Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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BALLSTON SPA — Gordon Boyd launched his campaign this week as Democratic Party and Working Families Party nominee for County Supervisor from Saratoga Springs.

Two supervisor seats representing the city at the county level are up for vote in November. Current Supervisor Matt Veitch, a Republican, and former city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, a Democrat, both announced earlier that they will seek to occupy one of the two city supervisor seats in this fall’s election. 

Boyd said public safety, fair housing and increased city representation at the county level are among his priorities. 

“Getting more democracy in place is a way to bring out better outcomes,” said Boyd, publicly launching his campaign April 12 in front of the county Board of Elections building in Ballston Spa.   

“One of the challenges we have is that Saratoga Springs has about 30,000 people. We have two supervisors, and they are on 6 positions on county Standing Committees. Now there is another group of 30,000 people who are represented by nine supervisors holding 28 positions on the Standing Committees, so, 6 versus 28. For an equal number of people,” said Boyd, who is advocating for a more population-aligned restructuring of how the decision-makers are appointed to the Board of Supervisors’ important Standing Committees. Members are currently appointed by the Board chair. 

“My proposal would be to change the rules of the board as a first step and to have better representation for the larger population municipalities that is more in proportion to the number of taxpayers and people they represent,” Boyd said. “The population differential penalizes the larger municipalities, especially Saratoga Springs which probably generates 18-20% of the county’s revenue. If I were representing Clifton Park, Malta, Milton, Wilton, Moreau – any of the Northway corridor towns – I would want greater representation for my constituents as well, so it’s not just Saratoga Springs that’s being penalized.”    

Boyd also raised issues around housing needs.  “Our county’s housing prices and rents make it difficult for working families and individuals to find affordable homes.” Boyd’s solution: pushing for the county to educate its municipalities about zoning law reforms that could increase the overall housing supply, “make short-term rental owners pay their fair share of taxes,” and increase funding for supportive and transitional housing for those in need. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ray O’Conor has worked as a financial consultant with a major Wall Street investment firm, a United States Border Patrol Agent and a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of Defense. He has served on the boards of several not for profit organizations, and is the CEO of a not for profit community development company. 

Close to home, you may know O’Conor as a former local bank CEO, a Wilton Town Board Councilmember, an avid mountain climber, the author of the book “She Called Him Raymond.” 

That’s a lot of lives for one existence, now here’s one more:  on Saturday, April 15 Saratoga Arts Center will host the debut screening of Veda Films’ documentary “An Above Average Day,” featuring longtime friends Ray O’Conor and Joe Murphy on their hiking and wilderness adventures while seeking answers the question: What could two men with a 30-year difference in age possibly have in common that would compel them to climb more than 400 mountains and hike in excess of 4,000 miles of trails?

Q. Where did the idea for the film come from? 

A. My good buddy Joe and I have done a lot of hiking and climbing over the last 15 years. We hiked more than 400 different mountains, most of them together and more than 5,000 miles of trail. 

About 2-1/2 years ago I got a message from Katera Kapoor - one of the founders of the Veda Films company – who said, “I’ve been following your adventures with your buddy Joe and was wondering if you had any interest in doing a documentary film together.” Katara is originally from Saratoga Springs. She told me how she and her husband (Aviral), both graduates of the New York Film Academy where they’d met, started this documentary film company. So, Joe and I said: sure. That’s how it all started.

Q. How did the filming work?

A. The husband-and-wife team followed us around when we went out. They were generally long days because in addition to the hiking itself, there was the setting up to take shots, second shots, third shots, and the interviewing. It’s taken a couple of years to get done. Joe and I had a lot of fun with Katera and Avi. They are exceptional people and superb storytellers.

Q. What is the focus of the documentary?

A. There are two sides to the story. One is the adventure side about hiking and mountain climbing. The other is about the relationship between Joe and I. There are 30 years between us - I’m 68 and he’s 38. My wife Mary has always said that my behavior is worse than a child, and Joe is like an old soul kind of person. So, one of the focal points is the relationship between these two guys who met by chance and spent a lot of time together over the past 15 years on mountains and on trails.

