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Tuesday, 02 October 2018 12:01

Council to Vote on South Broadway PILOT Plan

SARATOGA SPRINGS - In addition to the first presentation of the proposed 2019 city budget, the Council tonight will vote on a PILOT agreement regarding the planned mixed-use development on South Broadway, which currently sites the former Saratoga Diner.   

The proposed project will include 101 multi-family dwelling units – 68 of those units “for citizens having household incomes less than or equal to 60 percent of area medium income (“AMI”) for Saratoga County, adjusted for family size.”

AMI for Saratoga County is approximately $86,400. Sixty percent of that number translates to a family of four having a household income of $51,840 or less. The income number roughly decreases approximately $5,000 for each member of the family less than four.    

In addition to the 68 units, another 14 units are to be specifically designated for veterans. The remaining 33 units are for persons having household incomes of between 60 percent and 130 percent of AMI or less.

The planned project is named “SoBro,” as it is SOuth of BROadway, and reminiscent of the SoHo (SOuth of HOuston Street) moniker placed on a portion of lower Manhattan – known in the 1970s and ‘80s as an inexpensive haven for creative artists and independent business owners, more recently gentrified and home to box stores.   

SoBro is slated to designate at least 10,000 square feet of commercial space for an “affordable economic development business incubator work space” to assist city businesses and up to an additional 10,000 square feet of commercial space for “below market rental use” by not-for-profit groups arts-based organizations.

The 30-year PILOT (payment-in-lieu of taxes) agreement starts with a near- $64,000 payment in year 1, and concludes with a more-than $267,000 payment in year 30.  

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Inside the gymnasium, on the south side of the city, a basket and backboard tower over a long row of white tables. Sturdy swivel chairs and a mesh of computer wires stretch across the foul lines. A filing cabinet stands at the top of the circle abutting a bookshelf that extends to center court.  

“All the inner workings of City Hall,” says Mayor Meg Kelly, gesturing across the 30,000-plus square feet of gymnasium space where city employees are busy at work. These new temporary quarters will act as their offices for the next 12 months.

A Friday night lightning strike upon City Hall in mid-August acted as the catalyst for the change, after a drainage pipe on the roof was struck and melted, causing heavy rains to pour into the building which has served as the center of Saratoga Springs’ government since 1871.

The city’s new and previously untested emergency management plan was put to a real-life test. 

“The Emergency Management Plan was put into effect immediately when the lightning struck,” Mayor Kelly says. “As soon as it went into effect, we had all the people converge. Everyone’s got a job to do and everybody has their role.” City Fire Chief Bob Williams was designated incident commander. Marilyn Rivers, director of risk and safety, and Assistant Police Chief John Catone had boots on the ground – a job they basically took over for 24 hours, Kelly says. The city's emergency dispatch center was relocated to the county's facility. “We moved it that first night, because we just didn’t know how much damage there was going to be. The water just kept coming, all over the place.”

THE PLAN

The commissioner of public safety is charged with developing and periodically updating the city’s Strategic Emergency Management Plan. In 2016, assistant Police Chief Catone completed the near-two-year project of compiling potential disaster concerns in Saratoga Springs and how to best address them. The plan is comprised of approximately 500 pages of documents and annexes and was the first new comprehensive plan for the city in a decade. It includes risk preparedness, response, and recovery in the aftermath of potential catastrophic weather events, terrorism incidents, school shootings, workplace violence, and public exposure to hazardous materials, among other things. 

“The plan worked very well,” Mayor Kelly says. “The biggest thing with our plan was – number one - that we had a plan. A lot of cities don’t, and I would recommend that if you are a city you do need to get one. We’re not under that plan anymore, because now we’re up and operating. We were up and running in six days.”

Like any first-time implementation, there are lessons to be learned, Kelly added. “You do learn. A lot of things worked, some we’ll go back and look at. One area we need to improve was the court system, which wasn’t in the plan. We need to get that in there because they’re in our (City Hall) building.” Court sessions are currently being held in the Lincoln Bath building on South Broadway.

City workers were initially displaced in a variety of locations across the city, with DPW officers at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park, legal staff and commissioners of Finance and Public Safety at The Mill on High Rock Avenue and Risk and Safety located at the Lake Avenue Fire Station. There is a move to consolidate most of the workers at the Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue, which when fully relocated will house about 65 employees.  

