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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Friday, February 27

News on the rec center; Murphy petitions Tedisco

Steve here, with a couple of quick updates. First, Andrew's got some breaking news about the the proposed South Side Rec Center (here's a link to the article on the main site, so you can leave comments there, too):

Rec center labor violations?

The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Construction on the indoor recreation may have been hit with a second delay in as many days following a complaint to the New York State Department of Labor.

Larry Bulman, acting on behalf of the Steam Fitter’s Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Sheet Metal Workers, filed a complaint with the state agency alleging that the city had improperly bid construction on the 35,500 square-foot facility slated for construction on the South Side Recreation Field, and in doing so, violated Wick’s Law.

Wick’s Law, adopted by the state in 1922, requires that municipalities bid separate contracts for four aspects of construction for projects costing more than $50,000: general construction, plumbing, heating and ventilation, and electrical systems.

“He bid it as one contract, and that would let the (general contractor) run the job, and go out and play games,” said Bulman. “The contractor could go out and get subcontractors to lower prices and the city wouldn’t see any savings.”

Rumors circulating Thursday evening and Friday morning say that the city has been served with a stop-work order by the State Commissioner of Labor, but this has not been confirmed.

“If she (M. Patrician Smith, commissioner of Labor) did act, she did so properly, because this is definitely a violation,” Bulman said.

“This is not the action we wanted to take. We went to the mayor, and he basically said he did not have to follow Wick’s because he said Saratoga Springs is exempt from labor law, and that is not true,” said Bulman.

On Wednesday the city was served with a temporary restraining order by Judge Thomas Nolan, to prevent the city from beginning construction until a hearing on an injunction, scheduled for March 13. The order stems from a civil suit filed by the Friends of the South Side Park, which seeks to stop the project on several grounds.

Last week, the City Council voted 3 to 2 to approve a contract with Bast hatfield of Halfmoon for construction on the project.

Reach Andrew J. Bernstein at or 518-583-8729 ext. 219.

— — — — — —

Second, and unrelated to above, is a press release from Scott Murphy's camp that invites you to fill out a petition:

Scott Murphy Continues to Blast Tedisco for his Refusal to Support President Obama’s Economic Recovery Package

Murphy Campaign Issues Online Petition to Get Straight Answers from Career Politician Jim Tedisco on Economy

Glens Falls, NY—On Friday, local businessman and congressional candidate Scott Murphy continued to call out his opponent, 26-year career Albany politician, Jim Tedisco for refusing to support President Obama’s Economic Recovery package. The Murphy campaign is now offering people a chance to tell Tedisco to give us a straight answer about the economic recovery bill in an online petition: Assemblyman Tedisco – “Take A Stand!”

“As we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, voters in Upstate New York deserve straight answers from congressional candidates as to how they would vote on President Obama's recovery package. The least Assemblyman Tedisco can do on his 'road to recovery tour' is answer for why he is refusing to support President Obama’s Economic Recovery Package, which creates and saves over 76,000 jobs Upstate,” said Murphy.

“Like Senator Gillibrand, I’m proud to support President Obama’s Economic Recovery package, because it provides middle class tax relief, creates and saves over 76,000 jobs in Upstate New York immediately, and provides significant budget relief to help hold the line on property taxes.

“As a fiscal conservative and businessman, I know that in these difficult times we need bold and decisive leadership in Congress to get our economy back on track, while not losing site of our long term goals of restoring fiscal discipline and holding career politicians accountable for how they spend our tax dollars.”

Thursday, February 26

Impressions of Murphy

Democratic congressional candidate Scott Murphy was in the office today for an editorial board meeting as a part of our endorsement process. Although I've met Murphy several times previously, this was my first opportunity to sit down with the candidate.

In general, Murphy strikes me as a very good politician, meaning that he is composed, articulate, friendly, and speaks with authority on issues of which he has knowledge. Rather than speak on conjecture, Murphy declined to render opinions on some matters that have only come up in the past day or two.

As something of an "outsider," Murphy does not have a legislative or voting record to scrutinize, but he is quick to talk about the importance of the process, even as he criticizes a "flawed" committee system in congress.

Murphy is also clearly doing everything he can to draw paralells between himself and Kirsten Gillibrand, noting multiple times how he would work with her, and continue some programs she started, such as publicly posting a schedule and holding congress on your corner.

He is not a lightning rod who is going to call the voters to arms, but he certainly exudes the aura of a man who would be comfortable in DC.

We are hoping to have Murphy's opponent, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in for an editorial board meeting as well, but at last check, were having some difficulty in scheduling a meeting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 25

Council, minus enthusiasm

The council seemed to be lacking its usual enthusiasm at their workshop of the proposed development of the High Rock parking lot. Back in 2008, when the proposals were first submitted, and the council held its first workshop, the five members of the council seemed to relish the exciting new proposal, and the opportunity presented to do something real, and something that all five agreed on.

Now, after hearing months of complaints about the mere possibility of paid parking, the five men seemed to have dialed down their enthusiasm. They're still talking, as evidenced by tonight's workshop, but talk now is either coming from Commissioner Franck about creating another panel (can you say "stall tactic") or Commissioner Kim, once bullish on building a new police station, talking about selecting a contractor and using the ensuing contract negotiation as a means to define financing.

While Kim's suggestion clearly still offers more momentum than Franck's, it is couched in the need to further study and discuss, not the "bond it now, build it now" enthusiasm we became used to from Kim throughout 2008.

