Editorial: Kingston 2012

2011 was an extraordinary year — we had one of the most free-for-all-iest political seasons ever, one of the most trusted people in the city brought down by charges of larceny and double-dipping and the end of eras at both City Hall and Crown Street.
What will 2012 bring? Are you afraid to ask, even? While it may indeed be better to blithely walk along life’s path with gaze focused elsewhere, as The Fool does in the Tarot card pack, and let the future take care of itself, that non-approach would make for a rather boring and short editorial. So let’s pull our heads out of the sand and do a little speculation, perhaps bordering on wild, of what the greater Kingston metroplex might experience in Anno Domini MMXII.
The city will have a new mayor and a largely new Common Council. The new mayor is no newbie — Shayne Gallo is moving from being one of the city’s lawyer to the city’s top executive. While I think he’s got the personality, intellect and the experience to be a good blend of know-how and innovative thinking, a lot of the city’s most dynamic people, who wanted someone else as mayor, may not trust him. Leadership is one of the trickiest of human psychological feats; it’s a give-and-take of mutual trust, example-setting and a willingness to be led in the first place. Mayor Gallo will have to contend with the day-to-day of running Kingston, and dealing with the always-to-be-expected unexpected. There are more challenges than that, though; the Big Picture will have to be seen, and in a large extent painted. If Kingston does anything in 2012 besides get through the year without a civic uprising or the sewers collapsing beneath the streets, it must get a move on the Comprehensive Plan. At the risk of sounding like a corrupted mp3 file (or broken record for our vinyl-savvy readers), drawing up a new master plan for the city brings nothing but benefits. It’ll help to better control what kind of development takes place here. It’ll serve as a valuable process to decide what kind of city Kingston wants to be. It’ll help — as the Waterfront Revitalization Plan did for the Rondout — the city in its efforts to win grants. Those of us here in the back of the Ulster Publishing office couldn’t help but sense a diminishment of urgency on the part of those in charge of the plan process; we hope 2012 will bring renewed vigor (bordering on frenzy would be good) to get this done.
The school district will have a new superintendent and the same school board. If you think the city has challenges, the school district has more of them, starting with how it’s going to manage to draw up a budget that comes in with a less-than-2 percent property tax levy increase. While the cap is easily tossed away by cities and towns, for school districts, which have to have their budgets passed by the voters, it will take 60 percent of voters saying yes to exceed the cap. I am thinking that will not be easy, considering how the last few school budgets have passed with pretty thin margins. How a district that suffers from alarming dropout rates is going to turn that around with fewer resources is an interesting, and open, question. The fate of the city and the school district are not separable — if the school district continues to fail, the kids it has failed will result in an intellectually hobbled workforce destined for more poverty, violence and incarceration and a city far worse than it is today. In today’s economic climate, uneducated is really the worst thing you can be; as it stands now, we are paying for uneducated kids at minibar prices.
But, hey, don’t let all of this get you down. Indispensable to solving a problem is, after all, the belief that the problem can be solved. Once hope is lost, everything is lost. Have a happy New Year, Kingston, and thanks, as always, for reading.