The $6.5 million recreation center – which faced some public opposition as well as an unsuccessful court action prior to its development – opened in 2010 and was wired to be computer-friendly.  

“We have the fiber in this building, which made it easy for people to just come and plug right in: bing, bing, bing and we’re up and running,” said DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. “That’s important because it’s not all over town. When they built this, they put infrastructure in here to accommodate the new technology.”

“We did look at several places all around the city, but very few are large enough to hold us, and if they were they didn’t have the fiber,” Kelly says. “It would take four to five months to get the fiber (for communications) to the building, and it’s so expensive to have that happen. So, that’s why we’re staying here.”

The city is working with the YMCA, Skidmore College, and the Saratoga Springs School District to relocate as many of the city programs that had been held at the center as possible. “The programs are going on if they can, if not then they’ll be brought back in a year when we’re moved out of here. This is an emergency situation,” Kelly says. To that end, the city Recreation Commission will host a Recreation Master Plan Public Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Mabee Building, 2nd floor Community Room, on 31 Church St. 

While the gymnasium section of the building is for employees only, a separate section of the building holds offices the public is likely to need, such as those seeking licenses and other information. A “greeter” has also been placed at the center to help direct people where they need to go and is something that has officials thinking there should be a similar point person installed when City Hall reopens.

The work environment at the rec center – essentially a city government without walls – has gone well moral-wise, Kelly says. “I think everybody seems to work a lot more together in this environment. I’ll tell you, we have a very strong group of employees here to pull this off, because it doesn’t happen easily. Everyone we asked for help has jumped right in.”

THE STATUS OF CITY HALL

“We’re shooting at re-opening in a year from now,” Scirocco says. “We met with engineering architects last week and we’ll be moving forward on our master plan for City Hall. Right now, we’re in the process of doing demolition and there is some testing on where the asbestos is. Once that happens, we’ll get an abatement contractor and we’ll probably do the abatement and any other demo work that needs to be done.”

The configuration of offices at City Hall is anticipated to change. A second courtroom, which is required, is targeted for the second floor where currently a single courtroom is located. That would effectively force the relocation of the public safety offices and the law library. The Saratoga Music Hall, which is located on the third floor and sustained the most damage, will be reconstructed and will remain a music hall. Cost estimates regarding the damage is anticipated before the end of this calendar year.   

“It’s a good opportunity to make changes – some which we’re obligated to do, some to be more efficient and safer. So, that’s the goal,” Scirocco says.  

UPCOMING MEETINGS, which will be staged at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The City Council holds a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1 and a full meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday; The Design Review Commission meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, and the Planning Board meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4.  Additionally, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, the city will publicly open and read sealed bids for preliminary and final engineering for the Complete Streets Saratoga Greenbelt Downtown Extender as it relates to Lake Avenue bike lanes.  

Published in News
Friday, 21 September 2018 15:37

Ringo in Saratoga

“They're gonna put me in the movies... They're gonna make a big star out of me…”

SARATOGA SPRINGS –   Fifty-three years to the day since the Beatles recorded a live performance of their song “Act Naturally” on the Ed Sullivan show, Ringo Starr revisited the tune at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center during an appearance with his All Starr (sic) Band. 

The two-hour-long, 24-song set was evenly split between a dozen Ringo-led tunes, and three songs apiece performed by each of the four main other players of the ensemble.

Ringo assumed vocal duties on songs once performed, if not written by The Beatles, including: Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox,” “Boys” – popularized by The Shirelles, and the previously mentioned “Act Naturally” - a tune originally recorded by Buck Owens.

From The Beatles canon, Ringo tinkled some on the keyboards and sang “Don’t Pass Me By” and took mic in hand at center stage for “With A Little Help From My Friends,”  “What Goes On” – which he introduced as “the only song written by Lennon, McCartney and Starkey,” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” – which in 1963 the Beatles wrote for, and gave to, the Rolling Stones.  Perhaps the night’s greatest joy was delivered in a full theater sing-a-long of “Yellow Submarine.”