It's an election year, and it's beginning to show.

Tuesday, February 24

Yes, we are still talking about the recreation center

I'm fresh off of writing about a letter from Commissioner Ron Kim and a counter-press release from Commissioner Kenneth Ivins.

What are the two officials writing about? The recreation center, of course.

Despite that the council approved a construction contract last week, the issues is building is still an issue in the community. Don't believe me?

Two stories I wrote about it last week are continuing to get large numbers of comments on our website. The stories are here and here. As usual, the comments run the gamut of poor taste, enjoy.

Of course, there is also an ongoing lawsuit. Stay tuned on that one.

Meanwhile, the council will discuss the proposed public safety building and the related issue of paid parking at a special meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Music Hall. While it seems that the recreation center is going forward, the Public Safety facility is not yet a done deal, and while the council was moving toward an encouraging consensus in that regard back in December, nerves seemed to have become significantly more frayed since then. We'll have to see what comes out of tomorrow's meeting.

Monday, February 23

Twitter taking over the world

With more and more agencies turning to micro-blog service Twitter as a way to get the word out, I've been wondering if anyone would subscribe to a Saratogian twitter feed? Thoughts?

Saturday, February 21

Double header

Sorry for the confusion over the past few days, my colleague Stephen seems to have got a little overzealous in usurping my blog for his own devious purposes. I'm back in control... for now. We'll see what Stephen cooks up to post here on Monday...

In any event, the city will see an unusual amount of activity on Wednesday evening.

As usual, the planning board will meet at 7 p.m. to tackle a full slate of items, which -- as of now, before their agenda meeting -- includes a proposal for affordable housing behind the Ballston Ave. Price Chopper AND the Hospital's proposal to expand its PUD AND the ongoing Beaver Pond Village application.

Meanwhile, starting at 6 p.m. and likely lasting well past the start of the Planning Board meeting, the City Council will be meeting in the 3rd floor music hall to discuss both a proposal to lease space in the city's West Side firehouse, as a possible revenue-generator for the city, and to continue talks on paid parking and the development of the High Rock parking lot. An email I received from City Hall on Friday specified that while the council's workshop is open to the public, the council will NOT be taking public comment at the meeting.

On a procedural note, my schedule is changing, effective immediately. I will now be working Monday to Friday most weeks, but on every third week I'll work Tuesday-Saturday. I will make it my continued mission to post here on every day that I'm in the office, but since those days are going to be changing from week-to-week, there has never been a better time to subscribe by clicking here, that way you'll never miss a post, even as my schedule changes.

Friday, February 20

Score one for each

Ok, so we saw the Murphy camp vindicated by referring to the March 9 meeting with the Poughkeepsie Journal as an editorial board meeting, which is what the paper itself considers it. Score one for Murphy.

However, it refers to the March 3 AARP meeting at the Saratoga Springs Public Library as an "issues forum," while Tedisco has been calling it a debate. Score one for Tedisco here, it seems.

AARP's Erin Mitchell, the associate state director of community outreach, and Angela Neal, the associate state director for advocacy, said they are calling their event a debate. Judging from the description, it sure sounds like one: During the 90-minutes, candidates will take three minutes to make opening statements, be given two minutes to respond to questions from both panel and audience, and then given a final two minutes for closing statements.

Mitchell and Neal said it will be a controlled, issue-driven discussion, but a debate nonetheless.

So far the record stands at 1-1-1 (I consider the League of Women Voters/WROW debate a tie). Now to see how the candidates fare in a debate of substance and not this nonsense.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering why the LWV/WROW debate is being held in Latham, which is NOT in the 20th CD, this is from the press release the two groups issued:

" was agreed by all parties that the facility was the perfect venue since it is centrally located for all participants given the unique shape of the 20th Congressional District."

With luck I'll be out of here in a few hours. Andrew's manning the newsroom tomorrow and is then back again Monday, so it should be regularly scheduled programming from here on out. Have a great weekend, all!

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Debate e-mail

Just talked to Sherman Baldwin, program director at WROW, who will be moderating the Tedisco/Murphy debate on March 26.

He said a special e-mail address was set up for those from the 20th Congressional district interested in attending the debate, as well as those who can't attend but would like to submit questions.

Baldwin said there were about 200 spaces available, so if you're interested, sent a message to

Debate debate resolved

Steve here again. Since Andrew's off I get to cover the news about Murphy and Tedisco actually agreeing on something (gasp!) : when to meet to argue over their disagreements (or, as it's dubbed in the political world, debate).

As noted in TU's Capitol Confidential blog yesterday (so conveniently distributed by Scott Murphy's people with their press release today), there was some debate about whether the March 9th meeting at the Poughkeepsie Journal was a debate or a standard editorial board meeting.

Well, let's put it to rest: John Penney, the editorial page editor at the publication, said the newspaper considers it a standard editorial board meeting. They like to have both candidates attend at the same time to eliminate the he-said-this, he-said-that tit-for-tat that could result otherwise.

Look for more online or in the paper tomorrow.

The weekend is reach.

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Thursday, February 19

Just when you thoughts the phones were a dead issue...

