When Kingstonians of the future look back on 2012, they’ll see a reasonably momentous year in the city’s history. It’s too soon to tell whether it was The Year Everything Changed for this fair city, but even from the perspective offered by the very brief interim of 17 or so hours, a lot of stuff with far-reaching effects went down.
In the municipal arena, Kingston welcomed a new boss, who made it immediately known that he was not like the old boss. One could liken it to the new sheriff riding into town or a SEAL team dropping in from a helicopter (both alternative ideas for last week’s cover illustration, by the way), but whichever metaphor you choose, Shayne Gallo has brought a new level of accountability and scrutiny to the city’s affairs — exactly what the people wanted from him. One of the keys to good leadership is the effective delegation of authority; while at least one of Gallo’s appointments didn’t work out as hoped, Jen Fuentes and Gregg Swanzey have done excellent work for the people. Jillian Fisher has downright revolutionized how the city gets the word out of its good things to the media and the people. (And say what you want about Jeremy Blaber, but unlike his beloved Dallas Cowboys, he gets the job done and brings in far more to the city’s coffers than what he gets paid.) Also pivotal was the appointment of Egidio Tinti (one thing Jim Sottile deserves ample credit for) as chief of police. Tinti has brought a heightened professionalism, modern thinking and dramatically improved communication to a department which started the year still smarting from and under the shadow of the Tim Matthews debacle. Crime still happens in Kingston. Of course it does. But Kingston’s in a lot better shape than either Poughkeepsie or Newburgh at this point and if you’re going to knock the cops when bad guys do bad things, you have to give the police some love when fewer bad things get done.
Gallo and his team will have their work cut out for them in 2013 — there are contract talks, the never-ending budget squeeze, untangling leftover messes and having to deal with the unexpected and unpredictable. I’d be remiss if we did not give a mention to the Common Council, led by Tom Hoffay, which made valuable contributions to the process and served as an admirable counterbalance to executive power, just as a legislative body should under our American form of government. No one knows what the future brings, but Kingstonians should feel that they’ve been served well in 2012 by its elected officials.
MMXII was an even more profound year for the Kingston City School District — a true watershed as it slimmed down (some might say amputated) from 11 elementary schools to, when school begins next fall, seven. The district’s new man in charge, Paul Padalino, engineered the plan to shutter the schools. Like his counterpart in City Hall, Padalino has brought a new mood to the district and took on a very unpopular task with honesty and forthrightness. It’s a terrible thing to have to close a school. It’s a loss and a diminishment that will sting for a long while, very much like a death in the family. But the truth is that there just aren’t that many kids in town anymore and the governor’s property tax cap has made (as it was intended to do) local governments take some very hard, perhaps overdue, decisions. One thing we as grown-ups tend to forget in our romanticizing of our own youth and lingering over past injuries real and imagined is that kids are actually pretty resilient to change — much more than we give them credit for. I agree with Padalino’s point of view: it’s not the building, it’s the people. The real magic in education is the interpersonal exchange between students and teachers. A great teacher, if allowed to do so by the system, can make up for any deficiency, real or imagined, in setting.
So, we look forward to watching the just-born year unfold and look forward to chronicling it. Only the most dour and cynical among us would deny that there’s been a turnaround in the energy in the city. Kingston’s been a hot mess for a long time, but she’s starting to get neater, and even hotter. Thanks, dear readers, for your attention and support, and to our advertisers for their support as well. We don’t take any of it for granted.