Christmas in September? Finance Committee

Last night, Kingston won the Philanthropic Lottery. Mayor Steve Noble and members representing the Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley including Executive Director and CEO March Gallagher presented a plan for affordable housing that included grants totaling over 3 million dollars.

The Community Foundation committed $298,650 for the rehabilitation and renovation of 124-126 Franklin St. This building will become the office of the Kingston City Land Bank, and house the offices for the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, as well as the CDBG program run by that office, the housing rehab program and others. An additional $102,650 is being given to the City to supplement current staff salaries for those programs as well as retain new staff for the remainder of 2018.

Another grant of $1,048,221.21 is being paid to the city to cover the full amount of back taxes owed to the City for 36 city-owned properties, and thereafter transfer their ownership to the Kingston City Land Bank to be redeveloped for affordable housing. Speaking of the Land Bank, the Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley has committed to giving the City yet another $1.6 million dollars for the rehab and renovation of those 36 properties in 2019.

All told, the windfall amounts to more than $3 million dollars toward the creation of 36 affordable housing properties, covering over $1 mil in back taxes and creating a new tax base through homeownership. All at no cost to the city. The Aldermen were stunned, and gave the distinct impression of “waiting for the catch” that never came. According to Ms. Gallagher, anonymous donors are the funders behind this amazing gift to the City. Thanks, Anonymous!! The Kingston City Land Bank was formed with the purpose of taking vacant and dilapidated city-owned properties and redeveloping them for use by low and moderate income first-time home buyers. With the cost of housing skyrocketing in Kingston, this gift couldn’t come at a better time for struggling families in the City.

Next came discussion of the Peaceful Guardians Project; as I wrote last time, this project is intended to, “foster a more constructive and supportive relationship between Kingston Police officers and youth in the City of Kingston.” As described last night, this program initially appears problematic because of the promotion of a certain narrative sourcing the cause of problems between the youth of the City and KPD officers.

From last nights’ description, it would appear that the source of the problem is being attributed to the youth and their “inherited” distrust of the police and reticence to engage with them, as opposed to placing responsibility for the divide on the shoulders of the adults in authority. Kids’ brains are not fully developed; they lack executive function, full impulse control and are still learning to regulate their emotions. Children are also responsive to their environments; If youth in midtown have a distrust of the police, it might be more logical to conclude that the problem lies with the way that the police go about engaging the youth and not vice versa. Additionally, while policing is a stressful occupational choice, I’m not sure bringing in a nutritionist and a meditation instructor will solve the relationship difficulties between youth and officers.

There are some aspects that appear promising, however. Assignment of the participating kids to adult mentors in the community for a 5 year period following them through high school can’t be a bad thing, and starting with younger, more malleable middle school kids is likely to have greater impact. We’re going to reserve judgement for now, but we hope that in addition to a focus on “wellness” for police officers, there is also a focus on teaching them how to engage properly with the youth, and not put the burden of responsibility on the kids to be respectful and obedient to officers who they may have seen be less than respectful to themselves, their peers, their family or neighbors.

Other items on the agenda included some budget transfer requests, a request for funds to work on the Greenkill Avenue Sewer Replacement project by city engineer Ralph Swenson, and approval of the new CSEA contract and a raise schedule for the non-aligned members of the city administration. All the documents related to last nights meeting can be found here.

-Cassandra

Cassandra BurkeComment