Displaying items by tag: thomas dimopoulos
SARATOGA SPRINGS – What once was an eyesore and is currently a vacant lot will soon boast a grass landscape with elderberry and perennials, a pair of picnic tables, Black Cherry and Japanese Dogwood, if Jason Letts gets his way.
The owner of the .31-acre site that stands opposite the Saratoga Springs Public Library has submitted to the city Planning Board a proposal for a pocket park on Putnam Street.
“We want to make it a place people can go to and have lunch or hangout, where they can walk straight out of the library and have a place to read,” Letts said.
The location had sited a commercial use concrete block building on-site the past several years. It was eventually revealed to be contaminated from its earlier use as a dry cleaning facility, as well as sustaining oil contamination from an offsite source. That contamination determined the existing structure could not be salvaged for re-use and the building ultimately demolished.
The land has been a focus for a variety of suggested uses, dating back several years. Proposals have ranged from a six-level robotic parking garage and banquet facility with 189 vehicle spaces and street-level retail in 2004, to a performance venue with a food service component in 2013. In late 2018, plans were on the table for the development of a six-story, 40-unit condominium complex called “Five-Three” – named for its location at 53 Putnam St. - to feature one-bedroom and two-bedroom units at a price range of $400,00 to $800,000, and a rooftop green space with a lounge area for residents. That mixed-use building proposal carried a price tag of approximately $30 million.
Currently, the 13,500 square foot site depicts a fenced-in lot marred by post-demolition sand and gravel. Ultimately, Letts says, he realized any large-scale development would require a long-term project, and decided a better current use for the lands would be something the entire community could use.
“We got into this – ‘we’ being my sons and my family – to find a way to make this site useable as soon as possible. The idea of having to wait however-many-years to finally get a building, and to have it just sit there wasn’t appealing to us,” Letts says. “Right now, we’re looking to get the site into a useable position, something that looks nice. An aesthetic transformation.”
The proposed pocket park - titled the Rory & Blake Park – is named after Letts’ sons. “Although it is an expense, this is an opportunity to get more involved in the community where we live. And especially because we use the library so much, we decided we had to do something about it - so we hope this is something everybody will be able to enjoy.”
Letts said there are partnerships being formed with local places like Caffe Lena in the hope of staging organized activities in the park. A general timeline points to implementation by late summer.
“It’s been a long road with the DEC clean-up, which will be taking place this year,” Letts said.
The lot is currently regulated by DEC as a Brownfield Site. A Brownfield site is a property where a contaminant is present at levels exceeding the soil cleanup objectives, or other health-based or environmental standards. The goal of the Brownfield Cleanup Program is to encourage private-sector cleanups of brownfields and to promote their redevelopment.
The location may in the future site a housing or mixed-use complex, but that prospect appears to be several years away.
“Getting the resources together for a building (in the future) is going to take some time and will be long-term. We’re not so sure it will be condos - in fact that’s probably the least possible thing at this point given things like the market. But, whether it will be straightforward apartments, or some sort of affordable housing - that’s more what we’re looking at for that space,” Letts said. “That’ll be some time away. We just didn’t want to have it sit as it is.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The City Council will begin 2020 much as it will conclude 2019, with four of five current members returning for renewed two-year terms following this week’s citywide election with a majority of incumbents being re-elected to their respective seats.
Democrat city Mayor Meg Kelly (D, WF, I) bested Republican challenger Timothy Holmes by a greater than 2-to-1 margin, scoring the night’s largest margin of victory in local elections.
Incumbent DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco defeated challenger Dillon Moran 54.04% - 45.90%, current Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan bested challenger Patty Morrison 54.77% - 45.03%, and Commissioner of Accounts John Franck will resume his current post after running unopposed.
Earlier this year, Democrat Peter Martin announced he would not seek re-election as Public Safety Commissioner. That position will be filled in 2020 by Republican Robin Dalton, who defeated Democrat Kendall Hicks 53.61 % - 46.19 % on Election Day.
Dalton described herself as “overwhelmed and inspired” by the support of voters. “I truly am heartened by the fact that when you get involved in this community and you give back in this community… they give it back to you in spades,” she told a crowd of GOP well-wishers gathered at the Holiday Inn on Election Night that included prominent local party members Elise Stefanik, Jim Tedisco and John Sweeney.
Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who represents the 21st District, also addressed the crowd, congratulating “all of the candidates with the courage to step into the political arena,” reminding attendees that she will be running for re-election next November and localizing White House talking points to take a swipe at political adversaries. “We are seeing the Democratic Party split into Socialism and seeing far-left influences right here in Saratoga County,” Stefanik said.
Perhaps surprisingly, Democrat city Mayor Meg Kelly and Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan – a Democrat running on the Working Families, Independence Party, and SAM lines – also took the stage at the GOP gathering to address the crowd.
“This is a real turning point for this city,” Kelly said after securing her re-election win. “We are all working together for the betterment of Saratoga Springs, and we need to remember that. We don’t need these nasty campaigns. We’re going to turn the tide all working together.”
“I could not have done this without every single person in this room,” added Finance Commissioner Madigan, standing next to Kelly. “Democrats for Madigan. Republicans for Madigan.”
In June’s Democratic Primary for the party’s representation for Commissioner of Finance, challenger Patty Morrison narrowly defeated the incumbent Madigan. The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee had endorsed Madigan prior to the vote and following her Primary Election loss, several members of the SSDC staged a high-profile walk-out.
“I am proud of our grassroots campaign because the thousands of people we spoke to helped form our forward-looking platform for a stronger Saratoga Springs,” said Morrison, in her concession statement following Tuesday’s general election. “A sincere thank you to all our supporters and volunteers. It was a hard-fought race, and I truly believe in the best for our community. I look forward to continuing to serve on the school board and in many other effective ways for the community. I wish Commissioner Madigan the best and for her service.”
Incumbent city Democrat Supervisor Tara Gaston, Democrat candidates Morrison and Dillon Moran and party supporters were joined by 20th District Democrat Congressman Paul Tonko at The Inn at Saratoga.
