Gallo kicked off his campaign in front of the soon-to-be-demolished former welfare hotel the King’s Inn to emphasize a key campaign theme: making quality of life — everything from juvenile crime to overflowing garbage cans — the focus of his administration.
“You have to focus on the people and the businesses that are here first,” said Gallo. “You address their quality-of-life concerns and in doing that you create an environment where new people want to come to Kingston to live and work and do business.”
The solution, he said, lies in better coordination of state, county and city agencies to create resources in a fiscal environment where money is scarce and rebuilding the tax base must be seen as a long-term project. To address juvenile crime, Gallo has proposed a task force made up of representatives from the police department, county social services, the school district and other agencies to better keep track of troubled youth and hold parents accountable for ensuring that they are in school and off the streets.
A similar effort, he said, could better address the problem of substandard housing by coordinating the efforts of police, building inspectors and social service agencies to crack down on landlords who take housing subsidies for social service clients and fail to provide safe, clean living conditions.
“The county has to cooperate with the city to ensure that blight is not being caused by the social service network extended to landlords,” said Gallo. “I am the only candidate who understands the effect on quality of life of the social service infrastructure.”
Gallo also called for a regional approach to economic development, with Kingston making more and better use of outside agencies like the Ulster County Development Corporation and the state’s regional economic development council to bring jobs and investment to the area.
“There are resources there that we have to do a better job using,” said Gallo. “But any development has to take into account quality of life.”
Clement: Out with the old
Clement has made his own case for quality of life improvements, including the creation of a team within the Kingston Police Department to address crime in Midtown. But the thrust of his appeal to voters has been the pressing need for jobs and a clean break with the old ways of Kingston.
“Kingston is really at a crossroads,” said Clement. “We can’t keep doing things the same way we’ve been doing them.”
A Georgia native, Clement moved to Kingston in 2006 after a career as a media executive including stints at HBO and as publisher of Golf magazine. In 2009, he made his first bid for elected office, winning the council seat in the Ninth Ward on a promise to bring his business experience to bear on the problems facing the city. During his term, he took an active role in a number of bipartisan efforts to cut costs, including the successful merger of Kingston’s fire dispatch with county 911. He has also actively engaged the city’s business community and has been a strong supporter of public-private partnerships like the Main Street Manager program and a business improvement district for the Broadway corridor.
For his mayoral campaign, Clement has touted his ability to reach out to business leaders both within and outside of Kingston to create a climate which will attract investment and bring desperately needed jobs to the city. Part of the effort, he said, would involve nurturing sectors like digital production and renewable energy which already have a toehold in the city, while drawing more of the work-at-home digital media professionals who have begun moving to Kingston drawn by low housing prices and proximity to New York City.
“These are things that are happening already, organically,” said Clement. “But if City Hall gets behind it aggressively, it can really take off.”