It is hard to believe that the Kingston Uptown Residents’ Alliance has been in existence for almost three years. Much has been accomplished but even greater tasks lie ahead. KURA’s non-partisan, issues-oriented activities and positive proposals for solving problems is a timeconsuming but effective approach.
Our organization can only be effective if we have many dedicated members who are willing to participate actively. KURA has been very fortunate in this regard. Its volunteers have done research, established our mission, developed flyers, created our web site and communications, generated graphics for our presentations, cleaned our streets and hand delivered up to 1,500 flyers for each of our General Meetings, among other things. It takes a lot of volunteer effort to make an organization like KURA work. We need many more results-oriented people to continue our success.
- Jerry Soldner, KURA President
Meet the Candidates 2011
Election Day: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The Kingston Uptown Residents’ Alliance (KURA) has developed six questions that relate to the major issues facing Kingston. These questions were based on a survey of its membership and recent analysis. An individual letter was sent to all candidates and they were given an opportunity to express their views for publication in the electronic media. The issues were:
1) Kingston is not competitive because of its high taxes
2) The unaffordable and unsustainable pensions and benefits
3) Kingston’s failure to attract required new businesses
4) Kingston’s poor and deteriorating physical appearance
5) Over- assessment of Kingston properties have cost taxpayers dearly
6) Kingston’s unmet potential for being a tourist destination
The candidates submitted positions, which follow each question. The document is divided into two major sections the Mayoral Candidates and the Alderperson Candidates.
We hope that this information will assist you in evaluating the candidates and permit you to vote in an informed manner. We also want to thank the candidates for taking the time to address these difficult issues.
To access this KURA document CLICK HERE
KURA Executive Committee
KURA’s ACCOMPLISHMENTS from 2009 to 2011
2010 AND 2011 BUDGETS
In letters to the Mayor and Common Council and presentations to the Common Council, KURA has pushed for a reduction in our excessively high taxes to make Kingston a competitive City. Based on a survey of our members, areas for cost reduction were identified and specific proposals were made regarding how to achieve a reduction in taxes.
The high cost of pensions and benefits were identified as the major contributor to high taxes. They have made the City of Kingston the third most highly taxed city in New York State on a per capita basis. The two with higher taxes were Rye and White Plains, which, on a per capita basis, have incomes that are three to five time larger than Kingston taxpayers. These pensions and benefits have increased from 42% of Personnel expenses to 76% over the past decade and continue to increase. This level is unsustainable and unaffordable for a City like Kingston.
KURA has provided information on this matter to the Mayor and Common Council on a continuing basis. This included information from other areas of the US and the State and attendance at a Conference in Albany conducted by the Empire Center. This conference addressed New York’s Exploding Government Pensions and Benefits. The Common Council and the Mayor were invited to accompany KURA but were unable to do so. They were provided with a summary and copies of the proceedings.
Six General Meetings were held to inform residents regarding issues that effect their quality of life. Attendance at these meetings ranged from 50 to 140 residents.
- Impact of Kingston Over-assessment: This presentation showed that Kingston’s assessed values are overstated by more than 25%. This overassessment has caused Kingston taxpayers to pay more than $11 million dollars in unnecessary taxes to the School District and the County per year. For example, this means that the average Kingston taxpayer subsidized other Ulster municipalities by $1,000 dollars last year. The guest speaker for the evening was Robert Beebe, former General Counsel to the New York State Board of Equalization and Assessment. He explained the assessment system and how it worked- both its good and unfortunate aspects.
- How to Appeal Your Taxes: Attorney Mark Grunblatt explained the system and important dates. Jim Raffelt, former chairman of the City’s Assessment Review Board explained its function. This is the meeting when the Mayor prohibited Ken Brett (current chairman of the Appeals Board) from participation at the meeting. He was advised by the Mayor and Corporation Counsel that it would be a conflict of interest. The Common Council disagreed with the Mayor’s decision and it was front page news in the Freeman.
- Meet the Candidates: This event was held for candidates for Alderman for Wards 1- 5 and focused on Kingston’s serious budget issues and potential solutions.
- Definition of Family: This meeting addressed the proposed change to the definition of “family” in the zoning code. The change proposed by the Corporation Counsel would have permitted any house in Kingston to become a boarding house. It was eventually removed from consideration by the Law and Rules Committee. An alternative definition was proposed by KURA and discussed by the guest, speaker, Paul Ackerman, Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Poughkeepsie.
- Uptown Traffic Flows: A meeting was co-sponsored with KUBA regarding the County alternatives for improved traffic patterns for Uptown Kingston. Dennis Doyle, the County Planner, conducted this meeting.
- Nuisance Abatement Law: The meeting described the new law and its potential impact on Kingston. A featured speaker was the former District Attorney and current Judge, Don Williams, who authored the law.
NUISANCE ABATEMENT ACTIVITIES
In addition to routine quality of life complaints regarding crimes, graffiti, noise, drugs, poor maintenance, there were a few activities that should be mentioned, specifically:
Elizabeth Manor: This boarding house has had a long history of police and other violations. Its impact on the quality of life for the residents of the area has been devastating. After a great deal of effort by the Police, Code Enforcement and the Sheriff’s office, it became the first major test of the Nuisance Abatement law, which could have, and in KURA’s opinion, should have shut down this boarding house.
The City’s Counsel let the defense attorney turn the hearing into a trial, which it was not. As a result, the defense attorney claimed that much of the evidence should be excluded because the City attorney failed to pre-disclose it to the defense. The hearing panel was not prepared for their first assignment by the City’s attorney and without an objection or clarification by the City Counsel, the evidence was excluded from consideration by the hearing panel.
In addition, the City attorney failed to prepare the witnesses. The defense attorney was permitted to cross examine the witnesses and cut them to pieces by asking if they made any complaints in the last 60 days. Of course they had not because the proceedings were ongoing for months and these complainants felt that their purgatory was in the process of being resolved. The result was a recommendation to the Mayor, which amounted to a slap on the wrist and continued operation of this nuisance property.
KURA complained to the Mayor in writing about the conduct and results of these proceedings. The Mayor asked KURA to provide information regarding how to hold a hearing versus a trial. This was provided to the Mayor, including the rules of evidence for a hearing.