Mayor’s Priorities Questioned

February 19, 2009


CONTACT RON KIM (518) 879-9994

Saratoga Springs – Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim today questioned the priorities of the City’s Mayor, Scott Johnson and stated: “160 days and $250,000 later, the Police, Fire and Dispatch Departments still do not have a new telephone system installed, despite all other City Agencies receiving new telephones over two months ago.” Kim continued, “Unbelievably, the most important departments in the City have yet to receive the new telephone system---this delay by the Mayor’s office is dangerous and is another example of the Mayor’s upside-down priorities.” Kim observed, “While the Mayor seems to be aware of his fiduciary responsibility when it comes to recreation, he seems incredibly inept when it comes to the most basic municipal responsibility---the safety of our citizens. Clearly, the Mayor has failed---I just hope he is not playing politics with public safety. I have been an outspoken critic of his irresponsible plan to build a recreation center while the Police Station crumbles before our very eyes, and worked with citizens on the Eastern plateau to advocate for a new Eastside Fire station, and I cannot help but wonder if this is why he has delayed the installation of the new telephone system in the Police, Dispatch and Fire Departments, while implementing it throughout City Hall..”


Saratoga Springs Police, Fire and Dispatch Departments Denied New Telephone System by Mayor Johnson

Commissioner of Public Safety, Ron Kim, Questions Mayoral Priorities

The new City Hall telephone system, currently out of order, was approved in the 2009 Capital budget on September 12, 2008, and became operational on December 18, 2008 in all City Hall departments except the Police, Fire and Dispatch Departments. The Police Department was previously told by the Mayor’s Office that their phones would be updated and live on February 5, 2009, but as yet no firm date for the installation and full operation of the new telephone system for Police, Fire and Dispatch has been announced by the Mayor’s office. Emergency Dispatch is housed within the Police Department. Calls from land telephone lines within the City come to the City’s 911 System; cell phone calls from within the City go to the County’s 911 System.

Problems with the telephones in the Police Department surfaced in July 2007 and then again in September and November 2007. These problems prompted Commissioner Kim and the Department of Public Safety to investigate alternatives for a new telephone system at that time. Kim and the Department of Public Safety were at the brink of a solution that would have saved approximately $100 per month over the existing telephone system, when the incoming Johnson administration scrapped the plans in favor of a “more comprehensive solution for all of City Hall.” For approximately a year, the Johnson administration studied the problem, meanwhile in February 2008, the Police Department’s phones, including the 911 service completely failed for approximately 15 minutes in the midst of the evacuation of the Saratoga Hilton because of a suspected structural fire. In December 2008, the Mayor’s office began implementing their chosen solution. “My priority is the safety of our citizens. I invite the Mayor to at least add it to his list of priorities," Kim concluded.

The first debate is when?

Steve here. I think this is my first contribution to the City Desk blog even though I've been listed as a contributor for close to a year now...

Anyhow, it seems there's conflicting reports about debates between Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy in the race to fill the 20th Congressional District seat. Andrew's seeking out clarification, but for now here are press releases from the two candidates:


WROW debate to be held March 24th

Jim Tedisco (R,C-Saratoga), 20th Congressional District candidate, today agreed to the first debate of the race. The debate is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24th at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express on Wolf Road in Colonie.

The debate will be moderated by WROW-AM 590 afternoon drive-time host Sherman Baldwin. The format will be 30 minutes of questions from the audience and 30 minutes of moderated discussion.

“I was the first to call for debates and the first to schedule a debate and now I hope my opponent accepts the invitation to participate in this forum so voters can learn where we stand on the economy, job creation and tax relief,” said Tedisco.

— — — — — — — — —

Murphy Campaign Agrees to Times-Union/WMHT Debate on March 19th

Scott Murphy Campaign Expresses Disappointment with Tedisco's Grandstanding

Glens Falls, NY—On Wednesday, Scott Murphy's Campaign for Congress accepted a debate on March 19th hosted by the Times Union and WMHT for the special election for New York's 20th Congressional District.

Murphy's campaign also expressed its disappointment with Assemblyman Jim Tedisco's refusal to show up at the League of Women Voters debate planning meeting and for his continued grandstanding. "Scott Murphy is excited about attending the March 19th debate hosted by the Times-Union and WMHT," said Murphy spokesman Ryan Rudominer.

"Scott looks forward to drawing a sharp contrast between his record as a career businessman who helped create over 1000 jobs and his support for President Obama's economic policies and that of career politician Jim Tedisco who supports President Bush's failed economic policies. Moving forward, we hope that Tedisco is willing to meet with civic organizations and schedule debates instead of grandstanding, so that other news organizations requesting the same date are not left out."


On February 13th, NBC-Albany requested a debate for March 24th and Radio WROW is considering a date during the same week. Scott would like to be able to accommodate both if possible.

Unfortunately, Jim Tedisco's campaign refused to attend a meeting with the League of Women Voters and WROW on Tuesday, where the Murphy and Sundwald campaigns were represented.

Wednesday, February 18

No decisions in Executive Session

In breaking with tradition, the City Council met in executive session at the end of last night's City Council meeting, to discuss both the ongoing Recreation Center Law Suit and the settlement with DEC.

I had already left the chamber at that point, and although I followed the webcast until until about 10:20 p.m. -- at which time the regular agenda was still going on -- I tuned out before the break for executive session.

Public Officer's law requires the government to announce any actions taken in executive session, so I called Mayor Scott Johnson today and asked what, if any, actions had been taken, and he reported none.

"I think we were all too tired," he said.

Who can blame them, last night's meeting brought a level of intensity I haven't felt so the old Tommy McTygue v. Val Keehn days.

