Finally!!! Campaign Finance Reform gets a Public Hearing!

Our legislators need to hear from you before they vote on Proposed Local Law No. 10 of 2019: A Local Law Regarding Campaign Finance Reform!

Mark Your Calendars! Please Come!

PUBLIC HEARING ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Tuesday, November 12th at 6PM
Ulster County Office Building (6th Floor)
244 Fair Street, 6th Floor, Kingston, NY 12401

And PLEASE consider signing up to speak.

The hearing will start a little after 6, but show up by 6 to sign up for a chance to speak. Your comments must be limited to 2 or 3 minutes. (Best to time yourself in advance rather than having your best lines cut.)

This is your chance to let our legislators know how important you think passage of this legislation is for the health (perhaps even survival) of our democracy.

Campaign Finance Reform means that:

  • big donors will have less influence on our elections.
  • pay-to-play corruption in government will be reduced.
  • candidates who couldn’t afford to wage competitive campaigns now can.
  • we are more likely to have a more diverse group of candidates to choose from
  • and elected officials who more accurately represent our communities.

Ulster County could have real comprehensive campaign finance reform for local and county-wide races before the end of the year!

The Numbers

…have not changed since our last update:

Local candidates, having qualified for public funds by raising $500 in individual small donations (under $100), including at least 50 individual donations, will have their contributions matched at a 5:1 ratio up to a maximum of $2500.  Candidates receive their share of public funds as soon as they qualify.  

County-wide candidates must first raise $15,000 in small donations (under $100) from at least 150 individual donors to qualify for the $23,000 in public matching funds available.  

Contribution limits (individuals, partnerships, political committees, labor organizations) are set at $3500 per election cycle for county-wide races and at $650 for local races (both considerably less for those doing business with the county). 

Note: A possible point of contention going forward is the 5:1 ratio at which small campaign contributions are to be matched with public money. 5:1 sounds like candidates will get more money. That’s not true. The maximum amount available to a candidate remains unchanged whether the matching ratio is 10:1, 5:1 or 3:1.

At 5:1, local candidates would receive the entire $2500 in public matching funds available to them as soon as they have raised their qualifying $500 in small donations

At 3:1, they would receive only $1500 when they have raised the initial qualifying $500, leaving $1000 still available. To receive that final $1000, they would have to raise another $333 in small donations ($999).

But the maximum amount available to each candidate remains unchanged.

For County-wide candidates, the ratio (5:1 or 3:1) makes no difference at all.  They must first raise $15,000 in small donations (under $100) from at least 150 individual donors to qualify. Either a 3:1 or a 5:1 matching ratio gets them well over $23,000, which is the maximum amount they can receive in public funds.  

Now is the time!

The numbers may not have changed since our last post about the progress of this legislation, but the number of supporters in the Legislature may yet change when all of the absentee ballots are counted. That could work in our favor– or not.

Campaign Finance Reform is something we all care about.

Let’s make sure it happens during this legislative session!

Read our past coverage on campaign finance reform in Ulster County:

Public Hearing Scheduled for “Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act”

Photo by Vivianne Lemay on Unsplash

Ulster People: Mark your calendars!  This one is for us! 

A public hearing has been scheduled for Proposed Local Law No. 5 of 2019, the “Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act”, on Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 6:15 PM at the Ulster County Office Building, 6th Fl., 244 Fair St, Kingston.

Please come and make your voices heard!

Food Waste, you say? What’s the big deal? 

Americans waste a lot of food–about 133 billion pounds a year.  That’s roughly a third of all the food produced in the U.S. While most people understand what a tragedy it is to waste so much food when there is so much hunger, what many fail to understand is that throwing food away contributes to another global crisis: climate change.    

When food ends up in landfills and rots, it produces huge quantities of methane–maybe not as much as cars or cows, but it’s in third place. Methane is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.   

Fun Fact: Ulster County throws away 40,000,000 pounds of food scraps each year. That’s about 30% of the trash we send to landfills upstate. 

So, YES, it is a big deal.  We all stand with Greta Thunberg when she says, “Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”  Right? Well, the “Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act” is about large-scale composting, and composting wasted food reduces the environmental pollution that contributes to global climate change.  It also saves money.