Starr, with a little help from his friends, returned to the venue for the first time since August 1989. At that time, his All Stars Band consisted of Joe Walsh, The Band’s Levon Helm and Rick Danko, Dr. John, Billy Preston, and Clarence Clemons and Nils Lofgren, who were on hiatus from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. 

This time around, the ensemble featured prolific studio musician and Toto guitarist Steve Luthaker who led a performance of that group’s hits “Rosanna,” “Africa,” and “Hold the Line.” Guitarist Colin Hay revisited his time with the band Men at Work, singing “Who Can It Be Now,” “Down Under,” and “Overkill.” Original Santana keyboard player and vocalist r Gregg Rolie revisited the songs “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” and “Oye Como Va,” and 10cc songwriter Graham Gouldman added “I’m Not in Love,” “Dreadlock Holiday,” and “The Things We Do for Love.”

Starr, when he wasn’t at the lead mic at center stage, played drums throughout, aided by a second percussionist. Culling a quartet of ditties from his solo albums, Ringo revisited “It Don't Come Easy,” “You're Sixteen,” “Photograph,” and “Anthem” – the latter signifying one of the evening’s few tracks, if not the only one, written in the current century.

Looking decades younger than his 78 years, the one-time Beatles drummer sported a colorful off-center screen T-shirt depicting a face reminiscent of Nina Hagen, a black blazer and jeans and pyramid-studded belt, a slew of bangles on his right wrist, a timepiece on his left and a gold “Peace” symbol around his neck.   

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Some people called him “Captain Fun,” others the “unofficial mayor of Saratoga Springs,” but the one sure thing of which you could be certain when running into Al McKenney on one of his strolls along Broadway, was you would hear a story you had never heard before. And he had a wealth of lifetime experiences from which to draw.  

McKenney had managed concert tours featuring musicians from David Bromberg to Clannad and performed emcee duties for the Smithsonian’s annual National Folk Festival, and Pete Seeger’s Great Hudson Revival. His voice is forever immortalized at Kent State University on their KSU Folk Festival Recordings, which date back several decades.  Beyond McKenney’s omnipresent suspenders, purple Caffe Lena T-shirt and similarly colored beret were the tales of musicians Utah Philipps or Rosalie Sorrels and memories of Lena Spencer, owner of the coffeehouse on Phila Street where so many memories have been made.

When the then 26-year-old hitchhiked a ride from his native Massachusetts to land in Saratoga Springs in 1971, there was no going back. When McKenney died in the summer of 2015, he had amassed more than 1,000 vinyl records and hundreds of CD’s and music-related books.

This week, volunteers at Caffe Lena began unpacking the first 18 boxes containing the vinyl collection and placing them alphabetically in specially designed purple shelves, each standing nearly seven feet in height and located in the café’s entry area.

First out: Joan Baez’s self-titled debut on Vanguard Records – in mono, no less and released in 1960, the same year Lena and Bill Spencer opened the doors of their café. Next came a slew of Louisiana Cajun compilations led by the 1934 Lomax Recordings and a handful of platters by Clifton Chenier. There was a large collection of albums by Joni Mitchell, by Hank Williams, and by Bruce Springsteen. More than a half-century of Bob Dylan recordings spread across the lobby floor.

“The ‘D‘  space will probably have to be larger,” surmised Caffe Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig, eyeballing dozens of record jackets whose vinyl grooves contained the original strains of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” to "Silvio" and "Gotta Serve Somebody," live performances of "My Back Pages" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," to cover renditions performed by The Byrds, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.   

The plan for the collection – named the Captain Fun Listening Library - is to share with the community the kicks the music delivers. Caffe Lena will host a Lunchtime Listening Hour one Friday each month, with the tentative hope to kick off the series the first Friday in October. The listening hour will take place 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will be a completely free event, curated by Chuck Vosganian aka Rochmon, and attendees are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch.

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 21 September 2018 14:59

Super Dark Monday: Make This A Night to Remember

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Fronted by swatches of catchy, smooth, distort-o-chords with a snappy rhythm section and tuneful vocals to boot, Blockhouses are making their way through the northeast to stage a show in Saratoga Springs on Monday.

The band - Guy Lyons with guitar and vocals, Christopher Peifer with bass, keyboards and vocals, and Jim Balga on drums – is touring in support of their debut album, "Greatest Hit Songs of All Time."

