Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Friday, 09 December 2022 12:18

Commissioner Montagnino’s Bar Closing Folly

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
Commissioner Montagnino’s Bar Closing Folly

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino's terribly flawed proposal to pressure bars and restaurants to close at 2AM was fortunately defeated at the December 6, 2022, City Council meeting by a 3-2 vote.

Here is a link to Montagnino’s complete proposal to amend Chapter 136-37 of the City Code:

file:///C:/Users/kaufm/Downloads/Chapter_136_Proposed_Amendment_(Dec_2__2022)%20(2).pdf

The amendment contains four conditions that, should any of them occur after 2 AM, would subject a bar or restaurant to having their business license rescinded.

For instance, the first condition states that a permit could be revoked by the City Council if:

“a patron or guest of the establishment in question left the establishment after 2:00 am and, within one hour of leaving the establishment, committed a criminal offense. Prima facie evidence of the commission of a criminal offense shall include, but not be limited to, an arrest or issuance of an appearance ticket upon probable cause;”

So if a patron came into a bar and drank a glass of Saratoga Water and, upon leaving, was stopped for running a stop sign, the bar owner could face the revocation of his/her business license. This is even though the bar management did nothing that contributed to the driving violation.

I have spoken to three well-respected attorneys, all of whom dismissed the amendment as poorly crafted and sure to be challenged in court. This was a major reason Commissioners Moran, Sanghvi, and Golub voted against Montagnino's proposal.

Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub articulated this and other concerns:

[Due to the fact that Commissioner Golub speaks softly, people using pcs will probably have to resort to earphones]

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Here is the transcript of what Commissioner Golub had to say:

“I think it’s poorly written, I think it's open to so many different interpretations that I’m not even sure it could be, or is legal. I think it contradicts what our own city attorney suggested as language, which has, once again, been ignored. And I think it contradicts the need to spend more time and understand what the real problems are and what the solutions can be, including, potentially, closing the bars at 2 a.m."

Commissioner Jason Golub

I have a darker analysis of this resolution. As poor a lawyer as Montagnino may be, he must know that his resolution would not survive a court appeal. The real purpose of this resolution, besides getting him on television, was, I believe, to intimidate and threaten the bar owners. If it had passed, the amendment would have been a threat to the bars even if it didn't eventually survive court challenges. While the city, I believe, would not prevail in a lawsuit, the cost for a business to defend itself in court and challenge the amendment, along with the loss of revenue while it was closed, could easily bankrupt a small business. This proposal was legally flawed and would have severely damaged the possibility of creating a situation where the city and the business owners could work cooperatively together to address these issues.

Mayor Kim: We Have To Do Something (Even If It's Ill Conceived)

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Mayor Kim was Montagnino's sole supporter. In his remarks at the meeting, he never addresses Commissioner Golub's concerns about the resolution. Instead, he asserts that if the city does not pass Montagnino's amendment, it will open the city to lawsuits for inaction.

After the vote, Kim dramatically called for the record to show that he and Montagnino moved and seconded the resolution and that Golub, Sanghvi, and Moran voted against it. I cannot restrain myself from being snarky. Mayor Kim, the minutes of the City Council always record who voted one way or the other. Your coda was not required.

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The City Democratic Committee Weighs In

In one of the odder twists to the evening, Pat Tuz, the chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, spoke during the comment period. As an indication of the condition of that committee, she announced the party's executive committee had voted to endorse Montagnino's proposal and gave it a ringing endorsement only to see three of the committee's endorsed candidates vote against it.

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