NO, composting food scraps will not solve global climate change–or even the problem of what to do with the rest of our garbage when the Seneca Meadows landfill closes in 2025–which is also a big deal.  But one thing at a time. Requiring large-scale producers of food waste to compost is a start. And it’s a line we can draw now.

Ulster County is Ready!

Visionary environmentalists in Ulster County have been composting here for decades. Mohonk Mountain House, for example, has modeled stewardship of its natural resources by composting tons of consumer food waste every month and using the end-product to fertilize it’s famously spectacular gardens. Similarly, the Frost Valley YMCA has operated what was, at its inception in 1990, one of the few institutional food waste composting systems in the entire country.  The facility serves 30,000 guests annually, composting all of the food waste for use in the camp’s greenhouses.  That same year, New York State’s Department of Corrections began a composting program which 30 years later employs up to 1100 inmates at 29 state facilities.  Aside from savings in transportation and tipping fees and methane reduction, the program provides relevant and productive inmate work experiences.   

In 2012, the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) began an organics recovery pilot program to create an alternative to landfill disposal of food waste.  Before the program began, the County was sending 20,000 tons (40,000,000 pounds) of food waste every year to the Seneca Meadows landfill, 250 miles away. In the last 3 years of operation, 

  • 7859 tons or organics have been composted,
  • $809,498 in tipping fees have been saved,
  • 224 tractor trailer transports didn’t make the 250 mile run, and
  • 21,280 gallons of diesel fuel was saved. 

These programs, and others like them, including Greenway Environmental Services and the Community Composting Company, are already up and running in Ulster County.  They have demonstrated the practicality and economic feasibility of mandatory county-wide composting for large food waste producers.   They have reduced the cost of disposal and transport, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and created an end product that improves soil quality and carbon sequestration, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They demonstrate that Ulster County is ready to take this on.

Once Again, We Are Ahead of the Curve

Ulster County’s Climate Smart Commission already encourages local businesses to participate in composting programs as part of its new Green Business Challenge, but participation has been voluntary.  That is going to change in 2022 when a new state law (S1508C) goes into effect requiring businesses producing two tons of food waste per month to compost.

But it could happen sooner in Ulster County.    

The “Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act” would take effect in 2020. We would be two years ahead of the game. The State law exempts healthcare facilities, schools and businesses more than 25 miles from a composting facility (the vast majority).  Our law would apply to all businesses in the County that produce 2 tons of food waste a month, and it will eventually cover even smaller generators, making the transition to the State law requirements far easier. 

Ulster People Make a Difference!  Let’s Make This Happen! 

As with the plastic bag and straw legislation, Ulster County has yet another opportunity to set the environmental standard for Albany and other NY Counties.

Showing up for public hearings is one of the most effective ways Ulster People can show our support for those legislators who support our progressive platform.  It is an effective way to make our aspirations and our concerns visible to our legislators– and make sure that our voices have been heard by the County Executive when this legislation lands on his desk.

Please show up on Thursday, October 10th!

Tell our legislators that right now is where we draw the line!

It’s definitely worth an hour of your time.   

Be a compost champion!

!  

Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform (Sept. Update)

We’re SO Close!

But our work is not done! The sub-committee has completed its work on the proposed 2019 Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform law. It has been to the lawyers and now will go to the legislators. A Public Hearing will be scheduled, the legislators will vote and, assuming it passes, it will go to the County Executive.

There is no guarantee that he will sign. We have to keep the pressure on!

The Need

Ulster People would like to see a closed system, in which all campaigns are publicly financed and all candidates bound by the same spending limits. That’s not happening now, but passing this law is certainly a step in the right direction.  

New candidates, whose limited resources kept them from running in the past, will take advantage of public matching funds to run competitive campaigns.  The undue influence of large contributors and the corruption they invite will be curtailed. Our democratic processes will be supported.   

The Numbers

Local candidates, having qualified for public funds by raising $500 in individual small donations, will have their contributions matched at a 5:1 ratio up to a maximum of $2500.  Candidates receive their share of public funds as soon as they qualify.  