Tuesday, February 17

Commissioner Franck and the rec center

In voting in favor of advancing the indoor recreation center this evening, John Franck told the public that his endorsement by the Democratic Committee in this year's city elections would hinge on his vote on the rec center. Throwing caution -- and possibly his party affiliation -- to the wind, Franck voted for the project, and in doing so, drew a line between himself and his would-be party mate, Commissioner of Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim.

This comment should remove any doubt that the rec center has become a political football, but, more interesting is the fact that Franck -- who told me earlier this year that the Democrats could be hugely successful in this year's election if they put aside their differences -- was willing to vote on his beliefs, and not his party marching orders.

So, the question remains: will Franck convince the Democrat that he and Kim can agree to disagree on the rec center and still run on the ticket, or will Franck become the city's next Matt McCabe, and run to keep his seat on the council as an independent, possibly against a member of his former party AND a member of the GOP?

We'll have to wait and see on that one, but the fact remains that the rec center passed through tonight's council meeting with bi-partisan support -- and bipartisan dissent.

Monday, February 16

Rec Center vote

As noted in today's print edition, the City Council will be called to vote on awarding a contract for the construction of the indoor recreation center at tomorrow's meeting. Once awarded, construction on the project could go forward without further votes from the council.

In light of that, I wanted to offer my thoughts on how the vote could go. It seems unlikely that Johnson would call for a vote without some confidence that he had the three votes needed to award a contract, but by my estimation, he may not.

We know that Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim and Commissioner of Public Works Skip Scirocco will vote against the project, as both have cited numerous concerns relating to the project, and voted against it at every opportunity. Kim alleges that the approval process was improper, while also saying that he feels it is an improper expense in a time that requires fiscal constraint. Scirocco has cited concerns over increased traffic in the neighborhood and problems with drainage.

We know that Mayor Scott Johnson will vote for the project, as he has adopted this project as his own, and has fought for, shepherding it through several close votes before the council.

I don't feel comfortable saying with certainty that Commissioner of Finance Kenneth Ivins Jr. will vote for the project, but it seems that he probably will. He has always voted to advance the project, and although he has expressed misgivings about some elements of the projects, he has expressed even greater misgivings over wasting about $500,000 in tax payer money, which is the figure he cites as the city's total expenditure if the project were halted and abandoned at this stage.

That leaves us with Commission of Accounts John Franck. Franck has voted in favor of advancing the project thus far. BUT, in a Jan. 8 interview with this reporter, Franck said that he would not feel comfortable awarding a contract with an ongoing law suit. Has Franck had a change of heart? We will have to see tomorrow.

As far as the lawsuit goes, the city faced a suit naming three causes of action. Ann Bullock, of the Friends of the South Side Park, the group bringing the suit told me today that the city only responded to one of the causes of actions.

She did not want to discuss details because the case is still being adjudicated, but she was confident that the court would not throw the case out -- as the city had requested -- especially in light of the city's failure to answer three of the causes of action.

So, the bottom line in all of this is that tomorrow's meeting should be very interesting.

One final note, the City Council did not hold their traditional agenda meeting this morning, because of President's Day. The meeting will be held tomorrow, at which time Johnson could pull this item, in which case all of my typing is for naught.

Sunday, February 15

Advantage: Tedisco

If you own a home in the 110th Assembly District, you've probably seen a the mailer bearing a picture of Tedisco, and warning: "(insert your municipality here) Homeowners Beware..."

While the flier goes out of its way to not identify itself as campaign literature, and marks the "New York State Assembly" as its return address, the card looks strangely like campaign literature.

The substance of the flier outlines the dangers of Gov. David Paterson's proposed increase on taxes for homeowners, and rallying constituents to "Join Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in stopping tax hikes on homeowners by calling Governor Paterson at (518) 474-8390."

Even if not explicitly designed to promote the Republican Congressional candidate, the literature does a good job of positioning Tedisco on the homeowner's side, while also making the usual overtures to put the recipient in the shoes of the every-man/woman/taxpayer -- while also calling out thsoe evil Democrats.

Every member of the state legislatures has the ability to print and mail such materials to their consituents -- on legilsative matters. These privalges can't be abused for the purposes of a campaign, but there's clearly no need to. When the time comes to say "vote Tedisco," the Assemblyman from schenectady will have pleanty of money in his campaign war chest to print those announcements, and his state-funded cards will already have done a tremendous job at increasing his already considerable name-recognition around the district.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Scott Murphy will have to expend his own funds to accomplish the same goal. Just one of the many reason that make it easier to run whilest already in office.

Thursday, February 12

Skip Scirocco is a Republican

No, Department of Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco is not switching party affiliations.

But, I'm sure you can imagine my surprise this morning when Joe Dalton, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce told me that rumor had it, Scirocco was about to jump the GOP ship.

So, when I attended this afternoon's launch of Scott Murphy's congressional camapaign, I asked around a bit. All the Democrats there had heard the rumor, but none could confirm that there was any truth behind it. City Democratic Chairman Allen Turkheimer did have a hinting glint in his eye when he told me that Skid hadn't talked to him *yet.*

Scirocco has sided with Democrat Ron Kim on a number of issues -- but not all issues. Given his stance against GOP Mayor Scott Johnson on some issues, Scirocco switching parties wouldn't come as the biggest surprise, but it also doesn't seem neccessary, Scirocco has several accomplishments that he can point to in his reelection campaign, including new steps on City Hall, fixing the drainage on Nelson Avenue, South Broadway's new look, the newly-demolished Getty gas station (also on South Broadway) and yes, even with Thomas McTygue out of office, the streets have been cleared every time it snowed.

