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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Primaries will take place June 25, and the General Election on Nov. 5. All five City Council seats and both city Supervisor seats are up for election this year. 

The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee endorsed all four Democratic incumbents running for re-election: Meg Kelly, Mayor; Michele Madigan, Finance Commissioner; John Franck, Commissioner of Accounts; and Tara Gaston, County Supervisor.

The SSDC also voted to endorse one of its members, Dillon Moran, for Commissioner of Public Works. “Dillon’s engineering education, business background and close study of the City’s infrastructure and operations all form a solid basis for our support,” SSDC Chair Courtney DeLeonardis said, in a statement.

For Public Safety Commissioner, where the Democratic incumbent is not seeking re-election, the Committee decided not to endorse at this time.

“We heard from two strong, well-qualified candidates – Eileen Finneran and Kendall Hicks -- who each impressed Committee members,” DeLeonardis said. “Both individuals have a lot to offer the City. I believe Committee members, along with other supporters, will help both candidates qualify for the primary election in June, when voters will decide who runs for Public Safety Commissioner on the Democratic line in the fall.”

The Saratoga Springs City Republican Committee endorsed four candidates at their meeting Feb. 26.

Anthony “Skip” Scirocco received the committee’s endorsement for Commissioner of Public Works; Robin Dalton received the committee’s endorsement for Commissioner of Public Safety and Matthew Veitch and Stephen Mittler, each received the committee’s endorsement for County Board of Supervisor. 

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Saratoga Springs Republicans for another term,” said Matt Veitch, a current member of the County Board of Supervisors. “I look forward to campaigning on my record of public service and representing the residents of our city at the county level.  Keeping the County on a continued path of low taxes, efficient government, and maintaining our great quality of life are my priorities for the upcoming year."

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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Caffe Lena powers up in the springtime with a series of major upcoming shows. 

Steve Katz, who studied guitar as a teen with Dave Van Ronk and Reverend Gary Davis, was an original member of The Blues Project (their last major gig: the Monterey Pop Festival), a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, and produced the mid-70’s Lou Reed albums “Rock & Roll Animal,” and “Sally Can’t Dance, will be in the house April 18 for the Rochmon treatment.

Rochmon aka Chuck Vosganian presents a sound & vision analysis of a different artist every month. The April 18 date marks the first live listening party, and where the event will be accompanied by Steve Katz himself. General admission tix: $25.

Robyn Hitchcock, famously of The Soft Boys and a pretty prominent solo career, brings his folky, wry British nihilist psychedelium to the café April 14. General admission tix: $32.

Eric Andersen - accompanied by the fab Scarlet Rivera on violin and Cheryl Prashker on percussion, returns to Lena’s April 7. General admission tix: $35.

Singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks performs a three-night stand, Friday, May 24 – Sunday, May 26. General admission tix: $45. Meet & Greet: $65.   

In early May, Caffe Lena will also play a role in a three-day event in the Capital Region celebrating Pete Seeger. 

Other Voices in Other Rooms: Laurie Anderson is slated to be in the Spa City in April, and we’re hearing Chuck Mangione will be in the city in June.

Published in Entertainment
Thursday, 21 February 2019 14:44

Member of Skidmore Class Wins Grammy

Emily Lazar, a member of the Skidmore College Class of 1993, earlier this month won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for her engineering work on Beck's "Colors" album. She is the first woman to win in the category, according to the college.

As president and chief mastering engineer of The Lodge, which she started in 1997, Lazar has worked with a range of groundbreaking music from platinum-selling artists such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Destiny's Child, The Raveonettes, Madonna, Saratoga Springs' own The Figgs, Missy Elliot, Sonic Youth, The Donnas and Ian Hunter, to name a few.  She has also mastered original sound tracks for feature films including "Training Day" and "Boys Don't Cry" and TV series such as "Six Feet Under."