If legislators push back and insist on a 3:1 ratio in the final bill, it actually makes very little difference. Candidates would receive only $1500 when they have raised the initial qualifying $500, leaving $1000 still available. To receive that final $1000, they would have to raise another $333 in small donations ($999). The maximum amount available to each candidate remains unchanged. It just takes a little more effort to get there.

For County-wide candidates, the ratio (5:1 or 3:1) makes no difference at all.  They must first raise $15,000 in small donations to qualify. Either a 3:1 or a 5:1 matching ratio gets them well over $23,000, which is the maximum amount they can receive in public funds.  

Contribution limits (individuals, partnerships, political committees, labor organizations) are set at $3500 per election cycle for county-wide races and at $650 for local races (and considerably less for those doing business with the county). 

The Public Hearing 

has yet to be scheduled. The date and time will be posted here as soon as it’s on the Legislative Calendar and we will suggest possible talking points at that time.

This may be the most important issue the legislature has taken up this session. It’s been years of promises and finally there’s an end in sight!  Whether or not you decide to speak, your presence is evidence of support and the legislators care.

Please watch for the hearing date and consider showing up!

The Prize!

Passage of this local law in the Legislature–and the County Exec’s signature– means that Ulster County could  have real comprehensive campaign finance reform for local and county-wide races before the end of the year. 

In the meantime, please put pressure on our County Executive and Legislators every chance you get.  Send an email. Make a phone call. If you are in a meeting with Pat Ryan or any of our legislators, ask about their position on Campaign Finance Reform.  Make sure to let them know how important it is to you–– to all of us. Give a speech. Tell them it’s time–– past time–– for Ulster County to have real Campaign Finance Reform.  Finally! No more delays!    

Let’s make sure that happens! 

Read our past coverage on campaign finance reform in Ulster County:

Update on Campaign Finance Reform (post 7/8 meeting)

This legislation appears to be moving forward! 

The Need

The document clearly states the need for reform, citing the undue influence of large contributions on our democratic processes, and “the specter of quid pro quo corruption, even more so when the contributor is involved in government contracts.” 

The Issues Considered

The list of issues still to be resolved before this legislation moves to a vote of the full legislature continues to shrink.   The lawyers have weighed in where necessary, and tentative agreement has been reached by the subcommittee on the vast majority of specifics, including:

  • Candidate pathways to qualification for public financing;
  • The amount of public funds to be made available to candidates and the ratio at which they will be distributed;
  • Campaign contribution limits; and
  • The amount to be appropriated to and maintained in the campaign finance fund.

Among the remaining unresolved issues is a question about responsibility for oversight, but as options have been clarified and evaluated, the subcommittee is moving closer to a resolution. 

What Comes Next

The legislative subcommittee members (Jonathan Heppner, Hector Rodriguez and Ken Ronk) are preparing a pre-draft document for Tracey Bartels, Chair of the Legislature. Tracey will attend the next meeting (date yet to be determined) prepared to share any questions, issues or comments she might have. 

Barring (unanticipated) major revisions, the document will then be filed with the clerk and copies made available to all the legislators.  The caucuses will discuss, amendments (if any) will be considered, a public hearing scheduled and— a vote taken!

What You Can Do

Following the next meeting of the subcommittee, I will post another update. By that time, we should know with more certainty what the proposed legislation will look like.

If it is diluted beyond the point where it seems likely to accomplish what we are hoping for, real Comprehensive Finance Reform that effectively limits the intrusion of big money into our local and county-wide elections and makes it possible for those with limited resources to wage competitive campaigns, we will have a chance to lobby our legislators and make our preferences known.

The official public hearing (date to be determined) will be scheduled, at which you will all be allowed to speak.

In the meantime, you can attend either the July 16th or the August 20 regular legislative session (7PM in the Legislative Chambers on the 6th floor of the County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY) and add your voice to their deliberations. (If you want to speak, you should plan to show up a little before 7 to sign up.)

The Prize!

The legislature’s passage of this local law (and the signature of the County Executive) means that Ulster County could  have real comprehensive campaign finance reform for local and state-wide races before the end of the year. 

Let’s make sure that happens!  

Legislative Update: Campaign Finance Reform in Ulster County – Part 2

This is the second installment of our series on Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform in Ulster County. Read Part 1 here.