The group says their plan was hatched in a bar in Washington Heights in late 2013. Their local connections to this region run deep. Lyons was an original member of the Spa City’s own Figgs, and Lyons’ former bandmate, Pete Donnelly, is tabbed with producer credits on Blockhouses debut album.

The band’s mission, they say, is to bring high-energy, catchy, punk rock and roll tunes to the masses of N.Y.C. and beyond, and they wear their sonic glories on their collective sleeve, mixing together a varied inspiration via The Ramones and The Who, and Husker Du to The Only Ones, not to mention healthy doses of everyone from the Beatles to the Stones. A sonic sample and bio may be viewed at : https://www.blockhouses.net/.

Blockhouses will perform Monday, Sept. 24 at Desperate Annie’s on Caroline Street as part of the Super Dark Monday series.

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The mayor-appointed City Charter Commission has completed their work on a 38-page document which proposes a new City Charter. The proposition goes to public referendum on Nov. 6. If approved, the new Charter becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2019 – effectively repealing the city’s existing 2001 Charter.

A second part of the referendum seeks to increase the voting members of the City Council from five to seven. If that second proposal is approved by voters – that referendum also takes place Nov. 6 – the addition of the two council-members-at-large will become effective Jan. 1, 2020. As such, city voters in November 2019 – the next scheduled vote to elect the council – could be headed to the polls to vote for seven council members, instead of the traditional five.  It is anticipated there would be a list of candidates for council members-at-large on the ballot, and the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes would then serve as council members-at-large. 

Specifically, the Nov. 6 ballot will contain two separate questions about the Saratoga Springs City Charter.

1. Shall the Saratoga Springs City Charter be amended as proposed by the 2018 Charter Review Commission?

2. Shall the Saratoga Springs City Charter be further amended to provide for two (2) additional City Council members whose authority shall be legislative only?

Voters who choose to approve the first question – changing the City Charter – may also vote on whether to approve the second question. The initiative – adding two council members-at-large, cannot be enacted without a “yes” vote on both questions.

The 2018 Charter Review Commission was formed on March 6, 2018 by Mayor Meg Kelly with the goal of finding efficiencies and organizational improvements to better serve the people who live and work in the City of Saratoga Springs. The ten-member City Charter commission is comprised of the following members: City Attorney Vincent J. DeLeonardis, Chairman; Deputy Commissioner of Finance Mike Sharp, Vice Chairman; Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety John Daley, Secretary; Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan; Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco; Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin; Commissioner of Accounts John Franck; Deputy Mayor Lisa Shields; Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Joe O'Neill; Deputy Commissioner of Accounts Maire Masterson.

City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis served as chairman of the Commission. This week, he sat down with Saratoga TODAY and discussed some of the proposed changes.   

  1. What is the status of the proposal?
  2. We have completed our review, drafted our proposed recommendations and filed that (on Sept. 6) with the city clerk. The document will now be forwarded to the county Board of Elections and it will be on the ballot on Nov. 6. It will be on the ballot, by the way, as two separate questions.

Through our process of drafting proposed amendments, we have all of those incorporated into a draft charter relating to the first question that the voters will have: whether they will approve the Charter as amended by the Charter Review Commission.

A separate question is whether they will further amend the Charter to incorporate the two additional at-large council members.  

If they vote yes for question 1 to amend the charter, they will then vote on whether it will be further amended to address the two at-large council members, but if question 1 does not get approval, then question two does not go into effect.

How would the two at-large council members work?

- If approved by the voters, the two at-large council members will have legislative responsibility only and would not have any administrative or departmental responsibilities at City Hall.

Will they be paid positions?

- They would be, but salaries are to be determined by council. The amount of the salary is not contained in the Charter itself. The amount of any salary to be provided to the council members at-large would be established by the City Council in accordance with Local Law. That would be decided after the vote passes. (Note: at-large members would not have deputies).

Would the council members at-large attend every council meeting?

- They would be expected to. They will be full members of City Council.

What influenced the idea to consider expanding the voting council from five to seven members?

- I think as a commission we were aware of certain public concerns that the responsibilities of the five council members may prevent qualified citizens from seeking public office. So, there is an opportunity to serve in city government as a member-at-large, and not be responsible for running a city department. It would enlarge the opportunity for individuals to participate in city government. They are charged with being fully involved in all voting procedures. They will be full members of the City Council, they just will not run a department.