Gaston, Democrat incumbent Supervisor, and Matthew Veitch, Republican incumbent Supervisor, each received more votes than challenger Stephen Mittler (R,C,L) and were both re-elected to represent the city of Saratoga Springs at the county level as supervisors.
Voter Enrollment in Saratoga Springs is 18,691 and with 7,344 ballots cast, the 2019 election marks the lowest city voter turnout since 2011, and the second lowest city voter turnout in the past nine elections, dating to 2003, according to the Saratoga County Board of Elections.
All five City Council seats and two Supervisor positions are voted on every two years. Under the city’s commission form of government in matters of governing, the voting power of each of the five city council members is equal; each council member gets one vote.
Saratoga Springs 2019 Election Unofficial Vote Totals
(D, WF, I) | 4,887 (68.67 %
(R) | 2,222 (31.22 %)
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY:
(R, C, L, I, SAM) | 3,695 (53.61%)
(D) | 3,184 (46.19%)
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS:
Anthony “Skip” Scirocco
(R, C, I) | 3,848 (54.04%)
(D) | 3,268 (45.90%)
COMMISSIONER OF ACCOUNTS:
(D, WF, I) | 5,623, ran unopposed
COMMISSIONER OF FINANCE:
(WF, I, SAM) | 3,615 (54.77 %)
(D) | 2,972 (45.03 %)
SARATOGA SPRINGS SUPERVISOR (VOTE FOR TWO):
(R, C, I) | 4,536 (40.7%)
(D, WF) | 3,499 (30.91%)
(R, C, L) | 3,273, (28.91%)
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. and up for vote in the City of Saratoga Springs: All five city council seats. Those positions are: mayor, and four commissioners — accounts commissioner, department of public works, finance, and department of public safety. Under the city’s commission form of government in matters of governing, the voting power of each of the five city council members is equal; each council member gets one vote.
Also up for vote: Both supervisor seats. Supervisors represent the city of Saratoga Springs at the county level.
The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County hosted a pair of Saratoga Springs Candidates Nights, which were staged Oct. 21-22 at the Saratoga Springs High School auditorium. The event featured contested races: eight candidates vying for four council seats, and three candidates vying for two supervisor seats.
Candidates were allotted opening remarks, closing statements and were asked to respond to questions from the audience. LWV distributed cards to the audience to secure their questions as they entered the hall. The questions which were chosen to be read, were selected by two members of the LWV. The group defines itself as a political organization that encourages citizen participation in government but does not support or oppose any political candidate or party. The comments were made by the candidates during the two candidates nights.
Campaign finance figures, which are a matter of public record, are available for viewing via the NYS Board of Elections. The financial disclosures come from the latest figures available, filed on Oct. 4. The final filing date prior to the election is Friday, Oct. 25.
Each night was attended by approximately 200 people. Ann Krul, a resident of Wilton, acted as moderator.
• Candidates: Incumbent Meg Kelly (D, WF, I) and challenger Timothy Holmes (R). Meg Kelly for Mayor 10,000. Friends of Tim Holmes $4,400.
• What is your response to city residents who are inconvenienced by ongoing development?
Holmes: There are a couple of things associated with that. Number one: How does it affect our quality of life here, and 2: What are the capacities of the city for managing the levels of traffic we’re attracting, not to mention the infrastructure to support many more residents. Those questions are very much at the top of the agenda I would like to go into as mayor. We have to look at our planning strategies and processes. Things are moving so fast today in development that I believe we have to streamline the planning process so that citizens can be heard more directly. It’s just imperative we have more feedback from people.
Kelly: I would first refer everyone to the Comprehensive Plan that was passed in 2015. That is our guiding document, along with the zoning ordinances. It’s also who you put on the Land Use boards as mayor. We have really been doing our due diligence to put the right people on, to see the right growth in the city and the right decisions being made. Comprehensive Plan, zoning ordinances and the Land Use boards are critical to be following.
• Will either of you pledge you will do away with free health care for life after 10 years of service?
Both candidates said it is something they would pledge to do.
• Charter Change is coming up for vote. Do you favor or oppose the proposal?
Kelly: I’m not going to say for or against. I lived that nightmare once and I’m not going to do it again. I learned from my experience that it is up to the people. Let the people vote and if we’re going to have charter change the people of the city will do it, not Meg Kelly.
Holmes: I understand that is on the ballot for November 2020. The people will decide, and I would absolutely adhere to their decision on that if I am in office.
• Explain your position on hospital expansion
Holmes: We all love our hospital and I would like to see it prosper and continue service to this community. The question is partly in the details of how they are going to grow. They have a substantial campus. There is a proposal about the zoning on a piece of land they just bought which lies in the middle of a residential neighborhood. I believe the hospital would do well to follow its future path to start building up on its own campus - it has 30 acres, 20 are blacktop and 10 are buildings – and they’ve got lots of opportunity to do that. I’d be in favor of them building on it according to the zoning that’s there. However, should they move to take that property off the tax rolls, I think that they would face an uproar from the taxpayers. Further, if they should turn it into a tax-free housing development, I believe that would be unfair competition to all of the housing that already exists in the city.
Kelly: On the hospital issue, what Meg Kelly thinks is irrelevant. My responsibility under the law is to see that the zoning ordinance is in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan. So, that’s what we will do.
• What steps will you take to keep downtown beautiful for residents, visitors and businesses?
Holmes: Regarding people in dire circumstances who come into the city who are homeless, there are ways to deal with this by working with the county and having the county do its fair share - distributing the resources for that and also facilities in other towns in this county, rather than this city taking it all on.
Kelly: The parking garage is vital to the City Center. The City Center is the economic engine for Broadway, so those things go hand-in-hand. With those two things happening I think we’ll have the bigger conventions coming in. That’s why we need the parking garage. We lost 14 events due to parking issues. They’re going elsewhere and we want them to come back here. The music downtown at night is a constant problem, because I get the phone calls Monday morning.
• What are your goals the next two years in your position as mayor?
