A defense of kiosks
The taxpayers of Kingston will significantly benefit from the parking kiosks the city hopes to purchase. We are at a crucial moment in our city’s history. Real estate values are rising. Our local economy is improving. New businesses are considering Kingston as their new home. We must act decisively to capture and nurture this new growth. A smart-parking policy that includes kiosks is essential to our continuing development. It will allow us to appropriately charge the users of our municipal lots, particularly those who, at present, travel into the city, take advantage of our wonderful amenities, but do not contribute to covering their substantial costs.
We don’t want to be like the boy who looked through his front-door keyhole and believed he saw the whole world. We must see the parking kiosks as a crucial part of developing a holistic, user-friendly and environmentally sustainable transportation system. At the same time, we must do all we can to ensure that the city’s economic progress works for all our citizens by keeping our taxes as low as possible and spending our revenues in smart, responsible ways.
Our current “Wild West” management of the municipal lots places an undue tax burden on our struggling young families, fixed-income seniors, public transportation riders, cyclists, and so many more. They must pay their hard-earned dollars so that some people can park without contributing their fair share for the costs of city services such as parking. These costs are high. They are not limited to repaving the municipal lots from time to time. They include maintaining our streets and traffic lights and paying the salaries of Public Works employees as well as our police and firefighters. We will use the revenues from the kiosks to improve our neighborhoods and parks, to maintain the amenities that draw new businesses and residents, to improve the business climate of the city.
A few of our friends and neighbors are worried that parking kiosks will hurt Kingston businesses. They need not fear. Those businesses that rely on municipal streets and lots for their parking have done quite well over the last decade. Take Uptown Kingston, for example. After a failed two-year experiment with parking zones, the city reinstalled parking meters in 2007. Despite frightened predictions of economic disaster at the time, the Stockade ghost-town has become a thriving home to restaurants, clubs, retail stores, professional businesses and more. In fact, parking meters have contributed to this growth by encouraging regular turnover which increases the number of customers who visit these Uptown establishments, increases traffic flow, and reduces time spent searching for a parking space. However, such economic development is threatened by “Wild West” parking management. As the demand for parking in Uptown rises with the opening of new hotels, the Food Exchange and new stores, parking will be even tighter than it is now. If some drivers leave their cars in the municipal lots all day and for days on end, we run the risk of businesses losing their newfound clientele.
Some of our friends who are for “free parking” are also adamant critics of the Pilgrim Oil Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, bomb trains and global warming caused by fossil fuels. But we can’t have it both ways. A crucial tactic to reduce such environmental threats is to make single-driver car trips less attractive. Drivers searching for open parking spaces waste fuel and time. They clog traffic. They needlessly pollute our air. Smart-parking is part of a comprehensive plan to make Kingston more pedestrian and bike friendly by reducing traffic and pollution. It allows the city to better manage the finite resource of parking without clear-cutting large swaths of neighborhoods to slap down unsightly parking lots.
The supporters of kiosks hear the city’s low-wage employees’ concerns about parking costs reducing their income. Smart-parking allows for flexible and targeted policies. The city can provide low-cost permits to retail workers, or free permits to non-profit organizations and start-ups, or enviro-passes that allow employees to take public transportation for free or reward car-pooling. Moreover, Mayor Steve Noble, with his usual calm foresight, has established a parking working group of stakeholders and Alderman to work with him to create a robust, flexible, and cost-effective smart-parking policy. The needs of employees will be high on the list of considerations.
Kiosks are not the end of the parking conversation. They are a vital tool for implementing smart-parking policies for Kingston’s economic revival and for fairly controlling our local taxes. They will allow us to collect targeted data to figure out the best parking options for the many different constituencies who use our municipal lots. This is smart spending because we obtain the same data as if we spent tens of thousands of dollars on a parking study. Here are a few of the many points that have convinced many Kingstonians that smart-parking and kiosks are the right approach to our parking needs:
• Young families who work hard, seniors on fixed incomes, and others in straitened economic circumstances should not have to pay for other peoples’ parking.
