In Kingston’s Fourth Ward, incumbent Alderwoman Shirley Whitlock faces two opponents, Republican Frasier Sprague and write-in candidate Matthew Ryan, in her bid for a third term representing the heart of Midtown Kingston.
The Fourth occupies a compact area of Kingston divided by Broadway. It is the most densely populated area of the city and home to the Kingston’s poorest census tracts. Residents of the ward consistently rank crime, gangs and lack of economic opportunities as major issues facing the neighborhood. But the ward is also home to a business corridor centered around the Ulster Performing Arts Center which city leaders see as essential to Kingston’s future development.
For Whitlock, representing the hardscrabble ward has been a crusade against what she sees as indifference and persistent neglect of the neighborhood by city officials. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that she has not been a strong voice for change in the ward and accuse her of neglecting constituents, particularly those on the east side of Broadway.
“I think she’s an absentee alderman,” said Sprague, who lives on Elmendorf Street. “At least on our side of Broadway, nobody ever sees her over here.”
Whitlock has served on the council since 2007 when she was recruited by Mayor Jim Sottile to fend off a run by Ryan, a strong critic of the administration, for the Fourth Ward seat. The 56-year-old former bank clerk and assistant pastor at St. Mark’s AME Church spent the ensuing four years advocating for more opportunities for youth in the neighborhood and fighting to stave off cuts in existing youth recreation programs. In 2008, she was one of a handful of alderman who opposed the elimination of 14 jobs at the Department of Public Works to close a budget gap, a move she said would only add to the ranks of the city’s unemployed while leaving streets and parks an unsightly mess.