SARATOGA SPRINGS – At the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, May 3, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan presented her preliminary year-end report for fiscal year 2015. A summary of the highlights of this report appears on page 19.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced her five appointments to the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board. This panel, designed to facilitate good communication between the local community and the NYRA Board has 15 members - five each are appointed by NYRA, The Chairperson of the County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s office. The Mayor’s appointments were John Carusone, Dr. William Wilmot, Skip Carlson, Michelle Primacello, and Cindy Hollowood.
The City unanimously approved a resolution entitled ‘Authorization for Mayor to execute Settlement Agreement and Mutual Releases regarding The Anderson Group v. the City of Saratoga Springs,’ which sets in motion closure regarding a piece of long-standing litigation against the City. During the discussion and vote, no particular amount was mentioned, although later in the evening, during the Finance Department’s agenda item called ‘Budget Amendment-Legal Liability’, Commissioner of Finance Madigan noted that the amount was $750,000, which would come from the City’s unrestricted, unassigned fund. This budget amendment also passed unanimously.
In the original case, on July 2, 2010, a verdict of $1 million was awarded to the Anderson Group in US District Court, finding that zoning policies used by the City of Saratoga Springs had a discriminatory impact on African Americans and families with children. The Anderson Group, an Albany, New York builder, sought to construct a mixed-income housing development, called Spring Run Village, a development with 50 to 60 affordable units, on property they own outside the downtown area. The jury found the City had rejected the Anderson's application and rezoned the site from a classification where high-density residential and commercial uses were “preferred” and “encouraged” to a classification where such a development was prohibited.
A wide-ranging, 40-minute discussion on the subject of ‘Citizens' Complaints About Aggressive Panhandling’ took place, with Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Michael A. Finocchi at the guest microphone for much of it. At the outset, a major distinction was made between homelessness and aggressive panhandling. For instance, it was noted that many panhandler’s are from out of town, may even work in shifts, and conduct their activities like a business – in other words, this may be the ‘occupation’ they have chosen. Homeless people are in need of a wide variety of services, but in most cases are looking for the means to better their situation. Finocchi also pointed out that the city currently has no drop-in daytime shelter or 24/7 mission, as is the case in many cities that are coping with this problem A key point, raised often, is that the best way to stop panhandling of any kind is to stop giving people money. During his agenda, Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen announced that a Public Safety forum will take place on Thursday, May 19 at 7 p.m. in the City Council room, and that forum will cover the topic of vagrancy and related issues. Rebecca Davis will soon have a follow-up article to her April 29 cover story on this subject, in which this discussion, the legal perspective, and the thoughts of local business owners and community members will be examined in greater depth.