• Commercial businesses benefit from the managed turnover of parking caused by some form of parking fee.
• “Free” parking causes unwanted traffic congestion and forces customers to park at sometimes prohibitive distances from their destinations.
• Low-wage employees should be able to get to work cheaply.
• Individuals who own half-million dollar buildings can afford to pay reasonable parking fees.
• We should reduce our dependence on fossil-fuel transportation.
• Parking kiosks are an essential part of a coherent smart-parking policy and an environmentally sustainable transportation system that includes car pools, public transportation, biking, and walking.
• The ease of parking-kiosk use will reduce the need for parking enforcement and help make parking in the City fair and friendly and responsible.
• Collecting revenue for the use of municipal parking lots is an essential component of making Kingston more business friendly, more livable, and more equitable.
“Free parking” is not free. It is a subsidy paid for by all the taxpayers of Kingston to particular individuals in our current form of wild-west management. What is the “free parking” of a few compared to a brighter Kingston future for us all?
Reynolds J. Scott-Childress
Alderman, Ward 3
Will he follow through?
Yesterday I stood on the sidewalk outside Rep. John Faso’s Kingston office when he came outside to say a few words to a crowd of his constituents. When asked about whether he supports the Republican plan to use Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) as a way to “repair” the Affordable Care Act, his answer was a resounding “No HSA’s!”
According to sources including The Atlantic (Jan. 24, 2017), HSA’s are a mainstay of the Republican plan to repair/replace the Affordable Care Act. But an HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account whose funds are to be used for healthcare. A person who funds an HSA to pay for his or her health care is, well, using their own money for his or her health care, tax-advantaged or not — if they don’t have that money, they’re out of luck.
So far, Rep. Faso has pretty much voted the party line (87.5 percent in line with Trump’s policies, according to 538.com). But Mr. Faso has said “No HSA’s” to his constituents. I’ll be interested to see if he follows through on this promise.
An open letter to Congressman Faso
I was disappointed that you didn’t attend Feb. 24’s meeting with your constituents in Kingston.
Many of us are frightened by the new administration’s hostile, erratic, clueless first steps. We fear for the loss of our health benefits, we fear for the destruction of our environment, we fear for the attacks on our immigrant neighbors, we fear for a return to unbridled finance practices that brought our economy to its knees in 2008.
Perhaps the biggest fear is that after years of attacking the previous administration’s policies, the Republican Congress signals that it has no viable alternatives.
You represent that position when you refused to meet with your constituents on their ground. Your excuses that you had previous commitments or that such meetings are unproductive are lame. Rather than speaking to your constituents’ fears, you were fearful yourself. Surely, it would not have been an easy task for you to have attended that meeting, but you would have gained a measure of respect for doing so.
You are not being the leader you were elected to be.
Disappointed by decision
Dear Congressman Faso, I am very disappointed that you will be a no show at the town hall arranged for you in Kingston. I was one of your constituents that got a ticket to attend. I prepared. I have questions on important topics that I am concerned about, concerns on the ACA, the environment, Dodd-Frank and Russian interference with our Democracy. I am hearing you state “a town hall would not be productive.” This comment highlights a wrong direction for any democracy. We are hearing, and for good reason, criticism of Americans limiting who they have discussion with and the negative effects of “creating an echo chamber of their own ideas.”
There is no question I was disappointed after this election. I am not one to sit and whine, so I took action. First, I reached out to dear friends that I know voted differently than me. They took up my offer, because they don’t believe the masses are as polarized as the politicians portray. We are having meaningful discussions on differences and very importantly having great discussions on areas of common ground. This election has made me more active and I have been researching my concerns and calling my members of congress. I see this as a good thing to engage with those with different views and engage with our democracy. I would have expected the same from my elected officials. To say it is not productive to hear from me, to not allow me to ask questions with follow up? I would expect this engagement by my elected official to be the bare minimum of representation.
Representative Faso, your community needs your leadership now more than ever. I am so disappointed.
