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Friday, 24 January 2014 16:02

The ‘White Wave’ Waves No White Flag

Saratoga Springs City Council

SARATOGA SPRINGS— The public comment period at the beginning of the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 21, was, as expected, longer than usual and dominated by members of the public expressing their opinion on the issue of expanded gaming. 


But, as opposed to the council’s previous meeting (January 7) the composition of the commenters might best be described as a “horse of a different color.”


Another overflow city council chamber was, this time, dominated by white-shirted advocates for expanded gaming at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR). (This later led Commissioner of Public Works Chris Mathiesen to lead a discussion regarding moving future meetings to a larger room, perhaps the Music Hall on the third floor). These advocates were largely drawn from the ranks of people who were employees or had some connection to SCR, or were members of the advocacy group “Destination Saratoga”. 


The SCR employees that spoke came from all levels of the facility, from management to part-timers. It was apparent to this reporter that many were not used to public speaking and some read from comments that were on paper. 


But it is important to note that there was nothing that was apparent that indicated that they were handed a script to read, or that they were being compelled to read said script. 


It appeared that everyone spoke from the heart, and there was no reason from this vantage point to doubt anyone’s sincerity in their feelings of gratitude for their position and their employer. 


One standout commenter who of course needed no script was former Commissioner of Public Works Tom McTygue, who spoke in his trademark “plain folks” language and garnered the most thunderous applause of the evening. 


Of course, there were some commenters and members of the gallery who were against expanded gaming at SCR, among them were members of SAVE (Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion.) However, that group had sent out a memo to the press and their membership saying that the jobs at SCR as currently constituted “…are protected under the legislation that passed in November,” and therefore they were sitting this meeting out. Some decided to come a la carte’ anyway to observe, leaflet and in one case, hand out pastries donated by Mama Mia’s restaurant. 


The sugar was certainly welcomed by this member of the media, as well as Mayor Yepsen, who had a full agenda which was underway with an executive session nearly 80 minutes after we had all saluted the flag.


In Other Council News: 

- After emerging from executive session, Mayor Yepsen detailed and the council unanimously approved the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement with the police administrative officer unit, which covered the Chief, Assistant Chief and Captain. 


This contract had expired in 2008 and will run though the end of this year. As such, there were pay increases that were retroactive that totaled approximately $57,000 (which would be paid out of a contingency fund which had been set up previously in Finance Commissioner Madigan’s budget) as well as a $17,000 increase in the current budget. The mayor saluted her team for their diligence in getting this expired contract up to date.


- The mayor made three appointments: James Helicki to the zoning board, Mark Torpey to the planning board and Carol Maxwell to the heritage area program advisory committee. Later, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck appointed Alexandra Besso to the board of assessment review.


- The mayor discussed Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address and it’s impact on city residents and reminded everyone that her annual State of the City address will take place next Tuesday evening, January 28 at the Saratoga Springs City Center. 


- By a 4-0 vote, the council approved a Public Works addendum to an agreement related to the Ballston Avenue Improvement Project with Greenman Pedersen, Inc., with Commissioner Franck recusing himself, as he owned property in the affected area. Also, the council approved 5-0 a change order with Bunkhoff General Contracts for an ongoing project related to moisture removal and structural strengthening in the historic Canfield Casino’s basement.



- Commissioner Mathiesen received unanimous approval for his motions to begin alternative side of the street parking on Greenfield Avenue between North Broadway and Clement Avenue. He also received unanimous approval for increasing base parking violation fees from 30 to 35 dollars and adding a scofflaw fee of $10.

Thursday, 16 January 2014 15:21

Matt Veitch Steps Up

New Role At Board Of Supervisors Brings Increased Impact On All County Residents’ Lives

BALLSTON SPA – Matthew E. Veitch is beginning his fourth two-year term as Saratoga County Supervisor, one of two supervisors representing the City of Saratoga Springs. Each year, the board elects new officers and for 2014, he was elected vice-chairman. 


As such, he will assume the chair the board of supervisors’ important law and finance committee, which renders an advisory opinion on virtually every matter that involves any expenditure of county money. 


He also will have primary responsibility for the preparation of the county’s 2015 budget and is chairman of the board of supervisors’ agenda meeting. By rule, given that he will not face re-election, he is also in a direct line to become 2015’s chairman of the board. 