Q. You go up a city kid. Where did your fondness for hiking and climbing come from?

A. Back in the late 1980s, I decided to run for the town board in Wilton and Roy McDonald was our town supervisor. Unbeknownst to me, Roy was big on hiking at the time. He had climbed Mount Marcy like 10 times. So, Roy calls me and says, “I’m going to pick you up at 5:30 in the morning and we’re going to go on a hike.” I didn’t even know where we were going, or what I needed. It was a real nice weekend, so I had on a pair of gym shorts, a T-shirt, and some work boots that I wore when doing yardwork. We wound up hiking Mount Marcy. We had a great time. On subsequent hikes, I came much better prepared.

Q. How do you decide where to climb?

A. We have a list we work on. The first was the 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks. There’s a fire tower challenge  - 32 mountains between the Catskills and the Adirondacks that have fire towers on them.  And we’ve done all those. There’s a broader list called the Northeast 115, the tallest mountains in the northeast United States. And there are other smaller mountains – the Lake George 12ster, the Saranac Lake 6er.

The next list is the 50 highest points and peaks in the United States. I’ve already got 17 states done and Joe’s a couple shy of that. I’ve got a plan mapped out for a southern swing next month where we go to Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Indiana. Nine states, high points or peaks in six days.

Q. For people inspired to go on a hike or climb, what local resources are available to learn more?

A. If you’re a beginner there is the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Saratoga Plan. You know you don’t have to climb Mount Everest to get the benefits emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Q. What do you get from hiking, emotionally, physically or otherwise?

A. I’d like to say it’s as good for the mind and the soul as it is for the body. There’s something special about being out in the wilderness. The Japanese have a term they call it: Forest Bathing. Being out in the woods, on the trail, in isolation. Getting away from all the world’s troubles is magical.

The debut screening of “An Above Average Day” will take place at the Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs on Saturday, April 15. Shows at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 and available at: Produced and directed by Katera and Aviral Kapoor, founders of Veda Films. 

BALLSTON SPA — An unnamed member of the grand jury that last week led to the indictments of suspected actors in the Nov. 20 shout-out in Saratoga Springs intimated that they felt “undue pressure” to come to decision, and “feel ashamed that we did not do our job properly” after hearing testimony.  The story was first reported April 3 by NewsChannel 13. 

Vito E. Caselnova, a Rutland County Vermont sheriff’s deputy and Glens Falls resident, was indicted on eight charges, five of which were felonies and included one count of attempted murder in the second-degree. 

Three Utica men - Alexander Colon, Darius A. Wright, and Christopher (AKA Christian) E. Castillo,  were each charged with one count attempted assault, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident, alleging each of the defendants “attempted to cause an injury to a person by repeatedly punching him,” according to court documents. 

“I am confident that the Grand Jury process was done in compliance with the laws of the State of New York, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said in a statement on April 3, following the circulation of the unnamed jury member’s comments, which were initially enclosed in a letter to Saratoga County Court Judge James Murphy. 

“While I would like to respond to and answer the numerous questions I have received regarding those proceedings, those very same laws expressly prohibit me from commenting further on the specifics of the grand jury presentation,” Heggen added. “I stand by my office’s presentation and await the judicial review.” 

Colon, Wright, and Castillo are scheduled to return to Saratoga Springs City Court April 25, and Caselnova is slated to return to Saratoga County Court on May 2. It is not known at this time what effect this week’s juror revelation may have on the proceedings.

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — More than 400 people packed into St. Michael’s Catholic Church in South Glens Falls on April 3 to say their final farewell to Bobby Dick. 

There were prayers during the 75-minute ceremony and the sprinkling of holy water, readings - by his daughter-in-law from the Book of Revelations, and by a family friend a letter from Paul to the Thessalonians. In song there was an ancient hymn titled simply, “Song of Farewell,” and, following the mass, there were stories. 

