Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rest in Peace, Champ

Billy Costello, Kingston's Champ, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. Billy was a man who truly loved Kingston. When he won the title, he could have defended it in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden for much more money, but instead insisted on fighting in Kingston.

After his boxing career, he devoted his time to teaching our youth in the Kingston PAL League. Even after his diagnosis, he continued to work in the gym until he was physically unable.

The last time I saw the Champ, he told me he was in my corner regarding the Mayor's race. His words meant more to me than I can ever say. The man was being honored in the ring for his accomplishments in what turned out to be his final appearance in a boxing ring. Yet, he took the time to walk over to me and tell me this. I still get emotional when I think about it.

Billy will be missed, but never forgotten. Rest in Peace, my friend.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fireworks Should be on the 4th of July

If elected Mayor, I am going to make an immediate change. As long as I am Mayor, the fireworks and any city sponsored party celebrating Independence Day will be held on the 4th of July, not the last weekend of June.

I know Kingston has not done so because of a lack of interest in competing with the Saugerties Fourth of July Celebration. With due respect to Saugerties and my many friends who live there, I see nothing wrong with a little competition. The fireworks should be on the 4th of July because that is Independence Day. Having them on a different day, takes away from the importance of the holiday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sidewalk Proposal Needs Work

Recently, the First Ward Alderman offered a proposal to give a tax break to people who, after neglecting their sidewalk and failing to maintain it, finally fixes it. Those people who have always maintained their sidewalk get nothing.

I think the proposal improperly rewards those who have neglected their property for substantial periods of time. It provides no reward for those who have always done the right thing.

However, the problem cited does need attention. There are numerous sidewalks which are extremely dangerous and need to be maintained. Unfortunately, the proposal does not get the job done. I am not going to simply criticize without presenting a solution. Therefore, I have a counter proposal to offer.

The law currently allows the city to issue a citation to people who do not maintain their sidewalk. That law should be enforced. However, a portion of the law needs to be amended. Many sidewalks have been damaged by the roots of trees that the city planted without the permission or consent of the property owners. It seems to me that if the city plants a tree and the roots dislodge the sidewalk, then the city has caused damage to private property and should be liable. Current law leaves the property owner liable. This should be changed.

Second, there are state and federal grants available to repair sidewalks. These should be aggressively sought after.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Terms Limits No, but Smoking Ban yes??

The Common Council Laws and Rules Committee for the second time rejected a proposal for term limits. I agree with the decision of the committee. Personally, I do not support term limits, except those given by the voters at election time. I also support the constitutional limits of 2 terms for President.

Many people remember a very strong and capable Mayor of Kingston named Frank Koenig. He served 5 times (10 years because the terms were only 2 years long in those days) and was very popular. A very strong majority considers Koenig to have been a good Mayor. If Kingston has a good Mayor, why throw him out because of the number of years he has served. A good Mayor should be kept, while poor Mayors should be voted out.

As for the smoking ban, I must respectfully disagree with the committee. I am not a smoker, but I recognize a smoker's rights. I can understand not permitting smoking near the jungle gym or near children. However, if a person is walking their dog or just taking a stroll in a park and they choose to have a cigarette away from children, what business is it of the city? If they throw their butts on the ground, there are already littering laws.

I am disturbed at the constant erosion of our personal freedoms. I think the Council is overreaching. I urge the Council as a whole to vote this proposal down. I also ask the Council to consider how such a law will be enforced. Are officers to be dispatched to the parks? Are we going to have a cigarette patrol?

This is an unnecessary restriction on smokers and a further regulation without a reasonable method of enforcement. As I have said before, the Council needs to focus on reducing spending, cutting taxes, economic development, jobs, and crime. The banning of cats, yard sales, and cigarettes should not be the focus of this Council.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Plan

Two posters have suggested that I have not offered a plan for Kingston yet. While I have not released all of my plan yet, I have released quite a bit of it. I decided to review what I have released already.

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 am proposing that the City of Kingston eliminate two (2) positions that I believe are superfluous and unnecessary. There is no need for two (2) Assistant Superintendents of the Department of Public Works. There are already positions in the budget to cover the responsibilities of these positions. Cutting both positions saves $144,841.00 based on the current 2011 budget, and likely more in 2012 depending on the contractual negotiations between CSEA and Mayor Sottile.

One of the Assistant Superintendents is primarily responsible for overseeing the pickup of trash. This is the job of the Trash Foreman. The other Assistant Superintendent is primarily responsible for the Sewer Treatment Plant. There are already two (2) Senior Plant Operators doing this job. I have genuine concerns about the need for a second Plant Manager, but certainly there is no need for an Assistant Superintendent doing the same work. Frankly, every job performed by the Department of Public Works is overseen by a Foreman. These Foremen can report directly to the Superintendent. There is no need for a middleman.

