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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The 37th annual Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival, one of the most celebrated and longest running jazz events in the world, will be held on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This year's festival headliners include Earth, Wind & Fire, Trombone Shorty, Terence Blanchard, Dave Holland Prism, Patti Austin, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra, Quinn Sullivan, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60, among others. Tickets for the festival will be available online beginning February 25 for Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s highest level members and March 18 for the general public. Tickets and information are available at www.spac.org.


Located in Saratoga Springs, New York at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the festival was founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein and has hosted a who’s who of jazz greats over the years including Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Wayne Shorter and Ray Charles. With an inside seating capacity of 5,200, lawn seating of 20,000, world class jazz talent performing on two stages, and an idyllic State Park setting located just three hours driving time from either Boston or New York City, the festival draws thousands of fans from across the Northeast and throughout North America.


“Over the last 37 years, the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival has established its place as one of the premier summer music festivals in America,” said Marcia J. White, SPAC’s President and Executive Director. “In 2014, this event will mark a defining moment when we welcome Earth, Wind & Fire, one of the greatest bands of all time.  With more than 90 million albums sold worldwide, this band’s appeal is timeless and its spectacular live shows continue to draw sell-out crowds from coast to coast.

“Sharing the bill with Earth, Wind and Fire will be a star-studded lineup including the phenomenal Trombone Shorty who rocked the house during his 2012 festival appearance, Billboard chart-topper Patti Austin who makes her festival debut, rising star Jon Batiste and his Stay Human band, NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra, blues guitar prodigy and Buddy Guy protégé Quinn Sullivan and jazz giant Terence Blanchard, among many others. The Gazebo stage will feature some of the hottest rising stars on the jazz scene including Jaimeo Brown, Robin McKelle and the Flytones and the Sean Jones Quartet,” she adds. “Special thanks go out to our title sponsor Freihofer’s which helps us present fans with a spectacular event each and every year; the spirit of partnership they bring to this festival is truly one of the reasons for its success.”


"The 37th jazz festival at SPAC will be one for the record books. The powerhouse and diverse line-up is certain to thrill our audience," said Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment, which co-produces the festival with SPAC. "I have wanted to book Earth, Wind & Fire for years and we finally have them closing our Saturday program will a full-concert set!”


In addition to festival headliners, Gazebo Stage programming will continue to feature an innovative mix of established and emerging artists in jazz. The lineup includes: Melissa Aldana Crash Trio, Marc Cary Focus Trio, Jaimeo Brown, Mary Halvorson Trio, Sean Jones Quartet, Warren Wolf & Wolfpack, and Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, all of whom are making their festival debuts. The stage will also feature returning saxophonist Lew Tabackin with his trio.


While two-days and two-stages of live, world class jazz is the centerpiece of the weekend, fans can also enjoy a host of amenities including a fine arts and crafts fair, CD signings by artists, a full-service bar in the Hall of Springs, southern style barbeque and other food vendors, all presented by Stella Artois. Guests are welcome to bring in their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas. Parking for the event is free.


"Last year we celebrated Freihofer's 100th anniversary with fireworks,” Melnick adds. “Because of Freihofer's continued generous support, this year's festival will have musical fireworks all weekend long."


Stella Artois returns to the festival this year and is the lead sponsor of the lawn experience (“the hang”). The upscale Belgian beer company is no stranger to sponsoring high-profile arts and cultural events; they’ve been notably involved with the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Singapore Jazz Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival.


“Wrapped around these two glorious days of world-class music is SPAC’s postcard-perfect setting in the majestic Saratoga Spa State Park – the perfect place to stretch out, relax and take in the music,” reflects White. There is truly no better way to kick-off the summer.”



2014 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Artists



Earth, Wind & Fire One of the most popular funk and R&B bands of all-time -- selling over 90 million albums in their 44-year career, with countless hits and awards -- Earth, Wind & Fire will make their festival debut, performing a full-concert length set, including their complete light show. They’ll appear in support of a new album, Now, Then & Forever. Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the most prestigious and popular headlining artists the festival has ever presented in its 37-year history.


Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet Described by The New York Times as “a reliable captain of soul [who] can make almost any groove feel deep and inevitable,” this Hammond B-3 organ master will make his festival debut, performing in support of his latest album, In The Beginning Vols. 1 & 2. The project spotlights a collection of Smith’s original compositions from early in his career (most of which were initially documented on his classic mid-to-late 1960s Columbia Records and Blue Note Records albums).


Terence Blanchard The multi-faceted trumpeter, bandleader, film-score and soundtrack composer returns to the festival for his fourth appearance as a leader and fifth overall. Terence Blanchard first played the festival with jazz legend Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers in 1985. Subsequently appearing at the festival with his own band in 1991, 1995, and more recently in 2008. This year, Blanchard will perform in support of his most recent Blue Note Records release, Magnetic, which was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award in December 2013.


Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band featuring Steve Smith & Tom Kennedy The festival is proud to present the U.S. debut of a new “super band,” led by virtuoso guitarist Mike Stern and renowned saxophonist Bill Evans (both sharing the common thread of having worked with Miles Davis in the 1980s). They are joined by an explosive rhythm section consisting of drummer Steve Smith and bassist Tom Kennedy, providing for a complete and vigorous set of jazz fusion at its best.


Jon Batiste & Stay Human At 25, Jon Batiste is considered by many to be one of the most exciting and progressive new crossover talents on the scene today. A “Movado Future Legend” award recipient, and a “Steinway Performing Artist”, Batiste has performed in innumerable prestigious events and venues across the world. His modern take on the American songbook, through the channels of a virtuosic pedigree in jazz and classical music, is attracting critical acclaim as well as audiences across all demographics. Together with his band Stay Human, Batiste is creating a unique grassroots movement that encourages accessibility and appreciation in the art of the live performance. Apart from his natural focus, Batiste is also a noted advocate for music education (Traveling Ambassador for Music Unites, Associate Artistic Director for the National Jazz Museum) and a regular figure in television and film (HBO’s Treme, Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer). Batiste’s appearance will be his first since 2008, the year he made his festival debut. 


Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters Appearing at the festival only once in 1997, guitarist Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters will make their long-awaited return in 2014. Earl is considered a New England blues guitar legend -- a staple on the local blues circuit for years (having received praise from blues masters such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters).


Robin McKelle & The Flytones Hailing from Rochester, New York, vocalist Robin McKelle placed third in the 2004 Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition. However in recent years, McKelle’s music has been beyond generic classification as a jazz vocalist. Alternatively, she has fully embraced classic rhythm & blues, traditional pop music, and soul styles. Her latest album, Soul Flower, released on Sony Music’s recently re-launched OKeh Records, showcases her passion for classic American R&B. Her second, forthcoming OKeh album, titled Heart of Memphis, strikes a chord with a more roots-centric sound. McKelle will make her festival debut.


Marc Cary Focus Trio featuring Rashaan Carter & Sameer Gupta Multi–dimensional keyboardist Marc Cary, who will make his festival debut as a leader, has credits ranging from Abbey Lincoln and Dizzy Gillespie to Erykah Badu and Q-Tip. A four–time GRAMMY® Award nominee (through collaborations), Cary successfully released his first solo piano record in mid-2013 on Motéma Music, titled For The Love Of Abbey (a tribute to his mentor and collaborator Abbey Lincoln). The festival will spotlight Cary in a different format, with his Focus Trio (featuring Rashaan Carter & Sameer Gupta). Fusing East Asian, Indian, African, and Native American influences within the African-American blues and jazz traditions, Focus Trio recently released their second Motéma album, titled Four Directions.


Lew Tabackin Trio A favorite at the Saratoga Jazz Festival since debuting in 1980 with the award winning Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band (a group that he formed with Akiyoshi, his wife), this year marks acclaimed flutist and tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin’s ninth overall festival appearance and second as a leader (first appearing with his own group in 2000). Performing with his Trio, Tabackin will break tradition and appear on the intimate Gazebo Stage (having always performed on the Amphitheatre stage in previous festival editions). His accolades and awards include a 2012 nomination for the JJA Jazz Awards; winning the Downbeat 2010 critics poll in the Flute category, and winning his 4th consecutive Swing Journal Reader's poll.


Jaimeo Brown with JD Allen & Chris Sholar Renowned drummer, composer and conceptualist Jaimeo Brown’s haunting debut as a leader, Transcendence (Motéma Music, 2013), brilliantly taps the root soul connections between African-American spirituals, transcendental East Indian music, Coltrane-esque improvisation and 21st century electronic music. Joined by guitarist/producer Chris Sholar (Q-Tip, Kanye West, Jay Z) and saxophonist JD Allen, Brown will make his festival debut.