Bobby Dick was born and raised in Brooklyn and began performing at a young age. He attended Quintano’s School for Young Professionals where he was classmates with Patty Duke. Duke asked him to escort her to the prom at The Tavern on the Green, but he had to decline due to a scheduled performance in Lake George.

The band with which he most often known was The Sundowners, who made upstate N.Y. their home turf. In 1965, the group opened for the Rolling Stones at the Palace Theatre and the Dave Clark Five at the RPI Field House. They toured with Monkees and Jimi Hendrix and made a cameo performance on the TV shows “The Flying Nun” and “It Takes A Thief.” 

After the group disbanded in 2011, Dick continued to perform with his wife, Susie Q for the next 12 years. He battled a very rare cancer yet continued to perform up to February 2023. He died on March 27 at the age of 76.

“The world’s oldest teenager, now rocking and rolling, if I may say it that way, with the saints,” Rev. Tony Childs said from the pulpit at St. Michael’s Church. 

Family and friends shared stories, heartfelt, humorous, and befitting of a gregarious soul. Dick’s granddaughter played “Love Me Tender” on her clarinet, because, she said, Bobby loved Elvis. 

The last song of the Mass was played over the parish PA, a recording of Dick’s voice singing the “The Impossible Dream.” It received an ovation from those in attendance,  standing and clapping across the church, far as the eye could see. 

Dick is survived by his wife and an extended family that includes his children, grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter, siblings and nieces, nephews and cousins.  Rite of committal will be in the spring at St. Mary’s Cemetery in South Glens Falls.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — What’s in a name? Plenty when it comes to how some local residents see themselves represented. 

A new movie by local filmmaker Shaun Rose is garnering loud feedback from some in the community in which the movie was made - largely due to its one-word title: Toga. 

“I’ve never seen this before with any type of movie on any type of level. The fanatical ones, they’re at me like rabid animals,” Rose says. 

The 61-minute film tells Rose’s continuing story of a person progressing through different stages of their life. Released in January, “Toga” follows freelance videographer ‘Ellis Martin’ on assignment, scouting locations in the town where he was raised.

“I grew up in Saratoga Springs over on the west side of town by the high school,” says Rose.  “Toga” is a semi-autobiographical film and a sequel to his previous work, “Upstate Story.” 

“Getting into some of the biographical details of the movie, just channeling that, I think has been very therapeutic for me,” says the 37-year-old filmmaker. 

“The character is a fictionalized version of me, but there’s a lot of truth in that movie; Capturing me at different aspects, different time periods of my life,” says Rose, who handled most of the writing, directing, acting, and image-making/editing of the independent film. “Pretty much everything; tackling so many different roles, but I did have some help,” he says. 

“It has received good reviews from outside sources and has built up quite a few views over on YouTube. But it’s been controversial, to say the least - mostly due to the name alone and I’ve received a lot of hate from fellow locals over the shortening of our town name,” says Rose, privately sharing some of the more personally focused messages he received. Rose isn’t wrong in his labeling of these as “outright vulgar and disgusting. My girlfriend and co-producer received some as well.”

Saratoga: What’s In A Name

There is more than one Saratoga in the U.S. – a town in Wyoming, a city in California, and a Saratoga Springs in Utah, among them. Closer to home, the Town of Saratoga Springs was set apart from the Town of Saratoga in 1819. It was incorporated as a village in 1826, and in 1915 the City of Saratoga Springs came into existence. Its translation and spelling are varied:

•“Saratoga after an Iroquois Indian word Sarachtoue, which translates to “place of miraculous water in the rock.” - Visit Saratoga Wyoming, Carbon County Visitors Council. 

•“Saratoga, it is said, is derived from an Iroquois word, Se-rach-to-que, literally, ‘floating scum upon the water,’ a completely understandable interpretation to be put on the presence of mineral deposits showing up as vari-colored film on the surface of a pond.” – Saratoga Historical Foundation, Saratoga California.

