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Gather-Mix-Repeat

Gather-Mix-Repeat

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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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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