Ulster People Unanimously Passes a Resolution Urging our County Legislature to Enact Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform

Ulster People Talk Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign Finance Reform led the agenda at Ulster People’s general meeting in May.  Joan Mandle, a 20-year veteran of the struggle, updated us on the dysfunction in Albany. County Legislator Kathy Nolan discussed the comprehensive campaign finance bill she has proposed for Ulster County.  I reported on the progress made by the Legislature’s subcommittee charged with crafting legislation that will (hopefully) give Ulster County our first publicly financed elections.

Ulster People’s Resolution in Support of Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform

After the presentations, Ulster People voted unanimously to endorse the following resolution: 

Ulster People for Justice and Democracy supports the efforts of the County Legislature to pass a Comprehensive Campaign Finance Law.  The two proposals currently before the Legislature (Proposed Local Law 16 of 2018 and  Proposed Local Law No. 21 of 2018) represent a start, but they differ in important ways from each other and from what we would like to see in the final law.

Ulster People would like the final legislation to include:

  • $2500 in public funds to be distributed in total when a candidate has raised $500 in donations of $5 or more including at least 50 individual donations;
  • A 5:1 matching fund ratio;
  • A cap on individual contributions of $250.

This resolution has been forwarded to the members of the Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform Subcommittee.

Work in Progress

This resolution will not be our last word on the subject of Campaign Finance Reform. 

First, it concedes that our goal of a closed system, in which all campaigns are publicly financed and all candidates bound by the same spending limits, just isn’t realistic at this moment.  It is, however, an important step in the right direction.  

Second, it pertains only to those aspects of the proposed legislation that the subcommittee has already taken up– specifically local campaigns.  Statewide campaigns have yet to be addressed.    

How we got there:

The Cap on Matching Funds

The subcommittee has (tentatively) agreed to a $2500 cap on matching funds for local candidates.  That is based on the total amount the subcommittee members believe the County might be willing to budget and the assumption that $3000 (the $500 raised to qualify plus $2500 in public funds) is a reasonable amount to finance a competitive local campaign. 

Ulster People is okay with $2500–as a starting point, though we would like to see a higher number.    

Qualifying for Matching Funds

The subcommittee (tentatively) agrees that, to qualify for public matching funds, candidates must raise $500 in small donations (between $10 and $100), including at least 50 individual donations

Ulster People agrees that 50 individual small donations to a campaign demonstrates a reasonable level of community support and helps weed out frivolous or non-competitive candidates.  But we strongly encourage the subcommittee to adjust their definition of a “small donation” and consider allowing $5 donations to also be counted towards the $500 qualification.  It obviously would take more effort to raise $500 in $5 increments,  but supporters who think their $5 won’t make a difference might think differently when told that when matched 5:1, $5 becomes a more substantial sounding $30.  If the goal is more citizens feeling invested in a candidate and a campaign, why not make the minimum $5?  

The Matching Fund Ratio

After the second subcommittee meeting, Ed and I had an Aha! moment I think worth sharing.  We (Ulster People) had been advocating matching fund ratios of 5:1 or 6:1,thinking candidates would get more public money.  Not so.  

The same qualifying threshold ($500) must be reached, including the same 50 individual contributions, but the maximum any candidate will receive in public funds remains the same. All a higher ratio changes is how long it takes to get there.

The subcommittee has (tentatively) agreed to a 3:1 ratio.  50 donations of $10 each gets a candidate to the qualifying threshold of $500.  When matched at 3:1, $500 becomes $2000, only $1500 of which is public money.  There’s still $1000 left in matching funds and any number of ways to get there (100 $10 donations; 10 $100 donations).

Ulster People wants a 5:1 ratio—if for no other reason than to avoid the weeds.  When matched at a 5:1 ratio, the qualifying $500 would become $2500, maxing out the public funds available.   Done.  It’s simple and straightforward.  Give them the money and be done with the calculations. 

Individual Contribution Limits

Remember that the presumed goal of enacting campaign finance reform is to counter the overwhelming influence of wealth on our political process.  But candidates who opt into this public financing program are free to continue raising money even after maxing out their public money.  The only constraint is the legal limit on individual contributions.  The subcommittee has (tentatively) agreed to a limit of $500.