All told, this means he is in an increased position to have an impact on every Saratoga County resident’s lives. We sat down at a local coffee shop to discuss the workings of county government and to gain some insights as to some of the things he hopes to achieve in this increased capacity. 


How does the process of being elected to the chair and vice-chair work? Is it a true election akin to running for office?


MV: Yes and no. There is an actual vote to ratify officers, but unlike a general public election there are different rules in which seniority controls. The chairman is the most senior member of the majority party (Republican), who has not previously served as chair. In this case, Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville was elected to that post. The vice-chairman is the second most senior supervisor who also has the most time served as a member of the seven-person law and finance committee. I was appointed to that committee three years ago. 


What are some of the major areas that the Law and Finance committee has primary responsibility for?


MV: The county budget itself is passed at the end of the previous year. Law and Finance renders an advisory opinion on any budget amendment after that, and can modify an amount it recommends if it feels an adjustment is called for. This committee is responsible for all rules and regulations, oversight of the county sewer district and outside standing agencies. We also oversee donations to not-for-profit agencies as they occur, and as needed screen and interview candidates for personnel vacancies for department head level and above (non-civil service positions.)   


In your new role, you have primary responsibility for the preparation of the 2015 budget. When does the process begin, and how does the timetable to passage play out?


MV: We begin in July, with a survey of all department heads for their requests, and work on this into October. We generally release the preliminary budget in late October, shortly before Election Day. While I intend to keep an eye on and be involved in each request, I also will rely on County Administrator Spencer Hellwig and Management Analyst Ryan Moore for their expertise. In November, law and finance holds a meeting to take any recommended adjustments to personnel by the county’s Personnel Director, and other special changes as needed. In early December, the Board of Supervisors holds a budget workshop and we adopt our budget at the Board’s last meeting of the year. 


Looking ahead to the 2015 budget, what would you like to see accomplished? 


MV: First of all, I have to give credit to my predecessors. We had some rough budget years in the past, but the measures that they have taken, including the sale of Maplewood Manor, the county landfill and the setting up for a new strategic economic plan, has put us in great shape going forward. Assuming the economy stays the way it is, we should have some extra revenue to develop in ways that will be beneficial and visible to all county residents.


The first thing I hope will happen is for us to refund our open space activities, which had to be defunded during lean times. I don’t expect to fund it to the previous high level it once was, but reestablish it. Second, I hope to develop a new county trail grant program, in which all towns could competitively submit projects for the county’s support. 


I’d also like to see support for a county wide green initiative, in conjunction with our buildings and grounds committee. This takes many forms- from looking at ways to save on energy by removing some of the excess florescent lighting in county buildings, putting high-efficiency LED lighting in our parking lots. We should look at the feasibility of establishing a solar park somewhere on county land. It would be great if we could take the county buildings off the grid, perhaps return some surplus. It would be an investment and a long-term project, but I’ve never been against spending money if there’s a strong potential for a payback to us. 


The biggest goal I would like to shoot for, given a good budget year for 2015, is to not increase taxes, which was necessary the past three years. I’m hopeful and optimistic.


How will you involve your colleagues, either from rural towns unlike Saratoga Springs, or from the other party?


MV: I’ve always been of the belief that a good idea doesn’t come from one side or another. Show me a good idea, and I’ll back it.


You just had your first agenda meeting. How did it go?



MV: We were out in six minutes. I got a lot of compliments about that!

Thursday, 16 January 2014 15:17

Young Talent To Sing For Their Supper

Third Annual Saratoga Children’s Theatre Showcase on Tap

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Show tunes and mo’ tunes will be part of the menu as talented performers ranging in age from seven to their mid-teens strut their stuff at Saratoga Children’s Theatre’s (SCT) annual showcase and silent auction on Sunday, January 26 at Longfellows Restaurant. 


“Reservations are going strong as usual. This is one of our most popular events,” said Meg Kelly, SCT’s executive director. “Last year was a complete sellout and right now we only have less than 50 spots remaining.”


In addition to the performances, the event will feature over 30 silent auction items and door prizes (including golf and pampering packages as well as SCT summer camp discount coupons) and a special announcement about SCT’s 2014-summer camp programming. “Registration for summer camp beings online the very next day,” Meg said, “So this is a chance to learn about all the offerings and choose the slot you want.” 


An early-bird registration discount will be in effect until March, so you can bid on and win a camp voucher at this event and get your children registered early at a double-discounted rate. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet the directors and artistic staff that they will be working with over the summer. 