I would like to thank Gov. Cuomo for including in his executive budget an $8 million allocation for capital improvements to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
I am very grateful for the advocacy efforts of our state representatives, Senator Seward and Assemblyman Cahill, and our conscientious local residents who traveled to Albany to articulate the importance of this type of investment at Belleayre. A special thanks to Mr. Joe Kelly from the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority for his yeoman efforts. These local leaders have always been accountable to their neighbors and have worked to improve our beautiful area for the benefit of everyone.
This targeted investment will net economic growth by modernizing the ski center to meet the expectations of today’s skiers, and our year-round visitors. There is doubt that you will see Belleayre’s use grow as lift lines shorten and as word gets out. I believe it will also open our community to New York’s culturally diversified citizenry who will choose this affordable option to ski over other more expensive choices.
John R. Parete
County legislator, District 22
Last Thursday (Feb. 23), Congressman Faso allowed only a half dozen Citizen Action members to meet with him. Many more of us would have liked to speak with him, but we had to settle for waiting outside.
I saw a story about Mitch McConnell’s constituents being in a similar predicament and decided to ask my fellow citizens what one question they would have asked Faso had they had the chance. Their 52 responses are below.
1. Lawyers swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Will you hold your Republican administration to the Constitution?
2. Why aren’t all Republicans in Congress looking into the Russian interference in our election?
3. Why did you vote in favor of killing grizzlies and wolves from aircraft and gassing cubs and their mothers in their dens in 16 wildlife preserves?
4. You voted to repeal the Stream Protection Act. Would you like to have coal tailings dumped in the stream behind your house?
5. Why did you vote against debate on having a bipartisan, independent investigation of the possible Trump-Russia ties?
6. Will you support legislation to get Steve Bannon off the National Security Council?
7. What are you doing about global warming?
8. Why do you favor healthcare tax credits when poor and working class people won’t benefit?
9. Why haven’t you publicly distanced yourself from Steve Bannon?
10. Why do you favor health care tax credits when poor and working class people won’t benefit?
11. How much time did you spend with donors during your recess?
12. How could you support Mick Mulvaney, who wants to slash Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, for Office of Management and Budget director?
13. Why do you favor healthcare savings as a substitute for the Affordable Care Act when poor, working class and middle class can’t afford to save for healthcare?
14. Do you believe the coal industry is realistically a path to the future?
15. Why did you vote down discussion about having an independent commission to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia?
16. Why did you vote to repeal regulations to not pollute 600 miles of streams by coal companies?
17. Half of our budget goes to the military. Why do we have to increase military spending while cutting social services?
18. For how long do you intend to march in lockstep with the Republican Party?
19. At the Philly policy session that was leaked, why did you refer to supporters of Planned Parenthood as “the enemy”?
20. Why did you vote for severely mentally ill people to have guns?
21. Did you know we have a term called Obfasocation named for you?
22. Why did you set the stage for the repeal of the ACA when many of your constituents depend on it and only with it have been insured for the first time?
23. Will you only vote “against party” when there’s nothing at stake for you? Does your party tell you when you are permitted to vote “against party” for show?
24. When Donald Trump wants funding for 100,000 new ICE officers, will you vote no?
25. What are you going to do about the anchorages on the Hudson?
26. Why did you vote to allow coal companies to dump debris into streams?
27. Are you OK with a mass deportation of these vulnerable people?
28. Are you planning to prevent cutbacks to Medicare?
29. Do you know the reason that health savings accounts are not going to work for low-income people?
30. What are you going to do to protect our environment?
31. Would you like to have a pipeline going through your neighborhood?
32. Why did you nullify the Fair Catch rule?
33. Medicaid has supported many people on insurance and in hospital. How would you compensate for the loss of Medicaid support that currently comes through the ACA?
34. What are you going to do to protect and expand health care for people who can’t afford it?
35. Do you think your constituents are happy with your first six weeks in office?
36. Why won’t you have town halls? Do you think we’re going to get any less angry by not being able to express our concerns?
37. Why do you not support an independent partisan investigation into the Trump-Russia connection?
38. Donald Trump thinks a free press is the enemy of the people. How do you feel about your Republican administration saying that?