Holmes: We want to get hold of planning processes, we want to complete the Unified Development Ordinance – which would include an updated zoning map, and that would absorb the Comprehensive Plan that Meg referred to, because these documents are years out of date now. And that is, in part, what is causing confusion and turmoil in council chambers and for residents. We need to get those documents finished.
Kelly: I have a few initiatives that I want to see finished. One is: I want to see that parking garage completed; I want to see Geyser Trail completed. One has broken ground, and the Geyser Trail will break ground this fall. We need an Eastern Ridge EMS station, and that’s critical. I’ve been working on that diligently since April and we should have something to announce soon. We need to finish the UDO as my opponent said; continue to work on our building and Planning departments to streamline the permit process; to reinvent our Recreation Department, because after the (City Hall) fire, we moved into the Rec Center, so we need to reinvent that recreation department.
• Candidates: Robin Dalton (R,C,I,L,SAM) and Kendall Hicks (D). Campaign funds: Dalton for Safety $24,400. Friends of Kendall Hicks $1,280.
• Top Priorities
Dalton: my top priority is as a strong voice for city police and fire departments at the City Council table, while working to address public safety issues: adding officers to an understaffed police force, adding a fire/ems station to serve the eastern plateau, a comprehensive approach to helping the homeless population while ensuring a permanent location for Code Blue, and ensuring school safety and addressing opioid addiction.
Hicks: Affordable housing and protecting the green belt, finding a permanent solution for Code Blue and a fire/ems station for the eastern plateau.
In what way will you address the climate? (Note: In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the City Council on May 21 adopted a resolution in support of the Paris Climate Agreement).
Dalton: I support every initiative in the Paris Climate Accord agreement and pursuing that to become a greener and more responsible community in terms of climate change and everything the Paris Climate Agreement stands for.
Hicks: I also support the Paris Climate agreement. Our city is doing a fairly good job in developing our green space and maintaining our urban forestry. I think that’s really important, because we have a city that’s rapidly developing.
• Envisioning what Problems May be Encountered
Hicks: The willingness for the other side of the table to come to the table with fairness; it takes two to come to the table and have a conversation that we have to have civilly, and to work through any issue that we have in our community.
Dalton: Addressing schools, parents and educators and talking about what to look for in a child who may be suffering from an opioid issue, because they’re (authorities) going out and using Narcan far more often than I realized, and their concern is that the residents of our community are not aware that this problem has seeped into
• Describe your Position on Guns In School
Hicks: Weapons in schools, it becomes a great divide for our community as we’ve seen in the past, but my decision is weapons in schools is not the issue – it’s having the right people with weapons in our schools. We need officers with the proper training – the most up-to-date training, dealing with people with mental disabilities, with mass shootings. As a community we need to allow our school board to do their job and give them the latitude to be able to make decisions about what schools we have our weapons in, and to what capacity.
Dalton: I think the most successful approach would be to use a school resource officer in every school, that school resource officer model as laid out by the Sheriff’s Department. That means an active duty sheriff’s department officer in every school.
• Biggest Problems to Solve in the Future?
Dalton: The most pressing issue to me is the understaffing of our police department. I’ve spent countless hours with our police department on patrol experiencing the various nuanced challenges that come with policing in Saratoga Springs. We need to increase the amount of officers we have on the police force and increase their funding if we want to make sure our city stays safe. We are, right now, extremely, extremely vulnerable.
Hicks: As Robin said, our police force is limited in manpower, but manpower alone won’t help us if we are not up on the proper technology and training and proper policies in place to protect our citizens.
• Candidates: Incumbent Michele Madigan – (I, WF,SAM) and challenger Patty Morrison (D). Citizens for Madigan $12,275. Friends of Patty Morrison $4,725.
• Opening Statements
Morrison: I don’t consider myself an activist or a politician. I consider myself a concerned citizen who is watching another election cycle pass without a choice, and without representation for all Saratogians.
Madigan: For eight years my adopted budgets have kept property taxes stable, two of those budgets decreased property taxes. All ensured the funds needed to function superbly – now and into the future. My administration has achieved and maintained a double-A-plus bond rating, due to my strong fiscal management policies.
• Potential Future Projects
Madigan: Having fiber (optics) on every single city street, to every single resident and businesses. This will bring healthy competition to our community. We have the incumbent – Time Warner Spectrum – and people are excited about the notion of competition, and additional Internet service providers. There are also some other sustainability projects I’m looking forward to working on. One is community choice aggregation – which should lower your energy costs but requires a city ordinance. Also: permanent solution to Code Blue. And a Fire/EMS station.
Morrison: To end taxpayer-funded lifetime healthcare benefits for part-time politicians, and to push for term limits; To implement a nepotism disclosure policy, which council members must sign should the city hire a family member, and to implement a process to collect unpaid taxes.
To continue to look to make Code Blue shelter permanent. An Eastside EMS station. I would look at shared services and have us as a resource for
• What is the relationship between the school board and City Council as it pertains to the SRO vote and the City Council amendment regarding the training of official officers.
(Note: During a special City Council meeting held Aug. 27, the City Council unanimously approved the signing of a two-year contract with the City of Saratoga Springs School district to ensure continuous School Resource Officer (“SRO”) coverage throughout the school year).
Madigan: The vote that the school board took last year to remove the armed security guards, I had no issue with that whatsoever. It was kind of interesting that it looked like I was portrayed as wanting guns in the schools: absolutely not. What the City Council came out with and put forward was a resolution to support the hiring of additional school resource officers. Something that was accepted by N.Y. State government, something that our chief of police had recommended. The reason I like the notion of a school resource officer – and that’s all the City Council’s resolution said – is because we would pay 25% to 40% of that salary. They would still be hired by the city of Saratoga Springs. I have put the money in to train five additional school resource officers and the school board has actually now asked us for those resources. When (the current officer) takes a vacation or is sick, we now have people who are trained police officers who can step in for him.
Morrison: As many of you know, I currently serve on the School Board. The City Council steered out of their lane to have a resolution. We are two separate governing bodies and when we caught wind there was going to be a resolution we had the superintendent (Michael Patton, Superintendent of Schools) and board members reach out to the City Council. And they were ignored. There is no reason why we needed to have that resolution, because it does state more than just hiring a school resource officer.
