Two months after she was bounced off the Republican ticket following a technical challenge by her erstwhile Democratic opponent Mark Halwick Jr., Deborah Brown is still in the race, running on the Conservative and independent New Directions line, while Halwick has taken to the sidelines after losing the Democratic Primary to John Simek.
The game of party line musical chairs (Halwick was the Democratic committee’s chosen nominee) takes place in a diverse ward which includes both of the city’s hospitals, the Kingston High School and City Hall as well as an underdeveloped commercial strip along Broadway and a bustling residential sector. In recent years, the ward has also been the seedbed of a number of forward-thinking initiatives, including the Kingston Land Trust and community gardens program, which grew out of an informal association known as the Ward 9 Neighborhood Group.
The ward has also been a proving ground for higher office. Democrat Michael Madsen parleyed two terms on the council into a seat on the county legislature while Hayes Clement used the council seat as the springboard for his recently concluded mayoral campaign.
Brown, a 60-year-old certified medical assistant, was part of the Ward 9 group and ran for the council seat two years ago, focusing her campaign on the need for a citywide comprehensive plan and better-thought-out zoning. Two years later the city has embarked on a comprehensive plan process and Brown said guiding the development of the city remains a priority.
“We need a comprehensive plan, we need changes in zoning, otherwise we’re just wandering in the dark while things keep popping up,” said Brown, who points to the demolition of the city’s old post office to make way for a fast food restaurant and the replacement of an historic trolley barn with a Walgreen’s as prime examples of the failure of urban planning in Kingston.
For Brown, better planning goes hand in hand with efforts to improve the city’s appearance. The dual effort she said, is the only way to bring visitors and residents to the city. And she said, with budget constraints growing tighter every year, the city should look to the example of groups like the Kingston Land Trust which encourage volunteerism and seek out grants to carry out small scale projects which cumulatively make the city a better place to live. On the Broadway Corridor, Brown said she supported a successful effort to impose design standards to regulate the look of storefronts, but has been disappointed by the lack of enforcement.