The people of Kingston have expressed concern over the pickup of trash, yard waste, and other recyclable items. Superintendent Schupp has stated repeatedly that he needs more laborers to get the job done. By cutting the two (2) unnecessary Assistant Superintendent positions, we will save at least $144,841.00, which will allow the Council to rehire or bring back two (2) of the previously laid off laborers with money left over to apply toward tax relief. The department will thus receive additional laborers and become more financially efficient, with additional money left over as savings for the taxpayers.

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. For too long, developers have presented good ideas only to see them suffocated by the red tape of the Planning Board.

For years, we have dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the city’s Economic Development Department. In the most recent budget, the total expenditures for this department totaled nearly two hundred thousand ($200,000.00) dollars. As is obvious, there has been precious little economic development in our city. Certainly, the money we have spent, which exceeds one million ($1,000,000.00) dollars in the last six or seven years, has not been fruitful.

Therefore, I propose that the Economic Development Office be eliminated and replaced with two more positive and fruitful ideas. First, a small portion of the funding from this department should be used to create a grant writing office. There are numerous state and federal grants available especially in the areas of law enforcement and fire fighting. We need to pursue these grants aggressively. To fund this office would require only about ¼ of the current funding. The balance could be applied to tax reduction.

The second thing that should replace the Economic Development Office is 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 group of civic-minded volunteers 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.

Kingston created a similar team to deal with housing issues. That team offered several valuable proposals that have been implemented by the city and proven quite successful.

This first part of my comprehensive plan will save a large amount of taxpayer money, allow us to tap into other resources and take the burden off our local property taxes, and will provide for new and innovative economic ideas.

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.

These are just a few of the things I have already proposed. More is forthcoming. I assure the questioning posters and the voters throughout Kingston that I am focused on winning this race and helping the City of Kingston. If elected Mayor, I will get city spending under control, and I will reduce the property tax burden.

Stay tuned because more proposals are forthcoming.

Friday, June 17, 2011

We Must Restore Public Access Television

If elected Mayor, I will place a small line in the city budget which will provide $6,000.00 dollars in funding for the Public Access Commission. This line item will be strictly for rental of studio space for Public Access Television. It will be the responsibility of the P.A. Commission to raise additional money or to seek funding from other participating municipalities for additional equipment.

I consider it very important that Public Access be restored. I cannot begin to tell you how many people have asked me when or if Public Access is returning. It might surprise some to know that this question is the most frequent question I have been receiving while campaigning door to door this year for Mayor. People in Kingston miss Public Access and very much want it restored.

Public Access allows not only for people to have their own programs, but also gives the Mayor, Common Council, and city government the opportunity to make important announcements and inform the public of the happenings of city government. Private businesses, church groups, and private organizations were able to use the community calendar to announce upcoming events and functions. There were programs offered by politicos, doctors, lawyers, religious organizations, patrons of the arts, and even private citizens talking baseball and other sports. It is a valuable tool and was enjoyed by many citizens.

I promise that if I am elected Mayor, I will restore Public Access Television and, if necessary, submit legislation to reforge the Public Access Commission. Considering that the City of Kingston receives over $300,000.00 a year from the franchise fee on people's cable bills, there is no reason why $6,000.00 cannot be found in a yearly budget of over $34 million to return Public Access Television to the air. This is especially so in light of recent news of a nearly $1 million dollar surplus from the 2010 budget.

An Open Letter to the Mayor and Common Council

Mayor Sottile and Members of the Common Council,

It has been brought to my attention that the equipment from the Public Access Studio has been placed in a storage unit since shortly after the studio on Broadway was vacated. It has also been brought to my attention that the Public Access Commission is in danger of missing the third consecutive monthly payment. Should this occur, the storage facility would be within its rights to seize the equipment and auction it off.

The equipment is older, but still works. It would truly be a shame if the people of Kingston lost the equipment necessary to return to a studio and have live public access shows, something the people of Kingston have enjoyed immensely. In addition to losing the ability to do live shows, the ability to broadcast live events in the City such as festivals, celebrations, and Council meetings would be lost.

There is space available behind the Council Chambers for storage between the Majority and Minority Leaders' offices. There is also storage space in the top floor of City Hall. In the interest of protecting equipment that belongs to the people of Kingston, i.e. the studio equipment, I respectfully request that the City of Kingston intervene and remove the studio equipment from the storage unit before it is auctioned off and lost forever.

I realize that Public Access Television has created public controversy. I also know that many people throughout our city enjoyed Public Access television and miss it. Moreover, the equipment is owned by the Public Access Commission which is an extension of city government. I submit that this places on obligation on the City of Kingston to protect this equipment. Please do so without haste.

I thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


Richard T. Cahill Jr.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Now I know how Shayne Gallo felt

Let me start by congratulating Andi Turco-Levin. She is now the nominee of the Republican Party while I am the nominee of the Conservative Party.

I understand now how Shayne Gallo felt. People looked me right in the eye and lied to me. It is a terrible feeling. I have more respect for people who at least have the guts to look me in the eye and tell me that they will not support me.

Nevertheless, I have to make a decision now. I will not make a final decision while I am still emotional, but I am quite sure that I will run a primary election for the Republican Party line.