Madigan: This is not true at all. I spoke to Michael Patton directly about the resolution. Of course, the city police department is involved in school safety, so when an SRO is being recommended and offered to the school board, the City Council is going to have to pay for that because they are active duty police officers. No one was ignored and we felt that we were in our right lane because it was going to cost city taxpayer dollars.
Morrison: When I spoke to our superintendent, he said he reached out and did not get a response. I tend to believe our superintendent. It created an environment of negativity, and that is what I have the biggest problem with. There were residents there who didn’t felt heard in regards to this issue, asking the City Council to reconsider.
• Do you believe the hospital has a right to change their zoning and expand it to a residential neighborhood?
Madigan: Yes, based on the Comprehensive Plan.
• Do you agree there should be Charter Change?
Madigan: That’s up to the voters through referendum.
• Will you pledge to serve out your full term before seeking another office?
Madigan: Absolutely, yes.
Morrison: Should I be elected commissioner of finance, I will step down from the school board and take on my new role.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS
• Candidates: Incumbent Anthony “Skip” Scirocco (R,C,I) and challenger Dillon Moran (D). Citizens for Scirocco $11,200. Friends of Dillon Moran $3,500.
• Opening Statements
Scirocco: Since first being elected, I focused on rebuilding the infrastructure, working within our means to keep taxes low and making sure our city is beautiful year-round. This election, I’m running on my record and accomplishments. This includes over $10 million of investments to the city’s water system and a four-year plan that includes an addition $4 million investment to replace undersized water mains; it includes the creation of a new water source at Bog Meadow to meet water source capacity and the preservation of Saratoga Lake as a recreational natural resource, and the emergency renovation of City Hall and a 50-year plan for the building.
Moran: I’ve been working in the field of water for over 25 years. We are at a point right now where there are some serious decisions that need to be made about the investment in our infrastructure. We are not on a good path right now. At a time where we are growing like we never have in our history, we are not making a reciprocal investment in our infrastructure. With growth comes a responsibility to maintain our infrastructure. Since 2014 we’re not collecting a single penny from that development to support the infrastructure going forward. That’s because of the choice Skip Scirocco made to eliminate connection fees. Connection fees are legal, they are used everywhere in the state including Clifton Park. They’re appropriate and it’s just. I will be looking to reinstate connection fees.
Scirocco: The City Council was the one that eliminated connection fees, not Skip Scirocco. The connection fees were challenged in court two times and lost. It was a failed policy and the City Council looked at it and said: that’s the end of it, we need to figure out a different way to get the infrastructure up and running in the city. And, we instituted a Capital Improvement fee, which is working; $10 million we were able to put into infrastructure in the city – that says a lot.
Moran: That fee that was eliminated from the developers was placed on all of you. If we’re talking about taxes, that’s the first thing to look at. It is entirely appropriate for developers to pay a connection fee when they connect themselves to our $500 million water system.
• If given $500,000 for infrastructure, where would you spend it?
Moran: First of all, we have a source of water that has not had a Safe Yield study on it since 1988. That’s inadequate. We need to understand how much water we actually can and do produce because at key flow we’re at about 85 percent of our capacity. We don’t know if that’s a safe level because we haven’t done the testing. I’d also put that money directly into a study to solve the problems of flooding at Geyser Crest.
Scirocco: I would look at stormwater, it’s obviously been an issue for a long time. At Geyser Crest, we are working on it with a consultant to come up with a solution to mitigate the issues.
• What would be the plan for backup water supply in the event Loughberry Lake is out of commission?
Moran: Our main water source, Loughberry Lake, is threatened. In terms of protecting our infrastructure, our water system, and keeping that ours, is essential to our future. There are taps along the county water pipe, in an emergency situation we can tap into them. Secondly, we’re going to change the way we treat our water. We use chlorine way too much and we’ve had problems because of that.
Scirocco: The city has a backup we developed a few years ago. We drove four wells out to Bog Meadow and it seems to be sufficient based on the Department of Health. Regardless of what my opponent is saying, everything in that water treatment plan is regulated by the department of health. As far as the county water system is concerned, I say let’s stay independent. It’s not going anywhere, and we have plenty of water. I’m not in favor of going to the county unless it’s as a last resort. As for the chlorine, if you don’t like the chlorine in the water, get a filter and you can filter it out. We talked to the experts on that and that’s the answer.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In less than one month, voters will head to the polls to choose from a pool of 11 candidates who are vying for seven city positions. Election Day is Nov. 5. The seven seats each carry two-year terms and begin in January 2020.
The two candidates seeking the office of public safety commissioner - Robin Dalton (R,C,I), and Kendall Hicks (D) - met face-to-face this week, engaging in a discussion forum at the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church on Oct. 7
The focus topic: “Immigration, Public Safety and Community.” Terry Diggory, of the Saratoga Immigration Coalition, acted as event moderator. “Although immigration is currently debated as an issue of national security, public safety at the local level requires fostering a community where everyone, including immigrants, can feel safe and welcome,” Diggory said.
Both candidates were basically in agreement regarding the safety of all city residents, regardless of status, and each praised a recent document documented by former Chief of Police Greg Veitch that essentially said local police would not stop people on the street to ask their immigration status.
“If ICE comes to our town and asks for our cooperation, we are obliged to cooperate with them…but aside from that, immigration (status) will not be the priority of Saratoga Springs Police Department,” said Dalton.
“Being black in America, I can remember when stop-and-search was a rampant thing, and I’ve been stopped many times just because of the color of my skin, so I can relate to what undocumented citizens are going through,” said Hicks, a Democrat who retired from the U.S. military after 30 years of active duty service with the National Guard. “We need to make sure our citizens - whether they’re documented or not – don’t have to live through that. We need to stand up and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
“I have from day one been very pro-immigrant,” Dalton, a Republican, told the crowd of approximately 40 people. “Back in 2017, when we had ICE in our community it was one of the most profoundly disturbing experiences I had as an American…they were stopping people on the street on their way to work, based on the color of their skin, and rounding them up. It really created an atmosphere of fear and terror for people that I know, who I love, who I work with, who I see every day.”
