This evening on WKNY radio, I announccd my candidacy for Mayor. Below are my remarks from the radio program:
Kingston stands on the precipice of a truly monumental election. For the first time since 1989, there will not be an incumbent running, which guarantees a new Mayor will be serving as of January 1, 2012. It is an opportunity for the people of Kingston to chart a new course and establish a new philosophy of government.
The next Mayor will have to deal with many significant issues and problems facing our city. He will need experience and knowledge in very specific areas. He will have to be willing to make substantial changes to improve our government, yet be mindful of Kingston’s rich heritage and history, so as not to harm or destroy things precious to Kingstonians.
While crime continues to plague our community, the Kingston Police Department has recently suffered a black eye due to criminal charges and pending investigations against one of its most honored members. The fallout of this scandal threatens to undermine the morale of the men and women serving this city regardless of whether the officer in question is convicted or acquitted. It will take time for the department to recover from the headlines of recent weeks.
It is very possible that our Police Chief may be retiring in the near future after a long and stellar career. As such, the next Mayor will have the responsibility to select the person who will succeed our Chief and lead the department into the future.
Our next Mayor must have knowledge, understanding, and a solid background in the area of law enforcement, yet also know the limits of his knowledge and when to allow law enforcement experts to make the day-to-day decisions. There will need to be changes in regulations and procedure to prevent future problems within the department. There will need to be a concerted effort to assure the citizenry that the Kingston Police Department is still an honorable institution existing to serve and protect the public.
However, it is not just the Police Department that must be evaluated and changed. The Fire Department, Department of Public Works, and frankly all of our city departments require a thorough review from top to bottom. Audits of budgets, manpower, and equipment, as well as a review of internal regulations and procedure, are necessary to make sure that taxpayer money is being used properly, efficiently, and without waste.
Over the last several years, the relationship between city workers and the Mayor’s Office has become strained. Numerous grievances and lawsuits have been filed costing the city thousands of dollars and potentially costing the city substantially more in the near future. The next Mayor must represent the taxpayers, but also have respect for the men and women working to keep our City running.
On the economic front, the City of Kingston is in crisis. Our affairs have been mismanaged, our tax base shrinking, and our expenditures growing. Our city is hemorrhaging jobs. Businesses are fleeing Kingston and “For Sale” signs dot our landscape.
The City needs a Mayor who understands how vital it is to both cut taxes and spending, and bring new employers into Kingston. Most importantly, the next Mayor of Kingston must have an economic development plan that addresses the tax burden, the homestead vs. non-homestead tax differential, and the yards of red tape and governmental regulation that face businesses and developers looking to invest in Kingston. We simply cannot continue to force entrepreneurs to wait five or six years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without even getting a shovel into the ground.
With these problems and many others facing our city, now is not the time for on the job training, nor is the time to elect a politician simply looking for the next step of a hoped political career. Our next Mayor must be ready to hit the ground running on day one and have a clear and unambiguous plan and vision for our city.
Over the last month, I have been strongly considering running for the office of Mayor. I have spoken with my wife and family, and have prayed for proper guidance and wisdom in making this decision. This past Friday, I reached my decision.
I am announcing this evening that I am going to run for Mayor of the City of Kingston.
My campaign will deal exclusively with the issues and problems facing our city. I have a comprehensive plan for dealing with these issues in order to both make quality of life better for all of us and to bring new businesses into our great city.
Crime is threatening to overwhelm our city, much like it has Newburgh. No real attempts have been made to seek state and federal law enforcement grants. As a former Assistant District Attorney, I have actually taken criminals off the streets. I understand law enforcement. I also know what the limits of my knowledge are and when to allow the law enforcement experts to make the day-to-day decisions. This combination of skills and understanding will help rid Kingston of the criminal element which is making life so difficult for so many of our friends and neighbors. No other mayoral candidate has the law enforcement and legal credentials that I possess.
My economic recovery plan, which I will be detailing in the weeks and months to come, involves a strategy of multiple facets. There is no magic button to push or one single act which will ignite Kingston’s economic engine. A plan must address multiple areas and change our governing philosophy over the long term. My plan does both.
I believe in less intrusive government. Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is most certainly a part of the underlying problem. I hold this philosophy dear. When I served as 6th Ward Alderman and even prior to that, I submitted budget proposals that would have resulted in tax decreases. I know the city budget extremely well and know areas that can be cut and areas that should never be cut.
I will enact spending cuts in various departments. There are numerous redundancies in our government which serve only to waste money and resources. There are changes in policies that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime costs. These and other spending cuts must be enacted to first stop the growth of city taxes and eventually lower them.
During my time as Alderman and Minority Leader, as well as my many years involved in local politics, I have become extremely familiar with the various departments in the city. I understand each department’s budget and know where changes must be made.
I will address the crippling effect of the commercial tax levy. Previous attempts to solve this problem have failed because of poor planning. The commercial tax rate cannot be dropped all at once due to the terrible effect resulting to city homeowners. The rate must be adjusted gradually over a period of years to give businesses much needed relief while not socking it to city residents.
I will order the Corporation Counsel’s Office to conduct a thorough review of all city laws, internal regulations, and procedures being used by the City Planning Board. Though New York State has laws that cannot be disregarded, we must make sure that the City of Kingston does not add to the tangle of red tape preventing business owners and developers from investing in our community. As much as possible, we need shovel ready projects in our city.
Further, I will create an Economic Recovery Team made up of Kingstonians with expertise in business, law, real estate, architecture, and other areas of importance to economic development. For years, the city has hired consultants from outside our city. I believe that Kingstonians have the ability to solve the problems facing Kingston. By creating this team and allowing them to study the problems facing our local economy, we can use the combined brain power of our city to create solutions and new ideas to unleash Kingston’s true economic potential.
I have a thorough respect for the men and women working to keep our City running. I am confident that I can successfully negotiate with our unions to find solutions that will preserve jobs, cut costs, cut taxes and increase the quality of services the residents of Kingston receive. There have been numerous grievances filed against the city for alleged violations of the union contracts. As a trained and experienced attorney, I know how to interpret and negotiate contracts. I also have a significant knowledge of litigation and will be able to save taxpayer dollars by knowing which cases to settle and which cases to fight.
I was born and raised in Kingston, and my family has been in this city for over 150 years. I will never lose sight of our rich history and heritage. I know what Kingston can be because I have seen it before. I have lived it, and I have experienced it.
Ladies and gentlemen, as this campaign progresses, I hope you will join with me in this effort to restore our city’s greatness. There are many difficult problems facing our city. Yet, I find myself feeling extremely optimistic about our future because I know in my heart that there is nothing that we as Kingstonians cannot accomplish if we stand together and united. I would consider it an honor if you would allow me to lead this city into our future.