To put the rumor to the ultimate test, I asked Skip himself. His answer was a resounding "no." He pointed out that he's been a republican in all of his elected positions, and saw no reason to change.

So then we get to the question of why Dalton was spreading rumors, that apparently have legs enough to make it to most of the city's Democrats.

Are the higher-GOP powers getting sick of a commissioner who doesn't vote with his party-mates?

Wednesday, February 11

The 'Forgotten Neighborhood,' not satisfied

After my article in today's Saratogian about the issues between residents of the west side neighborhood sandwiched between St. Charles Place, West Avenue and Grand Avenue and the Developers Steven Kamen and Steven Komp, I received a phone message from one very dissatisfied area resident.

A Mr. Al Bonacio, presumably father of developer Sonny Bonaccio, called to express his displeasure.

"The articel is slanted toward the developers, and didn't help us at all," he alleges. For the record, Mr. Bonaccio was not present at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that I attended, though his wife, Linda, was.

Well, I suppose that when you call in the press, offer them stories about how tightly knit the community is, with people plowing each other's driveways and building wheelchair ramps, and claim that the developers are ruining the neighborhood's character, you expect the story's sole source.

I think that our readers deserve a more balanced approach, and that is why I reached out to the developers. When the developers tell me that they intend to find a way to make good on the neighbor's complaints, I have no reason not to take them at their word, and so that perspective gets written in to the story. The alternative would have been to serve as the resident's mouthpeice, and that is not my job.

Mr. Bonaccio also asked if we had read the group's position paper, which details the resident's complaints against Kamen and Komp. The answer is that yes, I did. It is true that the neighbors have listed several instances in which the developers have not made good on their word. I was not able to independantly jerify any of these, and as such, I didn't think it was fair to rake anyone over the coals.

However, I did leave one question unanswered in yesterday's story, and that is the question of enforcement. The city Planning Board is responsible for guiding development through the planning process, it is not their job to ensure that plans are followed to a 'T.' That is the role of the city's building department, which has responded to Kamen's failure to meet his approved site plane by granting him only temporary certificates of occupancy, which have been renewed every six months.

Should the building department have sharper teath?

Tuesday, February 10

Democrats show signs of life!

After a week of allowing Scott Murphy, candidate in the 20th Congressional District, to take shots from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democrats have finally fired back with this statement from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

On the same day, Murphy's campaign issued it's own statement, but you'll have to read the paper for that.

If anyone one was unconvinced that we were going to have an expensive race with financing from national committees, this should serve to convince you.

FACT v. FICTION: Tedisco’s Campaign Rhetoric Doesn’t Match Reality

Career Albany Politician Offers Double-Speak, Hypocrisy in Place of

Explanation for $20,000 in Taxpayer Funded Gasoline Expenses

Though it has been a full week since it was discovered that Albany politician Jim Tedisco has racked up over $20,000 in gasoline expenses on state funded vehicles, Tedisco’s campaign has yet to come completely clean with a proper explanation about the charges. While his campaign tried to attribute the costs to his leadership duties in the State Assembly, Tedisco’s campaign fails to account for costs that were racked up a full four years BEFORE Tedisco was the Republican Minority Leader. Coupled with a recently discovered misuse of taxpayer funded mail perks, one can’t help but wonder what other hypocritical behavior the Albany politician might be trying to hide.

“Each day seems to uncover a new level of hypocrisy and double-speak when it comes to career Albany politician Jim Tedisco. Jim Tedisco has failed to explain his use of tax payer funded cars and gasoline before he was an Albany leader which only reinforces Tedisco’s ‘do as I say and not as I do’ politics,” said Jennifer Crider, Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Times are tough, the last thing Upstate families need is double-talk from another career Albany politician like Jim Tedisco who spends their tax money on himself, while voters are left paying higher taxes each year.”

FICTION: Tedisco Claims He Used State Car for Minority Leader Business

According to the Hill newspaper, Tedisco claims that he only uses the state car for business around the state as minority leader.

According to the Hill:

Tedisco’s campaign rebuffed that charge, saying that Tedisco travels around the state as the assembly’s minority leader.

“It’s a bogus charge,” said Joshua Fitzpatrick, Tedisco’s spokesman. “He is the Republican leader of the New York State Assembly. He’s been out going to public hearings across the state. That’s just absurd.” [The Hill, 2/9/09]

FACT: Tedisco Used State Car for Four Years Prior to Becoming Minority Leader

Since 2001, Tedisco has been using a taxpayer-funded car for his travel and charged taxpayers over $6,600 for gas on his state car prior to becoming Minority Leader.

On two notable occasions in 2001, Tedisco charged taxpayers for substantial amounts of gas. On June 29, 2001, Tedisco charged taxpayers $413.80 for gas and on December 11, 2001, he charged $628.46 for gas. [New York State Assembly, Expenditure Reports, 1996-2008]

Tedisco became Minority Leader in late 2005. [Times Union, 12/22/05]


Tedisco Advocated for Cutting Spending on State Vehicles…
In 2008, Tedisco offered to cut spending on the state budget by suspending state vehicle purchases.