Mary Halvorson Trio with John Hebert & Ches Smith Guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson has been called "NYC's least-predictable improviser" (City Arts), "the most forward-thinking guitarist working right now" (NPR) and "one of today's most formidable bandleaders" (The Village Voice). Halvorson will make her festival debut, appearing with her longstanding trio - her flagship ensemble - featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith. In addition to the trio, Halvorson leads a quintet, a chamber-jazz duo and is also an active member of bands led by Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, Marc Ribot, and Tom Rainey, among others.


Robin McKelle & The Flytones (see info above)






Trombone Shorty Called the "Jimi Hendrix of the Trombone" in a recent profile by Rhythms' magazine, trombone/trumpet phenomenon Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews returns for his second festival appearance (debuting in 2012), with his signature "Supafunkrock" sound -- a combination of New Orleans' funk, rock, R&B and hip-hop. The New Orleans born and bred musician has had a meteoric rise since the release of his GRAMMY® nominated 2010 debut album, Backatown and released a follow up album, For True, in 2011.


Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra A nine-time GRAMMY® Award Winner and 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master (the highest honor bestowed by the United States), pianist and bandleader Eddie Palmieri returns to the festival for the first time since 1990 (marking his second overall appearance). Performing with his Salsa Orchestra, Palmieri is known as one of the finest Latin jazz pianists of the past 50 years. His music is renowned for its infectious sound, distinctive orchestrations and trailblazing style (the first to incorporate elements of salsa, funk, soul, jazz, and a band comprised of Latin and African-American musicians).


Patti Austin A GRAMMY® Award winner who crosses all musical genres, has made 17 solo albums, and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on the GRAMMYS® and the Oscars, acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Patti Austin will make her festival debut. Austin has had a star-studded career that began at the age of four, making her one of the most beloved artists in the world and a mainstay on the Billboard Jazz Albums charts. Her 2007 release, Avant-Gershwin (Rendezvous), was awarded a GRAMMY® for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance.”


Dave Holland Prism with Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn & Eric Harland Bassist, composer, and bandleader Dave Holland has a rich history with the festival. He appeared with his own band in 2002, performed with Jack DeJohnette’s Parallel Realities tour in 1990, and in a quartet format with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Brian Blade in 2004. He returns to the festival with his new band, Prism - an electrifying project that is equally groove-oriented as it is avant-garde. The project features guitarist Kevin Eubanks (who appeared at the festival with his own group in 2013), keyboard specialist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. Holland recently released Prism’s debut album (of the same name), marking 40 years since his first recording as a leader, Conference of the Birds (ECM).


Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60 – Anat Cohen, Karrin Allyson, Randy Brecker, Mark Whitfield, Peter Martin, Larry Grenadier & Clarence Penn Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60 celebrates both the great history of the Newport Jazz Festival® and it's current role as one of the most active presenters of contemporary jazz artists in the world. This celebration holds special meaning to the Saratoga Jazz Festival, as the project is presented to honor George Wein (the legendary impresario who founded both the Newport and Saratoga Jazz Festivals). Concert repertoire spans the ages--from Louis, Duke, and Miles to Latin, Brazilian, and fusion--making the leader of this international touring group, clarinetist Anat Cohen, a perfect ambassador for the Newport Jazz Festival. The ensemble features vocalist Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Clarence Penn.


Quinn Sullivan Blues guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan will make his festival debut as a leader, after a rousing surprise guest appearance with legendary bluesman Buddy Guy last year. Currently 14 years old (soon to be 15 in March 2014), Sullivan was given a toy guitar for Christmas at age three, and it quickly became apparent he had a gift. By age eight, Buddy Guy discovered Sullivan and became a mentor, fostering Sullivan’s development. Sullivan has since gone on to appear on national television shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Ellen, Oprah, The Today Show, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as performing at iconic venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Apollo Theater and the Beacon Theater. He appeared on Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden in April 2013. 



Melissa Aldana Crash Trio with Pablo Menares and Francisco Mela Chilean-born/New York City-based saxophonist Melissa Aldana recently won the 2013 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz saxophone competition, judged by a panel of saxophonists that included Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, Bobby Watson, Branford Marsalis and Jane Ira Bloom. As the first female instrumentalist to take first prize in this event since its inception in 1987, the 24 year-old Aldana was awarded $25,000 in scholarship money and a recording contract with the Concord Music Group. Aldana debuts at the festival with her Crash Trio, featuring bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Francisco Mela.


Tim Berne’s Snakeoil with Oscar Noriega, Matt Mitchell & Ches Smith Saxophonist Tim Berne will make his festival debut, performing with his working ensemble, Snakeoil. The New York Times describes the band as “an investigative chamber-improv group,” having released two critically acclaimed albums on ECM Records, titled Snakeoil and Shadow Man, respectively. Byrne will be joined by clarinetist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell, and drummer/percussionist Ches Smith.


Warren Wolf & Wolfpack One of the most important young jazz stars today, vibraphonist Warren Wolf makes his festival debut as a leader, following an appearance with his longstanding mentor Christian McBride in 2012. A multi-instrumentalist who has also honed his chops on drums and piano since age three, Wolf is quickly following in the footsteps of vibes masters such as Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton, as a “keeper of the flame.” He became a member of the SFJAZZ Collective in 2013 (a post that Hutcherson inaugurated in 2004). Additionally, he recently performed at the Detroit Jazz Festival in duo with Gary Burton, whom is Wolf’s labelmate on Mack Avenue Records. Wolf released his sophomore Mack Avenue effort, Wolfgang, in 2013. He performs at the festival with his group, Wolfpack.


Sean Jones Quartet with Orrin Evans, Luques Curtis & Obed Calvaire Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and educator Sean Jones will make his festival debut, performing with his working Quartet that features pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Obed Calvaire. In addition to releasing six albums as a leader on the Mack Avenue Records label over the past 10 years, Jones is the former lead trumpeter for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Additionally, Jones toured extensively with Marcus Miller in 2010, followed by a special European tour project with Miller, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter during the summer of 2011 (a direct nod to the Miles Davis legacy).


Quinn Sullivan (see info above)





Tickets to the festival go on sale on March 18 at spac.org; box office and phone sales begin on May 15



June 28 Adult

June 28 Child (12 & Under)

June 29 Adult

June 29 Child (12 & Under)

2-Day Pass Adult*

2-Day Pass Child*

Sections 1-7, Boxes







Sections 8-12, 15-17







Sections 13-14, 18-30






























Earth, Wind & Fire



Trombone Shorty


Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet


Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra


Terence Blanchard


Patti Austin


Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band featuring Steve Smith & Tom Kennedy



Dave Holland Prism with Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn & Eric Harland





Jon Batiste & Stay Human


Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60 – Anat Cohen, Karrin Allyson, Randy Brecker, Mark Whitfield, Peter Martin, Larry Grenadier & Clarence Penn



Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters


Quinn Sullivan



Robin McKelle & The Flytones











Marc Cary Focus Trio featuring

Rashaan Carter & Sameer Gupta


Melissa Aldana Crash Trio with Pablo Menares and Francisco Mela



Lew Tabackin Trio


Tim Berne’s Snakeoil with Oscar Noriega, Matt Mitchell & Ches Smith



Jaimeo Brown with JD Allen & Chris Sholar



Warren Wolf & Wolfpack


Mary Halvorson Trio with John Hebert & Ches Smith


Sean Jones Quartet with Orrin Evans, Luques Curtis & Obed Calvaire



Robin McKelle & The Flytones



Quinn Sullivan



Friday, 07 February 2014 10:09

Reporter’s Notebook- Council: Time’s Up

“Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way…”

                  - Pink Floyd, “Time”


SARATOGA SPRINGS – Our review of the proceedings of the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 4 must include something about what occurred later in the night, after the meeting room was all but abandoned except for a hardcore group of stalwarts, perhaps about six people, including myself.


I was hoping it would not be necessary to revisit the issue of ponderous, self-serving time wasting on behalf of  council members with a new year and a new administration. In truth, I believe Mayor Joanne Yepsen is making a valiant effort to keep the meetings moving along as quickly as possible. 


Having experienced being at the tail end of many council meetings, she certainly has tried to keep the pace brisk while coping with longer than usual public comment periods since taking office due to the divisive casino issue. 


It’s important for everyone to make a commitment to making meetings more brisk, not because as a reporter I want to get out earlier (although that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world) but because as an active citizen and voter, I would like more citizens to take an active interest in what is, after all, the people’s business. 


However, nobody in their right mind will elect to sit through overly lengthy meetings, agendas padded with ponderous items that have no purpose and no respect for fellow council members’ and the audience’s time. 


Case in point: as we approached 10:30 p.m., fully 3.5 hours into a long meeting, we finally arrived at the Public Safety agenda, which had these items:


- Four discussion items. None of which had a vote attached to it.

- One motion to set a public hearing.

- One announcement.


In truth, only one of the four ‘discussion’ items was a discussion in the classic sense, for none of the council members had any response (except in some cases to inspect the ceiling) to anything Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen had to say, except for an item regarding eleventh hour appointments by former Mayor Johnson. 