Would there be a specific criteria or requirement for members at-large?

- No, it’s an elected position and it’s up to the people to decide who they put as members of the City Council.

What are your thoughts about the overall review process with the commission?

- I thought the process was positive. The commission worked well together, and we had a level of respect and professionalism that assisted in the process of getting things done.

What are some of the proposed changes to the Charter?

- Generally we’ve re-numbered and re-organized certain sections, provided amendments to the existing Charter - including new sections. and of course, there’s the separate and distinct question submitted in respect to council members at-large. More specifically, there are a number of things we did not change (such as) term limits. That was one thing that had been raised, but we did not make changes to it. In a number of areas we eliminated things like specific job titles and outlined department functions.  We’ve incorporated requirements related to the State of the City (Address) – that it be presented by the entire City Council, rather than just the mayor. We have also required that appointments to the Land Use Boards – including the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the DRC – which are still to be made by the mayor, will now be made with the advice and consent of counsel and will require a vote. And, the Rec Commission and the Recreation Department was moved from the Mayor’s Department to the DPW.

Will there be Public Hearings?

- We did receive an invitation from SUCCESS – who is hosting an event at the Library on Oct. 3 – and so we accepted that invitation and we’re looking forward to presenting at the library on that date. We’re also reaching out to other organizations and entities for meetings.

Note: The Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission will give a presentation on the proposed charter changes at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3 in the H. Dutcher Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library. A Q&A session will follow. This meeting is being sponsored by SUCCESS and is open to the public.

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS - New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon visited the Spa City Sunday afternoon in advance of primary day, which this year will take place Thursday, Sept. 13.  

Nixon announced her campaign for Governor of New York in March, challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I’m running for governor because I believe we can have a New York that works for all of us,” Nixon told a group of about 125 people at Saratoga Arts on Sunday. She spoke for approximately 20 minutes.

“I voted for Andrew Cuomo eight years ago, because I remembered his dad and because I believed he was a Democrat the way he said he was, but since taking office he has governed like he was a Republican,” Nixon told the crowd. She suggested Cuomo allowed Republicans to draw their own districting maps and “hand(ed) over to the Republican Party of New York the ability to block almost every progressive piece of legislation we have had in this state,” campaign finance reform, the N.Y. Dream Act and fully funded schools being among them. 

Nixon, perhaps best known for her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series “Sex and the City,” is running on a platform includes ensuring more affordable housing  - all new housing projects to include a percentage of affordable units; proactively responding to climate change - setting the state on a track to achieve 100 percent renewal energy within 30 years - tending to immigration issues – including abolishing ICE, passing the Dream Act and seeking to make New York a Sanctuary state), as well as advocating for LGBT rights and legalizing, taxing and regulating the recreational use of marijuana.

State primaries will be held noon to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13. The traditional voting day would have been Tuesday Sept. 11. Due to conflicts with the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah and the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, the primary was changed to take place two days later.

In a primary election, only voters registered with a party may vote to nominate their party's candidate.

Registered Democrats in Saratoga County may choose one candidate for the following offices: Cynthia Nixon or Andrew Cuomo for Governor; Kathy Hochul or Jumaane Williams for Lt. Governor; Sean Maloney, or Letitia James or Leecia Eve or Zephyr Teachout for Attorney General.  There are just under 41,000 registered Democrats in Saratoga County, according to the most recent report posted by the state Board of Elections.

Registered Republicans in Saratoga County may choose: Karen Heggen or Gerard Amedio for the District Attorney. There are just under 60,000 registered Republicans in Saratoga County.

In the 43rd and 49th Senate District, each of which run through different areas of Saratoga Springs, the Reform Party primary lists Nancy Sliwa or Mike Diederich of Christopher Garvey for Attorney General in each district, as well as James Tedisco unopposed for State Senator in the 49th District. The town of Ballston Conservative Party primary lists Keith Kissinger or John Fantauzzi for Town Justice.

