Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Copper Scandal

By now, everyone has read about the copper being taken from the King's Inn. I have already received numerous e-mails, Facebook messages, and proposed comments to this site. All have asked me my opinion.

I am limited in what I can say. The law firm I work for once represented the man being accused in a completely different matter. That matter is technically still open which means I am ethically restrained in what I may say. I cannot comment about his guilt or innocence, or the details of the charges against him.

What I can say is this.

First, a second city owned property was stripped of all copper pipes, i.e. the house next to Stewarts on Albany Avenue. The Freeman is investigating this as well. It has not been made public yet as to what party or person removed that copper.

Second, now is not the time for political grandstanding. You can expect at least one of the candidates for Mayor will jump on this and demand an investigation by the city as opposed to by the District Attorney's Office. Such a release would be nothing more than grandstanding and an attempt to boost a sagging campaign. Unfortunately, when an election (in this case a Primary) is 2 weeks away or less, candidates get desperate and try anything.

Moreover, the city is a party to this investigation. An entity that is part of the subject investigation should not be doing the investigating. That would like allowing the fox to guard the hen house.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Back near the beginning of the campaign, I proposed eliminating the Economic Development office and placing it with an Economic Recovery Team made up of local people with the expertise in various areas of economic development.

My idea has apparently caught on. Hayes Clement has sent out a mailing in which he proposes establishing an "Economic Development Advisory Panel" made up of local leaders and experts.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess all I can say is thanks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Republican Candidates Ducking Debate

I have just been informed that Ron Polacco and Andi Turco-Levin have both pulled out of the August 30th debate on WGHQ radio. The debate, which will run from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. will feature only Jean Jacobs and myself.

As far as I am concerned, a candidate for Mayor must be willing to debate and defend his or her positions. It would seem that Andi and Ron are unwilling or perhaps unable to do so. When someone is elected Mayor, he must be willing to take on all issues. He cannot simply run away and hide. The ostrich in the sand approach is not good policy.

I urge everyone to tune in to WGHQ on August 30th from 8:00 am to 9:00 am to hear a debate between the only two candidates willing to do so. Should Ron or Andi appear at your door seeking your vote, I urge you to remind them that a leader does not run and hide. A leader is willing to answer all questions from the voters. A leader does not hide from a debate.



Click HERE for the Freeman article. Take note of Walter Maxwell's comment about why Andi really did not want to debate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The City Dropped the Ball

The city will have to pay another $100,000.00 plus to remove asbestos at the King's Inn site because thieves broke in, stole all the copper piping, and ripped the asbestos apart and into the air.

My question is this. Once the city seized the property and decided to demolish it, why did they not remove all the copper and scrap metal carefully and sell it? Metals, particularly copper, are selling at a high price now. (Copper is averaging $3.00 per pound.) Once sold, the money should have been placed in the general fund to aid taxpayers.

Instead, the city did nothing and thieves broke in and stole the copper. Worse, the taxpayers not only lost the money from a potential sale of the copper, but also the damage caused when the asbestos was torn and thrown about will cost the city over one hundred thousand dollars. When the city seizes property, it must be maintained. In fact, there is usually a line in the budget for maintenance of city properties.

I believe the city dropped the ball and the taxpayers are footing the bill. I hope in the future the city will be more careful.

A Problem of Checks and Balances

A disturbing series of events has occurred in city government. The result is that the Mayor ignored the role of the Common Council and authorized expenditures without proper approvals.

As part of the demolition of the Kings Inn, it was learned that significant cost overruns would require further bonding by the Common Council to complete the asbestos removal. So, the Mayor asked the Common Council's Finance/Economic Committee to borrow an additional $200,000 to pay for asbestos cleanup and tipping fees.

At a recent meeting, the committee declined to do so. There were unanswered questions raised by committee members, and the committee as a whole decided to postpone the matter to September. Some might consider this irresponsible considering that asbestos causes its damage as airborne particles. Nevertheless, the Council is the sole entity in city government that may authorize expenditures.

Mayor Sottile decided that the Council was wrong and ordered the work to go forward without the funding being in place.

While the Mayor is correct that the asbestos must be dealt with quickly, he has acted well beyond his authority under the City Charter. The Mayor may not authorize expenditures or borrowing. Only the Common Council may start that process. Mayor Sottile has therefore violated the rules of his office.

The Common Council is not blameless here either. If there were important questions to answer, there was no need to put the matter off until September. Get the answers and call a special meeting of the committee. Important matters cannot just be pushed off for a month. The Council must do its job.