In response to her stated position, one of the attendees of the forum loudly bellowed from the back of the church at Dalton: “You are an embarrassment to the Republican Party,” and promptly exited the room.
“There are some areas where I’m not going to toe a party line, and one of those areas is immigration,” Dalton said.
There was a brief discussion regarding a 2013 Gloversville police department report charging Hicks with assault following an alleged altercation with his girlfriend.
“What you see in the police report is the beginning of an investigation. It doesn’t tell the whole story,” Hicks said. “I was investigated, I was charged, I had a court hearing and the charges were dismissed. Not only that, I was in uniform at the time, so I was investigated by the military authorities as well and there were no charges pressed or filed in that respect as well. So, I finished a full 30-year career decorated career because I carried the bronze star. I don’t know of any soldier who has been under those type of serious charges and can retire with the bronze star.”
“Those documents raised a lot of questions, and to date those questions have not been answered,” Dalton responded. “I hear him say now that he was cleared of the charges, that he was cleared by the military of these charges, but I have yet to see any documents that supports that narrative.”
Hicks was not endorsed by the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, and after news of the 2013 report became known, previous endorsements of Hicks by local Democrats Carrie Woerner, Tara Gaston, and Dillon Moran were retracted.
“I would love to put these questions to bed, but the only way to do that, in my mind, is to see some documentation from the military, and some documentation from the Gloversville Police Department, or the court, that he was indeed cleared,” Dalton said.
Hicks responded that he is willing to share the documents from Gloversville court dismissing the charges against him. “I have them. I carry them with me in my car at all times and I’d be happy to sit down and show them to you,” Hicks said. “As for the military, They did an investigation and I even had to redo my security clearance. Those documents are not privy to the public – I can’t go get them and show them to everyone – but me having a fully decorated retirement with the bronze star from Afghanistan – I think that should stand for itself.”
Current Public Safety Commissioner - Democrat Peter Martin, is not seeking re-election. Among the responsibilities of the post is the overall operation of the Police Department, the Fire Department, Code Administration, Animal Control, and Parking Enforcement. The Commissioner of Public Safety is also responsible for emergency planning.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Up for vote are all five City Council positions – mayor, and commissioners of Accounts, Finance, Public Works, and Public Safety – in addition to two city Supervisor seats, whose elected officials will represent the city’s interests at the county level.
Voter registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 11. Applications must be postmarked no later than October 11, 2019 and received by a board of elections no later than October 16, 2019 to be eligible to vote in the General Election. For information, go to: https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html.
The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County has announced they are hosting two Saratoga Springs “Meet the Candidates” nights – to be held Oct. 21-22.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – There was that week in June 1994 that delivered a series of unusual events that could fill a lifetime.
There was Matt McCabe watching his beloved New York Rangers hockey team win their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years. There was the buzz all along the Caroline Street storefronts among shopkeepers and customers alike as O.J. Simpson slunked in the back seat of a white Ford Bronco, leading a low-speed chase by police through Southern California. There were the freshly printed calendars pointing to a summer season of music in Saratoga, showcasing performers like The Eagles and Peter Gabriel, Phish, James Taylor, The Beastie Boys, and for the first time to SPAC a relatively unknown songwriter named Dave Matthews.
“There was a lot going on and I’ll never forget it,” says McCabe, who amid all the external happenings opened the doors of his music shop for the first time.
“June 14, 1994. Flag Day. I started in a little 160 square-foot hole in the wall space on Caroline Street,” recalls McCabe. “It was my first real business venture. I opened with 48 used guitars and 10 used amplifiers.”
Twenty-five years later, McCabe’s Saratoga Guitar has two locations in the Spa City – at 480 Broadway on the lower level of the Collamer Building next to City Hall, and at 75 Weibel Ave. The sheer number of new, used, and vintage instruments has increased exponentially, and the store has grown to include a plethora of accessories, as well as sheet music, a center for instrument repairs, school band instrumental rentals, and used vinyl records.
For more than 20 years, McCabe has hosted The Capital Region Guitar Show, which draws dealers, musicians and fans from across the northeast. This year’s event takes place at the Saratoga Springs City Center Oct. 4-5, and as a special addition marking Saratoga Guitar’s 25th anniversary, a free concert will be staged in the upstairs room at the City Center Saturday, Oct. 5 featuring live music and an opportunity for the community to give back to several local non-profit organizations.
His first sale after opening his shop 25 years ago? “I don’t remember specifically. It was probably a couple of picks,” McCabe says with a laugh. “I sold a couple of picks today too. So, pretty consistent!
“Thanks to family and friends I’ve been able to make it work over the years. The city’s been very good to me. The kids were all born here. And the downtown vibe is great. After 25 years, I think I’m looked at as one of the so-called funky stores, the mom-and-pop stores,” McCabe says.
“There are a handful of us still here. Retail-wise today we face struggles with the Internet and with changing technologies, but we’re still here, and we’re still viable. Mom and pop music stores have a very high mortality rate. We are extremely lucky to be in business - and to be here,” says McCabe, who served two 2-year terms as city Finance Commissioner from 2004-2007. He was a popular member of the council and independent of any political party.
“You learn a lot about your fellow citizens and what I learned was how smart I wasn’t. At those meetings when people come up and speak – people from all walks of life and from all over our city – you see how varied our population is. When you listen to the public comments you realize: My goodness, how many passionate people there are; How many qualified opinions there are. And from people out there who are smarter than you. Just because you’re in office, it doesn’t mean you’re smarter,” McCabe says.
“I think If I had any success at all, or if there is any decent legacy as a business owner or as a politician it is that I’m accessible and willing to listen and to be educated. When people have a problem, when things go wrong, how are you going to correct the situation? We’re all going to make mistakes. Things will happen, no matter how prepared you are, and that’s how it was in City Hall too. You have to learn: How are you going to handle the tougher times and be as fair as possible? It was a life-learning experience for me,” he says.