Otherwise, library silence. 


The first ‘discussion’ item was perhaps the biggest time waster. Commissioner Mathiesen actually thought it was a good use of public time to read into the record a two-week old reader’s view he had written, and which had already been published in the media, on his opinion on the casino issue. 


Regardless of what you think of the merits of his opinion on the subject (you can search it out yourself if you like – it appears to advocate unilaterally changing the thrust of the language of a proposition that has passed statewide in this reporter’s opinion and therefore has zero shot of happening), the point is why he needed to take up everyone’s time in the first place with this. 


Other commissioners have written reader’s views; some for us, some for other publications. When was the last time someone read it into the record? If it must be part of the record (a dubious point), why not just hand it in to the person taking minutes and move on?


This was followed closely by two other ‘no-discussion’ items, both pet subjects for the commissioner; one on the subject of bar-closing hours and a noise ordinance. Commissioner Mathiesen saw fit to say that he was planning to introduce motions on each at some undefined time in the future. Again, at this late hour are future motion forecasts really a good use of public time?


In fact, why are pure ‘discussion’ items, without a vote attached, even on the agenda? Last time I looked, council members were allowed to talk to each other before meetings. This is why other meetings, including Saratoga County’s Board of Supervisors and many other municipalities are able to get their business done in a fraction of the time it takes this council to do so.


Finally, Commissioner Mathiesen made an announcement about his next public safety forum, over a month from now. If you missed this announcement because your eyes had glazed over by this point, no need to worry. He promised to repeat this announcement again at the next couple of council meetings. Oh, goody!


While we are singling someone out here, I want to make it clear that Commissioner Mathiesen is by no means the only one on the council who engages in this kind of thing – just the latest and perhaps most illustrative example. 



I do promise to point out this kind of time wasting by any of our elected officials in the future, as I believe it is discourteous to the county supervisors who sometimes have to wait over three hours to give their reports, to fellow council members and most importantly, to the public at large. 

PARK CITY, UTAH – Sharon Liese, a Saratoga Springs native daughter and proud Blue Streak graduate received another accolade in an impressive film producing career as her short film ‘Selfie’ made its debut on January 20 at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. 


The film itself is a result of collaboration with the Dove Corporation’s long-standing “real beauty” campaign and the Sundance Institute. Sharon’s partner on the film is Director Cynthia Wade.  


‘Selfie’ was filmed at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, Mass., where Ms. Wade has a residence. The story line centers on female students (and often their mothers) discussing their issues with particular features that make them unique. They overcome self-esteem issues by participating in a project which involves taking self-portraits (‘selfies’) with their camera phones and displaying them at an exhibit where guests are invited to comment. 


The process of “putting yourself out there” with this form of expression is a modern social media phenomenon and the Dove campaign for Real Beauty has a stated goal of “widening the definition of beauty.” 


In this connection, the subjects of ‘Selfie,’ by being strong and brave enough to photograph and display those personal aspects that heretofore were a major source of anxiety, turn them into sources of empowerment and reinforcement. 


The phenomenon of social media is shown to be a powerful tool to help broaden what we consider beautiful, allowing the “unique” to supplant the stereotypes and in the process enabling us all to:


“Imagine a World Where Beauty is a Source of Confidence, Not Anxiety”

- Source: dove.us/social-mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx


All in eight minutes and three seconds! 


It is hard to imagine any young person, male or female, or their parents for that matter, not being positively affected by the messages of ‘Selfie.’ 


Sharon and Cynthia’s film treatment was chosen for underwriting by Dove and the Sundance Institute from over 60 filmmakers who submitted applications.. 


After graduating high school, where she worked on her first film, entitled “Autumn” Sharon acquired a communication arts degree at SUNY New Paltz and served as an intern at WMHT, where she got some “front of the camera” experience as an on-air host. 

She has several career highlights as a producer prior to ‘Selfie’ and has previously collaborated with Cynthia Wade on several indie film projects, including “Wrestling the Monster,” has produced in several capacities (field and casting producer, for instance) for several projects on networks such as Oprah Winfrey Network, MTV and Lifetime.


Perhaps Sharon’s previously best-known project was as executive producer of reality-documentary “High School Confidential,” which ran for two seasons on the WE Network.  The premiere of this show attracted 1.3 million viewers, a tremendous number for a smaller cable network. It was featured on Tyra Banks’ talk show and garnered a “Best Producer” award for Sharon from indie TV bible CableFAX Magazine in 2008. 


To be sure, there’s plenty of creativity and ‘glam’ in Sharon’s life as a multi-media producer, yet she makes it clear to those who aspire to something similar: be prepared to work. 


“I’d love to spend all my time on the creative side of things,” she said, “but at least 50 percent of my work is what I would call ‘development,’ at various crucial times it’s a lot higher than that. Between negotiating, fund-raising, planning and gaining that elusive ‘access’ my workday is not dissimilar from a lot of business people outside of Hollywood.”


But as a result of that hard work, Sharon and Cynthia have reached the point where they get to choose what projects they will develop and pitch, and their bona-fides make it a pretty safe bet that the right people will be inclined to ‘take a meeting’ with them and hear what they have to say.


While some details had to remain a secret for now, Sharon indicated that she was working on two new projects: a series pilot in the crime/documentary genre, as well as another film, but “about a completely different subject” than ‘Selfie.’ 


Also in her future: frequent visits to her hometown. “I never miss a summer here,” Sharon says. “I’m blessed to have a home, family and great friends who are still in this area.” 



To join the millions of viewers who have enjoyed ‘Selfie’ worldwide, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFkm1Hg4dTI#aid=P-xsVU20HNA

Thursday, 06 February 2014 13:49

Saratoga Springs City Council

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 4 had a shorter public comment period than in previous meetings. While some commenters ventured opinions on both sides on the expanded gaming issue, the numbers were far less than recent meetings.


This was good, as the regular agenda was robust with three interesting, well-prepared presentations about various topics that are important to the city. 


Only one of these presentations could be regarded as time sensitive, however (the Bog Meadow water infrastructure project had a vote scheduled to amend the capital budget to fund it later in the evening) and it might be a wise move on the part of those who schedule these things to limit the number of presentations per meeting when possible to avoid information overload. However, all three were chockfull of information. 


Regarding Bog Meadow, a well system that eventually could be built out to four wells was proposed to elevate the safe daily yield of water to well above what is needed on peak demand days, while diversifying the sources for city water. During the public comment on this topic, which followed the presentation, some took issue with the contention that this diversified scenario would actually achieve the goal of keeping the supply at adequate levels should an emergency arise with one of the major water sources (for instance, at Loughberry Lake), the council voted by a 5-0 roll call vote to amend the capital budget and fund the project. 


The next presentation was a traffic study on Broadway, presented by the firm of Greenman Pedersen, Inc., where a total of nine intersections from Grove to Congress Street along and near Broadway were examined to gauge the impact of options such as timing sequences, turn arrows (with or without an extra left turn lane), eliminating left turns altogether and accommodations for increased dedicated pedestrian crossing time with an eye towards each options’ impact on traffic flow. The entire report is available online at saratoga-springs.org. Note well that it is over 200 pages. The options led to questions and discussions by many council members. No action was taken at this time, but the council appeared to be leaning towards some of the more moderate options such as time adjustments and sequencing.


The third presentation was by members of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation regarding the Spirit of Life Statue and Trask Memorial renovations in Congress Park. Dedicated on June 26, 1915 on the same day as the city’s incorporation, it is hoped that all renovations will be completed in time for the city’s centennial. Executive Director Samantha Bosshart led the presentation, which was supplemented by comprehensive reports by Martha Lyons on the site’s history and landscaping, and Dan Wilson on the masonry restoration and other related topics. 


The complete reports and other data about the project can be accessed at  spiritofliferestoration.org.


Mayor Yepsen presented a proclamation to Father Dominic Ingemie in honor of his retirement from St. Peters church and his support for Code Blue. She also had a moment of silence for the passing of city resident Robert Pascuillo, who was active in many ways to make the city a better place to live.


SARATOGA SPRINGS— “What the cellist David Finckel and the pianist Wu Han, the society’s artistic directors since 2004, have achieved with their hands-on approach to blending standard, unusual and new repertory, played by a mix of familiar and emerging performers, has connected with a large, enthusiastic constituency.” – The New York Times


The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) and Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) are pleased to announce programming details for the debut season of CMS at SPAC, a new, history-making partnership establishing CMS as SPAC’s resident chamber music constituent.  Under the inspired and acclaimed direction of CMS Artistic Directors, David Finckel and Wu Han (Musical America’s 2012 Musicians of the Year), the three-week festival features six programs offering a fascinatingly wide range of repertoire from the classical period to the 21st century, performed by an international selection of today’s finest chamber music artists.  CMS at SPAC begins on August 11 and continues through August 26.  Afternoon and evening performances take place in the charming and intimate Spa Little Theatre.