After studio internships, jobs and a master's in music technology from New York University, Lazar opened up her own space, Lazar told CNBC, after accepting her award.

Lazar was previously nominated in 2014 for the Foo Fighters' "Wasting Light," which was up for Album of the Year, and for Record of the Year for Sia's hit "Chandelier” in 2014. In 2016, she was nominated for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for her work on the album "Recreational Love" by American indie pop duo The Bird and the Bee. Lazar completed a major in English and a minor in music at Skidmore.

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 08 February 2019 09:56

Racing's Big Bet: 7-Week Season

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga racing season, which typically runs from late July until Labor Day weekend will be extended by an additional week this summer.   

The New York Racing Association has set this year’s opening day as Thursday, July 11 - eight days before its previously assumed opening date of July 19.

The extending of the summer meet by eight calendar days will not translate to additional races, however, maintaining its 40-Saratoga-racing-days status quo. Previously, races had been staged six days per week with Tuesdays being a no-race or “dark” day. The lengthier 2019 calendar season, should it be approved, will be compensated for by the addition of no-race Mondays - with the exception of Labor Day - resulting in five days of races per week. The meet will conclude on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2.

The ramifications for both year-round residents and summer visitors could be huge.

The earlier start in 2019 will overlap with a pair of perennially busy weekend dates by Dave Matthews Band at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on July 12-13, as well as the summer staging by the New York City Ballet at SPAC July 16-20.  Elizabeth Sobol, president & CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center, said having the track open a week earlier gives us the opportunity to cross-promote the New York City Ballet summer residency at SPAC.

City Finance Michele Madigan Commissioner says the summer racing season is among the largest drivers regarding sales tax for the local economy and that despite losing one racing day per week, the addition of a week could be a boost for the local economy.

"We will work with NYRA to ensure the safety of our horses and riders and to do all we can to protect the thousands of jobs in our backstretch community as we navigate this challenging time,” NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum said in a statement.  “NYTHA supports the interim solution NYRA has worked out for summer racing dates. While it presents certain complications, we all get to spend five extra days a year in Saratoga - which is always good for the soul."

 "The new schedule will bring both anticipated and unanticipated benefits to our summer racing season, and we will use the City's resources to make it even more successful than ever,” added city Mayor Meg Kelly.

The schedule change is related to the upcoming construction of a new hockey arena, which would shorten the length of the racing season at NYRA’s Belmont Park.

In December 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York Islanders hockey team and their partnership group were selected as winning bidders of a state issued Request for Proposals aimed at strengthening Belmont Park as a world-class sports and entertainment destination. The goal is to construct an arena by the start of the 2021 hockey season. It is unclear whether that would subsequently translate to an additional extended Saratoga season in 2020 and/or 2021. 

The construction timeline indicates work on the new arena at Belmont Park could begin as early as the second quarter of 2019, leading to potential disruption during morning training and afternoon racing. The Belmont Park spring/summer meet will feature a revised 48-day calendar to commence on Friday, April 26 and run through Sunday, July 7.

The new year has brought an unsettling start to 2019 for the New York Racing Association. President and CEO Chris Kay resigned his position in January. According to published reports, Kay allegedly used employees to conduct work at his Saratoga Springs home, and last week it was announced a 25-year partnership between NYRA and Saratoga Race Course food services provider Centerplate will not be renewed. The end of the contract will leave hundreds of people at the Saratoga Race Course without jobs, according to the independent news and information platform Patch.com.  It is not known whether a yet-to-be-named new vendor to manage food and beverage concessions will hire those who were previously employed at the racecourse.  

Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, says the county’s tourism promotion agency will “pull out all the stops to bring as many people here as possible.  I think the hospitality sector likes the idea of an extra weekend and many of the folks in the horse racing industry like the idea of two (dark) days for a variety of reasons,” Shimkus said. “We’ve also heard from residents who are not necessarily thrilled with the idea of having their meet extended and their city taken over by visitors - but from an economic perspective this extra weekend helps us attract even more people who shop and dine and stay here; The hospitality sector is going to be able to grow.”   

