Kingston Mayor Steve Noble has spent the past three years outlining a progressive vision for Kingston. But a newcomer to city politics, Ethan Scott Barnett, says he sees a gap between that vision and the reality of ragged streets, underfunded parks and a proposal to build a luxury apartment complex in a city where too many residents struggle to keep any kind of roof over their heads.
The 26 year-old Kingston resident and civil rights historian plans to challenge Noble by running as a more authentic voice for the city’s working class — if he can secure a spot on November’s ballot.
“I look at the mayor as someone who mediates the tensions, not escalates them,” said Barnett of his third-party challenge to the incumbent Noble. “I feel that he sits silent at a time when we need someone to speak up and be a voice for the people.”
Barnett is an Accord native who moved to Kingston at age 16 to live with his grandmother. He holds a BA in human rights and social justice from Brooklyn College. Next month, Barnett expects to graduate from the University of Delaware with a master’s in history with a focus on the civil rights movement. Barnett is also the founder of Young845, a website and media company that highlights the achievements of local youth in the arts.
To secure a spot on the ballot, Barnett has formed the Kingston People’s Party. The party, according to campaign materials is “dedicated to preserving the city’s historical integrity and intellectual rigor while prioritizing a thriving working and middle-class Kingston for years to come.” A 12-point platform for the group includes goals ranging from the routine campaign promises like improving roads and strengthening public transportation to more lofty initiatives like the creation of a long-term plan for a working-class economy in the city.
Barnett said he hopes to use the party as a platform for people who feel shut out of the conversation around important issues facing Kingston. “If you want a home for the election in November I open my doors to you,” said Barnett of the KPP banner. “Going forward if this becomes a coalition thing or an opportunity for youth to have a voice, we don’t know. We don’t know what it’s going to look like until the people decide what it’s going to look like.”
Barnett is facing a May 28 deadline to gather 460 signatures from city residents who are registered to vote to secure a spot on the ballot. Barnett said that he hopes to gather more as a cushion against an anticipated challenge to his petition. Barnett declined to say how many signatures he had gathered so far, but said the effort was going well.
If Barnett’s petition drive is successful in getting him on the ballot, it will set up a three-way race for mayor in November. Noble is already facing a challenge from Ellen DiFalco, a former clerk of the Ulster County Legislature and confidential secretary to former mayor Shayne Gallo. DiFalco, a persistent critic of Noble’s administration of city finances, is running on the Republican and Independence party lines.