RSS

Opportunity Circles the Drain

16 Feb

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 kingstoncitizens.org, 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, kingstoncitizens.org is made up of about ten people from the Woodstock area to every one from Kingston.  Martin did claim, though, that kingstoncitizens.org 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.

Advertisements
 
13 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

13 responses to “Opportunity Circles the Drain

  1. citizen K

    March 9, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Wow, that’s a heavy handed view: Ms Martin provided information… tons of information. If there were boos, well, that’s because there were people and there were people because they had been informed there was an issue before them and they had lots of information.
    It is the information that put Niagara down… just that.
    Kingston Citizens participants expressed a very reasonable case that Niagara did not need nor deserve massive public funding.
    There’s a lot of totally unsupported “they’s”.
    And what is fought about is transparency and following the law… how the hell is that a problem?
    -Gerald Berke

     
  2. citizen K

    March 9, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    There is absolutely no support for this statement: “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.”
    It’s just pythonesque “happy thinking”, ie, no thought at all.
    -Gerald Berke

     
  3. thegenerousweb

    March 9, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    sorry this comes in little bits and starts…
    as to the woodstock people outnumbering the KIngston People… that has largely been that citizens of kingston come out for parades… but never on civic matters… how and why it is that Kingston citizens do not engage, and this I’ve observed over several years…
    City Hall meetings are rarely attended at all… many presentations have zero people, and that goes for civic meetings put together by outside groups.
    Kingston Citizens drew zilch in their well done, well publicized presentation on kingston government… you were there for at least one of them,and you could see for yourself…
    Not clear why that happens…
    -Gerald Berke

     
  4. Jim Naccarato

    March 10, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Andy,

    Very nice piece!

    jim

     
    • Rachel Marco-Havens

      March 12, 2015 at 5:18 am

      Except for the lack of fact checking. Fact checking would have been good.

       
  5. Jeremy Wilber

    March 10, 2015 at 10:35 am

    To Mr. Champ-Doran’s comment, “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 caution against the logic. For instance, a good dog is a good friend, but is a good friend a good dog?

    The Kingston Water Department paid this year to the Town of Woodstock $40,988 for taxes. It paid $32,571 to the County. The remaining tax bill was paid to the school districts. The total tax bill is no where near the $300,000 claimed in the above post. A good poster is a good fact checker.

    With regard the the assertion, “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;” in my near-twelve years of public service I have not once received a standing ovation, a truth I hope will cheer Mr. Champ-Doran.

     
    • KingstonBarn

      March 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Mr. Wilber,

      Thank you for writing. The good policy statement was not meant to be a Venn Diagram, but it’s good to see you understand my point that one is no more or less true than the other. Just like your example, it depends on your dog and your friend. What I said was that I trust the people of Kingston to know when good environmental policy and good economic policy come together.

      I got the $300,000 dollar figure from the Kingston Water Department’s October 14 presentation to the Conservation Advisory Committee. Superintendent Judith Hansen reported, “KWD manages just under 1,000 acres of watershed lands, most in the Town of Woodstock. KWD, through its ratepayers, pay about $300,000/year in property taxes to the Town and School Districts for that property with little or no burden on local resources. KWD pays 100% of cost of repair, maintenance, and improvements.” I’ve corrected to add “and School Districts”, and added attribution. Thank you for your help.

      In over thirty years of earning a living in the theater, I never once rooted against a performer. I would not be cheered in the least to know you did not receive your due. Where I sat, house left about 7 rows back, I was surrounded by standing, cheering fans of yours. I believe you can count this as at least once.

      Andrew Champ-Doran

       
  6. James Shaughnessy

    March 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Mr. Andrew Champ-Doran has gone to a lot of trouble to excoriate everyone who opposed the Niagara Bottling project, and in my opinion, he did it with a lot of exaggeration and ridicule. I will comment further on only one statement in his post:
    “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.”
    This is a logical fallacy. Search for the term “Affirming the consequent.”

     
    • KingstonBarn

      March 14, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Mr. Shaughenessy,

      Excoriating? Everyone?

      My problem is not with people against the Niagara Bottling project. In fact, I applaud the work of those who spoke and wrote against it with well thought-out and dignified responses. Some of those people, as you know, are our friends and neighbors, and I admire them all the more for it. They made themselves a positive part of the discussion, and, in my eyes, are a credit to Kingston. I am proud to stand with them any day, and I do.

      My real concern here, and a major point of the piece, is the fact that so many people felt called upon to loudly and rudely heckle and bully, and take over the process and our meetings, at which many were presumably guests. It was, to me, a clear signal that the folks acting badly, whatever their persuasion, do not trust or believe that the people of Kingston can come to the “right” decisions on their own. We apparently need to be hectored into doing what we are told to do. A careful reading, without the emotion for or against this particular project, should tell you that this isn’t about you or the people against the project, unless you or they acted like that. I am a Kingston citizen, undecided, who wanted to look at both sides, and I felt we weren’t getting to that because of this behavior.

      Which brings me to the “logical fallacy”, as you call it. Mr. Berke rightly calls it “happy thinking’, ie, no thought at all.” I like that. Please read the entire paragraph again, and read my answer to Mr. Wilber elsewhere in these comments. I use the words of some who spoke as an example of no thought at all into into either end of the equation, and to point out, as I said in the piece, “I trust the people of Kingston to know when the two come together”, and “Once we have all the facts…we will make the right decision for us.” I can’t make it any plainer than that.

      -Andrew Champ-Doran

       
  7. noel daly

    March 10, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Well done on your summary. The welcome mat is out for visitors but business stay away. What a terrible attitude that so many have.

     
  8. Trish Hawkins

    March 11, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I haven’t read the whole piece but I wonder if such an article is necessary. Certainly it is what the Mayor might want said.From the first paragraphs, it seems a bit of a hatchet job itself. Is such a tone necessary?

     
  9. Nancy Mathisen

    March 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    I live in Stone Ridge, located on the same irreplaceable planet as everyone I know. I came to meetings in opposition to the Niagara proposal. I stopped buying bottled water about 15 years ago after realizing how much plastic is generated by the largely unnecessary water bottling business. Bottling and selling water, a natural resource, back to people, who are already endowed with an equal right to it, for astronomical profits seemed like a brilliant idea at first. Some seemingly good ideas eventually fail. This controversy has made me examine my purchases of other consumables in plastic packaging. We need as individuals, businesses, nations and a species to rethink the plastic addiction.
    Niagara has a terrible reputation as an employer and with community relationships.
    I keep suggesting converting existing Tech City infrastructure to growing and/or processing medical marijuana and/or hemp. There’s a money maker waiting to happen, and it’s a good thing that never should have been demonized.

     
    • KingstonBarn

      March 12, 2015 at 10:55 pm

      Ms. Mathisen,

      Well done. It seems you are taking positive, personal steps, and acting publicly to change your part of the world.

      Andrew Champ-Doran

       

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: