ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Exploring Municipal Charters and Reform

A public educational forum presented by KingstonCitizens.org
Moderated by Co-Founder Rebecca Martin

This event will be filmed.

Thursday, July 13th, 2017
5:30pm – 7:30pm
Kingston Public Library
55 Franklin Street
Kingston, NY 12401

With very special guests:
Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement
SUNY at New Paltz
Ulster County Legislature and
Hone Street Strategic

A municipal charter is the “basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the city government. It is comparable to the Constitution of the United States or a state’s constitution. The charter is, therefore, the most important legal document of any city”

Join KingstonCitizens.org as we explore the function of a Municipal or City Charter’: What are they? Why do communities adopt or revise them? What are the basic forms of government under Charters, and more.

A question and answer period will follow.


ABOUT DR. GERALD BENJAMIN: Dr. Benjamin was appointed as Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement and Director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz in 2008. The Benjamin Center is the principal locus of the college’s efforts to raise its level of engagement within communities, governments, not-for-profits and businesses across the Hudson Valley. It seeks to conduct research on regional topics; encourage faculty to build regionally-based service activity into their scholarship and teaching; create and direct institutes and programs to meet regional needs: and offer conferences and programs on matters of regional interest.

Benjamin, who joined the New Paltz faculty as an Assistant Professor of Political Science in 1968, achieved the University’s highest rank in 2002 when he was appointed Distinguished Professor by the SUNY Board of Trustees. He served as Chair of the Department of Political Science, Presiding Officer of the faculty and (for twelve years beginning in 1996) Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest, most complex academic unit at SUNY New Paltz. During Benjamin’s time as dean, the faculty of the College grew in numbers and diversity and underwent extensive renewal. Additionally, the College was placed on sound organizational and financial footing, and numerous major and minor programs were added and/or revitalized. Among the most notable was the interdisciplinary major in Asian Studies.

Associate Vice President Benjamin earned a B.A. with distinction from St. Lawrence University. His Masters (1967) and Doctoral (1970) degrees in Political Science are from Columbia University.

Formerly Director of the Center for the New York State and Local Government Studies at SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, between May of 1993 and March of 1995 Gerald Benjamin served as Research Director of the Temporary State Commission on Constitutional Revision appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo. Earlier he was Principal Research Advisor to a New York City Charter Revision Commission that achieved the most extensive structural changes in the government of that city in recent history. Between 2004 and 2006, by unanimous bipartisan action of the county legislature, Benjamin was appointed to chair the Ulster County Charter Commission. The work of this commission resulted in approval at the polls of the county’s first charter. That charter will go into effect in January of 2009. In 2007 Associate Vice President Benjamin was appointed by Governor Spitzer to the State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness that in 2008 proposed wide-reaching reforms in local government in New York State.

Between 1981 and 1993 Gerald Benjamin was an elected member of the Ulster County legislature. He served in legislative leadership as both Majority Leader (1985-91) and Chairman (1991-93). Ulster County during this time has no elected executive; the legislative chairman was, therefore the County’s Chief Elected Officer. County government in rural New York State has responsibility for delivery of most important local services. Ulster County during Dr. Benjamin’s tenure had a budget of $165 million and more than 1300 employees.

Gerald Benjamin served in the United States Army between 1970 and 1972, rising to the rank of Captain in the Medical Service Corps. He has been a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Tokyo and the Japanese Foreign Ministry School, a Serbelloni Fellow in Residence at the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy and a Visiting Professor at Meiji University in Tokyo Japan. Gerald Benjamin is an acknowledged expert on state and local government in New York. A 1991 recipient of the New York State/United University Professors Excellence Award, alone or with others he has written or edited fourteen books or monographs and numerous government reports, articles and opinion essays. His book with Richard Nathan, on Regionalism and Realism in local governance in the New York City metropolitan region, published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2001, was named an outstanding academic title for 2002 by Choice magazine.

Also in 2001, St. Lawrence University, his alma mater, recognized Gerald Benjamin with a distinguished alumnus citation. In 2002 Mid-Hudson Pattern for Progress, the regional planning agency, gave Dean Benjamin its regional achievement award. In both 2003 and 2004 Gerald Benjamin was named by the Times Herald Record, the area’s largest daily newspaper, as among the most powerful people in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions.

ABOUT JENNIFER SCHWARTZ BERKY As county legislator, this is her first term as an elected official, a role that calls upon her 30-year career as a professional urban planner and consultant in local environmental, economic, and community development issues. She has worked extensively on community revitalization and adaptive reuse of historic places, cities and sites, waterfronts, downtowns, and cultural institutions in the United States and abroad. A major focus of this work is civic engagement to foster an environment of respectful discussion, advocacy and informed decision-making.

Born and raised in New York City, Jennifer earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She is also certified in conservation by ICCROM, an intergovernmental UNESCO program in Rome, Italy. Ms. Berky has lived for several years abroad during her career and studies, and is fluent in Spanish, French and Italian.

Berky began her career as a design and construction project manager for projects in DUMBO, Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and noted cultural institutions such as Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall. She also worked as a consultant for the World Bank in Washington, DC and for government agencies and NGOs in Jerusalem, Rome and several other cities in the US and abroad. Since moving to the Hudson Valley in 2004, Jennifer worked for eight years as Deputy Director of Planning for Ulster County and, in 2012, re-established her consulting practice, Hone Strategic, LLC (link is external), providing urban planning, preservation, and development advising. She works with numerous community leaders, municipalities, non-profit organizations and private developers on sustainable, community-driven development projects. Berky is also a regular lecturer for undergraduate and education in environmental and urban studies, including, including 4 years at Bard College (link is external).