Finally, why has the Council done nothing in response to the Mayor's actions? The Council has an obligation to be a check and balance for the Mayor. A responsible Council should have notified the Mayor that he was without authority to enter his order. A responsible Council would have made it clear to the Mayor that they would seek a legal injunction against the Mayor's actions. This of course presumes that the Council would have scheduled a follow-up meeting earlier than one month out.

Here is the solution to this problem. First, the Common Council schedules a meeting within the next 48 hours. The answers to the questions are obtained and a final decision is made. Meanwhile, the Mayor retracts his order until the Council has its say.

Some of you may be thinking, "Why is this such a big deal? The Council will ultimately approve it, right?" Indeed, the Council will likely approve it after a few campaign speeches from the three Aldermen running for Mayor. But, at least in theory, the Council could say no. If they did, and the Mayor has already authorized the work, what happens then? There would be no legal authority to pay the contractors and a lawsuit would follow.

Second, the relationship between the Mayor and Common Council must be respected and maintained. I know full well that if I am elected Mayor, there is a strong chance the Common Council will have a Democrat majority, perhaps even veto proof. In such a case, the Mayor and the Council would have to work together or face at least 2 years of gridlock, which would be devastating to the city and its residents. I know that the Mayor and Council as a whole are equal partners in city government. Perhaps they need to act that way now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Proposal for Economic Development in Kingston

As I have been campaigning throughout the city, people have continuously expressed concern about the lack of jobs and the lack of economic development in general.

Years ago, the City of Kingston had numerous small businesses dotting the landscape. Many of the businesses were owner occupied. There were small grocers, barbershops, butchers, and so forth. Many semi-retired lawyers, doctors, and other professional businessmen renovated their living rooms or parlors into a small part-time office.

Sadly, there are precious few of these types of businesses remaining in the City of Kingston. One of the reasons why is the homestead versus non-homestead tax differential. Currently, the tax rate for a business is more than double the residential rate. Thus, if a person decides to open a business in their home, they are facing a substantial increase in their property taxes. This expense makes it financially unwise to make such an investment. Granted, one may petition the Planning Board to get some portion of the property levied at the residential rate, but such a process is long, tiring, and cumbersome.

If you drive through the City of Kingston, the number of empty storefronts is staggering. Something must be done to stimulate our local economy and get these storefronts open for business once again.

Since the City of Kingston needs economic development in the worst way, and since owner occupied businesses are something the city also needs, it is time for the tax law in Kingston to be amended.

I propose that a business that is owner occupied be levied at the homestead rate instead of the commercial (non-homestead) rate. The property would have to be truly owner occupied. Simply having a cot in the back room would be insufficient. This law would apply only to those people who own a business and actually reside on premises, perhaps in an apartment above the store, or something similar. The law would also require a criminal penalty for those falsely claiming residence to avail themselves of the tax benefit.

The intention is to provide an incentive for people considering or actually operating a small business out of their residence or in a building annexed to their residence. The business community in Kingston has been stifled with high taxes and choking city regulations and red tape. We need to offer incentives to our businesses to get them growing and expanding again.

Naysayers will no doubt question this proposal and wonder aloud how the tax break would be funded. These same naysayers have not offered one single plan to improve our local economy, create jobs, address the crushing level of taxes, cut city spending, or fight crime. As I have noted before, my comprehensive plan contains more than enough spending cuts to allow for this plan, as well as my previous business proposals. The residents will not see their taxes increase as a result of this plan.

We must get our local economy started and running again. We need jobs and economic development so our citizens can work and earn a good living.

A New Farm Stand in Kingston

Monday, August 22, 2010


The South Pine Street City Farm launches a Midtown Farm Stand in Kingston, NY. Fresh vegetables from the farm can be purchased by residents three days a week beginning on August 29th for the remainder of the growing season.

Kingston, NY - The South Pine Street City Farm located at 27 South Pine Street off of Greenkill Avenue in Midtown, Kingston has successfully turned a vacant lot into a thriving organic farm created by first generation farmer Jesica Clark. Beginning on August 29th, a "Midtown Farm Stand" will be operated on site selling fresh vegetables three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:00pm - 7:00pm for the remainder of the growing season.

The Farm, a program of the Queens Galley, grows fresh, local and organic produce that feeds guests at the Queens Galley less than a mile away. In addition, Farmer Clark delivers seasonal vegetables to local stores and restaurants in a 'farm to table' effort. With the addition of the Midtown Farm Stand, residents can now purchase seasonal organic vegetables at a better price due to the elimination of transportation and other associated costs.

The South Pine Street City Farm is a program of the Queens Galley in partnership with Binnewater Ice Co. and the Kingston Land Trust. The Midtown Farm Stand was made possible by a material and build donation by Hugh Cummings of Hugh-Name-It Builders, Kingston NY.

