Kingston’s facing an important mayoral election this fall. It seems as though there will be a profusion of candidates to choose from, and that’s a good thing. Though it’s early yet, none of them can be said to have yet articulated a clear vision for Kingston’s future. I wish one or more of them would.
Kingston is in the midst of generational change. There’s a lot of variety within the new generation. Some of its younger people have grown up in the city and attended the Kingston schools. Others have arrived in recent years, mostly from the New York metropolitan area, and are seeking to make a life here.
The occupational mix in Kingston is gradually changing. Because access to better-paying jobs in our society has become more dependent on educational qualifications, Kingstonians are going to school longer. Ulster County is no educational paradise, however. Common-sense observation tells us that many of the new arrivals with better educations elsewhere have a leg up when it comes to getting the few jobs currently available. Our own young people are migrating from the area at alarming rates.
It seems to me that we must ask ourselves about the consequences of these trends for Kingston. Kingston seems to me to have been mired for decades in a planning apparatus that doesn’t really plan. Don’t get me wrong. It competently administers land-use regulations, offers occasional incentives, and arranges for exceptions to its own rules. But it doesn’t think very often about where it wants to go.
That’s where master planning comes in. The city government has finally gathered up the gumption to set aside some money for master planning. It has promised a committee to oversee the process. And it has money with which (shudder!) to hire a consultant.
These things take money and time to accomplish. And that’s where the vision thing comes in. The political process needs to generate earnest conversation about what Kingston wants to be when it grows up. We need intelligently articulated competing visions. And that’s what I hope the debate among the mayoral candidates will stir up.
No harm in hoping.