•“Among the earliest dates in which the name Saratoga appears in history is the year 1684. It was not then the name of a town, nor of a county, neither was it the name of a great watering-place; but it was the name of an old Indian hunting-ground located along both sides of the Hudson River…Se-rach-ta-gue, or the “hill-side country of the great river.”-  Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, 1878, History Of Saratoga County, N.Y. 

Toga? What People Are Saying

An inquiry posted this week on locally focused social media channels asking folks to reply with their preferred usage of “Saratoga” vs. “Toga” returned more than 200 comments. 

Some said they took no issue with either. Others pointed to the two-syllable “to-ga” as affording a clean and simple chant at high school sporting events. 

Those opposed to the abbreviated version – which counted more than twice as many commentators - said they had either had never heard the phrase uttered, or set blame for its usage on everything from “the younger generation” and summertime “invaders from New Jersey” to John Belushi’s portrayal of the bellicose toga-draped John “Blutto” Blutarsky in the 1978 film “Animal House.” 

Here are some of the comments:

Calling Saratoga Toga is like calling your father “the old man,” or calling your mother by her first name, or calling your wife “my old lady”, etc. etc. Sounds cool to those of the same mindset. Lived in the area for most of my life and TOGA is just one of the many little things that irk some of us “OLD TIMERS” - Don.

“Toga” is a nickname used by Saratoga high athletics only. Anyone else referring to Saratoga as Toga is a Neanderthal - Scott. 

We don’t call it ‘Toga. New people do – Michele. 

Toga a known cheer and chant. Nothing wrong with it. Everyone knows where Toga is - Barbara. 

My dad is 79 and my mom is 73. We’ve all lived here our whole lives. I know plenty of “old” Saratogians and I’ve never heard it – Amber. 

TOGA was probably made popular by a drunken frat boy – Heather. 

Lifelong born and raised, graduated from SSHS. It has always been shortened to Toga – Dee. 

Been here since 1956. Toga is an abomination. Nobody called it that when I was growing up… and get off my lawn while you’re at it – Eric.

Notice that cranky “baby boomers” are the only ones offended – Bruce. 

Bruce - boomer here...not offended. SSHS class of ‘79 and we used to chant this at basketball and football games, taking a page from Animal House – Cathy. 

This must be coming from people who were NOT raised in Saratoga. No one I know of calls it Toga – Joan. 

Lifelong resident and it’s always been Toga! My kids, current students, call it Toga! Never found it offensive or complained about the shortened name. A lot easier to chant “let’s go Toga!” – LeeAnn. 

True natives say “Sara-doga” born there, raised there, still return any time I can. Never heard the Roman sheet reference until recent times. Kind of goes with backward ball caps and flips flops, not good – Brian. 

I have called it both. At sporting events it was yelled as Toga but I normally said just Saratoga. I was not born and raised here but my kids call it both. Don’t really get what there is to be offended by but I guess that’s the way of the world at present. – Jonna. 

Rose first became Inspired to make films while growing up watching movies that came into his home from the video rental store that stood in the strip mall on South Broadway. 

“I used to go there all the time with my family and rent movies. I just fell in love with movies as a teenager,” he says. 

“I always try to make movies to connect with people. Outside the obvious title fiasco, I’ve gotten positive feedback from a lot of people who have liked it. Something that people can connect with,” Rose says. 

“When we usually see coming of age movies -it’s common to see kids transitioning into teenagers, or teenagers into adults - but what about further areas of adulthood? We don’t really see that. I think we as people never stop growing, or maturing, bettering ourselves. It’s constantly a learning curve,” he says. “I try to make things that people can connect with, a story I’m trying to tell, and balance it with comedy or drama so people can be entertained by it as well.”   

The film may be viewed on YouTube by searching “Shaun Rose” and “Toga.” Note, the film contains mature themes and strong language. 