Polling places may be found at the Saratoga County Board of Election website.  Note, the Saratoga Springs City Center polling place for districts 3,4,8,9 and 25 in the city has been relocated from the City Center to the adjacent Hilton, ballrooms 1 and 2. The General Election takes place Nov. 6.

  

Published in News
Thursday, 30 August 2018 16:25

Supervisor Represents Spa City in D.C.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Kellyanne Conway spoke about the opioid crisis. Corey Price discussed immigration and customs enforcement policies. The balance of the near four-hour gathering in the shadow of the White House touched on everything from agriculture and cleaning up radioactive materials to issues faced by military families.

“It was an interesting mix,” says Tara Gaston, one of two Saratoga County supervisors representing Saratoga Springs. Last week, Gaston joined approximately 100 other officials from New York State and New Jersey in Washington D.C. at the invitation of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, who are charged with the responsibility of building relationships with state, county, local, and tribal officials. 

Gaston visited the White House then assembled with her colleagues in Room 430 of the Eisenhower Executive Office building - located next to the West Wing – where the group spent the better part of four hours listening to, and in some cases discussing, issues that affect New York and New Jersey residents with a variety of White House departmental officials.

“They would come in and spend about 20 minutes each with us. Most of them gave a rundown of their policies. Not all of them took questions,” Gaston says.  White House counselor Kellyanne Conway talked about the opioid crisis.

“She expressed a lot of concern about neonatal abstinence syndrome” – conditions that occur when a baby withdraws from drugs they were exposed to in the womb –  “and about the opioid crisis, but she didn’t take any questions,” Gaston says. 

“One of my concerns about that it is that we often deal with opioid addiction in terms of a legal issue - resulting in jail time and taking away children - as opposed to a public health issue. So, she didn’t speak about it as a public health issue as much as I would have liked,” Gaston says.

Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, more than any previous year on record. An estimated 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Another thing that was interesting is how Human Services have been pushing HIPAA exemptions to allow family members to know if another family member OD’d. I assume the purpose behind that is to know whether you need to have Narcan in your house, to encourage interventions and the like. But, it’s always a little concerning when you’re talking about HIPAA exemptions for adults. I understand why, but it’s a fine line between how you deal with the crisis and also how are we going to protect people’s privacy,” Gaston explained.

Corey Price, assistant director for enforcement at ICE talked about the president’s priorities. “One of those priorities is building more agreements with local law enforcement to issue detainers to hold individuals in custody on immigration issues, so they’re held until ICE interviews them and decides whether to take them into custody or not,” Gaston says. She explains: “Let’s say someone gets a DWI. Local law enforcement can release that individual or alternately contact ICE if there’s an immigration issue and ICE will issue a detainer and come and interview them and decide whether – instead of being released – they’re taken in to Federal Immigration custody. It’s a cooperation agreement between ICE and local law enforcement.

“One of my priorities was trying to communicate, just the uncertainty of the process. The policies keep changing and the administration throws out ideas – maybe they’ll follow them and maybe they won’t – but that leaves a lot of individuals in Saratoga Springs and in Saratoga County confused and frightened,” Gaston says.  

Another big regional issue, particularly for those representing the rural areas of their respective states is agriculture in general, and dairy issues, and the ability via H-2A visas to get workers to their farms, specifically. The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. “The Farm Bill, assuming it ever comes out of Congress, will also be a big one that affects our county and how it runs,” Gaston says. The current food and farm bill is set to expire Sept. 30.

“I asked a gentleman from the Domestic Policy Council about veteran families and military families. As a representative of an area with a military population with a lot of veterans as well as being the spouse of a disabled veteran myself, that’s something that concerns me a lot,” Gaston says. “Saratoga County does a lot of work for veterans, but a concern is essentially sustaining our outreach. If we can get funding to help expand the program we already have it would do a lot of good.

“Overall, there was a lot of information packed in there. I would like to see it more in a workshop format with more give-and-take, but the impression we were given is this won’t be the last one of these meetings, Gaston says, adding that there are many issues which have local ramifications, from immigration to law enforcement, to ensuring businesses come to Saratoga County and build into the community.   “Some of these things being worked on with trade are really going to have an impact on what we can do as a county,” Gaston says.

“My job is to represent Saratoga County and that means putting our name and a face in front of all the people who can impact us,” the supervisor says. “I have a lot of political differences with the administration, but I do appreciate them reaching out to get (our) point of view. Now it’s a matter of what do they do with it."

