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!

!  

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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Ulster People Endorses Strong, Rounds & Clegg!

Ulster People for Justice & Democracy is proud to endorse Pat Strong, Byran Rounds, and Dave Clegg

Ulster People for Justice & Democracy is proud to endorse the following candidates for countywide office in 2019, who, if elected, will shift the balance of power and make real change possible:

  • A thriving and inclusive local economy that supports ALL our residents.
  • Protection of the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable among us.
  • A healthy, sustainable environment for now and generations to come.
Continue reading “Ulster People Endorses Strong, Rounds & Clegg!”

Vote in the 2018 State/Local Primary!

Vote! Polls are open Noon – 9PM.

If you are a DEMOCRAT in ULSTER COUNTY, please vote Juan Figueroa for Ulster County Sheriff!

If you are a DEMOCRAT in NEW YORK STATE, please vote Cynthia Nixon for Governor and Jumaane Williams for Lt. Governor!

If you are a DEMOCRAT or UNAFFILIATED/INDEPENDENT voter in NY STATE SENATE DISTRICT 42 (in Ulster County, that’s Rosendale, New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Wawarsing, and Denning), please vote for Jen Metzger for State Senate!

Read about why we’ve endorsed these candidates.

Find your polling place.

Step 1: Find your “election district” at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov

Step 2: Lookup your polling place here.

ATTN: NEW PALTZ, PLATTEKILL & WAWARSING voters: Your polling site may have changed!

Click to see full-size images.

Know Your Rights!

In New York State, it is illegal to ask for an ID at the polls!

The only exception is if you are voting at your polling location for the first time and the Board of Elections was previously unable to verify your identity with the DMV or Social Security Office. This typically only happens if you did not provide a drivers license or social security number when you registered to vote. If this happened, you should have received notice from the Board of Elections prior to election day. You can verify your identity with any of the following: a valid photo ID, a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or some other form of government document that shows both your name and address.

(Here’s the law, see page 12).

Trouble at the Polls? Report it!

If you experience any issues voting today, or feel you are being discriminated against at the polls, please call the Attorney General’s voter hotline at 800-771-7755 or the Nixon campaign hotline at 646-688-4124. You can also email the AG at civil.rights@ag.ny.gov. Locally you can contact the Ulster Board of Elections at 845-334-5470. Please also notify Ulster People if your problem is not resolved by emailing connect@ulsterpeople.org.

Did you know that independent voters not registered in a political party can vote for Jen Metzger in the primary?


If you are an unaffiliated, independent voter in State Senate District 42*, who does not belong to any political party, you can also VOTE for Jen on September 13th!

Independent voters can write in “Jen Metzger” on the line on the Reform party ballot. More details here.

* In Ulster County, District 42 includes the towns of Rosendale, New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Wawarsing, and Denning.

Help get Cynthia & Jumaane on the ballot!

No More #StatusCuomo

We are officially in petitioning season, and have just a bit over a month to collect the thousands of signatures our candidates need to get on the ballot. If you are a registered Democrat, we need your help!

Not sure if you are a registered Democrat? Lookup your voter registration here.

Upcoming Petitioning Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Host an “Petition Party”

Hosting a Petition Party is fun and easy! All you need to do is hang out for a couple hours at a location and time of your choosing, help people sign the petition correctly, and maybe chat about the candidates for a bit.

You can host a house party, or ask your favorite bar, restaurant, or coffee shop for permission to use their space.

UP will handle promotion of the event, so you don’t have to worry about that – though we hope you’ll invite your friends!

To make sure the petitions are completed correctly, you will need to attend a brief training. You can find upcoming trainings on this map, or we can train you individually.

If you’re interested, please email rebecca@ulsterpeople.org for more details!

Carry Petitions

Would you like to carry a petition to collect signatures from friends, co-workers, and neighbors? You can get a walk-list to go door-to-door, attend a farmer’s market or other public event with a clipboard, or just gather signatures at work! Contact rebecca@ulsterpeople.org for petitions, training, and turf – or find a nearby petitioning event here.

Sign a Petition

If you don’t have time to host an event or carry petitions, we still want your signature! Keep an eye on the map for upcoming petition parties near you — all it takes is 5 minutes to stop by and sign!

Not a registered Democrat? You can still help!

We need volunteers to make turnout calls and texts for our events, help with data entry, deliver petition materials to volunteers, and more! Contact rebecca@ulsterpeople.org to get involved.

About the Candidates

Cynthia Nixon, though best-known as an award-winning actor, is a long-time activist for public schools, marriage equality, and women’s rights. She advances an agenda for a New York that serves the many, not the few: rent justice, marijuana legalization, improved public transportation, a clean energy economy, and drivers licenses for all. She has great clarity about the specifics of Albany cronyism and the inhumane consequences of austerity. She is refreshingly honest about the areas in which she lacks experience and surrounds herself with good, experienced people while leveraging her celebrity into a formidable force against Cuomo’s $30 million war chest. Just two months into her candidacy, she has deftly used her intelligence, humor, and media connections to promote her platform in ways that have already moved the conversation– and Cuomo – to the left.

Jumaane Williams has been a forceful voice on the NYC Council for affordable housing, anti-gun violence measures, fair policing, equity, and social justice. He authored the legislation that ended Stop and Frisk in NYC, and championed youth employment initiatives. He has a background in community organizing and has prioritized housing initiatives and tenants’ rights. He is also a committed immigrants rights activist. He is running to be “the voice of the people in state government,” with a vision to transform the office of Lieutenant Governor into the role of independent advocate for all New Yorkers.

Announcing Ulster People’s 2018 Endorsements!

Ulster People 2018 Endorsements

Ulster People is proud to endorse the following candidates for State and County office, who, if elected, will shift the balance of power and make real change possible:

  • A thriving and inclusive local economy that supports ALL our residents.
  • Protection of the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable among us.
  • A healthy, sustainable environment for now and generations to come.

In competitive primary races, Ulster People is endorsing the following candidates:

Cynthia Nixon Cynthia Nixon for NYS Governor
Jumaane WilliamsJumaane Williams for NYS Lieutenant Governor
Juan FigueroaJuan Figueroa for Ulster County Sheriff
Jen MetzgerJen Metzger for NYS Senate District 42

And in the general election:

Pat StrongPat Strong for NYS Senate District 46
Joyce St. GeorgeJoyce St. George for NYS Senate District 51

On the CD-19 Race

In the CD-19 race, Ulster People is inspired by the number of candidates who embrace the people-friendly policies of our platform. Given the many strengths of the candidates and our shared commitment to defeating John Faso in the general election, we have decided not to endorse any individual candidate at this time. We look forward to working hard after the primary for a candidate who shares our values. In the meantime, we will focus our efforts on supporting our endorsed candidates at the county and state levels.

About Our Endorsement Process

Any candidate who wished to seek the group’s endorsement, regardless of party, was asked to complete a questionnaire which was reviewed by Ulster People’s endorsement committee. If the responses showed a strong alignment between the candidate’s views and actions and Ulster People’s platform, candidates were invited to interview with the endorsement committee, after which, the committee voted to recommend endorsement (or not). The voting members of Ulster People made the final endorsement decisions.

So now that we’ve endorsed them, let’s help get them elected!

You may also volunteer or donate to the candidates directly through their websites (linked above).

We also encourage you to like each candidate’s Facebook page (also linked above) and like, comment, and share their posts!

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Press inquiries, contact connect@ulsterpeople.org.