Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

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

Monday, 06 November 2023 09:24

Kim and Allies Go On Disinformation Campaign

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
As election day nears, Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim and his supporters have doubled down on their false narrative that somehow Travelers Insurance dropped the city's liability coverage "because of legal exposure from investigations into the previous administration." This is demonstrably not true, as is proven by the letter Travelers sent to the city on September 14 that clearly stated, "The City of Saratoga Springs' approach to risk and safety management creates an unacceptable increase in the hazards contemplated for the city. Therefore, we are nonrenewing your policy effective 1/1/24." Ron Kim is responsible for dismantling the city's long-respected Risk and Safety program.
Nevertheless, Kim continues to repeat this falsehood in the mailers he is sending to voters, and this is now being amplified on social media by the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee and other Kim supporters.

This is from the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee Website

Under the ironic headline of "Let's Set the Record Straight," this Facebook post does the opposite, once again repeating Kim's lie that the city is "...changing liability insurers because of legal exposure from investigations into the previous administration."
Aside from the clear evidence in the Traveler's letter that this had nothing to do with the policy's cancellation, it is also worth noting that the city's insurance policy did not even cover the legal costs of the officials who have been targeted in an investigation by the Attorney General. It is strange that Kim is now bizarrely trying to tie Travelers to these legal fees as he has routinely waved a paper around at Council meetings complaining about what the city is having to pay for these legal costs. So, these legal costs were not borne by Travelers and could, therefore, have had no direct impact on their decision.
Also, in this post (which is a repeat of a mailer Kim recently sent out), Harry Bucciferro boldly makes the obviously false claim that, as regards the city's insurance, "...Ron Kim has put the city in a good position for 2024..."
Given that Travelers Insurance refuses to continue to underwrite the city and the cost of replacing Travelers is expected to cost north of $800,000.00 more a year, this does not appear to be a great position for Saratoga Springs to be in. Not to mention that Kim has no plan to address the concerns of a lack of an adequate Risk and Safety program that was the cause of losing Travelers Insurance coverage in the first place.
Bucciferro also praises Kim for "...having started the process months ago for coverage with municipal insurers in New York while still talking with local insurance brokers."
Well, it is November, and Kim has yet to announce who the new carrier will be, what kind of coverage they will offer, and at what cost. According to the city's proposed budget, it is expected that our insurance rate is going to skyrocket. Kim did not even tell the city they had to find a new carrier until the information was leaked only a couple of weeks ago; so much for transparency.
Finally, the post proclaims that "There will be no gap in insurance," as though anyone has claimed this. The issue is not whether the city will be able to get insurance. The issue is how much it will cost.

Former Dem City Chair and Kim Fan Sarah Burger Amplifies the Disinformation
Below is a screenshot from Sarah Burger's Facebook page.
Ms. Burger, a past chair of the city's Democratic Committee and Kim supporter, repeated the Kim post on her Facebook page.
Ms. Burger continues the useless observation that the city will have insurance. Ms. Burger is fully aware that the issue is not whether the city will be insured but what it will cost.
Will the Disinformation Campaign Work?
In spite of the best efforts of Kim and his supporters, Kim cannot get away from the brutal truth that the chaos he created with the city's Risk and Safety program will cost millions of dollars in additional premiums and deductibles, along with a downgrading of our bond rating.

[JK: I received this article from a reader of this blog drilling down on the origins of the city's Risk and Safety program that Kim has dismantled.]