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Approximately 300 people gathered in Congress Park Aug. 28, 2018 for an “All Are Welcome Here” Walk and Vigil.

Coordinated by The Saratoga Immigration Coalition, the event was organized as a non-political gesture of gratitude, support, and acknowledgement of immigrants and the contributions they make in the community. 

A network of civic groups, faith communities and individuals from across the Capital District gathering in three different locations for the walk to Congress Park: on the West Side - where Irish and Italian immigrants settled a century ago; at Saratoga Race Course - which has a large working Latino immigrant community, and at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Broadway - a symbol of the region’s economic driver, organizers said. The Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial, which overlook the park, were fixed with the flags of the world.

Published in News
Friday, 17 August 2018 12:30

Spicer in the Spa City

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer spent Wednesday in the Spa City as part of a national book tour to promote his recently published memoir, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President.”

Northshire Bookstore hosted a book-signing at their store on Broadway, where Spicer was greeted by approximately 60 people who attended the event, shared brief conversation and posed for pictures with President Trump's former press secretary.

Responding to one person who said they missed seeing him as press secretary, Spicer laughed and responded, “Ah, I’m good.” Another patron suggested they would like to see him seek political office. “I hate to let you down, but I’m not ever running for president,” Spicer said, with a smile.  

Northshire Bookstore owner Chris Morrow, who was present at the event, had earlier responded to inquiries from some patrons who disapprovingly questioned the store hosting Spicer. Morrow explained the store’s mission is to be “a bookstore for all people, with open access to books and authors as diverse as our wonderful country.” Attendees at Wednesday’s event were overwhelmingly supportive of Spicer.

“We support Trump, we support his agenda and we support Sean Spicer and everything he’s done while he was at the White House and as a Naval Commander,” said Kathy Obst, who made the drive to Saratoga Springs from Queensbury.  “There are so many people who live in our area who are not conservatives, so I think showing a unification of that is something important,” she said. “If you look at (Michael) Wolff and his book (“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”) and you look at Omarosa and the book she just released ("Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House"), it’s just garbage. This book is filled with what happened at The White House and it’s all positive things.”

Meg Messitt who last November founded The Saratoga Springs High School Teenage Republicans club at the school, also attended the event. “I’m excited to read Sean Spicer’s book and learn more about the former press secretary of The White House,” said the soon-to-be 10th grade student.

In a gathering with reporters following the book-signing, Spicer was asked about the book tour, his thoughts on the current climate at the White House and whether he believed media is the enemy of the people, which he responded to with a brief and blunt “no.”

The book tour, Spicer said, has been fun.  Saratoga Springs marked the 24th day of a tour which wound through the west coast, south through Texas and up north via Washington, D.C. “You saw a lot of folks here today who are Trump supporters, but there are also a lot of folks who come out say: I’m a Democrat, or not so much a supporter, but I’m interested in your story,” Spicer said. “It’s been fascinating to see the full spectrum of people who come out. I feel comfortable with the book that I’ve written. I enjoy being able to share my story and share some of the behind-the-scenes moments over the past couple of years.”  

Spicer was also asked about Omarosa Newman – a reality television show participant who became a political aide to President Trump. The release of her new book, which is critical of Trump, was met with a presidential tweet in which Trump referred to her as a “crazed, crying lowlife,” and a “dog.” Spicer’s response to queries about Omarosa: “I find it unsettling that someone would take a position of trust like that and then go out and frankly abuse it on multiple levels.”

Spicer said he often offered Trump advice which was not always taken but was reluctant to share specific information about what that advice was.  “There were plenty of times during the campaign when we would counsel him not to do something and he would disregard it and come out better,” Spicer said. “The track record the president has is doing it his way, and for many aspects of his life being successful.”

Following an afternoon visit to Saratoga Race Course, Spicer attended a Republican Party fundraiser on Union Avenue. A spirited group of about 70 people gathered outside to stage an “anti-treason rally,” criticizing Trump, local U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s alliance with the president, and waving American flags and Veterans for Peace flags, while carrying signs whose slogans ranged from “Reunite Families Now” to “Spicer Go Home.”

Published in Local News
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