For more information, contact Farmer Jesica Clark at 845/380-9183 or Rebecca Martin, Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust at 845/877-5263.

Rebecca Martin
Executive Director
The Kingston Land Trust
845/877-LAND, Office
845/750-7295, Cell

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo

It is being reported by the Daily Freeman that Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo of Kingston was killed in action in Zabul, Afghanistan, during an enemy attack.

Cordo died protecting the freedoms that we as Americans take for granted every single day. The freedom to speak, practice religion, publish a newspaper, book, or blog, and/or own property have all been protected for us by brave men and women like Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo.

Along with everyone in Kingston, I want to offer my condolences to the Cordo family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Turco-Levin Calls for Ban on Rifles, Shotguns, BB Guns and then Withdraws it

Yesterday, I was contacted by the Daily Freeman to comment on a proposal by Andi Turco-Levin. It seems that a person in her ward called the police because she saw a man walking his dog carrying what she believed was a rifle or shotgun.

When the Police arrived, they learned that the man was carrying a BB rifle because he had been previously threatened or attacked by a stray dog and he wanted to protect himself and his dog. Since this is not illegal, the police wished him a good evening.

Andi sent an e-mail asking the Common Council to create a ban throughout the City of Kingston on shotguns, rifles, BB guns, pellet guns, paint guns, etc. So, a person going to hunt who carried his rifle to his car would have violated this proposed law. From her e-mail, Andi said, "To address the BB gun issue, perhaps we can look at this through the Laws & Rules Committee to change the legislation. I am forwarding this on to Jim Noble and Chairman Senor to have this up for discussion at an upcoming Committee meeting."

The law currently in Kingston is that an Adult may carry a BB gun, loaded or unloaded. A child may not unless with a parent or guardian. An adult may carry a rifle or shotgun so long as it is not loaded. The purpose of this law is to allow people to transport their rifles to the range or to a hunting site.

Andi, however, proposed a law to ban all rifles, shotguns, BB guns, pellet guns, paint guns, etc., which is of course a blatant violation of the Second Amendment. I made this point rather forcefully to the Freeman reporter.

It is my understanding that Ed Gaddy, the County Conservative Chairman, also rejected this idea and declared that Andi's campaign slogan should be "Big Sister is Watching".

The article was set to run tomorrow (Thursday). However, this morning, Andi called the Freeman saying that she did not want the article to run. She sent an e-mail to Alderman-at-Large Noble asking that the Laws and Rules Committee hold off on the proposal until she researched it further. As a result, the Freeman is not running the article tomorrow. I have no doubt that one of Andi's advisers told her how foolish it would be to take this position during a Republican and Conservative Primary.

I think there are 2 points to consider here. First, the fact that Andi submits proposed legislation before researching it and without knowing the law speaks volumes. This morning, there was an error in the video attached to the article about one of my tax proposals. Instead of Andi's response to that, there was a portion of the video from Andi about her gun proposal wherein she said people should not be allowed to carry loaded shotguns on city streets. That is already the law. Perhaps one should know what the law is before seeking to amend it.

Second, and of greater concern, is Andi's blatant disregard for hunters, sportsmen, and people who enjoy using rifles for target practice. People have the right to own a shotgun or a rifle. People also may own a bb gun or a paint gun. Many people are involved in a recreation involving paint guns where they have battles and so forth using safety equipment in controlled environments. Andi's proposal would have banned all of these things within city limits. This is not the first time that Andi has proposed wielding government power to take away people's rights.

Should people be wandering the streets with loaded rifles? No. The law already prohibits that. But, if someone wants to use a bb gun for target practice in the woods by shooting at tin cans on a log, or wants to participate in a paint ball game, or wants to transport their rifle to go deer hunting, that is their business and their right. Yet, Andi proposed taking those rights away.

I am a conservative Republican. I believe in the Second Amendment. I also do not believe in the government taking away people's rights and freedoms. In short, I am not a believer in big government.

I wish the Freeman ran this story. I think more people should be made aware of what Andi proposed and her subsequent actions. It speaks volumes about her candidacy.

Foxhall Deli to Reopen on Tuesday

I have been wondering for some time about the fate of the Foxhall Deli. It was run for years by my friend Terry. After his passing, I was hoping the place would be run by someone. It is a staple of that neighborhood.

Recently, we have seen painting, a new canape installed, and a brand new sign with a red fox on it. Today, I called the number for the deli and was told the deli will reopen this coming Tuesday. I am very much looking forward to it. My understanding is that a retired police officer who was a frequent guest when Terry ran the store will now be the operator of the store. I am glad because this means the store will likely continue in a similar manner to Terry's way.

