100 Ideas for New Paltz

1. form a public power utility

You don’t need to have a power plant to create a public power utility. According to the American Public Power Association’s Q&A For Communities Considering the Public Power Option, “Many public power utilities purchase wholesale electricity at prices that are beneficial to their customers without owning power plants.”

New York State requires that the New York State Power Authority charge local power authorities wholesale rates for the electricity they use.  The Town would negotiate a wholesale bulk purchase of electricity from either the NYPA or from Central Hudson.  Running a non-profit, locally-controlled power authority will save New Paltz ratepayers a significant amount of money – the national average being 30-40% savings.


2. buy the streetlights, run ’em on solar energy

Right now, the Village pays approximately $60,000 in rent each year to Central Hudson for streetlights.  The Village should buy those streetlights from Central Hudson, While the Village would be responsible for maintenance and repair, the savings in not paying rent should more than make up for it.

Once owned, it should be possible to upgrade or replace the existing lights with solar streetlights, and eventually to replace the big ugly lights we have now with lights more in keeping with the aesthetics of the village.

And it may even be possible to have a combo solar/wind streetlight that also doubles (or triples?) as a Wi-Fi relay:

31. ban chain stores

Ban chain stores and franchises from downtown New Paltz, leaving commercial space for small, locally-owned businesses, and keeping money in the community. Studies of Mid-Coast Maine, Austin, Texas and others have shown that for every $100 a chain store generates, $15 is re-circulated in the local economy. For every $100 a locally-owned business generates, $45 is re-circulated in the local economy.


A Local Law Relating to the Protection of the Village Economy by Protecting Local Businesses in the Village, Amending Parts of Chapter 212 of the Village Code.

Be it enacted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of New Paltz, Ulster County, State of New York, as follows:

Section 1.    Findings.
1.    A 2004 study of local vs. chain businesses in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago known, like New Paltz, as a center of unique, locally owned businesses, found that, “When asked to express a preference of the type of businesses shoppers patronize, over 70 percent preferred locally-owned businesses while less than three percent preferred chain businesses.  Additionally, an overwhelming 80 percent of respondents identified Andersonville’s traditional neighbor-hood district, with locally-owned, independent businesses, as their preferred shopping environment.”
2.    In studies comparing local businesses with equivalent chain store competition in four areas – Austin, Texas, the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, Mid-coast Maine, and Toledo, Ohio – researchers discovered that local businesses have a demonstrable economic multiplier effect on the local economy; local businesses create on average three times as much revenue circulating in the local economy as chain stores offering similar goods and/or services.
3.    The Village of New Paltz Comprehensive Master Plan states on page 4.11 that, “In order to maintain the Village as the commercial center of all of New Paltz, the Village should encourage businesses and tourist opportunities that serve the needs of the area and are compatible in scale and character with the existing community.”
4.    Given that the overwhelming majority of businesses in the Village are small, locally-owned enterprises, protecting existing such businesses and encouraging the creation of more local businesses constitutes ‘encouraging businesses…that…are compatible in scale and character with the existing community.”
5.    By creating and protecting a Village dominated by locally-owned, independent businesses, the Village will be able to continue to rely on our those locally-owned, independent businesses as a tourist draw in and of itself, as well as acting as a supplemental tourist destination for those visiting the area for our scenic, wilderness, historic and agricultural draws, thereby meeting the goals of the Comprehensive Master Plan as stated above.
6.    Formula businesses have an unfair competitive advantage over independent operators due to the fact that they can absorb larger startup costs, pay more for lease space, and commit to longer lease contracts.  This can put pressure on existing businesses and potentially price out new startup independent businesses.
7.     Notwithstanding the marketability of a retailer’s goods or services or the visual attractiveness of the storefront, the standardized architecture, color schemes, decor and signage of many formula retail businesses can detract from the distinctive character of the village.
8.    The increase of formula retail businesses in the village, if not monitored and regulated, will hamper the village’s goal of a diverse retail base comprised of a mix of businesses.  Specifically, the unregulated and unmonitored establishment of additional formula retail uses may unduly limit or eliminate business establishment opportunities for smaller or medium-sized businesses, many of which tend to be non-traditional or unique, and change this mix of businesses towards national retailers in lieu of local or regional retailers, thereby decreasing the diversity of merchandise available to residents and visitors and the diversity of purveyors of merchandise.