Ariane Fuller is the owner/real estate broker at Racing City Realty – in its 17th year of serving the track rental needs for both homeowners and renters

“I do believe the extra days will be a boost for the community with more time to explore all that Saratoga Springs and the surrounding areas have to offer. Overall, the consensus seems to be that homeowners are excited at the opportunity to rent an additional week.   We will make adjustments as needed. We will take this in stride - my goal is to work hard and make this transition a smooth process for both homeowners and renters.”

A decade ago, the length of the Saratoga season was extended from 36 race days to 40. The Spa staged its first organized thoroughbred racing meet in 1863, which took place over four days in August, as Saratoga began to earn its nickname as “the August place to be.” A century after its founding, the meet was extended to 24 days, then to 30 days by the 1990s.

The 2019 spring/summer racing calendar at Saratoga will be highlighted by the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8; the Grade 1 Whitney on Saturday, Aug. 3; and the 150th anniversary running of the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on Saturday, Aug. 24.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS - Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin announced today that he will not seek re-election for a new term starting in 2020.

“I would like to pursue opportunities outside of my role as Commissioner of Public Safety," said Martin, in a statement. "During this past year, I have treated the time and energy commitment of this position as a full time job. I believe that it would not be fair to the people of Saratoga Springs to treat it as anything less. Therefore, I have made the decision not to seek re-election as Commissioner of Public Safety for a new term commencing in January 2020.

“I will forever be grateful to the people of Saratoga Springs and to our Public Safety Department staff. I have enjoyed working with the dedicated and talented employees at city hall. I do not make this decision lightly. It comes after several weeks of difficult and personal reflection. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the City as your Commissioner of Public Safety," Martin said. 

“Over the past year, we have accomplished much – and there remains a great deal more yet to do. As I said, this job is a full time position, and I intend to remain a full time Commissioner for the rest of this year. I believe that working in cooperation with other members of the City Council, we can accomplish some great things over the remainder of this year." 

In November, elections will be held for all five City Council member seats, including mayor.  

Published in News
Friday, 01 February 2019 14:55

The Price of Forever

SARATOGA SPRINGS – When the United States Postal Service first issued its “Forever” stamp in 2007, it boasted a unique commodity. Here is a non-perishable product that would maintain its value in one ounce-weight, no matter how much costs may increase in the future.     

Forever stamps are non-denominational first-class postage, which means that they can be used to mail First Class letters no matter what the postal rate. In other words, if you purchased the stamps in 2007, which cost 41 cents at the time, then they may continue to be used in the present day for a normal-sized letter weighing one ounce or less, even as postage rates have increased. Forever stamps have also gone up in price - to 42 cents in 2008, 46 cents in 2013, 49 cents in 2014.

This week, the USPS raised the price of new Forever stamps up to 55 cents, which went into effect Jan. 27.  

Since their first issue in 2007, a variety of faces have graced forever stamps – from songwriter John Lennon to America’s first woman in space, Sally Ride; from the animated Great Dane Scooby-Doo to TV’s Mr. Rogers. There are stamps which have honored Americans who participated in WW I, and others recognizing First Responders.   

Brand new, or soon-to-be-released Forever stamps include tributes to entertainer Gregory Hines, and to tennis champion Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly Brinker.  

Additions to the 2019 Stamp Program – although not all will be marked as “Forever” stamps, will include: the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad; multiple works by artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015); a tribute to Marvin Gaye, and one commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. Another will celebrate murals created inside five different post offices during the era of the Great Depression that were designed to add a touch of beauty to post office walls and help boost the morale of Americans.

While not included in the Post Office Mural pane, locals will note the Saratoga Springs post office on Broadway displays two murals titled “Saratoga in Racing Season,” which were painted by Guy Pene du Bois under the Treasury Relief Art Project in 1937.