I miss Terry. I am glad, however, that his legacy --the Foxhall Deli-- will continue into the future. I urge everyone to stop in and the see the place once it opens. Make it a grand reopening in honor of Terry.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The First Debate -- the aftermath

I feel very good about my performance today. I felt I answered the questions directly and clearly. I felt like I won the debate though I must admit that Jean Jacobs did very well also.

Due to time constraints, we were unable to get to every question submitted. So, if anyone did not get their question answered at the debate, post it here and I will give you my answer.

Tentatively, WGHQ is working on a debate on August 30th at 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.. I am looking forward to this as well.

If you missed the debate at the Freeman, see the video replay below.

Video streaming by Ustream

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Proposal to Help Businesses That Have Been Loyal to the City of Kingston

For years, Kingston has offered tax incentives to new businesses in the hope that they might relocate to Kingston. However, businesses who have remained in Kingston for many years have received no tax break and instead continue to pay exorbitant taxes. Many businesses have left Kingston unable to endure the burden any longer.

I am proposing tax breaks, but only for those businesses that are already here and have demonstrated a commitment to Kingston.

Currently, businesses owners pay taxes based upon the assessment of their buildings by a certain amount per thousand dollars of assessment. In other words, if the building is assessed at $500,000, then the owner pays 500 times the amount per thousand.

My proposal offers reductions for businesses that have been in the City of Kingston for 10 years, 25 years, and 50 years. Once a business has been here in the City of Kingston continuously for 10 years, then a reduction of $1.00 per thousand would apply. Using the building assessed at $500,000, the business owner would save $500 per year.

After 25 years of being continuously in Kingston, another dollar would be reduced from the price per thousand. After 50 years of being continuously in Kingston, another dollar would be reduced from the price per thousand. Thus, using the building assessed at $500,000, the business owner would save $500 per year after 10 years, $1,000 per year after 25 years, and $1,500 per year after 50 years.

A business would have to apply for this tax reduction (much like residents have to apply for STAR) and verify the time of continuous existence in the City of Kingston. Obviously, if a business owner sold the business to someone else, then the time would reset. Death of a business owner would not reset the clock if the business was continued by another family member.

It seems to me that a business that has been loyal to Kingston for 10, 25, or 50 years deserves a tax break more than a business that is contemplating coming to Kingston and may not even stay. My parents taught me the importance of loyalty. Kingston should reward those businesses that have been loyal to Kingston.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Part One of My Tax Burden Relief Plan

The tax burden in the City of Kingston has become absolutely brutal. There is little question that city spending must be reduced and the tax burden reduced on residents and businesses. However, even if city and school taxes could be reduced by 10%, the burden would still be considerable.

Every year, Kingstonians must make 2 massive payments of their city taxes and 2 massive payments of their school taxes. The second payment of the school taxes is almost always in December. Citizens are saving money to give their children a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hannukah, yet have to deduct from their holiday money to pay the “Grinch” the second half of school taxes.

If elected Mayor, I will order the Comptroller’s Office to offer a new option for city taxpayers. If a taxpayer desires, they may keep the current payment system. However, taxpayers (residents and businesses) may also choose a new monthly payment system. Essentially, the tax payment would be collected in the form of monthly payments, so as to ease the burden of paying 4 massive payments. It would also allow for easier budgeting for households and businesses on a monthly basis.

The city does not accept partial payments. So, if you get behind on the massive payment, they will only accept full payment along with the monetary penalties which are quite steep. This prevents many people from paying down their tax debt. A monthly system would help alleviate this problem.

My hope as Mayor is to reduce city spending and begin to bring down the massive tax burden on our citizens and our businesses, all of whom are struggling mightily in this extremely weak economy. Payment of taxes, however, will always be required, even if reduced. Why not make the payment as easy as possible and allow a monthly payment program?

Currently, there is only one monthly payment program offered by the city. Unfortunately, it requires a property owner to be three years behind and in the process of foreclosure. Why are we offering such a program only at the last minute when people are within inches of losing their home? Is not home ownership something to be encouraged? Since the entire tax payment system is run by computer, it would not be difficult to arrange for a monthly payment plan. It would give assistance to working people struggling to make ends meet.

As Mayor, I will look to reduce city property taxes. I will also implement this monthly payment program so that citizens and businesses who feel this would be of assistance can take advantage of the opportunity, pay their taxes, and keep their homes or businesses.

Parts 2 and 3 of my Tax Burden Relief Plan will be released shortly.