    • “How ‘bout if we suspend state vehicle purchases for ‘ya? Can we do some of that?” Tedisco asked Gov. Patterson. “We got a few ideas, Governor. Why don’t you bring us in the room and let us sit down and talk about some of these things.” [NY Leaders meeting transcript, 11/18/08; See 3:05 on:]

… But Spent Over $20,000 on Gas for State Vehicle

Tedisco began using a state funded vehicle in 2001 with oil and gas purchases provided by taxpayer dollars

From September 2000 through March 2008, Tedisco charged $21,343.76 in state vehicle oil and gas receipts, despite living only 17 miles from the Capitol. [New York State Assembly, Expenditure Reports, 1996-2008; Google Maps]

Tedisco’s office even provides his aide, Howard Becker, with a state vehicle, making him one of only three in the Assembly to have one. [Times-Union, 3/19/07]

Hundreds of Dollars Charged on Same Day in 2001

The oil and gas receipts in 2001 are notable for two occasions where substantial amounts were charged on the same day.

    • On June 29, 2001, a total of $413.80 was charged for oil and gas in three separate charges.
    • On December 11, 2001, a total of $628.46 was charged in five separate charges. [New York State Assembly, Expenditure Reports, 1996-2008]

August 9, 1987: Tedisco Slams Democrats for Sending Taxpayer-Funded Mail Outside District

On August 9, 1987, Tedisco attacked other Assembly Members for sending taxpayer-funded mail outside the district.

Tedisco, R- Schenectady, said mailing to opposition districts "is not observing legislative protocol and not helping the district." [Times Union, 8/9/87]

February 5, 2009: Tedisco Uses Taxpayer Money to Fund Political Mail Outside District

On February 5th 2009, local taxpayers received a piece of mail from the New York State Assembly touting the work that Tedisco has done.

One mailer arrived in the 12801 zip code, which is outside of Tedisco’s assembly district. [Tedisco State-Funded Mail, Arrived: 2/5/09; Assembly Member Search]

Monday, February 9

Real Estate and Gillibrand

In a clear statement that Saratoga Springs is still doing OK in the midst of this global economic collapse, the construction at 38 High Rock is going ahead full steam. I was trundled out, along with other members of the media, to witness a crane haul the last steel beam into place on the 44-unit gargantuan building.

So far, 12 of 44 units are under contract, and one of the project officials said that they expect to be half-sold by the time the building's skin is complete in another couple months.

Clearly, someone still has the cash for a down payment on a $1.5 million condo. So, has the housing bubble not quite burst yet, or is Saratoga riding down the backside of an ever-steepening bell curve of economic activity that will see a collapse -- just a collapse delayed by a few months?

In other news, the New York Times is apparently invading our territory with a story today about reactions to Senator Gillibrand's accent to the Senate. It's is not surprising that Gillibrand has tempered her views, now that she's accended to a higher office, and it's interesting to see how her constituents are reacting.

On a related note, I've heard some people complain that in addition to flip-flopping on gun control, gay marriage and immigration, Gillibrand also changed her stance on federal bailout policies. In the fall, she voted against Bush's $700 billion bailout, but is now supporting the Obama bailout.

Here's my supposition: The previous vote was taken to garner favor in her district on the eve of the election, so she voted the way the majority of her electorate wanted her to. Now in Senate, Gillibrand has to toe the party line, in order to get committee appointments, so she votes with the party. Plus, she likely believes, as do most Democrats, that Obama's stimulus package is neccessary to keep this country going through this downturn.

Sunday, February 8

The danger from above...

With this weekend's warm temperatures, I've noticed that a lot of ice has been coming off of buildings, crashing down onto sidewalks around town. One building in particular, across the street from our office here, has the victims of a somewhat catastrophic ice release, which sent a rain gutter crashing to the sidewalk.

Short of going up on the roof with a hair dryer, I'm not sure what can be done to prevent these ice blocks from coming down, but it's certainly something to be aware of, particularly as your walking around.

Anyone with a mountaineering background knows that if you hear ice coming down from above you, it's safer to run toward the building, covering the back of your head and neck with your hands and arms, than to run away from the building, as in many cases, the ice is falling from a protruding cornice or overhang. Be careful.

Thursday, February 5

Special Election?

A topic of much discussion of late, at least here in the newsroom, is when, oh when, will Gov. David Paterson call for a special election to fill the vacant seat in the 20th Congressional District.

At first, I thought the Governor would call for an election shortly after the two parties named their candidates. Now, it's been nearly a business week since the Democrats named Scott Murphy, and there has still been no call for an election. Today, the following statement found its way in to my inbox:

In order to determine the most appropriate time to ensure the fullest participation in the special election for the 20th Congressional District, Governor Paterson's counsel has reached out to both candidates, and is consulting with the Board of Elections and good government groups. While it is Governor Paterson's intention to have the election as soon as possible, it is also incumbent on the Governor's Office to select a date that will give as many people as possible the opportunity to vote while not disrupting the March 18 village elections and comply with election law.

It should be noted that while two candidates have been selected informally, both will be required to submit official certificates of nomination following the issuance of the Governor's proclamation.

Morgan Hook

Deputy Press Secretary

Governor David A. Paterson

So, the governor's staff is saying that he's waiting for the right spot on the calendar, but with the National Republican Congressional Committee taking pot shots at Murphy every three or four minutes, and with James Tedisco as a -- to gravely understate the matter -- formidable candidate squaring off across the aisle, Paterson is left with a sticky bit of politics at a time in which he's already been criticized for his handling of Senator Gillibrand's appointment.