39. How on earth does deregulating banks serve the public good?
40. What will you do to protect consumers from shady financial advisors?
41. What will you do to protect the earth from climate change?
42. How will you feel when your constituents start dying for lack of healthcare?
43. Do you consider that the U.S. economy depends on immigrant labor for a low-paid work force?
44. Do you agree that people facing persecution in their home countries should find refuge in the U.S.?
45. Do you accept that climate change is man-made?
46. When are you going to host a town hall?
47. Do you like your taxpayer-funded health insurance? How would you feel to lose it?
48. What is your rationale for voting Yea on HR 38?
49. If I lose my ACA coverage, I will be uninsurable. What do I do then?
50. Do you support public school waivers and charter schools and if the latter, how will that not be to the detriment of our public schools?
51. Will you fight the coming executive order for deportation of thousands of our neighbors in District 19?
52. Why won’t you press for Donald Trump to release his tax returns?
Letter to Republicans
President Trump is trying very hard to squelch suspicions of problematic Russian connections and unconstitutional business dealings. He belittles the media and marginalizes them to avoid the scrutiny which lofty public office entails. There are indications that President Trump is trying to hide things from the public eye but it is possible that is not the case.
We should have the clouds of suspicion lifted so that the president might govern more effectively or face the consequences of untoward actions. Even if he is doing things which please you, a fair and bipartisan investigation will help clear the air or serve to incriminate him. We are a divided country and fortunately there have been no external threats to take advantage of our situation. The large numbers of angry people cannot be dismissed as sore losers. They are furious that the country they love might be sold out to corruption and foreign influence.
Call your congressman to request a bipartisan investigation by a committee of renowned leaders who will help restore a better balanced government.
I am writing this letter upon seeing an ad paid for by the Environmental Defense Fund thanking Congressman Faso for putting “aside politics and voting to reduce wasted natural gas and cutting methane emissions.” The ad pertains to House resolution HJ Res 36, one of many resolutions that are part of the larger Republican push to repeal parts of environmental regulations they deem problematic. Unfortunately, the resolution passed by the majority vote, 221 votes for (218 Republicans and three Democrats) vs. 191 against (180 Democrats and 11 Republicans, of which John Faso was one).
I applaud Congressman Faso for voting to protect our environment on this one vote. However, I believe there is more to discuss. The Environmental Defense Fund paid for the ad in an effort to recognize representatives and senators that support environmental safeguards. Unfortunately, there was really no hope of having enough votes to prevent the nullification of these regulations since Republicans hold a majority in the House, so it was an easy vote for Faso and still have the ad run in our local paper.
When I look at the voting record of Mr. Faso, it reveals that he is not voting to protect the environment all the time. For example, he voted in favor of nullifying the stream protection regulations from mountain top mining (HJ Res 38). Additionally, he voted in favor of discarding regulations in Dodd-Frank that required the mining industry to make public their dealing with foreign governments (HJ Res 41). (See resolutions below.)
HJ Res 36: This joint resolution nullifies the rule submitted by the Bureau of Land Management entitled “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation.” The rule published in the Federal Register on Nov. 18, 2016, addresses waste generated during oil and gas production.
HJ Res 38: This joint resolution nullifies the Stream Protection Rule finalized by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement on Dec. 20, 2016. The rule addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites.
HJ Res 41: This joint resolution nullifies the “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers” rule finalized by the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 27, 2016. (The rule, mandated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, requires resource extraction issuers to disclose payments made to governments for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.)
Congressman Faso should do more to support measures that protect our water, air and land from the harsh effects of the energy industry. These regulations represent oversight, which is the job of the federal government. The coal industry is declining because of competition from natural gas, not because of these regulations. Allowing these companies to dump the overburden into stream valleys is criminal. Removing regulations on the natural gas industry, fracking, is again giving these companies freedom to pollute. These regulations passed by the Obama administration protect our water, our air, our Hudson Valley and therefore us.
I ask Congressman Faso to participate in a town hall meeting open to the public so that his constituents voice their concerns and discuss his voting record.