The performance highlights are divided into three broad categories: there will be over a dozen teen solo performances, accompanied and MC’d by local musician extraordinaire Rick Bolton, over a dozen young performer (ages seven to 13) group show tunes managed by summer camp music director Maria Laurenzo, as well as three mixed group numbers with even some adults thrown in. 


All of this is accompanied by a sit-down luncheon provided by Longfellows’ excellent kitchen, with multiple choices to suit everyone’s taste. 


Everybody who attends is a winner, as the warm feeling you get from helping an excellent local institution that develops young talent is something everyone gets to savor long after the dessert is savored and the last “bravo!” is exclaimed. 


Saratoga Children’s Theatre

Talent Showcase

Sunday, January 26

Noon – 4 p.m.

Longfellows Restaurant

500 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs

Tickets: $75 Adults / $25 Children


Reservations: saratogachildrenstheatre.org

Thursday, 16 January 2014 14:55

Gluten Free: For You? For Me?

Local’s React To A Growing Phenomenon. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – When I was first assigned this topic, I knew of the expression “gluten free,” but knew little else about the subject. As I researched, each finding led to more questions. 


For many people, there are many misconceptions and questions: for instance, is it a healthy lifestyle choice that they could consider? For others, an apparently growing segment of our population, there is no choice at all. 


For some people, a gluten-free diet may not be a matter of life or death—but if you ask them, they will tell you that it certainly feels that way.  


I consulted with Dr. Marcia McCormack, a local professor of nutritional science at SUNY Adirondack, as well as other of our neighbors to get a handle on local responses to a growing phenomenon, of varying levels, to what might best be called dietary distress. 


Some local people have responded by growing businesses that serve that portion of our population for whom basic everyday foods that we take for granted are so toxic that, once ingested, literally go to war with their bodies. 

But who is affected, how are they affected and how many are affected? All worthy questions, for which science and research only has partial answers at this point. Yet there is no doubt that the affected segment is growing. 


If you want evidence, walk into any major supermarket. For instance, we visited our local Hannaford (#95 on Weibel Avenue) where Manager Steve Robyck and Assistant Manager Paul Gizzi showed us that currently their store has 28 feet of shelf space for gluten-free products, plus “two doors of frozen foods” and some specialty endcaps. Bottom line: you don’t dedicate this kind of space without a justification. Nor, because of the cost involved, does a major manufacturer, for instance Barilla pasta, come out with a whole line of gluten-free products unless they are confident that there are enough people to buy them.   


But we are getting ahead of things. For those who know little about the subject, a few basic questions need to be answered:


1) What is gluten? According to Dr. McCormack, gluten is a protein found in common foods that contain wheat, rye and barley among other basic ingredients. It is the substance that makes pizza dough stretchy and bread spongy. Gluten is also used as a thickener in sauces and soups, which can make it sneakily pervasive in modern processed foods.


2) What does gluten do? What is the danger of consuming gluten-rich products? For most people, there is no danger, although the research is inconclusive as to whether avoiding gluten is a good dietary choice for those who don’t need to avoid it. Currently, the science has identified three levels of conditions where gluten should be avoided: gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance and celiac disease – the latter being the most severe condition. People with full-blown celiac are subject to organ damage if they consume foods with gluten, whereas with the other two conditions will experience results that range from digestive distress to acute pain. In all three cases, the person’s digestive system rejects the given food and essential nutrients that could be derived from it (some examples are fiber and vitamin D) are not absorbed.


3) What happens when a person with celiac eats food with gluten? Simply put, nothing good. 


A human’s small intestine is lined with tentacle-like receptors, called villi, which in a normal person absorbs all the essential nutrients out of a given food substance, while the waste product is vacated. 


A person with celiac is likely to experience major damage to the villi and other areas of the small intestine if gluten is consumed in any form. Dr. McCormack goes further, “Damage to the small intestine causes malabsorption of nutrients, weight loss, reflux, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and cramping,” These symptoms may appear in a lesser degree in those with gluten intolerance or sensitivity, but they are by no means ‘getting off easy.’


But, unfortunately, there’s more.


“Aside from gastrointestinal symptoms,” Dr. McCormack notes, “some individuals experience anemia, fatigue, lack of growth in children, infertility, osteoporosis, dermatitis and neurological complications.”


4) What is the cure? Sadly, medical science has not found one. “The only treatment is lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet.” Dr. McCormack said.