The illustrious line-up of artists for the debut season of CMS at SPAC includes pianists Wu Han and Anne-Marie McDermott; violinists Benjamin Beilman, Kristin Lee, Alexander Sitkovetsky and Arnaud Sussmann; violists Yura Lee, Paul Neubauer and Richard O’Neill; cellists David Finckel and Paul Watkins; double bassist Joseph Conyers; flutist Tara Helen O’Connor; harpist Bridget Kibbey; and the Mirό Quartet (Daniel Ching, William Fedkenheuer, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cello).


The six diverse concert programs feature masterpieces of the repertoire including works by Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and Mendelssohn, an enchanting all-French program, and lesser known surprises such as contemporary composer George Tsontakis’s KnickKnacks for Violin and Viola. 


CMS Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han commented on their choice of artists and programs:


“CMS at SPAC affords us a genuinely thrilling opportunity: to present concerts for the first time in a true summer festival style, filled with joyous and beautiful music from start to finish.  And we are equally delighted to introduce to the Saratoga Springs community our burgeoning family of phenomenal musicians, which comes together from around the world to perform exclusively for the festival.  We look forward, with eager anticipation, to hearing the first sounds of CMS in the exquisite Spa Little Theater, and to making wonderful new friends during what promises to be a blissful three weeks in chamber music paradise.”



Key to the enormous success of CMS under the dynamic leadership of Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han, has been the implementation of a large, rotating, international and intergenerational roster of artists.  



CMS at SPAC Tickets


With the launch of the CMS summer residency, SPAC is unveiling a new subscription package for chamber music audiences. The cost-saving offer entitles individuals purchasing tickets to three or more CMS performances to a five dollar per ticket discount; the offer is valid for purchase online at spac.org or via mail order form.   Ticket sales for the series will begin online this week for SPAC members (Mon, Feb 3 – Fri, Feb 7) and for the general public on Monday, 

February 10 at 10:00 AMat spac.org


Pricing for the series is outlined below.

$45 – Orchestra Center, Balcony Center

$40 – Orchestra Side, Balcony Side

Subscription Discount: Buy a ticket to three or more performances, save $5 per ticket. 



Program Details - CMS at SPAC:


Monday, August 11, 8 p.m.


Pianists Wu Han and Anne-Marie McDermott; violinists Benjamin Beilman and Alexander Sitkovetsky; violist Paul Neubauer; cellist David Finckel


BEETHOVEN         Trio in G major for Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 9, No. 1

BARBER         Souvenirs for Piano, Four Hands, Op. 28

DVORÁK         Quintet in A major for Piano, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, B. 155, Op. 81


Tuesday, August 12, 8 p.m.


Pianists Wu Han and Anne-Marie McDermott; violinists Benjamin Beilman and Alexander Sitkovetsky; violist Paul Neubauer; cellist David Finckel; and double bassist Joseph Conyers


MOZARTQuartet in E-flat major for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello, K. 493

KODÁLYSerenade for Two Violins and Viola, Op. 12

MENDELSSOHNSextet in D major for Piano, Violin, Two Violas, Cello, and Bass, Op. 110


Sunday, August 17, 3 p.m.


Mirό Quartet (Daniel Ching, William Fedkenheuer, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cello)


BEETHOVENString Quartet in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, “Razumovsky”

String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2, “Razumovsky”

String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, “Razumovsky”


Tuesday, August 19, 8 p.m.


Mirό Quartet (Daniel Ching, William Fedkenheuer, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cello); Ricardo Morales, clarinet; Kirsten Johnson, viola


MOZARTQuintet in G minor for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Cello, K. 516

WEBERQuintet in B-flat major for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, Op. 34


Sunday, August 24, 3 p.m.


Wu Han, piano; Kristin Lee, Arnaud Sussmann, violin; Yura Lee, viola; Paul Watkins, cello; Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Bridget Kibbey, harp


SAINT-SAENSFantaisie in A major for Violin and Harp, Op. 124

DEBUSSYSonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp

TOURNIERSuite for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Harp, Op. 34

FAURÉQuartet No. 2 in G minor for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 45


Tuesday, August 26, 8 p.m.


Wu Han, piano; Kristin Lee, Arnaud Sussmann, violin; Yura Lee, Richard O’Neill, viola; David Finckel, Paul Watkins, cello


BEETHOVENTrio in E-flat major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 1, No. 1

TSONTAKISKnickKnacks for Violin and Viola

BRAHMSSextet No. 2 in G major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and 


Two Cellos, Op. 36


Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:03

A Weekend of Wellness Awaits

WILTON- The Wellness Department at Healthy Living Market and Café at the Wilton Mall invites you to start 2014 with a focus on whole-body wellness.

“The key theme of the weekend is ‘connections’.” Said David Wolfe, the Market’s Saratoga Wellness Manager. “Hopefully, the weekends’ offerings will help to re-establish some primal relationships that have been lost in our fuel-abusing, modern society.”

“We have been governed by the psychology of ‘more’ instead of sustainability,” Wolfe said. “These seminars and programs are designed to restore our primal relationships with our food, our earth and with other human beings.” 

 “Since the 50s and 60s we have been sold on the philosophy of convenience, which has led to the toxification of our bodies,” Wolfe explained further. “The good news is that these things are correctable, yet only if we make a conscious effort. These programs will hopefully get people started thinking, or continuing along a good path.”

On Saturday and Sunday February 8 and 9 the Market’s Learning Center and Wellness Department will team up with some of Saratoga’s most skilled health professionals and local vendors with the focus on areas such as:

- Flu and cold prevention

- How to make a habit of healthy eating in 2014

- An understanding of the products the Market sells and their benefits

- 2 days of life-enriching Learning Center Classes 

- Dr. Hauschka makeovers and kits 

- In-house cooking demonstrations all weekend, with and emphasis on seasonal foods

- Free samples, recipes and giveaways

- A panel of local health professionals will be talking about their own health challenges, changes they’ve made in life style and diet, and they’ll answer your questions.


“The entire weekend culminates with a panel discussion on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.,” David Wolfe said. “This is where you can get the answers and recommendations from 10-12 of our professionals. Anyone can ask anyone about anything!”


Schedule of Classes at the Healthy Living Learning Center

All Classes and Panel Discussions arefree, with no registration required

Saturday, February 8

Natural Healthy Hair Color by Herbitant with Erin Marzilli

11 a.m. - Noon

Learn all there is to know about an all-natural hair coloring system.  Explore the history; sustainable values and a unique formula that helps people get the color they want, without toxic ingredients that are harmful to the body or earth.

Emotional Eating and Bach Flower Remedies with Nini Gridley

12:30 -1:30 p.m.

This flower-empowering class covers a complete system of 38 natural flower-based remedies and outlines how safe, natural and effective these remedies are for restoring emotional balance and well-being.  (Suitable for the whole family.)

Stress Reduction and Meditation with Pierre Zimmerman

2-3 p.m.

This stress-relieving class will uncover the neuroscience behind stress and how it affects the body and mind. Body relaxation techniques will be explored, as well as experiential meditation and communication skills that serve people effectively. This class helps connect people to their actual life experience and lends a hand in reducing stress levels on a daily basis.

Dr. Hauschka Make-overs and Kits with Kelly Kynion

3:30 - 4:30 p.m.

The Doctor is in the house Saturday-Dr. Hauschka’s Kelly Kynion will teach Guests which products work best for each individual, how to use certain cosmetics and applications, and will offer many goodies for the face, body and bath.

Benefits of Yoga with Julie Bell

5 – 6 p.m.

What is yoga and how does it actually affect a person’s health? In a matter of minutes, experience the numerous health benefits of yoga. Connect to your body and breath and see what happens when your attention is brought back to your body as a practice. Learn an all-natural way to detox the body and gain a sense of well-being. Basic postures and a connection to nutrition will also be reviewed.

Sunday, February 9

Juicing 101 with Donna Panzl

11 a.m. - Noon

Receive tons of information and get a hands-on experience. Connect to your food and discover the extreme health benefits of juicing.  Learn what digestive enzymes are, how juicing can provide energy for a full day’s work, reduce inflammation, aid in weight loss and improve sleep.

Yoga Basics: Yoga Vinyasa with Penny Berg


“Ashtanga Yoga is breath practice.  The rest is just bending.” -Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Attend this yoga class that is truly designed for the beginner in all of us.  Connect to the breath, body and coordinate a practice that enhances all of the systems of the body.  Basic yoga postures will be explored as well as a guided meditation exercise that will leave you feeling calm and connected.

Fertility and Good Nutrition with Lisa Cartier

2-3 p.m.

Ever wonder what to do once you know you are pregnant?  Do you know how to choose the best care provider or how to develop a birth plan?  Connect to your own birth experience, including breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, dietary guidelines for fertility, and charting your cycle.  Handouts provided.