2002 Just Called, and They Want Their Risk and Safety Back! Mayor Kim is Moving Saratoga Backwards- all the way to 2002.
New Insurance Lies with the Unlikely Support of Yet Another Campaign Donor.
·         Mayor Kim’s new Facebook Ad has Harry Bucciferro claiming that “Mayor Kim has put the City in a good position for 2024.” 
·         And that there will be no gap in insurance.
Remember, It's not about getting insurance.  It’s about the unnecessarily unreasonable cost to ensure there is no gap in insurance coverage.
How did the City of Saratoga Springs come up with such a strong Risk and Safety program before Ron Kim single-handedly dismantled it, leaving the city no other choice than to find a new insurer? 
None other than Harry Bucciferro (who appears prominently in the new ad) was the City’s Insurance consultant and pioneer of the plan for a dedicated Risk and Safety Manager over two decades ago.  Follow along starting with details from the October 12, 2002 City Council Meeting.  That’s right, 2002!
City Receives Notice of Non-Renewal from Insurance Carrier
In 2002, Commissioner of Accounts Stephen Towne reported the City received a notice of non-renewal from its insurance carrier. He reported the city had not developed serious consideration of the need for a strong risk and safety management program. That sounds eerily familiar to my 2023 ears. This was evident when the city received very few responses to the insurance proposals sought. They had appointed a safety officer whose duties were combined with his regular job, which was obviously not working. 
Towne said the insurance cost increased 100% to more than 1 million dollars, and that was too large a figure for the City Council not to take action. He decided to take action.
Risk Management Advisory Committee- with Harry Bucciferro, The City’s Insurance Consultant 
Towne created this committee, which was a group of highly qualified, respected individuals in the community to review and make recommendations to the City Council.  
Harry Bucciferro Makes Recommendations
After the city's insurer conducted an evaluation, Harry said the Risk Management Advisory Committee feels strongly that the City Council must take the initiative to establish a Safe City Program that will provide overall management direction and initiative to each City Department. 
Recommendation #1:
·         The City Council should adopt a revised safety policy statement that reflects a strong commitment to a Safe City Program. He said only the Council has the overall authority to provide direction to the City. 
Recommendation #2: 
·         The City Council authorizes the following positions to implement the Safety Policy and the Safe City Program: City Risk Manager and Human Resources Administrator. He noted that the Charter already provides for the institution of a Human Resources Director; however, the committee felt strongly that there needs to be a Risk Manager to conduct inspections, investigate claims, and report to the Council. 
Bucciferro Tells Mayor Klotz there needs to be a separate Risk and Safety Manager Position.
Mayor Kenneth Klotz asked if it was the committee’s recommendation to add the Risk Manager duties to the City of Saratoga Springs Human Resources Director. Harry Bucciferro said no, they would be two separate positions.
Bucciferro’s Risk and Safety Management Plan Reviewed 3 Years Later
During the April 19, 2005, City Council meeting, insurance renewal discussions prompted Commissioner Towne to comment on the Risk and Safety Management function he initiated in 2002, which included the hiring of the City’s first full-time Risk Manager, revitalizing the City’s long-dormant Safety Committee, better utilizing the expertise of the City’s insurance consultant and developing a pro-active partnership with NYMIR. 
The best indicator of the progress being made in this “Safe City” program is from a quantitative perspective.
·         The claims are down. 
·         Renewal costs are approximately $100,000 below budget and the result of a lot of hard work.
·         Towne said thanks should be given to the Risk and Safety Manager, Marilyn Rivers, who has led many of the effective initiatives. [JK: In a truly ironic twist, Bucciferro was on the original committee that selected Marilyn Rivers as the city's Risk and Safety Officer. She was subsequently driven out of office by Kim, who Bucciferro is now campaigning for.]
·          As well as to Harry Bucciferro, the City’s Insurance Consultant, and to the City’s Safety Committee.
Bucciferro said there have been significant improvements in the operation and safety of City Departments because of council action.  
·         At the time, he said they projected a 17 or 18% increase, and there is no increase in the proposed policy for the May 2005 through May 2006 policy year. 
Here we are in 2023 with an insurance company sending a non-renewal letter because of the city’s “approach to Risk and Safety management creating an unacceptable increase in the hazards contemplated for the city“ with the potential of premiums increasing by a million dollars a year.  21 Years later, Ron Kim has put the City back to where it was in 2002.
Bucciferro, who has donated hundreds of dollars to Kim’s political campaign, should be the first one to advise Kim that a strong program with a dedicated Risk and Safety Manager is what’s best to get the best insurance rates for the city.  
It's not about being uninsurable.  It's about creating an environment that will reduce risks and premiums.  Saratoga Springs can get insurance, but it will cost millions of dollars more than if there were a substantial Risk and Safety management program. Where are the estimates?  Is it time for Kim to use taxpayer money from the vast fund balance to hire Bucciferro to develop a Risk and Safety Management Plan?  Wait, Bucciferro already created a very successful one that Kim destroyed. It’s like going Back to the Future. Come on.  Wake up, McFly!
City Council Meeting Minutes 
Here we are in 2023 with an insurance company sending a non-renewal letter because of the city’s “approach to Risk and Safety management creating an unacceptable increase in the hazards contemplated for the city“ with the potential of premiums increasing by a million dollars a year.  21 Years later, Ron Kim has put the City back to where it was in 2002.
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