Ulster People believes that a $250 is limit is one we can live with, though we would prefer it to be lower.  A lower cap on individual donations doesn’t mean that some candidates with deep pocket donors won’t outraise and outspend their opponents, but it does make buying an election proportionally harder– and the voices of small donors are proportionally augmented.  

The subcommittee has yet to resolve some tricky issues, among them:  Who will be responsible for oversight?  How much will the county have to budget to keep the program adequately funded?  Does it make sense to introduce legislation at the local level first and at the statewide level sometime in the future?   

To be continued….

Make Your Voice Heard

The subcommittee has now met three times and are scheduled to meet next on June 13th (6-8 PM at the Library, 6th floor of the Ulster County Office Building).  Tracey Bartels, Chair of the UCL, and the two Ulster County Board of Elections Commissioners, Ashley Dittus (D) and Tom Turco (R), are scheduled to appear to discuss, among other things, how the program might best be overseen. The public is welcome and encouraged to come.

Join Our County Legislature Observers Group

The Ulster County Legislature (UCL) Observers Working Group attends Ulster County Legislative and standing committee meetings and reports back to our larger body. Our attendance at the Legislature’s regular sessions, at committee meetings and at scheduled public hearings is seen by our endorsed candidates as support and is much appreciated. It’s also a great way to find out what is on their agenda and get to know the individuals who represent us. Please consider going!

Upcoming meetings of the Ulster County Legislature

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Skip the Straw Law passes UCL!

Chalk up a win for sanity!

On Tuesday May 21, the Ulster County Legislature passed LOCAL LAW NO. 20 of 2018 (A Local Law Requiring Restaurants And Fast Food Service Establishments to Provide Plastic Beverage Straws Solely Upon Request), otherwise known as “Skip the Straw,” 14-7, with all Democrats, plus Heidi Haynes, C-Stone Ridge, and Craig Lopez, R-Shawangunk, voting in favor.

Final approval rests with Pat Ryan, who was sworn in as the new County Executive on June 9.

Ulster People advocated strongly for passage, passing a unanimous resolution in support of the proposed law at our general meeting in May, that was read aloud prior to the Legislature’s vote.

Ulster County banned the use of polystyrene by the food service industry in March 2015 and a ban on single-use plastic bags is scheduled to go into effect in July. In fact, we led the way for the statewide bag ban, which takes effect in March 2020.

Fun fact: Malaysia and the Philippines are among those countries fed up with being our plastic waste dumping ground. Adding insult to injury, we then blame them for polluting our oceans. They’ve decided their best option is to send it back. Hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic waste in thousands of containers are heading back home, back to their countries of origin. Ball’s is whose court?

Skip the Straw isn’t THE answer to the crisis in our oceans, but it’s another small step in the right direction! Nothing wrong with celebrating small victories — as long as we don’t lose sight of the big picture.

If you are feeling brave, check out this heartbreaking video of a chef preparing a fish.

Skip the Straw Law

Not the Last Straw, but a step in the right direction.

On Thursday, May 9, the Ulster County Legislature’s Energy and Environment Committee approved passage of the “Skip the Straw Law”  (Proposed Local Law Number 20 of 2018:  A Local Law Requiring Restaurants And Fast Food Service Establishments Provide Plastic Beverage Straws Solely Upon Request).  The proposed law will be voted on by the full Legislature on Tuesday, May 21. As always, you are invited/encouraged to come make your voices heard.

This law does NOT ban plastic straws!  You can still have your plastic straws – all you have to do is ask.  It is no more than a gentle reminder to businesses and consumers that our oceans are facing a crisis we ignore at great risk.  

According to the Daily Freeman,reaction to the measure has been split among legislators and the public.”  Some feel it is too autocratic and costly for businesses. Some feel it doesn’t go far enough and should include other single-use plastic items, like stirrers and cutlery.  But, as Majority Leader Jon Heppner pointed out, amending the law would trigger more public hearings, more debate – and more delay. “It’s a step in the right direction.

At Ulster People’s May 20 general meeting, I will be introducing a resolution in support of the Ulster County Legislature’s “Skip the Straw Law.”