On another local note, artist Ellsworth Kelly – whose work will be featured on a 2019 stamp - has been exhibited at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, on the campus of Skidmore College. In 2015, the Tang received a $100,000 challenge grant from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation for the purpose of supporting the conservation and care of its 7,000-plus-work collection. Additionally, Ian Berry, the museum’s Dayton Director, worked as a studio assistant for Kelly in the 1990s.

As to how the illustrated face of a stamp is chosen, USPS spokeswoman Maureen Marion says a Postmaster General’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee meets quarterly and is involved in the decision-making process.

 “They look at thousands of recommendations that come through,” she says.  The CSAC was established in 1957. Their meetings are closed to the public.  

One notable proposal floated during the lick-and-stick stamp days was a four-panel beer stein depiction which had a pretzel flavored taste to it when you licked the back of the stamp, Marion says. “But, that didn’t come to pass.”

The Richard Nixon stamp, issued in 1995 after the former president’s passing, was the first stamp on a major scale that moved away from the lick-and-stick variety and on to the adhesive option.  

“Just imagine, there are people graduating college now who have never licked a stamp,” Marion says.

As for the Stamp selection process, the U.S. Postal Service welcomes suggestions for stamp subjects that celebrate the American experience. Any proposal that meets the established criteria will be considered.  That criteria may be found at: https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/csac/criteria.htm. As of January 2018, no living persons will be honored on a stamp. Deceased individuals will be honored no earlier than three years after his or her death.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than a dozen albums ago, Saratoga Springs High School friends Pete Donnelly, Mike Gent and Guy Lyons first got together to form a musical ensemble they called The Figgs.

Thirty-one years and some 1,500 shows later, Donnelly - who calls Philadelphia and South Jersey home these days – returns Jan. 31 to Caffe Lena, where he will be joined by Fred Berman on drums, Ray Long on bass, and John Cunningham on guitar.

In addition to his founding-member in-standing with The Figgs, Donnelly’s musical path has traveled through Terry Adams’ legendary NRBQ, Soul Asylum, the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson and Graham Parker, among others.  

There was a TV commercial for a luxury car in 2013 that featured the catchy post-new wave riffs of the Figgs’ “Je T’adore,”  and with the song “Your Smile Is a Deadly Thing,” released in 2016, the band showcased THE most addictive guitar riff of the year. Go ahead, give it a whirl HERE

Coming back to Saratoga, “still pretty much feels like home,” Donnelly said, during a phone interview in advance of New Year’s Eve return to perform at First Night Saratoga 2017.

His most recent solo album, 2018’s “Phases of The Moon,” features an all-star combo and signals a departure from Donnelly's past work. While the pop songs remain, the jazz predominates. (As was written in these pages upon the album’s release last year: The piano serves as a driving force, merging seductive jazz riffs laced with a sweet soul muse, topped with the familiar jingle-jangle of an electric guitar).

Ten of the album’s 18 tracks are instrumentals and include recreation of works by Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy and Oscar Pettiford.

“As a kid I loved jazz music, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, and I think a lot of people are surprised by that. Those were my idols,” says Donnelly, whose first instrument was the bass - and specifically an Ibanez Roadstar II, purchased at Drome Sound in Albany on his 13th birthday.  Growing up in ‘80s, bands like Hüsker Dü and Black Flag helped inspire his music “counter to the cheesy, schmaltzy ‘80s pop world we grew up in during the Reagan Era. Our music was an affront to that. It was an expression of searching for an identity in a banal world,” he says. “It almost feels like it’s a return to that now.”

Pete Donnelly performs 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Caffe Lena. Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 members, $10 students and kids. For more information, call 518-583-0022, or go to: caffelena.org.    

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee announced today that it will start interviews soon with candidates who are interested in securing the Democratic Party endorsement for municipal elections later this year. Due to changes in New York’s primary election date, SSDC interviews will be held earlier than in previous years.

