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City HallThe headline demands we pick sides. Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo battles with aldermen over ethics law proposals (updated)   appeared on the Daily Freeman online today.  The gist of the article is that Mayor Shayne Gallo and Aldermen Thomas Hoffay and Matt Dunn are disagreeing as much about the transparency of meetings and discussions regarding proposed ethics legislation as they are the actual legislation.  To quote the article, “Dunn and Hoffay have proposed an ethics law they say nearly mirrors the one Gallo has pitched. The mayor, though, says that the two are “vastly” different, accusing the two of including politically-motivated language that makes theirs unconstitutional.”

The real problem, though, is that we, the people, don’t really know what is in the legislation, and that information is difficult to come by.  With any luck the Mayor and the council members will work out the ethics legislation, with the help of the Corporation Counsel.  But, the general public can’t help without knowing what the proposals are.

I suggest that all proposals ready for public discussion, as written by the legislators, Mayor, or department heads, be posted on the City of Kingston‘s website.  The city is already doing this with road closings, some press releases, tentative assessment rolls, adopted budgets, et al.  Why can’t this be done with proposed legislation?  I know that before these items get to committee meetings  the proposer has written, at least in broad terms, what they want to discuss, try, and legislate.  What we get are brief glimpses into some of the highlights, usually after meetings have been held.  They come in drips and drabs from the newspapers, the radio, and word-of-mouth.  The last is most troubling, because it usually comes laden with opinion and slanted to the speaker’s point of view.

Is it also possible to add meeting agendas to the meetings schedule page?  The framework is the same, generally, month-to-month.  Those agendas could be updated as items are added.  This would be a step up from the usual “grab a copy when you arrive” model, and could save us some in printing costs.

Not long ago, I attended a Laws and Rules Committee meeting.  City Hall’s meeting room was packed past capacity to hear the discussion on the pending new rental inspection law.  It wasn’t long before the first complaint was raised in the voice of Alderman Matt Dunn.  Chiefly upset that he didn’t have any time with the written legislation proposal before the meeting, he chastised Corporation Counsel Andrew Zweben and Committee Chair Robert Senor, saying it was impossible to be prepared for the meeting with such short notice. I agree.  How can any of us participate in our government without knowing what, specifically our legislators are considering?

I understand the need for private meeting.  Not all discussion needs to be public.  The public must be allowed to work with their representatives, though, and we can’t do that from a position of ignorance.

Now is the time to do this.  Our city’s website is better than it has ever been.  Updates and searchable .pdf pages are posted just about every day.  Mayor Gallo and the Common Council are both calling for transparency and accountability to the voters of Kingston.  Hoffay said city lawmakers and the mayor should start with things where “we agree rather than where we disagree.”, according to the story.   So, agree on this first.  City officials post their proposals online before public discussion takes place.  The online versions of the papers could publish links to the documents, constituents can see what their representatives are doing, and we can all participate before the final version of a bill becomes the law.  Maybe Ulster County and the Kingston School District will get on board, too, and put some of those new iPads to work.

Kingston is getting better, but it only improves when we get involved.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Why KingstonBarn?

Why KingstonBarn?

“Any jackass can kick down a barn.  It takes a good carpenter to build one.”   -Sam Rayburn

Why would I start now with a new blog called KingstonBarn?  There are a lot of good blogs out there, centered in Kingston, that take on issues of this area and beyond.  I read and enjoy Kingston Progressive, Blaber’s News, and Cahill on Kingston, and I hope you do, too.  I find those blogs to be entertaining and informative, even if I don’t agree with the bloggers on any given issue.  We have a couple of decent newspapers here, both of which I buy and read.  What are we missing?  What unique contribution can I make?

Look at any daily newspaper on line- Kingston’s own dailyfreeman.com, for example- and read the comments posted after each story.  You will read what is wrong.  You will read who’s to blame.  You will read a litany of offenses committed by people named and unnamed in the story, and you will read flaming diatribes against politicians, ideologies, and even other commentators.  What you don’t read very often are commentators’ real names.  You don’t often read people adding to the conversation in a thoughtful and respectful way.  What you almost never read is someone making a real effort to offer even partial solutions to the problems.

Today, this small story appeared on-line: http://www.dailyfreeman.com/articles/2012/05/15/news/doc4fb2a15864ad1430861078.txt  It seems that fellow Kingston blogger Jeremy Blaber was pulled over and cited for a minor traffic infraction.  What makes this any kind of news is that Blaber is a recently-hired parking enforcement officer for the city, and he ticketed Mayor Shayne Gallo twice.  That is to say, the same Mayor Gallo he helped get elected, and the same Mayor Gallo that appointed him to the parking post.  Blaber has also ticketed Kingston Times columnist Hugh Reynolds, and anyone else that he sees parked illegally while he is on duty, regardless of his or their political allegiances.  In the story,  Blaber even blames himself for the infraction, and praises the citing police officer for doing his job.  Where this gets to my point is after the story.  Within twelve minutes of the story being posted on the Daily Freeman‘s website, two comments were submitted, approved, and posted.  One expressed surprise that the right thing was done, and the other turned into a screed against the Mayor and Police Chief.  Neither comment helps, and neither author chose to take credit for what they wrote.

I was not born here.  I wasn’t raised here.  But, I have chosen to build my life here.  I am home here, and I want to make a contribution, to add to the conversation, even if it’s a small addition, like this blog.  I am a carpenter by trade, and I want to introduce this blog as a place for the barn builders of Kingston, the carpenters of Ulster County.  We can celebrate the people making a difference right now, and maybe do a little to help.

Andrew Champ-Doran

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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