Fun fact:  

According to the international Earth Day Network, if we don’t change our ways, by 2025, the oceans will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish. By 2050, we’re looking at an ocean that will be home to more plastic (by weight) than fish.  

Corporations, municipalities, and even national governments are implementing bans on plastic straws.  Starbucks has committed to eliminating them by 2020, thereby eliminating more than a billion straws a year.  So have Hyatt, Hilton American and Alaska Airlines, and Royal Caribbean. The E.U. banned them in April. Seattle and Malibu have banned them in 2018.  San Francisco and New York are considering proposals. And on May 13, Ron DiSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida, vetoed a bill that would have prevented local governments from passing plastic straw bans: the Sanibel, Ft. Myers Beach and Miami Beach plastic straw bans stand!

Another Fun Fact:

Common wisdom says paper straws are 6 to 10 times more expensive than plastic. But public pressure has created new markets for reusable straws made of materials like paper, silicone, stainless steel, glass and bamboo.  And for a disposable alternative: I ordered a 200-Pack of 100% Plant-Based Compostable/Biodegradable Flexible Alternatives for $8.99 (about .7 percent more) from Amazon. Report to follow arrival.

Weigh in on Skip the Straw!

Please consider coming  to the May 21 meeting of the Ulster County Legislature when a vote will be taken on the “Skip the Straw Law.”  You needn’t speak – your presence alone reminds our legislators that we are paying attention and that we care. If you do decide to speak (please do!), remember to show up a few minutes early to sign up.

Ulster People’s next general meeting

(at which I will present my resolution to support the “Skip the Straw Law” to our voting members) will focus on Fair Elections and Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform at both the state and local levels. It is open to the public.   Please come!

Legislative Update: Campaign Finance Reform in Ulster County

Campaign Finance Reform, in various iterations, has been before the Legislature for at least 5 years. Why hasn’t it passed yet?

In June of 2018 Democrats took a majority in the county legislature for the first time since Ulster People’s founding. Our organization was hopeful that some legislation we’ve long advocated for would finally be passed. At the top of our list was comprehensive campaign finance reform. But with two Democratic proposals on the table, Democratic infighting has stalled any progress.

Trying (and Failing) to Make Sense of the Stalemate

During Ulster People’s endorsement interview with Kathy Nolan (incumbent candidate for Ulster County Legislature District 22), we asked about the status of the campaign finance reform bill she introduced in the legislature (Proposed Local Law 16 of 2018).

Nolan expressed deep frustration that her bill and another similar one, sponsored by Dave Donaldson (Proposed Local Law No. 21 of 2018) had been held hostage in the Laws and Rules Committee, which Donaldson chairs, with no resolution in sight.  Donaldson promised a sub-committee, but it was never formed. Public hearings on the bills were postponed nine times.

That is truly a sorry state of affairs.

Showing UP

At Kathy’s suggestion, I attended the April 15 meeting of the Laws and Rules Committee.  Donaldson was not there and Kevin Roberts, as deputy, chaired the meeting. Other committee members present were Jon Heppner, Hector Rodriguez and Ken Ronk.  Kathy also came. Roberts gave me permission to speak. (I did so as an individual, not as a representative of UP because we had not yet discussed the issue formally and come to any conclusions about our position.)  So I simply told the gathering that campaign finance reform was a serious concern to me and to many of my friends, that I was not speaking in favor of either of the two bills, but that I felt that the delays had gone on for way too long and it was time to get this sorted and passed.

To my astonishment, everyone took out their calendars, a sub-committee was convened on the spot and a date was set for a preliminary meeting four days later.  Public invited.

Finally, Some Movement

Four UP members attended that first meeting (Ed Kowalewski, Elisa Tucci, Todd Wolgamuth and myself).

It was largely organizational.  A draft of the proposed legislation for circulation to all the legislators is planned for June 13th and a June 26th resolution deadline was set, with a floor vote of the full legislature planned for July (before everyone gets too involved with the budget).  Between now and then, the sub-committee will meet 4 more times (May 2, May 16, May 30 and June 13). Public invited.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Ulster People to take part in a decision-making process that will profoundly affect how our local democracy functions.  

Make Your Voice Heard

The next sub-committee meetings are on May 16, May 30, and June 13th from 6-8 PM at the Ulster County Office Building, 6th Floor. These meetings are open to the public, and we encourage you to attend and make your voice heard!