5) How large is the universe of affected people? It depends on whom you ask; although there is no doubt that this universe is growing. 


In 2012, TIME Magazine listed gluten-free as the number two food trend of the year. A market research company called Packaged Facts reported that the gluten-free market was $4.2 billion last year, and predicted that it will grow to $6.6 billion in 2017. 


Dr. McCormack says that her sources estimated that about the middle of the last century 1 in 5000 people had celiac; today it is closer to 1 in 100, with similar growth rates for both gluten intolerance and sensitivity. Why the growth? According to Dr. McCormack, it falls into two broad categories: better diagnosis (for instance, what once may have been diagnosed as other things such as irritable bowel syndrome is now diagnosed properly) and genetics. While the research is by no means conclusive, apparently the genetic disposition towards celiac is a ‘super gene,’ highly likely to be passed on by either partner to his or her offspring. This goes some of the way to explaining the growing number of gluten-free products on our supermarket shelves, but it does not explain it fully. A one-percent market, if true, is not enough to justify this phenomenon.


But that same one percent is more than enough to justify a thriving market for local small businesses. 


One such example is Saratoga Gluten Free Goods, a certified gluten-free bakery founded in 2008 by Jeanne Daley, MaryAnna O’Donnell and Robert Averill. The demands for their products are exploding to the extent that they are beyond capacity at their current location and are looking for bigger space. 


To an extent, this was a business born of necessity as all three owners have some degree of related affliction. Robert has epilepsy, an outgrowth of MaryAnna’s celiac, for which she was diagnosed in 1998, after a decade of being tested for everything under the sun. Before embracing a gluten-free diet, she would “experience many periods of extreme fatigue; then I would be sick for weeks, a combination of joint and gastrointestinal pain.” 


Jeanne, who was diagnosed with the “milder” gluten intolerance in 2009, described one incident in which she thought she was eating a gluten-free preparation at a local restaurant, but apparently the meal was cross contaminated with gluten-rich products in the same kitchen. The result was instantaneous and heart wrenching. “The pain was indescribable. I was in the bathroom five to seven times doing every thing I could to get rid of it, but nothing would give relief. Later, I had a rash all over my body for four days.” Jeanne said.


Their products are flying off the shelves at retail outlets all over our market, including 4 Seasons, Healthy Living Market and Café, 4 Earth’s Sake and Russell’s Deli. Their baked goods and breads are offered as options at many area restaurants, including Circus Café, Harvest and Hearth, Esperanto, The Local and Fifty South.


Kim Klopstock, the progressive owner of Fifty South represents another local market reaction when she made the decision about a year ago to go virtually all-gluten free. “It was in response to our customer’s wishes, but generally an exponential outgrowth of the momentum we established.” She said. “We developed a reputation for clean, fresh, farm-to-table New American cuisine.” 


That, and a previous background in kosher catering gave her the momentum to become certified. “It was a one-day class, but it taught me the importance of scrupulously avoiding any co-mingling of products.” She keeps separate refrigerators for the few gluten-laden products that remain. 


This extends to her bar, where gluten-free beer and even vodka are available. She reaches out to breweries and distilleries as close as Valatie or as far as Colorado to get these specialty products.


“Co-mingling and cross contamination is everything,” Kim said. “Take ivory soap. They marketed themselves as 99 and 44/100 percent pure. In the gluten world, that is not pure. Only pure is pure.” 


As such, rather than bear the cost of separate fryers, oils, pots and pans—indeed, a whole second kitchen, she took the initiative to develop a whole gluten-free menu, even though she estimates that only about 20 percent of her customer base actually requires gluten-free diet. “The rest of the family has shown that they will make the sacrifice for everyone’s well-being.” And to be sure, Kim’s culinary expertise is such that any ‘flavor gap’ (a frequent complaint about gluten-free products) is more than made up. One bite of her gluten-free potato chips will make you a believer. 


Regardless of taste, entire families across our market are making the same decision. “I’m too busy to start using separate pots and making separate dinners even if it were feasible to keep everything straight, which it isn’t.” Jeanne Daley said. In this case, her husband Jim (an advertising rep at Saratoga TODAY) eats gluten-free for the sake of his wife and son. He claims that taste is not an issue for him, which is also a tribute to his wife’s expertise in developing recipes for baked goods. 


Entire families going gluten-free goes a way towards explaining those 28 feet of shelf space of products at our local Hannaford, yet still cannot explain it all. Dr. McCormack suggests a further factor, and a cautionary one.


