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.