Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

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

Wednesday, 31 January 2024 15:55

Dan De Federicis On The State of the City Event

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

For those of you not familiar with Dan De Federicis’s aggregate news site, it is an excellent source for everything to do with Saratoga Springs each day. He covers everything from politics to culture to horse racing.

This is a link to his site: https://saratoga-report.com/

Here is Dan’s commentary on the State of the City event:

STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESSES GIVEN BY ALL FIVE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS TUESDAY EVENING – INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY BY SARATOGA REPORT PUBLISHER DAN DE FEDERICIS

I attended Tuesday evening’s State of the City addresses.  I use the plural “addresses” to note that unlike in past State of the City addresses, which at least in Mayor Kim’s term were delivered only by him, Tuesday night’s presentations were given by not only the Mayor but also the other four Council Members and even the two County Supervisors.

None of the speeches went long and the entire program took approximately an hour and 15 minutes.  The room was mostly full although there were some empty seats.

There were several consistent themes during these presentations – positive outlooks for the city (and county) were consistent, the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga was mentioned by most speakers, but perhaps the most prominent theme during the evening was the praise and expressions of appreciation for Saratoga Springs city employees.

I believe every council member was lavish in their praise and I immediately thought – confirmed by conversations later – that these expressions to city employees were genuine, but also were intended to repair the damage done by the toxicity involving some office holders in city government in the past two years.  You could say Tuesday night was the culmination of a month long sigh of relief by many in city hall and beyond.

Mayor John Safford started things off with some uplifting words when he acknowledged “I never expected this” and “I am thrilled to be here.”  He talked about the importance of civility and how the word “civil” is the root of the word “civilization”.  Mayor Safford usually comes off as so decent and kind, and Tuesday was no exception.

The Mayor went over acccomplishments and goals of his Office.  He noted the goal for 2024 was to reduce wait time for a majority of building permits to 4-6 weeks.  He reported that he and staff members were reviewing all litigation currently pending against the city.  He also outlined their intention to streamline and expedite responses to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, some of which have languished and resulted in at least one case of the court ordering the city to pay attorney fees to the person seeking documents.

Commissioner Dillon Moran was the next speaker.  My belief is that there are two Dillon Moran’s on the Council. Bad Dillon: pot stirring,  and ambitious, and good Dillon, intelligent and visionary.  I am happy to say Good Dillon showed up Tuesday.  He raised my eyebrows when shortly into his remarks he noted it’s been “less tense this first month.”  Such candor was appreciated by this writer and again, it points to the toxicity in city hall in the past administrations, and the fact that – at least for now – that was no longer the case.

Commissioner Minita Sanghvi was the next speaker.  I’ve been a fan of Commissioner Sanghvi, but as she spoke, it was clear she was speaking from two roles – one as commissioner and one as candidate – for State Senate.

She spoke as a clear supporter of public safety and had positive comments for the Belmont Stakes.  This is not to say she was ever against public safety, but her strong expression of support felt like a shift in focus by a Senate candidate seeking to appeal to moderates.  Likewise, she’s been at best indifferent about horse racing, and even talked during her first term about the need for the city to financially prepare for horse racing someday being outlawed in this state.  It says here that was actually prudent financial management on her part – because that day could come – but such talk won’t play well in a senate campaign in a district with horse farms and thousands of people who rely on horse racing directly and indirectly for their livelihood.

She noted how Saratoga Springs’ finances were  “healthy and good” and like others, she praised her staff.

Commissioner Jason Golub was his usual “Steady-Eddie” self, saying all the right things, going out of his way to commend those in DPW, and talking about a number of projects planned for 2024.  At one point he rattled off several DPW initiatives both past and future, with a multiuse trail here, and a dog park there, dam improvements on Loughberry Lake, and more.

His praise for staff was even more specific and eloquent than the others, as he noted “talented engineers” and “innovative and qualified professionals” in DPW.   He lauded specific employees by name as well.

Commissioner Tim Coll touted the full staffing of the police department (81 members) and fire department (84 members) and rattled off several statistics listing numbers of calls for the two departments.  He noted how he doubled the foot patrol division – from one to two officers – and that these officers were referred to as Community Engagement Officers – or CEOs.  He spoke of the police department’s recent accredidation.

He thanked the entire staff, and even noted the work of the code enforement division, often a less visible part of the city’s public safety efforts.  Finally, he announced that the much delayed fire station #3 on Henning Road had a planned opening of mid March.  I have been a fan of Tim Coll’s ever since he started running, and I have a continued sense of confidence in his leadership.

Supervisors Michele Madigan and Matt Veitch both expressed about the productive relationship they have started and plan to continue.  Supervisor Madigan was very laudatory towards Supervisor Veitch, noting that he was selected as Vice Chair of the board of supervisors.  This is noteworthy and appreciated as Madigan is a Democrat and Veitch is a Republican, although they both ran on the One Saratoga line, with the motto “City before Party”.  Still, it’s good to see comity amongst our representatives both at the city and county levels.

Both Veitch and Madigan indicated that there could be some movement by the board on a new “hybrid” bar closing time.  Bar closing times have been an issue for over a decade now – some would say several decades.  The state liquor authority will not establish different closing times for municipalities within a county – there must be one county-wide time set.  Therefore any request to the state liquor authority to change closing times must come from county level government.  The two supervisors indicated the hybrid time would have different winter and summer closing times.  From what I heard, it seemed like the winter closing time would be 2am and the summer closing time would be 3am.  That might not please everybody but it would be progress on an issue that has not moved an inch over the past decades.

Mayor Safford closed the evening asking the same question he asked at the inauguration on the 1st of this month:  What is Saratoga Springs going to look like 10 years from now?  He then talked about the importance of harmony in our community and noted how a city requires harmony just like a music body such as an orchestra needs it.  He then asked for a motion to adjourn and the evening concluded.

Saratoga Report will post videos of the evening’s speeches when they become available.  The Daily Gazette has an article about the state of the city presentations here. 

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