Thursday, 30 March 2023 13:30

Gunfight: The Charges Are In

In the early morning hours on November 20, 2022, members of the Saratoga Springs Police Department responded to the sound of gunfire coming from Broadway. The officers involved were assigned to the downtown area, and were on foot on Caroline St at the time. Within seconds, the Officers confronted two individuals exchanging gunfire on Broadway in the heart of the City’s busy downtown area. –Saratoga Springs Police Department statement March 28, 2023. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A deputy sheriff was charged with attempted murder and three men from Utica with attempted assault in this week’s reveal of charges in connection with a November early morning incident in Saratoga Springs that saw approximately 20 bullets raining down on Broadway. 

Vito E. Caselnova, a Rutland County Vermont sheriff’s deputy and Glens Falls resident, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Saratoga County Court. The sealed indictment, unsealed in court, documented eight charges - five felonies, two misdemeanors, and one violation. 

The charges: attempted murder in the second-degree, assault in the first-degree, possession of a firearm in a sensitive location (that “sensitive location” in this instance believed to be carrying a firearm inside a place that serves alcohol), two counts of possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device, menacing, reckless endangerment, and harassment.

“There is a wide range of sentences the court could impose if you are convicted of that (attempted murder) charge or if you plead guilty of that charge, but the most severe sentence is a determinate term of up to 25 years in state prison,” Judge Jim Murphy said in the courtroom on March 28. 

Approximately two dozen people filled the public area of the courtroom. Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen was seated in the first row. Ten members of the media sat in the jury box, notebooks and cameras in hand. 

“Given the configuration of the indictment, it may be that some of those charges would run concurrently, or potentially consecutively if you were to be found guilty or if you were to plead guilty,” Judge Murphy told Caselnova. 

Caselnova, who sat mostly quiet while in the courtroom, pleaded not guilty to all counts. 

Bail was set at $50,000 cash, or $100,000 bail bond. Caselnova’s attorney, Greg Teresi, said that bail would be posted on Caselnova’s behalf at the correction facility. Caselnova, 25, was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom. 

During proceedings, an order of protection – effective immediately - was issued advising Caselnova to not have any contact, directly or indirectly, with Alexander Colon. 

Less than 24 hours later and across the county, Colon’s name as well as those of two others allegedly connected with the Nov. 20 incident appeared on documents at Saratoga Springs City Court. 

Court records indicate that the three people, all from Utica, were each charged with one count attempted assault in the third-degree, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident. According to the prosecutor’s filings, the charge specifies each of the defendants “attempted to cause an injury to a person by repeatedly punching him.” 

Those charged are: Alexander Colon, 28, Darius A. Wright, 29, and Christopher (AKA Christian) E. Castillo, 28. The charges were assigned on March 23, according to court documents. All three were summoned to appear in person in Saratoga Springs City Court at 9 a.m. on April 25.

According to statements by Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino shortly after the Nov. 20 incident occurred, an altercation allegedly involving Caselnova - who was off-duty at the time - and “a group of individuals from the Utica area” was initiated on or around a Caroline Street bar before accelerating west and onto Broadway with approximately eight shots being fired. It is unclear how many weapons may have been involved, or who is suspected of firing first. 

City police officers subsequently responding to the incident fired approximately 11 shots after the off-duty deputy allegedly ignored calls to drop his weapon. 

“What they see is the Vermont sheriff’s deputy, standing on the sidewalk, his gun leveled and moving from side-to-side pointing the gun,” Montagnino said. “The officers repeatedly, loudly direct the deputy, ‘Drop the gun, get on the ground,’ again, again and again. By my count there are at least eight separate clear unequivocal demands to put the gun down and get on the ground. They are all ignored.” 

The incident marked the first discharge of a weapon in the line of duty by a Saratoga Springs officer in more than a quarter-century. 

City officers testified before the grand jury and waived immunity for their actions, according to a statement issued by PBA President Paul Veitch this week. “The Grand Jury decision to exonerate our officers confirms that they acted appropriately and justifiably during this stressful life-threatening situation.”

Caselnova suffered a number of wounds as a result of the incident and a woman believed to be his girlfriend was “nicked by one of the bullets in her upper arm,” Montagnino said. The woman, Glens Falls resident Cali Brown, filed the notice of claim against the city and police department signifying her intent to sue, the Daily Gazette in February. 