At Saratoga Guitar, his specialty is buy, sell and trade, new, used and vintage guitars. Given the type of business and the location, McCabe says you never know what you’re going to see in product or in clientele.
“We’ve met some nice people over the years. We had a lot of people this summer stop in. Sheryl Crow’s guitar player, Hutch Hutchinson – who is Bonnie Raitt’s and Jackson Browne’s bass player. Beck stopped in. Over the years we’ve seen Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, John Fogerty. Joe Bonamassa came back in this year. Dave Matthews has always been very nice to us. They come here, they love Saratoga and they like that they don’t get bothered here. We always take the low key, engage as they want, but you have to know that they’re working people too.”
The Capital Region Guitar Show – one of the longest running guitar shows in the country, takes place Oct. 4-5 at the City Center. Approximately 30 different vendors are expected. From 4-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 Saratoga Guitar’s 25th Anniversary free concert will be staged at the City Center. The Concert will feature Moonshine Falls, The Rapid River Boys, DIZ, Drew Vanderrhorn, and Matt McCabe & Rick Bolton. The concert will provide the backdrop for a community fundraiser for five local non-profits. Those organizations include: Wellspring, Katrina Trask Pre-School, Operation Adopt A Soldier, Friends of Music, and Franklin Community Center. Saratoga Guitar requests people attending the free concert bring non-perishable food items for the FCC Food Bank. There will be door prizes in addition to the donated items that folks can take home if they win.
“The concert is free, and the musicians are all donating their services, so were just going to try and make a fun community event,” McCabe says. “We want to give back - that’s always been part of our theme. There are a lot of good organizations in town. We’re hoping to make it a party and we’d like to start making it (the party) a yearly event to work with nonprofits and local musicians, so we’ll see how that grows as we start feeling the next 25 years.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Congress Park will serve as the staging grounds for this weekend’s Native American Festival. The significance of the location is not lost on Joseph Bruchac, whose family was involved in the founding of the festival at the Spa State Park a decade or so ago.
“Congress Park is where the original Indian encampment took place a century ago. And that was the original idea years ago, before the state park approached us,” said Bruchac, whose Native American heritage comes from his mother’s side of the family, the Nulhegan Band of the Abenaki Nation. “And the thing about Congress Park is it’s an incredible venue. I think it’s one of the most beautiful parks in the country and designed by (Frederick Law) Olmsted – who designed Central Park. “
Historic maps presented in the 1970s to the city’s Community Development offices place the “Indian Encampment,” in an area adjacent to the so-called “Devil’s Chair” in the northeast section of the park close to Circular Street and Spring streets. The encampments were sited in Congress Park up until just before the start of the 20th century, when they were relocated to an area close to Ballston Avenue. In July 1883, the Saratoga Journal reported on a festival in the “picturesque Indian village,” which “delighted children” and “many well-known citizens and guests” alike, and was highlighted by an Indian medicine ceremony and “fancy rifle shooting by Texas Charley.”
Richard Canfield purchased the encampment grounds in May 1902, according to newspaper accounts of the time. Two decades earlier, Canfield purchased the Saratoga Clubhouse and spent a considerable amount of money during the late 1800s enhancing the building and the surrounding Congress Park grounds. That building – today known as The Canfield Casino houses the Saratoga Springs History Museum and will be used as a staging area for some of Sunday’s events during the Native American Festival.
Sunday’s festival is an important one, Bruchac says. “One of the traditions in our native culture is that we tell stories, and we do this for two reasons: one is to entertain; the other to educate. Sharing culture is one of the best ways to teach people things that they may not have ever thought of before,” he says. “So, our festival will, first of all, let people see contemporary Native Americans. We’re not all existing in the teepees on the Great Plains of a hundred years ago but are part of the continuing community of peoples here in the northeast. And secondly, what they’ll get to see is more than 34 different artists offering their works – from baskets and jewelry, to woodcarvings and stone carvings. Pretty amazing stuff. They’ll get to see the continuing strength of our artistry that is so much a part of Native American culture.”
Three years ago, the festival relocated to the National Museum of Dance. In search of an appropriate venue this year, a conversation with Saratoga Arts Executive Director Joel Reed led to Sunday’s festival staging at Congress Park and at the Canfield Casino. The first Saratoga Native American Festival was a two-day event.
“That first day we had 5,000 people, but the second day we got totally rained out. That happened to us the second year as well, where we had one good day and one really bad rain day,” Bruchac says. “So now, we thought we’d pick the one good weather day, rather than going with one day that’s good and one day that’s bad,” he joked, looking over the predicted sun-filled forecast for the Sunday.
The Saratoga Native American Festival takes place 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22 in Congress Park. The event is free and open to the public. 10 a.m.: Vendors Open. Flute and Drum Music by James, Jesse and Joseph Bruchac. 11 a.m.: Tom Porter‘s Opening Address. The festival will begin with a traditional opening address, delivered in Mohawk and English by Tom Sakokwenionkwas Porter, who positions with the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs and is the spokesman and spiritual leader of the Mohawk community of Kanatsiohareke. Noon: Grand Entry. Black River Drum, Old Soul Drum, Nulhegan Drum. 12:45 p.m.: Honoring of Chief Don Stevens. 1 p.m.: Haudenosaunee Singers and Dancers. 1:45 p.m. and 3 p.m.: Smoke Dance Competition. 2 p.m.: Brian Blanchett on Canfield Stage. 2:10 p.m.: Joanne Shenandoah on Canfield Stage. Shenandoah, a Grammy Award winner, is one of Native America’s most celebrated musicians. 3 p.m.: Perry Ground storytelling on Canfield Stage. Perry Ground is a Turtle Clan member of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. He has been telling stories for over 20 years as a means of educating people about the culture, beliefs and history of the Haudenosaunee. Perry learned most of the stories he shares from the elders of various Native American communities and feels practicing and perpetuating the oral traditions of Native people is an important responsibility. 4:15 p.m.: Kay Olan Storytelling on Canfield Stage. Kay Clan is a Wolf Clan Mohawk storyteller and educator. After teaching for 33 years, she relocated to the Traditional Mohawk Community at Kanatsiohareke where she worked as director. 5 p.m.: Vendors close. Closing Address by Tom Porter
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Patrick Kauth stood atop the lawn at High Rock Park Wednesday morning, trying to encapsulate the thoughts and emotions of the past 18 years into a few poignant words.