“These products are being marketed to the general public, under the guise of a ‘healthier lifestyle/weight loss’ and food companies are attempting to capitalize upon this like the probiotics trend as a key for better digestive health,” she said. “This can be very dangerous, for gluten goods contribute many nutrients, minerals, fiber and B vitamins among other things to people’s diet. Anyone who goes gluten-free needs to be aware of this. Further, processed or manufactured gluten-free products may be higher in fat or sugar content in order to make them palatable.”


While recognizing the critical need for those people who must be strictly gluten-free, Dr. McCormack concludes “there’s no magic in gluten-free for people who need to lose weight.” 


Yet, as another nutritionist said to me a while back, it’s hard to go up against celebrity endorsers of the gluten-free lifestyle such as Al Roker or Gwyneth Paltrow. There seems to be little doubt that the large food companies, who must manufacture gluten-free products in an entirely separate facility, are banking on star-power, at least in part, to boost the amount of products flowing off the shelves. 


In conclusion, I can say that much has been learned, but there is much more to be researched. I’m in no way qualified to advise anyone on his or her individual situations, except to say that if you feel distressed please get yourself diagnosed. Until then, 



For you? Maybe.


For me? No, and I say so gratefully.

Friday, 10 January 2014 11:50

The “Red Sea,” and a Wave of Change

Saratoga Springs City Council

SARATOGA SPRINGS – An overflowing council chamber, which looked more like a Target team member meeting, or perhaps a Boston World Series home game than a usual audience, greeted new Mayor Joanne Yepsen and the 2014 Saratoga Springs City Council at their first regular meeting of the new year on Tuesday, January 7. 


The first order of business was a public comment period, which normally is scheduled for about 15 minutes. 


But not on this evening.


A virtual sea of red-shirted, red-scarfed, red everything-clad audience comprised the overwhelming majority of the dozens who lined up to express their opinions on the pending siting of a capital region expanded gaming facility. 


Most of the commenters (this reporter estimated that perhaps as much as 80 percent of those who went to the public microphone) were members, or had some degree of support for the viewpoint of of SAVE (which stands for Saratogians Against Vegas-style Expansion), an organization that is strongly committed against the siting of an expanded gaming facility in the city or in Saratoga County.


To be sure, there were several people during the comment period that expressed support for such an expanded facility in town, most notably at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR). These commenters were both a cross-section of SCR employees, management (represented by Vice President George W. "Skip" Carlson) and members of Destination Saratoga, a group which advocates siting the capital region expanded gaming facility at SCR) as well as private citizens who favor such a facility. 


However, numbers do not lie, and it cannot be denied that SAVE has once again exhibited the ability to turn out big, motivated, visible numbers. This would be evident even if you were watching the proceedings on a black-and-white television. 


But the questions remain: will those numbers count? And will the city council count those numbers and do what several SAVE members, as well as some of those not part of the “red sea” advocate: to pass a firm resolution against siting an expanded gaming facility in the city? 


It is no stretch to say that the council has a tough soul-searching road ahead as it formulates its position, if any, on this issue. 


By and large, given the amount of commenters and the intensity that advocates on both sides feel about this issue, the gallery was generally well behaved, and if not silent, cordial to opposing viewpoints. Mayor Yepsen needed to use her gavel just once to restore order. 


Yet, the people who wished to opine on both sides kept coming, and the public comment period, rather than a quarter-hour, extended well into a second hour. 


After the public had wound down, the council went into executive session for about 45 minutes. It appeared that it was shaping up to be quite a long night. 


Yet, remarkably, once having emerged from executive session, the council conducted an orderly, organized and most importantly brisk session in which a large agenda with several important items were dispatched just under 60 minutes. 


As this reporter has vehemently criticized the council for previous meandering, ponderous and near-endless pointless discussions, they must be credited when due. Here’s hoping that this sea change in comportment continues.  


Among the notable developments in the January 7 meeting:


  • -The capital budget was amended, by a 5-0 roll call vote, to provide funds for the public safety department to complete its renovations of the police department facility. This in itself is notable in itself; more so, because the council agreed to modify the usual agenda process to move up this important item much earlier in the process, allowing the interested public to hear the discussion and vote. Normally, public safety department items would among the last to be considered.