The Fundamentals of Healing with Therapeutic Oils with Kaitlin Moen

3:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Get connected with essential oils and experience an effective, safe and all-natural way of sustaining great health.  This class provides tons of useful information about “smart medicine” that helps people understand the difference between certified pure therapeutic grade oils and other oils available on the market.  Learn about the quality, purity and potency of essential oils as well as diverse ways of applying them throughout the year.

Connections to Integrative Medicine: Everyday Living with Chinese Medicine with Dr. Michael Wayne


With over 25 years of experience Dr. Michael Wayne provides extensive knowledge and an overview of Integrative Medicine; what it is, how it works, and the importance of it in today’s world.  This class will also teach participants how to prepare a Chinese herbal tea using herbs found at Healthy Living Market and Café.  Learn to ward off colds and promote winter health…and enjoy making and tasting your very own winter herbal tea.

Open Panel Discussion in Healthy Living (Atrium)

6:30-7:30 p.m.

All the instructors from the weekend will be on hand to answer your questions. Get a variety of perspectives at once! 

Healthy Living Market and Café

Wellness Weekend Fair: 

Making Connections to Healthy Living in 2014

Saturday, February 8 from 11:30 a.m. 

through Sunday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m.

All events are Free.  

(518) 306-4900


Thursday, 30 January 2014 13:53

No Ordinary “Joe”

50th G.I. Joe Birthday Commemorated at Military Museum

SARATOGA SPRINGS – “A boy’ll never play with a doll but he will play with a soldier.” 

- Don Levine, creator, G.I. Joe


Beginning with the release of the original iconic 11½ inch action figures in 1964 by Hasbro representing the Army, Navy and Marines (and shortly after - the “Action Nurse”) G.I. Joe has captivated a large segment of the toy loving public for it’s realism (with its 21 moving parts), inspiration to children’s imagination and for stimulating, at least through most of it’s existence – patriotism. 


The New York State Military Museum (61 Lake Avenue, Saratoga Springs) is holding a birthday party of sorts for G.I Joe, and the public is invited on the afternoon of Saturday, February 8. 


Tearle Ashby, a local G.I. Joe collector, will speak about the history of the G.I. Joe at 1 p.m. Mr. Ashby has a collection of more than 2,500 of the military action figures, some of which are currently on display at the museum in their ‘Toys and Tanks’ exhibit.

Among the items on display in this exhibit is a one-of-a-kind G.I. Joe modeled on actor Tom Hanks, who portrayed an Army officer in the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” 


Mr. Ashby will be bringing along several rare pieces from his private collection to the Museum for examination. 


He estimates that some of the rarer pieces in his collection are worth upwards of $2,000 on the collectors market. He showed me one with its original box in a Lucite case. Original cost: $3.49.


Joe himself has gone through many missions and forms through the years. After his introduction in 1964, his orientation could be termed “military realistic.” As sentiment against the Vietnam War increased in the late 1960s, Hasbro redefined Joe’s mission to that of an “adventurer.” 


The adventure team “mission” continued through 1976, a period that saw innovations to Joe’s repertoire such as “kung fu grip,” “eagle-eye vision” and lifelike hair and beards. The popularity led to spin-off toys, games, cartoons and comics, among many other items.


While no one enemy could deter G.I. Joe from his heroic deeds, an energy crisis in 1976 caused Hasbro to shrink his size and led to the introduction of several lines of 3.75” figures, giving a new dimension to the phrase “small but mighty” perhaps, with special editions to commemorate various anniversaries such as the 15th and 25th. 


Later, the 12-inch Joes made a triumphant return to the delight of collectors and little boys… and girls too! In the equal time for women department: note that towards the end of the last century, G.I. Janes were introduced in a series called the Classic Collection. These were the first 12-inch female dolls in the G.I. Joe line-up since 1967. 


And Tom Hanks is but one of the special G.I. Joes modeled after real people throughout his 50 years of service. Consider this partial list:

Buzz Aldrin
Omar Bradley
•  SFC Charlie Bury, 1999 "Real-Life Spirit of G.I. Joe" contest winner
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ulysses S. Grant
Bob Hope
John F. Kennedy (as skipper of the PT-109)
Robert E. Lee
Douglas MacArthur
Audie Murphy
George S. Patton
Colin Powell
Ernie Pyle
Theodore Roosevelt
George Washington
Ted Williams

No ordinary Joe, indeed. Apparently, this old soldier has no intention to die, retire, or as MacArthur said “just fade away.” 

So happy birthday G.I. Joe. I have no doubt that you are strong enough to blow out all 51 candles by yourself.


Comments on this story are always welcome.

Thursday, 30 January 2014 13:39

How Saratoga’s Soup-er Bowl Began

Gavin Landry Recalls the Beginnings

NEW YORK – As it approaches its 16th edition this Saturday, Chowderfest has achieved iconic status. A signature event that is so intrinsically interwoven with the fabric of our lives that we sometimes assume that it always has been here. 


But yes, there was a Saratoga before Chowderfest. It just wasn’t as tasty. 


Just over sixteen years ago, Gavin Landry was President of the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau when he formulated the concept of Chowderfest and presented it to the Winterfest committee at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. 


At the time, it was presented as a way to augment the Winterfest week of events and, to an extent, generate a bridge with downtown Saratoga Springs with the activities going on in the Spa State Park. But within short order, while Winterfest continues to be a strong event to this day, there was no doubt that Chowderfest had dwarfed it in terms of popularity and participation. 


Thanks to the groundwork Mr. Landry laid down sixteen years ago, Chowderfest grows larger each year. We reached him at his new post at Empire State Development in New York City, where he shared some insights into Chowderfest’s origins.


Looking back, How did you develop this idea?

GL: I created Chowderfest to generate tourism demand during a need time for Saratoga’s annual calendar. The idea behind Chowderfest was to help create awareness for the various wonderful restaurants that were members of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.


Who helped get things off the ground in the beginning? 

GL: The key players that helped launch this initiative were Mark Baker, Jim Sheridan (Gideon Putnam), Denise McDonald and Joe Dalton. It could have never been accomplished without the help of our wonderful restaurateurs such as Steve Sullivan and the Morris Brothers and my great team at the Bureau especially Kathy Price and Kathy Denkenberger. They were a tremendous help to get it off the ground.


What were some of the major goals at the time?

GL: The goal was to invite trial by the people participating in Chowderfest. We wanted to drive them to the actual restaurant to experience it. The idea was to encourage future return trips by already having visited the restaurant; experiencing the décor, the ambience and knowing the distance the restaurant is from their home.


Do you remember how many participants there were in the early years?

GL: The first year we started, we had 16 restaurants join us. It resulted in 5,000 restaurant visits. Last year there were over 70 restaurants, bars and shops serving chowder. They served over 115,000 cups of chowder and the crowd was estimated at 20,000 – 25,000 people. This year, I’m told there are over 85 chowder vendors.


You probably have a few anecdotes and stories about the first years…

GL: Every year the Chowderfest ballot count grew and grew. I would have all the ballots put into boxes and delivered to the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs. I would count them in by hand in order to do a notification the following day with the newspapers. 


By the time I left the Bureau in 2007, it took me nine hours to tally up all the ballots. That year, it happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, I remember thinking I need to have a better solution than to be counting ballots at half time during the Super Bowl.


Also, the addition of the Doggie Chowder to allow man’s best friend a chance to participate was something we were especially proud to incorporate.


 The idea of incorporating Chowderfest t-shirts into the mix proved to be popular. Some of the older ones are collector’s items these days if you can even find them


GL:The t-shirt enhancement started in year one. I believe we also gave away a sweatshirt pretty early on. I always reserved a certain number to give to charity, such as Saratoga ARC and to the sponsors, but yes, they all sold out.


Who were some of the artists that developed the early logos and set the standards for each year?


GL: Hud Armstrong was my artist for all of the original art through 2007. Our goal was to create stylized art using the same characters in different scenarios that demonstrated happiness during that time of year. A little known fact is that in all of the artwork we had a squirrel that harkened back to some early debate about the squirrels in Congress Park.


Has your schedule allowed you to visit a recent Chowderfest? 

GL: I have not visited Chowderfest in person since 2007 but have enjoyed watching the videos online, which I think Ralph Pascucci of Myriad Productions is still shooting.


What are you doing now? 

GL: In 2013, I became Executive Director of Tourism for New York State, working with members of the Tourism Division to lead the iconic I LOVE NY program, and develop and implement new strategies to support the growth of the tourism industry across the state.


Shout it Louda! We Love our Chowda!

Some fun “ChowderFacts”:


- Participating Chowderfest Restaurants:

First year: 16

2013: 74

2014: 85


- Chowder Servings:

First year: 5,000

2013: Over 115,000

2014: ???


- What’s New This Year?