It is anticipated Caselnova will return to county court on May 2 at 9:30 a.m. for discovery compliance - the sharing of evidence in the matter.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) is calling for a 20% increase to Medicaid reimbursement rates in the 2023-24 state budget to support upstate nursing homes. 

“Our upstate nursing homes are on the verge of collapse,” said Woerner, during a press conference held this week. “They have hundreds of beds that can’t be filled due to staffing shortages caused by lack of funds. While I am grateful that the Assembly’s one-house budget doubled the executive’s proposed paltry increase of only 5%, the need for a full 20% increase remains. Without that increase, many homes supporting the elders in our communities will be forced to shut their doors, and we cannot allow this to happen.” 

A systemic rebasing strategy, one that is based on current costs, is also critically needed if the rate is to keep up with the cost of providing care, Woerner added. 

Medicaid reimbursements rates -- the amounts Medicaid provides to cover patient health care costs — for upstate nursing homes have not increased in 15 years in New York. Nursing homes’ operating costs have meanwhile increased around 40% over the last several years, leading to shortfalls in what the nursing homes charge for service and what they receive. 

Medicaid pays for care for many nursing home residents across the state. At The Wesley Community, 75% of residents are paid for by Medicaid, yet it only covers part of the actual costs of care, according to J. Brian Nealon, CEO of The Wesley Community in Saratoga Springs. 

“With every Medicaid resident we care for, Wesley loses $106 per day. Annually, this means underfunding of $8,500,000,” Nealon wrote in an editorial published Feb. 16 in Saratoga TODAY. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesley was able to approach breakeven in some years through alternative revenue streams and donations from the community. 

“That is no longer the case. Due to this shortfall, community-focused, nonprofit nursing homes statewide are closing or being sold to private ‘for-profit’ operators at an alarming rate. In Saratoga County alone, the number of nursing home beds has dropped by 55% in the last decade,” said Nealon, adding that 26 other states have increased their Medicaid funding during the pandemic, whereas New York reduced its reimbursement rates during that time. 

The result of the underfunding by the state has forced many nursing homes, including Wesley, to limit admissions, and without available beds, hospitals cannot discharge patients who would have traditionally gone to a nursing home for rehabilitation. 

“The governor’s recently released Executive Budget, with a proposed 5% increase, is a start, but still falls short of what is needed after years of underfunding,” Nealon said. 

Assemblywoman Woerner said that a 20% increase will shore up the finances of upstate nursing homes and allow them to operate and provide care to the people who need it most. 

SARATOGA — The towns of Saratoga and Stillwater 250th American Revolution Committee has started its work to plan and organize ceremonies, events, activities, and celebrations recognizing the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution in local communities. 

The 250th anniversary marks the British Army surrender in 1777 in present-day Schuylerville, following the battles at Saratoga, and has been nicknamed the Turning Point of the American Revolution. The anniversary will be commemorated through the fall of 2027 with a multi-faceted public education and marketing effort.

Last summer, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors committed $150,000 in seed money overall to the Saratoga County 250th American Revolution Commission, to help advance its mission of promoting education, historic preservation and heritage tourism of the Revolutionary War era events, people, and places throughout Saratoga County. 

The towns of Saratoga & Stillwater are working together on their plans and have reached out to some of the villages within their respective towns for their feedback. 

The committee recently reviewed the County’s, NYS, and Federal commemoration plan and upcoming county activities, including the Women at War Symposium on May 5 and 6, Revolution Along the Hudson talks during the summer of 2023, and the Pathways through History weekend on October 7 and 8. We encourage all residents to mark these dates on their calendars and join us in celebrating our nation’s history.

Residents are encouraged to attend the next committee meeting, which will take place 6:30 p.m. on April 12 in the Gates Room of Saratoga Town Hall. 

For more information, contact Mackenzie Macey, committee chairperson and Historian Town of Stillwater at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A city court appearance by Chandler Hickenbottom scheduled to take place this week has been rescheduled for April 24. 