  • -Mayor Yepsen announced that her State of the City address would take place on Tuesday, January 28 at 7 p.m. at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The mayor also appointed Robert W. Manasier to the recreation commission. She also gave an update as to the status of the new Code Blue facility, which began on December 24 (see related story on page 7), noting that the city of Glens Falls had inquired about information about Saratoga Springs’ experience with an eye towards establishing its own facility.



County Supervisors Matthew Veitch and Peter Martin reported on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors’ organizational meeting and detailed their committee assignments. Supervisor Veitch has been named as the vice chairman of the board, which means he will be the chair of the law and finance committee and will have primary responsibility for preparation of next year’s county budget. Supervisor Martin noted that among his committee assignments he will be a member of county racing committee, a committee whose scope has been expanded to include all forms of gaming.  

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Crepe and frites lovers rejoice! You’re in good hands with David Zuka and Julie Raymond, the brand new owners of Ravenous (21 Phila St, Saratoga Springs). 


Not only do they have the experience and expertise to continue the heritage of wonderful meals and traditional French favorites which has made Ravenous an instant favorite among many since it’s arrivée on the local cuisine scene in 1999, but a cultivated love for this restaurant specifically. 

David and Julie, who closed on the restaurant on January 2, had become regular Ravenous customers since they moved to the region in 2003. “It became one of our favorite places to eat. For the last two years we worked in New York City made the decision to come back to Saratoga Springs in hopes of running our own company. The restaurant business is a natural choice since we both have experience, and passion for the business.” 


Indeed,David, who hails from the mid-Atlantic region, holds a degree in hospitality management and has worked in the restaurant business for 28 years in both operations and distribution. Julie, who is French Canadian, also holds a degree in hotel and restaurant management.  She worked for about 10 years in the hospitality industry, studied at Le Cordon Bleu and had been working in manufacturing for the last 15 years before returning to food, her true passion.


In order to assure a smooth transition, the original owners, Lauren Wickizer and Francesco D’Amico are working side-by-side with David and Julie. No major menu changes are planned. “This is a very good, healthy business,” Julie said. “We don’t need to fix something or tinker with anything.” 


So breathe a sigh of relief. All your favorites will remain. They are probably the new owner’s favorites as well.

“We were delighted when the opportunity to become a part of Ravenous presented itself since we loved the food and the friendly atmosphere.” Julie said. “It is an honor to own such a great place and we intend to proudly continue to serve the Saratoga community and our loyal customers for many years to come serving delicious crepes and amazing frites.”


For more information, visit ravenouscrepes.com or phone (518) 581-0560.


Friday, 10 January 2014 11:30

“Women in Nature” Takes Off

SARATOGA SPRINGS – ““Woman in nature” is about reconnecting with our true selves through the creative process.” 


So states Deborah Neary, who has put together a stunning series of photographs of females that are communing with their natural selves in a natural habit. According to Deborah, this has never been more important, and the process is invigorating as both subject and photographer get back to a state where they rid themselves of their technological and other encumbrances and become their true selves.


“We live in a world of computers, cell phones and virtual realities. Our connection with the physical, natural world is diminished, the result is an uneasy feeling, a lack of feeling at home in one's body.” She says. “There is a need to spend more time with nature, to actually stand in the water, lay down in the wild grass, and feel the earth beneath our bare feet, to re-ground and reconnect with the earth and our authentic being. “Woman in nature” is about reconnecting through this creative process.”


Deborah further states: “Working with natural elements in safety and affirmation, we purposefully abandon cultural and societal constraints that limit expression and acceptance. The result is powerful, primordial and magnificent. My subjects find the experience deeply moving and transformative.” A process that reflects back synergistically to the photographer as well as the viewer. “Photographing women in nature satisfies my own longing to linger a while in the forest while engaging my passion: to make art and relate with other women,” she says. “Simply being in nature is healing for everyone involved.”


The show is scheduled for display at the Roosevelt Spa and Baths through this month. An important point to note is that this is to be regarded as mature content, for adults only as some of the subjects are photographed reconnecting with nature and themselves au’ naturel. For those who don’t speak French that means with little or no clothes though as our photo examples show, this is by no means universal, yet you have been warned. 


At Saturday’s reception, many of the models that posed for the photographs on display will be available to meet and discuss their experiences. Additionally, there will be live original music by 

Jackie Callahan and Clem Marino, tarot readings by Sarah Hopkins, a variety of complimentary pampering goodies and refreshments provided by Putnam’s restaurant at the Gideon Putnam Hotel.