The SSDC is seeking to hear no later than Sunday, Feb. 10, from those who are – or may be – planning a run in 2019.

The November 2019 election in Saratoga Springs will include races for mayor and all other City Council slots, including the commissioners of accounts, finance, public works and public safety. Two County Supervisors also will be elected to represent the city.

The SSDC will invite interested candidates to meet with its Nominations/Endorsement Subcommittee to discuss the local Democratic platform and the candidates’ positions and qualifications. The full SSDC then votes on endorsing candidates for each position.

Earlier this week, the state Senate and Assembly approved voting reform legislation, including a bill to move up New York’s primary election from September to June, consolidating state and federal primary dates. An earlier primary means that the petition process, whereby candidates seek to secure party lines on the ballot, also will occur much earlier. This in turn accelerates the SSDC’s need to interview those seeking its endorsement.

All inquiries should be directed to SSDC Chair Courtney DeLeonardis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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BALLSTON SPA – In August 2012, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to create the formation of the Saratoga County Capital Resource Corporation, or SCCRC, and named Anita Daly the organization’s chair.

Charged with promoting community development and the creation of jobs in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors, the local development corporation this week announced it had facilitated more than $200 million in financing since its formation.

That financing benefitted health care, education and affordable housing organizations headquartered or operating in Saratoga County. Projects have included enabling low-interest financing for a segment of a new science building at Skidmore College, the expansion at Saratoga Hospital, updates to the Raymond Watkin apartments and for a St. Peter’s Hospital project.

“In the case of Saratoga Hospital, they expanded their ER and the size of their OR, and (at the Watkin apartments) they did a huge renovation to the facility that enhances the quality of life for residents there,” said Daly, who continues to serve as chairwoman of the not-for-profit SCCRC.

“By being a conduit for tax-exempt financing, it helps not-for-profits maintain low costs in financing or re-financing a project. By keeping the cost down, it allows them to save money for their operation or do an expansion, or whatever their goal may be,” Daly said. “Sometimes it makes the difference whether they go ahead with their goal or not.”

In a new initiative for 2019, the agency is providing grants to small businesses and organizations which may not otherwise have the resources to participate in the newly launched Saratoga County Institute of Management. The program is designed to help local incumbent staff members develop leadership and management skills.

“It was created at the request of different business people in the area who expressed the need to better advance certain skill sets of existing employees and new hires,” Daly said of the partnership forged between SCCRC, the county Chamber of Commerce and Empire State College with the idea of grooming future leaders. “We created a program that was directly the result of requests made by businesses, so that we can help our businesses with their workforce development needs.” 

The program is organized into three different three-month tracks: sessions in Operational Management - such as recruitment and retention, and knowledge of HR and legal issues; Self-Awareness - which includes time management and effective listening, and sessions in the Management of Others, which features motivation and conflict resolution techniques.

The cost for businesses to send employees to the management program is $1,500 (Chamber members) to $2,000 (non-members) per employee, per track.

“What the Saratoga County Capital Resource Corporation was able to so with some of its funds is to invest in the project by way of scholarships,” Daly said. “Particularly for some smaller not-for-profits that may not have the funds available in their budget to send some of their employees to this management institute, we underwrite the cost for them to attend.”  

The agency – comprised of seven members at full capacity - is self-sufficient and doesn’t rely on any taxpayer or government funding, Daly said. The group’s annual budget calls for contractual CEO and administrative expenses but is comprised of a volunteer board. Fees associated with application charges provide revenue, Daly added. Bond administration fees typically account for $75,000 in annual revenue, according to the agency’s budget.

“The whole purpose of creating Saratoga County Capital Resource Corporation was to give our not-for profits in Saratoga County an opportunity to work with a local development corporation as opposed to having to go through the state Dormitory Authority - a much more cumbersome and expensive route for them,” she said. “We’re very proud of the organization we put together and pleased that we have been were able to offer this avenue for financing and we believe it’s come back to benefit everyone across Saratoga County, and even beyond.”    