The violation charge made against Hickenbottom, a Saratoga BLM activist, has come under much scrutiny after the disturbing-a-lawful-assembly charge was requested by City Council member and Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino. 

Montagnino, one of five City Council members, said he filed the charge in response to a disruption of a Feb. 7 City Council meeting. “The City Council meeting was ended. It wasn’t delayed, it wasn’t’ interrupted, it was ended,” Montagnino said. That council meeting was subsequently adjourned early and eventually resumed two days later.

The four other members of the City Council have publicly expressed disapproval of the action brought by their fellow Democrat public safety commissioner. 

Hickenbottom pleaded not guilty to the disorderly conduct charge during her arraignment at Saratoga Springs City Court on March 7.  She was accompanied by her attorney Mark Mishler who told the court that the allegations infringe and violate Hickenbottom’s protected First Amendment rights. 

Both Saratoga Springs City Judges - Jeffrey Wait and Francine Vero – apparently withdrew from hearing the case. Mechanicville City Court Judge Constantine DiStefano instead took the position at the judge’s bench.

An additional filing by the commissioner for an order of protection was denied on March 7 by Judge DiStefano.

All parties were scheduled to return to city court on March 28. That court date has now been moved to April 24. 

BALLSTON SPA — This week, The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors and the Saratoga County Veterans Service Agency held its monthly Honor Deceased Veterans Program by honoring longtime Saratoga Springs resident and Tuskegee Airman Clarence Dart. 

Dart flew 95 missions overseas during World War II. Twice, he survived being shot down by the enemy. He grew up during the Great Depression. As a child, his clothing came from the Salvation Army. Much of his food was grown in the family garden in Elmira. He built model airplanes as a child and had a yearning to fly.

The day after his 21st birthday, on Dec. 7, 1941, Dart was singing in his church choir when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The young man knew what he wanted to do. The following year, he was accepted into flight training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, joining other young men who had enlisted to become America’s first black military airmen. 

Dart served as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group and was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron in the 12th Air Force in North Africa. He was one of about 1,000 fighter pilots who painted the tails of their airplanes red, earning the nickname, “Red Tails.” They were trained as a segregated unit and forbidden to practice alongside their white counterparts. 

Dart later flew P-51s escorting 15th Air Force bombers and was discharged from active duty at the rank of Captain in 1947.  He went on to serve in the NY Air National Guard and retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel.

For his service Dart received two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained during air combat, the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, the WWII Victory Medal, and the American Defense Medal, the NYS Conspicuous Service Cross, and the NYS Conspicuous Service Star.

While he fought for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four freedoms, when Dart returned home from the war there was no heroic welcome, and no job that was available to him to fulfill his dream of being a commercial airplane pilot.

The accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen are credited with influencing President Harry Truman to officially desegregate the U.S. military in 1948. It was the same year Dart relocated to Saratoga Springs. He married his wife, Mildred, in June 1950 and the couple raised their family of seven daughters and two sons in the Spa City. 

After the war, Dart worked for General Electric Co. until his retirement in 1987, after which he began visiting schools and talking to students about his experiences in the war, explaining to them the importance of getting an education as a way of bettering themselves and creating opportunities. It was only after Dart began to speak about his wartime experiences at the request of neighborhood schools that his own children began to truly understand some of their father’s experiences. 

It took more than 60 years for recognition to come for the humble man from Elmira. In 2007, Dart was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, alongside other Tuskegee Airmen in the Capitol Rotunda, and in 2011 was honored locally at the Wesley Community senior housing facility where he resided at the time. Dart died in 2012. He was 91 and was buried with military honors at the family plot at Greenridge Cemetery on Lincoln Avenue.

Established in 1999 by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, the Honor Deceased Veterans Program provides a way for county leadership and residents to show gratitude for the service of veterans past and present. The ceremony is dedicated to a different Saratoga County veteran each month.  To date, more than 300 Saratoga County Veterans have been honored.

To learn more about Clarence Dart, in his own words, go online to YouTube and search: Clarence W. Dart

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