The best recommendation I can give to view this show comes from our Production Director Frank Garguilio, who runs through hundreds of photos each week. This was the first time in quite a while that he made a point to call me to say “Wow! Where did these come from?” 


So we’ll call this exhibit Frank’s “Pick of the Week.” Mine, too – and I bet yours as well.  


“Women in Nature”

A Photo Exhibition by Deborah Neary

Opening: Saturday, January 11, 4 to 8 p.m.  

Roosevelt Baths and Spa

Saratoga Springs



Note: Mature Content / Adults Only Please

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Henry street salon, Simplicity, is unique in that it carries one brand of hair products, Eufora. More than that, however, is that the engaging relationship between these two companies has rebranded customer interactions into one of professional experience that really stands out. 


In the salon industry, stylists are on a commission basis. This structure can be difficult for newer stylists lacking in experience. Simplicity differs in that it offers education, both in cutting techniques and business related aspects.


One frequent customer, Rebecca Sewell, said that the staff's ability to make educated recommendations for her and her family’s hair care needs keeps her coming back to her favorite stylist. 


“Everyone here is helpful, everyone down to the receptionist. And she’s the best,” Sewell said, giving a decided smile to her stylist. 


Customizing the customer's experience and pairing them with a product is Simplicity's business approach. This has led to its recognition for being one of the top stores in New York for Eufora product sales.

“Education is the foundation because not only do we receive education, and not only for me as the owner, but to my stylist employees, but to the client as well,” Tina Levielle-Briscoe, owner of Simplicity, said. “So, it's just this circle that happens, and that's what makes the product so successful.”

Levielle-Briscoe has been in the salon industry for 25 years, and a salon owner for 13. Eufora's hair products are not the first products that she has worked with, and never before has she chosen to work with just one brand. 

She said that it is because of the products' ability to deliver results, in combination with the training, for which the stylists themselves pay, and Simplicity's artistic approach toward a client's personal style and well -being, that Eufora fulfills the salon's professionally needs as well as those of the client.

“Their philosophy supports us as a business. It's not just about selling a product, it's about educating. And it works,” Levielle-Briscoe said. “ Clients come back to buy the product. It's not something that's a quick sale. They see results. “


Simplicity's owners, Sahn Briscoe and Tina Levielle-Briscoe, were awarded for their achievement in the salon industry on January 7, and their salon will be featured in an upcoming issue of Eufora International's EQ magazine. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Springs Mayor-Elect Joanne Yepsen announced that she is appointing Joseph J. Ogden to be her Deputy Mayor and Sarah Burger to be her City Attorney.


"I'm proud to announce Joseph J. Ogden as Deputy Mayor," said Yepsen. "Joe brings a great deal of professionalism to this position, and he has extensive experience with fiscal policy, budgeting, management, and government operations.  Joe will bring a fresh new perspective for City Hall that will benefit my administration as we move Saratoga Springs forward."


Joe Ogden, a graduate of Glens Falls High School, earned his B.A. in Economics from Siena College and a M.A. in international economics from the University at Albany. He is currently employed at the New York State Division of the Budget, where he has worked for almost ten years at various levels. In addition to everyday economic and fiscal matters, Mr. Ogden covered several different policy areas including public safety, homeland security, disaster relief, veteran’s affairs and Medicaid.


Sarah Burger is a Saratoga Springs High School graduate, and received her undergraduate degree from Drexel University in History and Politics. Her J. D. degree is from Villanova University. She has most recently practiced as a attorney for Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O’Shea, P.C., in Albany. 


“Sarah’s passion for Saratoga, background in labor law and commitment to open, inclusive government make her the perfect addition to our team,” Yepsen said.


"I am excited and humbled to accept this position, and I look forward to working together with Mayor-Elect Yepsen to make Saratoga Springs an even better place to raise a family" said Ogden.



Joe and his wife Lisa built a home on the West Side of Saratoga Springs in 2012 and are expecting their first child in May.

Thursday, 26 December 2013 12:23

The Right Casino Destination?

Destination Saratoga says the answer is already here for a decade.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – “I want to do this. Usually I get asked to serve on a board or office. This is a position I have chosen.” 


So states Daniel D. Hogan, one of three co-chairs for the recently formed “Destination Saratoga” group, which is seeking to support the expansion plans at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) to include live table gaming. 