As long as Tedisco is out on the campaign trail, he won't be causing too many problems in Albany. Should he be elected to Congress, he'll be causing even fewer problems in the state's capital. But, Paterson has to weight that heavily against the millions spent to catapult Kirsten Gillibrand into office in 2006, and to keep her there in 2008. That is a costly seat to loose to the GOP, and as long as it remains vacant there is one fewer Rebuplican in Washington. Perhaps Paterson is calling a time-out, of sorts, to figure out the party's best strategy in taking on Tedisco's machine?

Of course, there is also the matter of Tedisco's would-be vacant seat in the assembly. Once vacated, it's unlikely that the GOP would be able to hold that district, so one must wonder why Paterson is, in effect, delaying a second special election to fill that seat, likely with a member of his own party.

I don't know the governnor, and I don't have a clear sense of what he's thinking here, but one thing is clear: he isn't making any friends among the media by delaying a closely-watched election that should prove to be a boon to media outlets around the capital area.

Wednesday, February 4

Stimulus in town?

With President Barack Obama looking to use construction as a means to get this economy back on track, local administrators here are looking to see what state money they might be able to drum up. Here's a list of possibilities sent to the city's decision makers last week:

Local Schools

You undoubtedly know that the House version includes an anticipated $84 million in direct aid to local school districts in the eight (8) county “Capital Region.” Here in Saratoga County $11.5 million is earmarked for distribution over the next two years. The Saratoga Springs School District would receive $2.8 million, or over 24% of all additional aid to the county’s 11 school districts. Of the $2.8 million, $700,000 is for “construction” and $1.7 million is for IDEA/Special Ed Funding.

Saratoga County

Counties in the same eight (8) county “Capital Region” would receive $42.8 million out of a nationwide total of $100 billion for Medicaid assistance. Saratoga County would receive $5.3 million in 2009, or over 23% of its anticipated 2009 share of Medicaid costs. This might benefit the City if the county uses some or the entire windfall to free up a portion of its “fund balance” for distribution to its 30 MCDs.

The City

Transportation and Transit

Of course we already know that certain transportation improvements within the City that are on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) will be aided. The CDTC Planning Committee is presenting a comprehensive Economic Stimulus Program (ESP) for State and local transportation projects for Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. The list is divided between projects with 90 and 180 day delivery periods and which have TIP status.

At this time, New York expects to receive $1.4 billion for highway and transit projects. CDTC expects to receive between $80 million and $100 million for projects within the four county region.

There are five (5) transportation projects here in Saratoga Springs on the “Draft List of CDTC Candidate Stimulus Projects.” They are presented along with all proposed regional projects on the attached tabular summary and map. For ease of reference I have also summarized them below.

TIP No. Project PIN Amount Requested Earliest Let Date

SA216 Church St. Reconstruction 175714 $1.65 million May 9, 2009

SA181 Spring Run Trail 175593 $1.50 million June 15, 2009

SA221 Saratoga County Rte. 43 175707 $1.50 million June 15, 2009

(Geyser Rd.) over D&H RR

T84 Saratoga Bus Garage T84 $1.50 million June 15, 2009

SA201 Ballston Ave. Reconstruction 175660 $1.30 million April 15, 2011

(Union St. to Hamilton St.)

We are currently in the process of batching all Spring Run Trail work elements, easements, status of permits, etc.


HR 1 includes a $5 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund for building repair and modernization. $4 billion of these funds will be distributed to public housing authorities (i.e., the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority) through existing formula and $1 billion will be awarded through a competitive process for projects which improve energy efficiency.

The legislation also includes other housing related initiatives which the City may benefit from. Among these are the “Home Investment Partnerships” ($1.5 billion to help local communities build and rehabilitate low-income housing using “Green” technologies; and “Neighborhood Stabilization” ($4.2 billion to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties.

Community Development

$1 billion will be made available for grants to local communities to support employment, food, housing, and healthcare efforts serving those hardest hit by the recession. These “grants” will probably flow to CAAs such as EOC.

Another $1 billion will be set aside for Community Development Block Grants.

Law Enforcement

The Bill includes $4 billion to support state and local law enforcement including $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance formula grants for equipment and operation costs. I have attached a one page general description of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG).

Please note that “facility” construction is NOT eligible, but it is feasible the lockup (jail cells) of a new Public Safety Facility would be.

There is $1 billion for the COPS hiring grant program. The COPS grant program is expected to result in the hiring of 13,000 new police nationwide for three years. Grantees are responsible for at least 25% in matching funds and must commit to use local funds in the fourth year.

Of course this is only an initial examination, the Senate is yet to act and then presumably the legislation will go to conference committee. This is simply a brief overview of elements of the Stimulus Package that may directly benefit us. I hope you will find it informative.

Tuesday, February 3

Breaking news: GOP doesn't like Scott Murphy

It is with a deep sigh that I ease myself into what appears to be yet another mud-slinging campaign. This time, it's the National Republican Congressional Committee that's slinging the mud, throwing Democratic candidate for the 20th Congressional District, Scott Murphy, into the same boat as other Democrats the committee doesn't like.

Of course, as with most mud, there is some reason for concern, but I have to wonder if the fourteen press releases I received on the topic between today and Sunday were really warranted. We have yet to see Murphy fire back. Anyhow, here's the scoop:

Murphy Would Fit Right in with Washington Tax-Dodging Crowd
Like Rangel, Daschle, and Geithner, Scott Murphy is Looking for a Free Pass When it Comes to Paying His Taxes

WashingtonScott Murphy, the Democratic candidate in New York’s 20th Congressional District, must be taking lessons in tax evasion from his party’s elite, like corrupt Harlem Democrat Charlie Rangel and embattled Cabinet nominees Timothy Geithner and Tom Daschle.

