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Sarah Burger to Vie for Public Safety Post
SARATOGA SPRINGS –The 2015 city election season heated up early with an announcement on Tuesday, Feb. 24 that Sarah J. Burger, former City Attorney, stating that she wanted to make Saratoga Springs a better place to live and do business, will seek the post of Commissioner of Public Safety.
This announcement sets up a primary battle for the Democratic Party endorsement against two-time incumbent Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who has indicated he will seek re-election this fall.
In her announcement, Burger stressed her family history in the area, which dates back to the Revolutionary War, as well as her experience with labor / management negotiations and pledged to keep an open mind on issues while listening to the entire community in her decision making. While she did not get into specific campaign platform issues in this announcement, she did criticize the Public Safety department for “bad decisions that have led to legal challenges.” Later, she cited the recent attempt to create a district, generally around Caroline Street, outside of which 4 a.m. bar closings would not be permitted, as “discriminatory and ill-advised.”
Burger declined comment on the city’s sale/exchange of parcels on the Eastern Ridge and the Collamer lot at 500 Broadway, stating that she was City Attorney at the time.
Yet it would be hard to visualize a campaign in which this will not be a subject of contention as the election season goes forward, as this is one such subject under litigation.
Currently a labor attorney at Cooper, Erving & Savage, LLP, with offices in Saratoga Springs, Burger was appointed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen to be City Attorney in January of 2014. She resigned from that post abruptly last September, citing a “fundamental disagreement” on how to handle the legal affairs at City Hall.
Burger stated that she would be also seeking endorsements of other political parties as well. If elected, she would be the first female to hold the position of Commissioner of Public Safety in the 100-year history of Saratoga Springs.
Burger was introduced to a gathering of her supporters at the Empire Room at Maestros at the Van Dam Restaurant by her long-time friend, Gary Dake, president of Stewart’s Shops, who stated that the conduct of city council business should not be based on ideology, but balance.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The first of two League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsored candidate forums at the Saratoga Springs High School Auditorium took place on Tuesday, October 22.
While the candidates articulated policy differences, the proceedings were notable for their civility and lack of rancor. This was due in large part to the firm oversight of the debate by LWV’s Barbara Thomas, who did make both the candidates and audience members adhere to strict time limits. This is notable in contrast to previous year’s candidate forums about city elections.
After a brief introduction of the ground rules by Thomas, unopposed finance commissioner candidate Michele Madigan (D, I, WF) took the podium for a statement about her accomplishments in office and vision for her next term.
This was followed by the candidates for commissioner of public works, in which incumbent Anthony “Skip” Scirocco (R,C) and challenger William J. McTygue (D, I, WF) sat side-by-side.
McTygue took issue with Scirocco’s record, citing in particular a deal to sell water to Wilton without full council approval and called for a total citywide evaluation of water resources, saying that “there is no long range water quality plan”.
Scirocco noted his accomplishments in office citing a “reversal of a generation of infrastructure neglect.”
Interestingly, these were the only candidates of the evening who were asked about Proposition 1—the pending statewide casino proposition. Both were generally in agreement that they were personally opposed to casinos, but noting if it passed the city would have to be ready for changes regardless of whether Saratoga Springs was designated as a casino site or not.
The candidates for commissioner of public safety easily had the most points of policy difference of the evening.
In his opening statement, challenger Richard C. Wirth (R, I, C) characterized the administration of incumbent Christian E. Mathiesen (D, WF) as “too Caroline Street focused while there is an uptick in crime citywide” and an atmosphere of “blame the victim” prevailed. Mathiesen responded vigorously, listing many accomplishments during his administration, both as leader of his department and on initiatives that were citywide in nature.
The candidates differed sharply on their plans for improving the fire/emergency response times on the city’s eastern plateau, as well as the need for an independent review of the recent police incident regarding Darryl Mount, Jr.
The differences between candidates for commissioner were less pronounced. Incumbent John P. Franck (D,I,WF), who is running for his fifth term, cited his “core four” platform as the guiding principles that characterized how he has and would run his office. Challenger John P. Arpei (R, C) did not directly challenge Franck on anything specific, but did say he was an advocate for more civility and cooperation in the conduct of city government.
Indeed, the accounts commissioner candidates agreed totally on two major issues. Both felt that a citywide reassessment was unnecessary and too costly, and that the current assessment level for condominiums (about 30 percent of assessed value) was too low. Franck cited his initiative in going to Saratoga County to try and develop a political coalition to change this formula. Arpei stated that the formula was imposed by downstate interests, where condos are more prevalent and therefore would be very unlikely to change.
BALLSTON SPA — As the primary draws near, the Republican race for sheriff is intensifying with each candidate vowing to try and stay positive despite some negative rumors and complaints of destroyed campaign signs.