What’s At Stake

At issue:

  • What cap will be placed on spending limits?
  • How do we define “minimum” and “small”? To qualify for the program, candidates must collect a “minimum” number of “small” donations from the community they seek to represent.  This both encourages engagement between voters and candidates who seek to represent them and ensures that a campaign relies on local support, not special interests or out-of-district influence. Both minimum and small need to be defined.
  • The ratio at which contributions will be matched needs to be established.  Will it be 1:1, 3:1, 6:1? Consider the impact of a $10 donation becoming a $20 donation (1:1).  Now consider a $10 donation becoming a $70 donation (6:1). 6:1 is obviously a far more substantive amplification.  (NYC’s model uses 8:1 and, at our last general meeting, Ulster People discussed a 5 or 6:1 was a good place to start our negotiation.)

When enacted, comprehensive finance reform will:

  • establish the amount of public funding available for qualifying candidates who opt into the program;
  • place limits on contributions from individuals or groups;
  • set strict limits on contributions from appointees;
  • and set the total amount of public money to be set aside to fund the program and how it will be administered and overseen.

For a deeper dive into these issues, check out the Brennan Center for Justice’s whitepaper The Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York.

Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform should be passed NOW. To fail would be a tragic missed opportunity. We can help make that happen.

Learn more about campaign finance reform at our general meeting on May 20

Ulster People’s next general meeting will be on the topic of Fair Elections & Campaign Finance reform. Joan Mandle, a former Colgate Professor who has been involved in the issue for 20 years, will update us on the dysfunction in Albany. County Legislator Kathy Nolan will discuss her comprehensive campaign finance bill for Ulster County.

The Ulster People voting membership will also consider a resolution in support of passing small donor public matching funds legislation in Ulster County.

Join Our County Legislature Observers Group

The Ulster County Legislature (UCL) Observers Working Group attends Ulster County Legislative and standing committee meetings and reports back to our larger body. Our attendance at the Legislature’s regular sessions, at committee meetings and at scheduled public hearings is seen by our endorsed candidates as support and is much appreciated. It’s also a great way to find out what is on their agenda and get to know the individuals who represent us. Please consider going!

Upcoming meetings of the Ulster County Legislature

There are no upcoming events at this time.

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UCL Report: UCL Term Limits Resolution

At the July 17th Ulster County Legislature Regular Session, 59 speakers signed up for the public comment period. Many of them were there to address Resolution 285: A Local Law Adopting An Administrative Code To Create Term Limits.

But whether or not there should be term limits for county legislators wasn’t the main issue for many who showed up to speak. What they were primarily concerned with was that Reclaim NY was behind a well-funded push for passage of the law. They spoke about Reclaim’s association with Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, about dark money, hidden agendas, outside influences trying to hijack our local democracy.

Reclaim NY is a 501c3 nonprofit organization funded by Mercer, a Long Island billionaire, hedge fund manager, owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s largest campaign contributors. In 2016, Mercer donated at least $500,000 to Congressman John Faso’s election campaign.

Reclaim NY claims to be non-partisan, yet their mailings urging support for passage of the term limit legislation were only sent to registered Republicans. Reclaim also purchased full-page ads in local papers and many social media ads in support of the legislation.

Resolution 285 calls for limiting county legislators, the county executive and county comptroller to 12 years of service, but the 12-year clock would not start until after the local law is adopted, so all current officials would be able to serve another 12 years should the legislation become law.

The UCL voted to postpone the vote until the Sept 20th Legislative Session, thereby eliminating the possibility of the resolution getting on the ballot this election cycle.

Ulster People for Justice and Democracy does not have a formal stance on the matter of term limits, but if you would like to address the legislature about this law, or the decision to postpone the vote, or the intervention of Reclaim N.Y. in our local politics, plan to show up for the September 20th regular meeting of the UCL (Ulster County Office Bldg, 244 Fair St. in Kingston (6th fl) at 7PM and sign up to speak. Or just come to show your support for the process. And you can always contact your county legislator and express your views.

Find your legislator at http://ulstercountyny.gov/legislature/legislative-members.