SCCRC holds public meetings on a quarterly basis at minimum, and with more frequency when working with an application or project that needs further review. For more information, call 518-435-5903, or go to: https://www.saratogacountyny.gov/departments/saratoga-county-capital-resource-corporation/.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS – 5G. AI. Blockchain. The possible eradication of disease and abolishment of poverty. The potential wiping out of your job. So many questions.  A free, city-based “Lunch and Learn” event with a focus on artificial intelligence will take place Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Saratoga Springs City Center.

“The AI Opportunity: Developing an AI Ecosystem in Upstate New York” will include a panel discussion, and a Q & A session: What is artificial intelligence? Why does AI matter? What opportunities does it present locally and regionally?

Panelists will share ideas, experiences, and viewpoints about AI technology, research and development, ethics, and policies and will be moderated by Michele Madigan, city Commissioner of Finance and chair of the Saratoga Springs Smart City Commission.

“This series—on topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, innovation, and energy—works to position the region to spur economic development by leveraging applications of emerging technologies to practical business challenges,” Madigan said, in a statement.

Marty Vanags, president of Saratoga County prosperity Partnership, and one of the sponsoring organizations of the event, points to things like the Apple Watch, robot vacuums and Alexa as things inside the home that depict AI is already here.

“On my phone I have The Weather Channel App. Algorithms are generating information and pretty darn accurate information about what the weather is going to be like into the future, from temperatures on an hourly basis to how much and where snow is going to fall,” Vanags says. “I was at a consumer electronics show last week and Samsung has something called The Hub - this giant screen on the refrigerator that organizes your family activities, totally interactive.   

Do you watch movies on Netflix? That data is put to use for the next time you want to watch a movie and shows up in recommendations: because you watched THIS movie, try THESE movies. “It may not be an exact fit, but the technology, that algorithm will learn over time,” Vanags says. “Machine learning, which is part of Artificial Intelligence. It keeps re-defining until it really begins to know and understand what it is you like.”  

It is anticipated that the deployment of 5G will lead to the mainstreaming of autonomous, or self-driving vehicles.

Asked whether there may be a danger with all the gathering of data that may lead to humans not being exposed to new things, or perhaps other downfalls, Vanags says, “technology needs to have limits and controls, just like anything. It’s an interesting conundrum. We like our technology we like our conveniences and at the same time we don’t want to be felt imposed upon by companies that are using that technology.”   

An “Open Letter” penned in 2015 and signed by the likes of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, the late Stephen Hawking and thousands of others, the importance of focused research to maximize the societal benefit of AI was stressed. “Our AI systems must do what we want them to do,” the Open Letter states. “The potential benefits are huge… the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable. Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.”

The future impact of AI is also anticipated to cause the elimination of some jobs - taxi drivers and truck drivers as examples among them - when self-driving vehicles become mainstream. 

“It’s hard to predict. I’m not predicting this, but some people have predicted that you will go to a restaurant and essentially robots will take your order,” Vanags says. “I don’t know, I think the human element is still important and I like my waiters and waitresses at Cantina, so I don’t see that necessarily,  but there could be applications in AI that predict what I might order, an Artificial Intelligence application that actually generates the food that I’m going to eat, but there are a lot of costs involved and I think that’s well into the future.”

“The AI Opportunity: Developing an AI Ecosystem in Upstate New York,” a Lunch and Learn session of the city partnering with IgniteU NY, will be held noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Saratoga City Center. Lunch will be provided. Panelists include Bob Bedard, the President and CEO of the software company deFacto Global, Inc., Dr. Craig Skevington, CEO of managed service provider STEADfast IT, and Colin Garvey, a Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) specializing in AI risk governance.

The event is free and open to the public, but it is limited to 100 attendees. For more information, GO HERE.

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