The Chowderfest Hat Contest! The hat contest is on Henry Street from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. It’s a family fun event with Best Hat (inspired by your favorite chowder, of course) with prizes for adults and kids.


Who Is Defending Their Title?

2013 Winners:

Dog Chow Down Winner: Impressions of Saratoga

Best On Broadway and Best Newcomer: Druthers

Best Off Broadway: Seven Horse Pub

Best Non-Downtown: Longfellows

Best Dessert-Themed Chowder: Ben & Jerry's

Most Chowder Served: Parting Glass

People's Choice under 1,000 bowls Served: The Local Pub

People's Choice: Seven Horse Pub 

2014 Winners will be announced at 6:30 on Saturday evening at the Saratoga Springs City Center


For more fun chowder facts and other information


Visit discoversaratoga.org/chowderfest





Good evening my fellow Saratogians and welcome to the Saratoga Springs City Center.  Tonight, as your mayor, it is my distinct honor and privilege to give the 2014 State of the City Address.

First, I want to recognize several current and former elected officials who are with us this evening. And most importantly, I want to thank my family – my three children:  Emma, Laura and Cole and thank you to all of the local businesses that are participating tonight and thank you to all of my fellow citizens who are here with us this evening

We don’t need to have a speech, or a formal meeting, for all of us to agree that Saratoga Springs is a very special and very unique place.  With our long and storied history, wealth of natural resources, vibrant culture, and prosperous economy, we are indeed the envy of small cities not only in New York and the Northeast, but across the nation as well.  It seems that every time we turn around Saratoga Springs is being named as a “top small city”.  Just two weeks ago The Huffington Post named Saratoga Springs as one of “America’s best main streets.” These accolades haven’t come by chance; they have come as the result of years of hard work, and we look forward to building on what we’ve accomplished together.

As you all know, this evening’s address is the State of the City, not just the State of the Mayor's Office.  We are a commission form of city government and so I was happy that my fellow commissioners contributed to this address and I’m grateful they could be here this evening. Commissioner of Public Works, Skip Sirocco, Commissioner of Public Safety, Chris Mathieson, Commissioner of Accounts, John Frank, Commissioner of Finance, Michele Madigan. Please stand and be recognized. I’d also like thank our two county supervisors:  Matthew Veitch and Peter Martin, please stand and be recognized.

The State of our City is a busy one.

We are modernizing and renovating our Public Safety Department and the newly configured offices on the second floor of City Hall should be ready for use by summer.  We’ve been successful in expanding our DWI efforts and our Police Department has disrupted several drug houses that have no place in our city.  The Fire Department had another successful year in the operation of the ambulance service and the City approved a land acquisition that will allow for a strategically located third fire and EMS station.

DPW is in the final stages of design for the $2.1 million Ballston Avenue Traffic Improvements Project.  This project will enhance overall safety in this area, and features a wider street, new traffic signals and sidewalks.  DPW also completed the water treatment plant filter replacement project, ensuring the reliability of the City's water treatment facilities.

Our Accounts Department is recognized nationally for the risk and safety programs and standards it develops.  The Assessment Office proactively works with seniors across the community and within the next week, the Assessment Office will be contacting community members by telephone to remind folks of the Senior Citizen Exemption so they get the tax relief they are entitled to.

At a time when many cities and towns are struggling to find resources and balance budgets, our fiscal footing remains sound.  Our sales tax collection in 2012 was the highest in Saratoga Springs history and we have very good reason to believe that 2013 may surpass 2012.  Our property tax rate has been stable and well within the newly enacted 2% property tax cap.  Our city budgets have held property tax increases at bay, while confronting increasing costs associated with pensions and healthcare, and providing critical public services that we all rely on.  Our finance department has worked hard to ensure that we have adequately funded reserves in addition to keeping the  “AA+”, (read: “double A plus”) bond rating which allows us to finance capital projects at comparatively low interest rates and recognizes our on-going commitment to being a fiscally responsible city. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say to you tonight that the state of our city is strong and as your mayor I look forward to making it even stronger in the months and years ahead.  We will work together, and we will move our city forward toward a sustainable and prosperous future – not just for a select few, but for everyone. 

While we enjoy all that our city has to offer, we cannot and will not rest on our laurels.  There is work to do and improvements to be made.  Much of what you will hear tonight will mirror what I was saying on the campaign trail.  However, now we are not just talking about it, we are doing it.  I have outlined five areas my administration will be focusing our attention on:

I) Open-Government/Transparency:

In a few short weeks, my staff and I have been busy.  During the campaign, I promised to put my schedule online – I’ve done it.  I assured voters that I would establish open office hours for citizens to come in freely and talk with my staff and me – I’ve done it.  I said that we would remove the barrier in the mayor’s office that served as both a physical and symbolic barrier between the mayor and the citizens – and in the coming weeks we will be doing just that.  To be even more transparent, and cut down on FOIL requests, I suggest that all study reports by consultants be made available in the city library and city hall.  And, in the coming weeks, I will work with the City Council to clean up the way we appoint citizens to our boards and committees so that appointments cannot be made in the dark of night, or in the final hours of a mayor’s tenure in City Hall.  Our citizens deserve non-partisan openness and transparency and they will get nothing less. 

II) Economic Development/Business:

My administration will be particularly aggressive in seeking input from our business community in ways that has not been done before.  Our city cannot reach its potential if the private sector and public sector are isolated in their respective silos with little-to-no communication.  To the contrary, the path to augmenting our prosperity lies in building public-private partnerships that can open the lines of communication and facilitate actions between city government and businesses.  So tonight, I’m happy to announce the creation of the first-ever Saratoga Springs Business Advisory Council. 

This 15-member council will be made up of businessmen and businesswomen who will be tasked with creating recommendations to cut red tape; eliminate unnecessary regulations; create sustainable economic growth and job creation; and more effectively market the city’s economic and cultural assets. 

I’m very pleased to announce that Colleen Holmes of Wheatfields Restaurant, Matt McCabe of Saratoga Guitar, Rich Ferguson of Saratoga National Bank, and Alisa Dalton of The Dalton Law Firm have agreed to be the founding members of this council.   This will be an on-going, standing committee to bridge the gap between City Hall and the business community, foster economic growth and encourage prosperity; the Business Advisory Council will prepare their first report of recommendations for presentation to the Mayor and the City Council publicly by May 30th. 

Better communication is a two-way street and City Hall can do more. For example, the City currently offers loans for various business projects, but we haven’t done enough to market them.  Now we will.  We will look to have more “Project Roundtables” so that our city staff and private businesses can sit down together and talk about what both sides need so we can reduce unnecessary bureaucratic back-and-forth.  The City does not proactively recruit new businesses. Now we will.  The City Comprehensive Plan is identifying three areas of the City for future growth but we don’t have a proactive economic plan that can be implemented for those three areas.  We soon will.  How?  By redirecting our City staff and boards and making new efforts to leverage regional partnerships - because great things can happen when you leave politics at the door and get passionate, energetic people in the same room. 

A shining example of this is the “Experience Saratoga” event that the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce is partnering with our city on.  Over two days in early April, officials from other cities and towns will have the opportunity to come to our downtown, experience all it has to offer first-hand, and speak with local business owners about how they can replicate our success as a vibrant downtown.  I want to thank Todd Shimkus and the Chamber and the many local businesses for all the work they’ve done on this event and I look forward to showcasing our city with them in April. 

To ensure more great results, we will hold regular meetings between the Mayor and our private sector leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, SEDC, the DBA, the City Center, and the Convention and Tourism Bureau.  Greater communication and partnership can, and will, benefit our business community.     

As we build the public-private partnerships, let me assure you that, under my leadership, City Hall will do its part as well.  My team is already proactively seeking out new grants and thinking of better ways to spend precious public funds.  We will work to resolve the six outstanding labor contracts we inherited as soon as possible. Auditors have told us that letting labor contracts linger is bad for our city’s finances and it’s bad for employee morale as well.

At his Executive Budget address last week in Albany, Governor Cuomo proposed a two-year freeze on property taxes with certain conditions. For the first year, any locality staying within the 2% property tax cap would be eligible for the freeze; the second year would require localities to take steps toward reducing costs through shared services and consolidations.  My fellow citizens, and my fellow City Council members, let’s not let this opportunity pass us by! Let’s hold the line on spending, let’s explore opportunities for shared services and greater efficiencies, and let’s make sure Saratoga Springs is in a position to take advantage of this type of tax relief. 


III) Sustainability and Comprehensive Planning:

As we work diligently toward growing our economic success, we must endeavor to grow our city in a balanced and sustainable way.  Saratoga Springs has worked hard over the years, one day at a time, to establish a quality of life with a thriving downtown core and once again, the current Comprehensive Plan Committee has identified “The City in the Country” as the vision that summarizes what we want our city to be.

