The May 4, 2023, meeting of the Saratoga Springs City Council was a continuance of the May 2 meeting Mayor Kim adjourned after Black Lives Matter demonstrators disrupted the proceedings. In yet a further escalation of the breakdown of our city government, a new alliance (they are constantly shifting) of Finance Commissioner Sanghvi, Accounts Commissioner Moran, and Mayor Kim refused to approve resolutions on Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino’s agenda. In fact, the three Council members refused to even offer a second to any motion Montagnino made.
Among Montagnino’s resolutions that failed to find a second were two change orders for work being done on the new firehouse. These change orders have, in the past, been approved without debate. Consider this video from a January, 2023, meeting.
Not so at the May 4 meeting. Here is one of the resolutions they refused to second.
People familiar with construction projects know that change orders are hardly unusual. It is unclear how serious the impact of refusing the work order will be. In some cases, other work may not be possible when required work is delayed. It is also unclear what this delay may cost the city. The three members of the Council, by refusing to provide a second to Montagnino’s resolution, deprived the public of any discussion that might have revealed what impact denying these work changes might have.
Watching the Mayor and two Commissioners, it was apparent that they had planned this before the meeting as some kind of retribution.
Following the rejections of the Montagnino resolutions, the three Commissioners complained that they had not been informed about the reason for the changes and offered numerous examples of what they described as the unwillingness of Montagnino to communicate with them. Conspicuously absent was any explanation as to why the three had approved similar changes in the past with no resistance.
This Council’s Subversion Of The Pre-Agenda Process
It has been the tradition of the City Council to hold a “pre-agenda” meeting on the Monday before each City Council meeting. This is where members of the Council would request clarifications on proposed resolutions in order to be able to thoughtfully discuss them at the regular meeting. In particular, in the past, Council members often asked their colleagues to provide background information either during the pre-agenda meeting or before the Council meeting, so they could be prepared for the discussions and votes. At times staff members would attend these meetings to answer questions from Council members on particular proposals.
With the current administration, this is no longer the case. These meetings are now brief to a fault and mostly symbolic. They have been reduced to each member simply reading their agenda items. For example, the pre-agenda meeting for the May 2 council meeting lasted only fifteen minutes. Perhaps City Council meetings would not go on for 5 hours if these Council members did their homework ahead of time.
Montagnino’s change orders were included in his proposed agenda. If the other members of the Council had reservations about Montagnino’s actions and needed more information, the pre-agenda meeting was the time to advise him of their reservations. None of the three asked any questions.
For them to then complain at the Council table that Montagnino had failed to provide them with information is simply not credible. This is especially true because there is an extensive record of these same Council members passing similar work change orders without comment, as documented above.
Denying Montagnino seconds to his resolutions was a new low in the factionalism that dominates this Council.
As further proof of the chaos, not only was the May 2nd meeting disrupted and had to be continued on May 4, but the Council was unable to complete their business even on the 4th and are scheduling yet another extension of the original meeting.
Rude and Unprofessional Behavior
I am not going to bother to include video of the name-calling and ugly behavior of the Council members at this meeting. I have thoroughly documented this in the past, and it seems like a pointless exercise to edit and post more of this stuff. A complete video of the meeting is on the city website for those who wish to watch. Suffice it to say, the current Council lives in a corrosive bubble and appears oblivious about the harm they are doing to each other and to the city.