“It’s a changed world,” said Kauth, whose childhood years were spent in the classrooms of St. Clement’s and Saratoga Springs High. He grew up in a hockey family, one of four siblings. His dad, Don Kauth, was killed in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.
“A loss is a loss and you can’t change time,” said Kauth, who teaches history at the Albany Academy.
It was early in September 2001, when Don Kauth drove his son to Merrimack College in Massachusetts, where Patrick was entering his freshman year.
“He bought me own of those huge Dell desktop computers,” he remembered. “Afterwards we ate dinner and exchanged pleasantries and insults, the way that best friends do, because he was my best friend,” he said. “Then he was off to New York the next morning.” Don Kauth worked as a bank analyst for Keefe, Bruyette & Wood at the World Trade Center.
It was a week or so later when Patrick Kauth joined his new college roommates watching the events of 9/11 take form on the TV.
“I remember thinking that this couldn’t be real. At first, I joined along with them, just sat there, and then after about sixty seconds it clicked: wait a minute. He works there. So, I phoned home. And I heard it in my mom’s voice. She hadn’t heard from him. The communication was very difficult that day, but still, he would have found a way. So, I knew pretty immediately that he was gone. “
Kauth was the keynote speaker at the city’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Wednesday morning at High Rock Park. It is a historic park that has been known to Native Americans for over 5,000 years. In the summer of 2012, it became home to the 25-foot-tall sculpture, titled "Tempered by Memory," which was created out of five twisted pieces of World Trade Center steel. Four of the pieces came from the North Tower - distinguished by the antenna on its roof - and one steel beam came from the South Tower.
The ceremony, held on the 18th anniversary of the attacks, began with a welcome from Raymond F. O’Conor, author and CEO of Saratoga National Bank, and the observance included members of the city police and fire departments and the U.S. Navy. Keri Alonzo sang The National Anthem, Rick and Sharon Bolton provided additional music. Chaplain Sid Gordon, Disabled American Veterans, delivered the Invocation and Benediction.
“The attacks caused the deaths of 2,996 people and the injuries of more than 6,000 others,” said city Mayor Meg Kelly, who recited a series of the numbers that reflected the tragic losses of that day at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, on each of the four planes, and the firefighters, paramedics, police officers and others who were killed responding to the attacks and trying to help others.
“Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609; Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051; Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11: immeasurable,” Mayor Kelly said. “It is with these numbers that we will always mark this horrific day.”
Kauth says the collective stories of the tragic day’s events, as well as visits to The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York have become as fundamental to him as the battlefields of Saratoga, and Gettysburg, and the museums and the monuments in Washington.
“In particular, it is overwhelmingly emotional listening to our first responders The Day Of - from their own radio correspondence, describing in detail their quickly deteriorating situation and the victims who could not make it out of the stairwell,” Kauth said. “It becomes apparent, pretty quickly, that these heroes knew that they were not making out. That they were going to save as many people before the inevitable collapse.
“I cannot help but think, in awe and with tears streaming down my face, about the bravery and resolve displayed by these firefighters and policemen who wanted nothing else but to just have a chance at saving people like my father,” Kauth said.
“Time does help. I have a family of my own that we’re growing now, and that helps immensely. I love my son more and more each day,” he said, gesturing a few yards away across the park to his wife Shauna, and their 22-month-old son, Oliver.
Asked what he will teach his own son about his father, Kauth said it will be about his dad’s caring for others. “He was a unique guy. A really thoughtful guy who did a lot for the community and for anybody that needed something. So, what I’ll tell my son is that we have to continue to try and live his legacy,” Kauth said. “But you’re never going to have that hole filled up completely.”
City Council will address a series of issues this month that could change the visual landscape of Broadway, enhance the diversity of future political candidates, and alter the directional flow of traffic near the downtown core.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council will address a series of issues this month that could change the visual landscape of Broadway, enhance the diversity of future political candidates, and alter the directional flow of traffic near the downtown core.
On Sept. 2, the council introduced a 44-page lease proposal between the city of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority. If approved – which could happen by mid-month - the agreement would set into motion the development of a 600-space parking garage project near High Rock Park.
The terms of the lease runs to Dec. 31, 2032 – aligning with the length of the existing lease with the City Center itself, explained City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis.
Plans call for the City Center Authority to build and subsequently maintain a multi-level, 600-space parking garage atop city owned land, just east of the existing City Center building. “Air rights” for the construction of a so-called pedestrian connector would be included, and bridge the city center with the parking structure, atop Maple Avenue.
The city would receive in return 60 designated parking spaces in the new structure to be used during daytime working hours, as well as 50% of the structure’s excess cash flow. What approximate dollar figure that would equal is “not known at this time,” said DeLeonardis, but is “to be determined by a calculation of the revenues generated minus the debt service and maintenance and operation costs associated with the facility.”
The City Center Authority would also develop an extension of the Green Belt Trail along High Rock Avenue. The city owns approximately 2-1/2-acres of land, currently used for surface parking, that runs from High Rock Park to Lake Avenue, and Maple Avenue to High Rock Avenue, one block east of Broadway. The lease is specific to one portion of that segment – the area of land to the east of the City Center - and only to the development of the parking structure and pedestrian bridge.
A Public Hearing is expected to take place prior to the next City Council meeting, on Tuesday night, Sept. 17. The Council will likely vote on the lease agreement later the same evening. If approved, the development of the parking garage may begin as soon as this fall.
Parking Congestion at Lake Ave School
The council hosted a 45-minute public discussion Sept. 3 to address student safety and residential concerns as it relates to public parking, student parking and school bus transport in the immediate area of the Lake Avenue Elementary School. The school faces Lake Avenue and is bordered by Regent Street and Marion Place. Proposed changes may include altering traffic patterns on some of the neighboring streets. Traffic congestion and the safety of students being dropped off and picked up at the school remains the primary concern. Two public hearings have been held on the matter, and a third is slated to take place Tuesday night, Sept. 17.