Section 2.
The Village of New Paltz Municipal Code, hereby is amended as follows:
§ 212-5         Definitions, add:
FORMULA BUSINESS – A ‘Formula Business’ is hereby defined as any of the following:
(a)    a type of retail sales activity or retail sales establishment which, along with five or more other retail sales establishments, is required by contractual or other arrangement to maintain two or more of the following features:
(1)     Standardized menu or standardized array of merchandise with 50% or more of in-stock merchandise from a single distributor bearing uniform markings.
(2)     Trademark or service mark, defined as a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination or words, phrases, symbols or designs that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods from one party from those of others, on products or as part of store design.
(3)     Standardized interior décor including but not limited to style of furniture, wall-coverings or permanent fixtures.
(4)     Standardized color scheme used throughout the interior or exterior of the establishment.
(5)     Standardized uniform including but not limited to aprons, pants, shirts, smocks or dresses, hat, and pins (other than name tags).
(6)    Standardized architecture, façade, signage or other similar feature
(b)    a type of retail sales activity or retail sales establishment which adopts a name, appearance or other presentation format which causes it to be substantially identical to another business regardless of ownership or location.
(c)    any publicly traded corporation.

§ 212-13        District regulations, add:
D.    H  Historic District
– add-
(4)    Prohibited Uses
(a)    Formula Business

E.    B-1     Limited Business District
– add-
(4)    Prohibited Uses
(a)    Formula Business

F.    B-2     Core Business District
– add-
(4)    Prohibited Uses
(a)    Formula Business

G.    B-3     Highway Business District
– add-
(4)    Prohibited Uses
(a) Formula Business

H.    F     Floodplain District
– add-
(4) Prohibited Uses
(a)    Formula Business

I.    P-B Professional and Limited Business District
– add-
(4)    Prohibited Uses
(a) Formula Business

J.    Gateway District
– add-
(3)    Prohibited Uses
(a)    Formula Business

32. full time work, full time pay

Posted in democracy by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Set the Mayor’s salary at the same rate as the Town Supervisor’s. Both are 24-7 jobs, with equivalent duties and re-sponsibilities. Running for Mayor should not be left only to the wealthy or retired, and hiring a Village Manager would cost over $100,000, or nearly a ten percent tax hike.

47. sign the town on to the united nations urban environmental accords

In 2005, I was fortunate to help draft the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords.  At that year’s U.N. World Environment Day, 75 Mayors from around the globe met for the United Nations World Conference of Mayors. On behalf of the Village of New Paltz, I signed the original Accords, joining dozens of mayors from cities like London, Rome, Moscow, Kiev and Kampala, Uganda.

Here’s the text of the Accords:

and some related material:

73. create a heating oil co-op

Posted in democracy, energy, lowering the cost of living by Jason West on June 11, 2009

Set up a Home Heating Oil Buying Cooperative administered by the Town

74. create the city of new paltz

Merge the Town and Village into the City of New Paltz, thereby increasing New Paltz’ share of county sales tax revenue, federal aid and aid to police, fire and ambulance services. “City” doesn’t have to mean lower Manhattan; we can show people how to do it right.

77. use instant runoff voting

Posted in democracy, elections by Jason West on June 11, 2009

Elect the Town Council, Village Board and School Board using Instant Runoff Voting

78. use runoff elections

Posted in democracy, elections by Jason West on June 11, 2009

Elect the Mayor and Town Supervisor using runoffs, requiring the winner to be elected with a majority of votes, not just a plurality.

83. elect the Town Council by district

Posted in democracy, elections by Jason West on June 11, 2009

Elect members of the Town Council by district, with each district no more than ~1,200 people. Expand the Town Council to ten members to do so.

The smaller the district, the more democratic the election.  Pretty simple.