In contrast, during the housing boom, communities in Florida, and Nevada, and Arizona witnessed unbelievable growth in housing and business, only to realize a short time after that their supply greatly outweighed any realistic demand; and communities that were growing by leaps and bounds one day, were full of closing businesses and unoccupied houses the next.   And while our city is on a different scale in a different place, we would be foolish not to heed the lessons of other places that have grown too fast and too recklessly.  We want to keep Saratoga Springs on the right track.

Accordingly, I am going to make our Comprehensive Planning process a TOP priority with the goal of having a product we can all be proud of.  Let’s not fear a forward-thinking vision; let’s embrace it.  To help us get there, I will count on the current 15-member committee and, tonight I’m pleased to announce Geoff Borneman as our new chairman and Jamin Totino, as our new vice-chairman.  The first meeting of the 2014 Committee effort will be February 10th at 6 p.m. and I would encourage all those who are interested to attend. 

As Mayor, and a mother of three, I am very interested in attracting more young professionals to Saratoga Springs.  Research shows we must offer them a walk able, bike-friendly community and that’s why I’ve ordered my staff to look high and low for grant funding that can help complete the Geyser Road Trail and advance the newly designed Green belt trail around the City and we look forward to working with Supervisor Matt Veitch and the County to advance our trail systems. 

As our downtown core continues to grow, we must find other ways to increase the volume of people and transport them conveniently to downtown.   Our community needs to be good stewards of our natural resources and I will work to ensure that our city has enough green space for generations to come.

It’s been 26 years since the Department of Environmental Conservation issued its report on environmental conditions at Loughberry Lake, our primary water supply, and it’s watershed.  Let’s work with DEC to update this information so we have a clear idea of where we stand with our water quality and quantity.

The funding for the project at the waterfront property purchased by the City is in jeopardy.  The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has not received adequate documentation from the previous administration regarding any work that has been done.  It is because of that lethargic attitude we are at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursable state funds.  The City has 15 months to fast track this project and I intend to do my best to make up for lost time.  We’ve already had several meetings on this project and I will again be having a meeting this week with the involved parties on an implementation strategy with strict deadlines and budget constraints.  It is imperative that we try to save our credibility with the State and we show them Saratoga Springs is a good investment; let’s get this done and give our citizens a waterfront park they can enjoy.

Economic development and sustainability are not mutually exclusive and we can have both.  Let’s work together to grow our economy in a balanced way so that 20, 30, 40 years from now people are still talking about our city the way they talk about it today, not a city that became a victim of its own success because it lacked the foresight or the strategic vision to stay balanced and on track.



While we work toward building a sustainable and more prosperous economy, we must realize that prosperity often does not trickle down to some of our most vulnerable citizens.  In America today, income inequality is on the rise and social mobility is on the run.  This is not my own assessment of the socio-economic reality; it is a simple fact.  And while Saratoga Springs is thriving in so many ways, we are not immune to having people who are down on their luck, struggling to make ends meet, and coping with mental illness that is beyond their control.  These people are our fellow citizens and we, as a community, have an obligation to look out for them the same way we look out for business owners and taxpayers.   I take great pride, both as a citizen and as your mayor, in starting a much-needed and long over-due Code Blue program right here in Saratoga Springs, because YES we have homelessness, YES we have people struggling, and NO it’s not okay for them to sleep outside in extreme weather conditions.  To date we have had over 30 different guests, 17 code blue nights, and over 150 volunteers.  This would not have happened without our non-profit colleagues and partners.  I would ask that the members of the Code Blue Steering Committee to stand and be recognized.

Too often, at all levels of government, our senior citizens and veterans are left behind and are treated like second-class citizens.  As both a citizen and elected official I have worked tirelessly to do more for these deserving populations and my tenure as mayor will be no different.  In my first 100 days, we will set up a special help desk in a central location where seniors can go for answers to their questions regarding housing, Medicaid, and resources.  We look forward to working with the Senior Citizens Center and the Mayor’s Senior Advisory Council to even better address the needs of our seniors.

The brave men and women who risk their lives and leave their families and communities behind should have some place they can turn; they deserve elected officials that understand their needs. So we will count on our newly formed Vietnam Commemorative 50th Anniversary Committee to help bridge the gap between civilian life and military service AND to serve as advisors to the city council on what we can do to help our veterans and their families. I look forward to partnering with newly elected Supervisor Peter Martin, who was recently named to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the County Board to explore new ways we can help this most deserving population. 

Those in our community who live in public housing deserve better. That’s why in the near future I will be meeting with board members of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority and coming up with solutions to improve the legal and general working relationship between the Board and the City Council. 



Nothing is more identified today with our beloved city than world-class horse racing.  This “sport of kings” has played such a significant role in our city’s economy and culture and just last summer we were proud to celebrate 150 years of racing at the Spa.  Once again I want to congratulate the 150 Committee for a huge success.  There is no doubt that Horse Racing and gambling are significant parts of the history and culture of this City.  However, it’s not the only thing we are.  We are a City devoted to prosperity, civic engagement, arts and culture and the preservation of our environment and our history.

But with the passage of Proposition #1 in New York State, we are at a crossroads, and we are at the mercy of the State.  Our community and local elected officials are nervous about having little-to-no voice in this decision that rests between the Governor, his citing panel and the commercial operators, and rightfully so.  As Mayor, I promised to represent all and that’s just I have been doing and will continue to do so, but our city is divided on this issue.  And we while there is a spirited debate taking place, let us not overlook the common ground that I believe already exists.

As I said on Inauguration Day, a Las-Vegas style casino has no place in Saratoga Springs. I stood by that sentiment then, and I stand by it now. And from my many conversations with our citizens on this topic, I think that is something that we can agree on.  Another thing that most of us can agree on is the tremendous frustration we feel when we cannot come together and control our own destiny as a city.  And nobody can deny that one expanded gaming casino license will be issued in our 8-county region, either in Saratoga Springs, or somewhere close by. That is not up for debate; it is happening.

With these basic agreements, we can then work from there to try to negotiate terms and conditions for a more practical, more moderate solution to prevent radical change to our City in the Country.  A solution that says “NO” to a massive event space that will take away business from our City Center; a solution that says “NO” to a colossal casino hotel; a solution that says “NO” to an untold number of restaurants and shops that could threaten the vitality of downtown, but a solution that says “YES” to creating good jobs; “YES” to ensuring that harness racing stays alive and well in Saratoga Springs where it belongs and where it’s been since 1847; a solution that says “YES” to increased city revenue and lower taxes and a solution that features a group of owners who will promise to work through our city zoning and planning process and who will work proactively toward not just the betterment of their own business, but the betterment of downtown Saratoga Springs as well. 

If Albany and the casino industry are interested in having that very fair and very reasonable conversation then they have my undivided attention, but until then I remain very concerned about this issue, and I will continue to listen to all our citizens.  Because even though Albany and the governor’s citing panel have the final determination, we will do everything in our local power to have our voices heard.  Being divisive and disingenuous will get us nowhere and I implore all of you to find common ground and think about how we can maximize the precious little input we have.  And I want to assure our citizens that they will have a mayor who will keep fighting for downtown; keep fighting for horse racing and keep fighting to maintain our seat at the table so our community can have a say in what’s best for City of Saratoga Springs.

As we witness our city change and grow, and ponder the pros and cons of an expanded casino, let us not forget horse racing and the pivotal role it continues to play in our lives today.  Let’s look at the facts:  1) The VLTs saved Harness Racing and all the jobs and the 1200 horsemen who depend on our Harness Track for their livelihood. 2) The VLTs at Aqueduct protected further decline in the Thoroughbred business in and around Saratoga County and propped up NYRA when pink slips were being handed out, breeders were moving and business was closing; 3) 10 % of our City budget was lost when Albany decided to change the distribution formula of VLT funds.  Today, instead of $3.5 M, our City budget gets $1.8 M.  I am not comfortable leaving 10% or any percent of our City’s finances and future fiscal stability in the hands of Albany politics.

That’s why I am asking key members of the Thoroughbred and Harness industry – trainers, breeders, and riders - to serve on City Racing Advisory Council.   The Racing Advisory Council will be key in determining the effects of the state gaming law on the horse racing industry.   Now more than ever we need to remember what is really important to our local economy and bring horse racing back to the center of this conversation.  On the Council will be well-respected and very knowledgeable leaders in the industry -- Bill Wilmot, Joe McMahon, Mickey McGivern, Paul Kelley and Bill Mott to name a few.  We must all be custodians of this great sport, not merely spectators, and as long as I’m mayor, horseracing – harness and thoroughbred -- will be a top priority for the City of Saratoga Springs.  