Increasing City Council Salaries, Expanding Deputy Residency Requirements to attract Qualified and Diverse Candidates and Appointees
The council staged a Public Hearing regarding a Local Law to amend the City Charter as it relates to terms of office, eligibility and salaries of officers. The law seeks to increase the compensation of the elected City Council members from $14,500 per year to $30,000 annually, beginning on Jan. 1, 2020.
Member salaries have not increased since at least 2001, city Mayor Meg Kelly said. “Consider what $14,500 means per year. My average work week is about 50 hours. That’s $5.58 an hour. Consider that some of us (on the council) work 30 hours – that’s $9.28 an hour.”
Mayor Kelly advised that the Saratoga Springs salary is comparable with that of Mechanicville, which pays its mayor $12,000. “While Mechanicville shares our Commission Form of Government, it only has a population of 5,200 people with limited tax base, tourism, economy, or destination power,” she said, adding that among 14 comparably sized cities, the average salary paid to the mayor is about $44,500.
“We are entering into a new budget season and the time is right for fair and reasonable discussions about these salaries,” Kelly said. “It is more important than ever to attract talented and diverse candidates. To date, our candidate pool has been largely retirees, the affluent, or people who have the luxury of being supported by a partner’s income…this is a nominal increase aimed at a considerable impact on the quality of our governance.”
The council did not vote on the matter related to their own potential salary increases, but did unanimously approve a resolution that proposes an amendment to state law to expand geographical residency requirements for deputies.
Each of the five council members appoints a deputy. According to Public Officers Law, all deputies must reside in the city of Saratoga Springs. The council resolution seeks to expand those geographical boundaries to become county-wide.
The current requirement significantly restricts the number of qualified persons available for the administrative positions, the council says. The expanded boundaries would create an opportunity for council members to seek qualified individuals for positions from anywhere in Saratoga County, and would result in a significant benefit to the public. The proposal seeking an amendment to the existing law will be presented the offices of Sen. Daphne Jordan and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner for submittal to the State Legislature.
City Approves Six-Year Plan Proposal - Eastside Fire/EMS Facility Tagged a Priority
The city’s six-year proposed capital plan, totaling just under $17 million, was unanimously approved Sept. 3 by the council in a 4-0 vote. Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin was not present at the meeting.
The plan ranks 36 city projects according to importance with the highest proposed ticketed item being an Eastside Fire/EMS Facility. The city currently has two stations – one just off Broadway and one on the west side. The potential of an east side facility has been discussed for several years. At present, no land where the station would specifically be sited has been determined. The fire/ems station ranks third highest in order of importance.
The six-year Capital plan is updated annually and varies in accordance with changing priorities and budgetary fluctuations. The city’s Comprehensive Budget is presented annually in late fall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee last week announced its endorsements for the 2019 general election.
The committee endorsed incumbent John Franck for Commissioner of Accounts, Patty Morrison for Commissioner of Finance, incumbent Meg Kelly for Mayor, Dillon Moran for Commissioner of Public Works and incumbent Tara Gaston for County Supervisor. The announcement was made by newly named Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee chairwoman Sarah J. Burger.
Earlier this summer, several members of the committee staged a walk-out after incumbent Michele Madigan - the committee’s previously endorsed candidate for Commissioner of Finance - lost the June Democratic Primary to Morrison.
Morrison - on the Democratic line, and Madigan – who will appear on the Independence Party and Working Families Party lines, will face one another in the citywide general election on Nov. 5 when all five City Council positions – including mayor - as well as two Saratoga Springs Supervisor seats, will be up for vote.
The city Democratic Committee also approved a resolution, supported by all endorsed candidates, declaring that survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence be heard and respected, condemning sexual harassment, sexual abuse and domestic violence and demanding that perpetrators be held accountable.
Kendall Hicks, who is running for Commissioner of Public Safety as a Democrat, has not receive city Democratic Committee endorsement.
On the Republican side, Commissioner of Public Works Anthony "Skip" Scirocco and Supervisor Matthew Veitch - both incumbents, and candidates Robin Dalton – for the position of Commissioner of Public Safety, and Stephen Mittler - for Saratoga County Supervisor, have been endorsed by the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee.
Tim Holmes, who is running for mayor on the Republican line, has not receive city Republican Committee endorsement.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – At a special mid-day meeting of the City Council Aug. 27, the council approved a new contract to continue the School Resource Officer Program in the city’s public school system for the next two years.
The new contract represents some changes compared to the agreement which what had previously existed.
Previously, if the assigned SRO was not available – those cases including sick days and time off – a replacement had not been provided, explained Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin. With the desire to have an armed and trained SRO present at the high school every day, the new contract stipulates that should the assigned SRO not be available on any school day, the city will provide a qualified substitute for the position. To meet that expectation, three additional officers began their SRO training on Aug. 27 to ensure there may be substitutes available.
The SRO will be assigned to the school on a full-time basis and on duty at the campus from 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. each school day, excluding summer school and summer programs. The School Resource Officer remains an employee of the city and within the chain of command of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
Previous costs to the school were about $53,000. To meet the additional guaranteed time, the new contract sets costs at $65,000 for the 2019-2020 school year, and $70,000 for 2020-2021.
An additional officer, supplied by the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office, is designated for Maple Avenue Middle School, Dorothy Nolan Elementary and the Greenfield Elementary schools.
Among the duties of the School Resource Officer: assisting the Principal in developing plans and strategies to prevent and/or minimize dangerous situations which may occur on campus or during school sponsored events.
The SRO shall take law enforcement action as required. Except in an emergency situation, the SRO shall obtain the consent of the principal of the school prior to taking such action. At the Principal's request, the SRO shall take appropriate law enforcement action against intruders and unwanted guests who may appear at the school, and related school functions. And, except in an emergency situation, the SRO shall notify the principal before requesting additional police assistance on campus.