Mr. Hogan is one of three co-chairs of a 16-person steering committee composed from a broad cross-section of the local and regional business community and other areas. We sat down with him and steering committee member Gordon Boyd to gain insight as to the group’s advocacy and strategy. 


The composition of the steering committee is notable for its makeup alone – bringing together diverse factions such as longtime Republican County Chair Jasper Nolan with former (and also longtime) Democratic Commissioner of Public Works Tom McTygue.  Current officeholders are, as to be expected, not represented. Yet Carrie Woerner, candidate for State Assembly in the 113th District, is named as a steering committee member. (Visit destinationsaratoga.com for the complete list of committee members).  


While no employee of Saratoga Casino and Raceway is part of the steering committee of “Destination,” the website makes it clear that this group’s activities are supported and funded by SCR. “It’s our role to be supportive of their activities,” noted Rita Cox, SCR’s senior vice president of marketing and external affairs, “We’ll be involved as things proceed.”


Mr. Hogan brings to the table an accomplished background, which includes both relevant industry experience and public service. Until earlier this year, he served as Chairman and Board Member at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, a three-person panel which set policy, made and enforced rules for the state’s horse racing and charitable gaming industries. While in that capacity, he became an admirer of SCR’s acumen and business practices, particularly how they were able to capitalize on, and revitalize harness racing as a result of being named a video lottery terminal (VLT) destination nearly 10 years ago. 


“The quality of racing, the purse structure is like night and day now,” Hogan said. This led him to approach SCR officials after Proposition 1’s statewide passage, with a plan to form a group that would support the proposition that SCR would be the best siting for the Capital Region’s casino. 


In fact, Hogan stated that there has been a casino here, well run in concert with the community’s values, since SCR gained VLT’s. “They have proven to be fiscally and socially responsible; I approached them because I feel that this is the best place for expanded gaming, for the city, county and the region’s best overall development.”


Hogan is a resident of Albany, a fact that also includes a stint as Deputy County Executive. He said that he expected competitive applications would come from Albany and Rensselaer once the application guidelines are formulated. Nonetheless, for overall economic impact, he concludes that SCR is the best location. 


He has put together the steering committee team and has reached out to the community at large. The group claims over 500 members, which was the estimated number of supporters that were brought in by Upstate Transit to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce organized casino fact-finding forum on Monday, December 16 at the Saratoga Springs City Center. 


The bussing in of supporters was noted in some quarters as being somewhat illegitimate in some way as if people were being planted but Hogan saw it more as good planning:


“Look, we knew that parking by the City Center with a group that large was going to be an issue.” Hogan said. “We decided to meet in a central location to make sure everyone that wanted to get to the forum was able to.” Hogan estimated that the supporters were composed of “about 200 SCR employees, 200 horsemen in some capacity and about 100 union members” in trades that would benefit from expanded gaming at SCR.


It is relevant to point out that Mr. Hogan said that he is a paid consultant for Destination Saratoga at this time, and he is devoting full-time effort to the organization and it’s goals. Their budget is not public, but it is reasonable to presume that the lion’s share, if not all of the funding comes from SCR. The other steering committee members are volunteers. 


Gordon Boyd articulated the economic impact numbers. “The revenue sharing provisions in Proposition 1 estimate that both the City of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County would receive about 5.5 to 5.7 million dollars annually. This is more than one-third of the annual property tax rate.” In fact, the 2012 property tax assessment was just over $15 million, which supports Boyd’s calculation. “This does not take into account the hundreds of new jobs that will be created; good paying positions with decent wages and benefits.”


Hogan stated that he supports an open application process, a fact echoed by SCR’s Rita Cox, although both disclaimer this statement that this will be “to the extent possible.” As the regulations are yet to be issued, they could be legally prevented from revealing certain documents and data. This will obviously be subjected to both media and community scrutiny as the process moves forward. 


To date, there have been the beginnings of a multi-media campaign, and the Saratoga Casino and Raceway has planned a full-schedule of promotional and public relations activities surrounding it’s tenth anniversary of VLT’s (which came on line on January 28, 2004). 


Much of the activity regarding this issue is still ahead. Hogan did find reason to be optimistic, even finding some small yet significant common ground with their worthy opposition:


“They are against a Vegas-style expansion and so are we. We want a Saratoga-style casino, one that works with and benefits our community at large. The best place to make this happen is at The Saratoga Casino and Raceway.”


Page 34 of 39


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