As I repeatedly have said, our City has a balanced package of assets but we must continue to find ways to diversify our future and rely less on gambling money that may not be sustainable.   I intend to ramp up the leadership our beloved Visitor’s Center (Heritage Area) to better reach its potential as a business, cultural, entrepreneurial portal.  There is more revenue to produce and more services that can be provided to educate people and grow the pride of Saratoga Springs.  One way is to better utilize the Visitors Center as a hub for the healing community including a full-fledge effort to bring the spring waters back to the forefront.  A second way is to create a Makers market and promote local products especially those made right here in Saratoga Springs. 

Also, Sports Tourism has a great future in Saratoga.  We must work closely with the new organization growing out of the Convention and Tourism Bureau.  My administration will develop a “Recreation and Sports Master Plan” to enhance our tourism efforts and better serve our year residents needs.  When someone comes here to run a 5K, or play in a tournament, or watch their children’s event they have an opportunity see our city and there’s a good chance they will want to come back and visit us.  A Blue Ribbon Committee I am establishing will consist of each sport that is played in Saratoga Springs from baseball to Polo to Crew to enable closer communications, more coordination and collaboration among sporting organizations and teams and more efficient use of dollars.   Founding members of the newly formed blue ribbon committee are: Greg Griskowitz, Bob Mansier, Meg Kelly and Eric Catalino.

Last summer, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of horse racing at the Spa.  Next year, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of our incorporation as a city.  And to ensure that this Centennial milestone is celebrated in true Saratoga fashion, I’m happy to announce that Mary Lou Whitney and John Hendrickson have agreed to chair our 100th anniversary committee.  Many community members have already expressed interest in working with them to establish a full program of activities to celebrate all the Saratoga Springs as to offer.

In closing, I stand before you tonight as your mayor because on November 5th, voters made a choice. They chose a mayor who campaigned on open government, transparency, accountability, fairness, and most importantly they made a choice to have a mayor who listens to, and represents, each and every citizen of this great city.  For me, these were not empty campaign promises, or catchy talking points – they are the foundation on which I intend to govern and I will ask all my colleagues in City Hall to join me.  Let’s make city government more professional and more productive! Let’s grow our economy in a sustainable way!  Let’s protect horse racing! And let’s have a city that looks out for all citizens, not just a select few!!   It’s what our citizens have asked for and it is what they deserve. 


Thank you all for coming tonight, get home safe, and God bless you all.

Friday, 24 January 2014 16:11

Round-about Lake Road

Residents Search For Response To ‘Malta-fication’ of Their Neighborhood

ROUND LAKE – To the east of the Northway’s Exit 11 sits a beloved historic village in the Town of Malta. Founded in 1867, lovingly maintained and treasured to this day by just over 600 residents and countless thousands of annual visitors alike. 


Just west of this village is a modern vehicular / biker / pedestrian phenomenon: the roundabout. Only one exists here today, just east of the Northway and by all accounts it is serving its proper purpose, which is primarily to allow vehicles exiting the Northway to bypass the village and efficiently travel to routes 9 and 67 and the Luther Forest Tech Park. 


But sometimes, too much of a “good thing” can work against the problems they were intended to solve, perhaps with dangerous consequences. 


A good portion of village residents, as well as those living and running businesses around Round Lake Road believe this is what is about to happen to them, and they hope that they are not too late to stop it. 


“I’m disgusted with the process,” said resident Elwood  “Woody” Sloat, a long-time resident and a 25-year veteran of the New York State Police. In that capacity, Mr. Sloat has investigated traffic flow patterns and countless numbers of vehicle accidents. “The primary concern should be public safety in making decisions, and that is not what is happening here.”


At their last meeting of 2013, the Malta Town Board voted to go ahead with the construction of two more roundabouts along Round Lake Road –two points only about 1,500 feet apart on the west side of the Northway. Town Councilperson John Hartzell cast the lone vote against the measure and cited resident’s concerns for safety as the primary reason for his vote. 


Mr. Sloat and I walked the two intersections / future roundabouts. He knew intimate details, the nooks and crannies of each. Later, area residents Kathleen Eitzman and Valerie Manley joined us. All three were vocally active against the roundabouts as the proper solution for these intersections. 


They did all the right things. They made their feelings known at every possible meeting. They gathered over 250 signatures of area residents. Today, they felt that it apparently did no good. 


“I feel we are being stepped on.” Sloat said, and the other two were quick to nod in agreement. “Only John Hartzell came down, met with us and looked at this area,” he continued. “I spent more than half my life investigating traffic and I am convinced it is the completely wrong solution (for these two intersections.) It is very likely to make a bad situation worse. A roundabout is not a turnkey solution to every problem.”


“The Town Board accepts an engineer’s report, and the people who live here have to live with the consequences. It’s as if the people directly affected had no weight.” Sloat concluded. 


The two intersections each have their own properties, but there is little doubt that as they stand today they have multiple danger points that could use corrective action. Whether a roundabout is the best solution is certainly a matter of dispute. 


The first, at the corner of Ruhle / Raylinksy Roads and Round Lake Road, is about 1,000 feet west of the Northway. At this point, it is a very busy two-lane intersection with no turn lanes and a traffic light with no turn arrows. At the northeast corner, there is a busy Stewarts Shop with two entry/exit points – one on Round Lake, one on Ruhle. 


Further down on Ruhle, a pediatric medical practice has had to resort to homemade ‘slow’ and ‘stop’ signs (which are legal on private property) to handle the number of cars that pivot into the lot and turn around because they have no means of getting out of Stewarts and heading west on Round Lake Road. Across from this building is a marked crosswalk to a popular mini-golf course which many children and families use, but there is no stop sign. 


Some brave drivers make a left turn out of the Stewarts lot at the Round Lake exit point to head east to the Northway, but this is a difficult maneuver at all times and nearly impossible during peak traffic periods. Making a left turn from Ruhle to head west is no bargain either. With no turn lanes or arrows, maybe one or two cars can get through this way per light change. 


A roundabout would appear to address some of these problems, but the primary beneficiary would be to establish the primacy of east-west traffic flow along Round Lake Road. Yet a roundabout placed here would bring additional concerns, according to Sloat. 


For one thing, the roundabout turnoff onto Ruhle will, by necessity, be perilously closer to the Stewarts entry/exit. Because the roundabout will also eliminate the Round Lake Road eastbound access point, more cars will likely be queued up to leave at the remaining one. Moving this entry/exit point further away from the turnoff is not feasible due to utility box placement and other factors according to the engineer’s report obtained by Saratoga TODAY.


Further, the consulting engineer’s (Creighton Manning) report said that a 36-foot ‘splitter island’ (a raised or painted traffic island that separates traffic) length would still be safe, though the report indicates that a minimum length of 50 feet is acceptable and 100 feet is desirable.  


So imagine this: a vehicle heading west on Round Lake Road signals for a turnoff onto Ruhle. A driver who is looking to exit Stewarts, perhaps having already waited awhile to get clear sailing, sees the vehicle with it’s turn signal still on from the turnoff and wrongly assumes it is heading into the Stewarts lot, when it is planning to continue. 


I must admit that I’m no engineer, but Mr. Sloat certainly appears to have a compelling argument that a roundabout is a more expensive and less effective solution as opposed to strategically placed turn lanes, traffic light arrows and stop signs around this intersection. 


But about 1,500 feet to the west is another intersection where you don’t need an engineering degree to see that a roundabout is overkill, in the manner of shooting a hummingbird with a bazooka and claiming you deserve a marksman’s medal. 


The intersection of Chango Drive and Round Lake Road is a three-way intersection without a traffic light or stop sign. It does have a painted crosswalk across Round Lake Road, which an able-bodied person would have to be brave to cross. 


On the south side of Round Lake Road is a major shopping plaza with the area’s primary supermarket (Hannaford) and Ms. Manley's salon. On the other side, a semi-assisted living facility for seniors. Behind the plaza is Chango Elementary School, where many children could be walking to school. 


As currently constituted: a recipe for disaster. But is a roundabout likely to improve anything? Sloat makes a case that it could be even worse. 


“Pedestrians crossing roundabouts are never desirable. These structures are designed to establish the primacy of vehicle traffic flow, in this case east-west along Round Lake Road.” He notes.


“Would you want a loved one, a senior, a child crossing a roundabout?” Sloat concludes, “they have no right of way and in many cases drivers have less reaction time.” 


Kathy Eitzman has a double-whammy against her at this intersection. In addition to safety and quality of life concerns for the area her family has in lived for years, her home sits adjacent to this intersection. 


She’s also an associate real estate broker, so when she asks:


“When was the last time you heard of a home on a roundabout being desirable? When has it ever increased a residential property’s value?” 


You get the feeling she already knows the answer.


But the answer to “what’s next?” for these three citizens who have spent their whole lives working through the system is unclear at this point. It’s hard to imagine them lying down in front of the bulldozers in protest, yet it’s hard to imaging them take the Malta Town Board’s decision lying down. 



The two roundabouts are projected to be completed sometime in the fall of this year. This is the epitome of a developing story and we’ll report on those developments as events unfold.

Page 33 of 39


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