According to state documents, Scott Murphy’s company, Small World Software, had failed to pay its business taxes, forcing the state to place a lien on the business:

“…the state placed a $20,805 lien on Small World Software -- the company Murphy founded -- on July 22, 1999…

“The documents also show two other liens -- one for $446 for unpaid withholding taxes and another for $298 in unpaid corporate taxes -- dating back to 1997,” (Glens Fall Post-Star, 02/03/2009).

If the situation sounds familiar, it’s because it’s happened before with influential Democrats in recent weeks:

“Representative Charles B. Rangel has earned more than $75,000 in rental income from a villa he has owned in the Dominican Republic since 1988, but never reported it on his federal or state tax returns,” (New York Times, 09/05/2008).

“[Treasury Secretary nominee Tim] Geithner failed to pay a total of $34,023 in taxes from 2001 to 2004. He paid some of it in 2006 after he was audited by the Internal Revenue Service, which he would oversee as Treasury secretary. He paid the rest after Obama expressed his intent to nominate him,” (Associated Press, 01/14/2009).

“…Thomas A. Daschle will return to Capitol Hill today in an unfamiliar role, summoned by former colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to defend his reputation and his nomination to be secretary of health and human services amid revelations that he did not pay more than $100,000 in back taxes,” (Washington Post, 02/02/2009).

“Scott Murphy may not ever make it to Congress, but he’d certainly fit right in with the Washington tax-dodging crowd that controls it,” said NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain. “He is dodging the truth as if he were dodging the IRS, but Murphy’s misrepresentations don’t change the fact that the company he has bragged about on his website has failed to pay taxes. Murphy failed to play by the rules, and now he is following the example of his Wall Street and Washington friends by refusing to take responsibility for his actions. Middle class families in New York are looking for someone who can offer solutions to their economic pain, not someone who is part of the problem.”

Monday, February 2


I can't even believe that this is happening, but I've now been hearing allegations of malfeasance regarding this weekend's "Chowderfest."

Apparently, there has been some confusion about the two categories related to dog chowder -- that's chowder made for dogs, not chowder made with dogs.

Here is an email I received that typifies the confusion:

I am really annoyed by this whole dog chowder contest.
I saw with my own eyes, the mayor's dog eat Impressions chowder first at the Chow Down. I see today that Sloppy Kisses has miraculously won the dog chowder contest. How does this happen?
I called Impressions and they said that someone told them that they were counting the ballots for the dog chowder and not the actual Chow Down. This is wrong. This is what is says on the Discover Saratoga website:

"Coming back for the second year in a row will be the "Dog Chow Down"! Starting at 1:00 pm at the Saratoga Downtowner Motel, a contest between the stores participating in making dog chowder will compete to win the "Best Canine Chowder" award. Already, there are three stores participating in this event! The doggy contestant for the 2nd year will be Mayor Scott Johnson's dog, Dr. Watson!"

I read that to mean that the winner is chosen at the Chow Down by Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson chose Impressions chowder first.
What are people supposed to think who stood there and saw that dog choose Impressions' chowder and then see someone else win the contest?? It makes me think that people are cheating and manipulating to win publicity over their competition.
I know the woman at Dawgdom and she said that the organizers told her to tell people NOT to use paper ballots for the dog chowder because it would be decided by the Mayor's dog. She sold 97 bowls of chowder.
This is lousy and someone needs to change it.

-A citizen in search of the truth

By way of explanation, here is my reply:

The category for 'best canine chowder' was voted for by dog owners who bought chowder for their pets. The Chow Down event, judged by the city's dog-in-chief, Dr. Watson, is a separate event. apparently did not fully understand the contests. Both Impressions and Sloppy Kisses were named as winners at today's press conference. My story in tomorrow's paper will clarify the difference.

I hope this allays some of your concerns, but I think you should keep in mind that the whole event is contrived to bring people into downtown on what might otherwise be a slow day for retailers. The actual contest is meant only for fun, I don't think the sort of malfeasance you're suggesting comes into play. I hope that this allays your concerns, AB

Now, perhaps it is somewhat suspect that the same business won the dog "chow down," for two years running, but my guess would be that it has more to do with the dog's preference (Dr. Watson was judge in the contest both years), than any kind of wrong-doing.

I hope that everyone keeps in mind that Chowderfest was fun, and meant to be nothing but.

Sunday, February 1

Dems name Congressional candidate...

Despite arguments made by other bloggers, it seems that a sleeper and little-known (to me, anyway), businessman from Glens Falls will be the Democratic candidate for the 20th Congressional District.

I don't know anything about Mr. Murphy, other than some very basic biographical information, so I leave the bulk of today's post to you, dear reader. What do you think of the dem's choice? Will he be the candidate to keep the nation's largest congressional district in the hand's of the donkeys? Or will Jim Tedisco, with much better name recognition, steam roll him and any other Democrat who stands in his way?

One thing is for sure, it's going to be a very interesting election. Speaking of which, does anybody know when Paterson is going to call for this election? Seems like it should be any day now.

I wanted to apologize for my sloth-like pace in posting this weekend's comments on the blog. I'll do my best to be faster in the future. Happy to Superbowl Sunday!