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

Thursday, July 30

Politics and the Saratoga Race Course

Yesterday morning, my day started off with a displeased voicemail from a reader who did not think that we should have run a brief article announcing Joanne Yepsen's formal campaign kick off. The story ran on the lower right side of Wednesday's front page, and this called, who is a noted member of our community, felt that on the opening day of track, we had no business putting news about the County Supervisor race on the front page.

As the caller pointed out, the race is not contested, as Yepsen and Matthew Veitch are the only two running for the two available seats. The caller went on to accuse Yepsen of grubbing the spotlight, and trying to grab every one's attention on the first day of the track.

The caller said that he was calling me because he assumed I'd written the story (which ran without a byline). In fact, I did not write the story, but I will respond to his complaints anyway.

We have run announcements of all other races that I have thus-far held announcements, and we have put them on the front page whenever possible. The decision to put Yepsen on the cover was a move made to be consistent. As far as her announcement's coinciding with opening day, that was a shrewd move on Yepsen's part, but certainly a race for representative office is at least as important as a bunch of gambling over at the track.

The world doesn't stop when the track opens, and we certainly can't be expected to ignore an important race just because there happens to be another news story happening at the same time.

For the record, I'd like readers to know that for the remainder of the summer and fall, I will be covering the race for Mayor, Commissioner of Public Safely, Commissioner of Finance, and Commissioner of Public Works. I will also cover the race for Commissioner of Accounts, although John Franck is running unopposed in that one.

County reporter Emily Donohue (583-8729 x213) will be covering county races-wide races, including the Saratoga Springs Supervisor, District Attorney and Sheriff.

Please make sure you are directing your complaints to the correct reporter.

Wednesday, July 29

Politics: local, national

In local politics, the ever-changing saga of the Independence Party, and the possibility of a primary continued to unfold Wednesday, when I heard that Republican Candidates endorsed by the Independence Party -- who might prefer not to fight a primary election to keep the line -- hired attorney James Walsh to represent them in their effort to challenge a petition to ballot, filed by members of the City Democratic committee last week.

The attorney would have been hired by the candidates, and not the Independence Party itself, said chairman Gordon Boyd, and candidates could not be reach for congress. But, if it is true, it would certainly indicate that the endorsed Ind. candidates are serious about avoiding a primary. Readers will remember Walsh from the spring, when he represented Assemblyman James Tedisco in his failed post-special election bid to win a seat in Congress.

On the national stage, U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy (who defeated Tedisco in the above-reference race) held a tele-town hall with constituents and press this evening, while in D.C. The call, which lasted about 40 minutes, allowed constituents to ask the congressmen questions.

Most of the questions concerned the federal legislatures efforts to create a new model for health insurance, which would provide a public option. Some callers wanted to know what Murphy was doing about it, other callers wanted to know why Murphy thought it was so important.

His answer was that he thinks it's important to provide citizens with cheaper health care options, and, being a former venture capitalist, he feels that good, old-fashioned capitalist competition is the best way to make it happen, while also working to reduce costs in the industry, particularly by fighting fraud.

One thing I noted was that of people on the call (or, at least, people asking questions on the call), were mostly from Saratoga County. There were several questions from Saratoga Springs, as well as at least two from Ballston Spa, and another from Rexford. Kinderhook was also represented, as was Glens Falls. But, I think the message to take away from that is that members of the community are engaged in what Murphy is up to, whether or not they agree with him. I think that kind of involvement is something we should all strive for, and be proud of.

Tuesday, July 28

Opening day of track

I will admit that I am one of those crotchety city residents who loves Saratoga most in the spring and early summer, and then again in the late summer and fall. It's pleasant outside, there's lots going on, and, perhaps best of all, the track is closed.

Today, on the eve of the first day of the 2009 meet, I hasten to add that I fully understand and appreciate the importance of the track to this community, and I am grateful for everything that it does for us. I will be on hand tomorrow for opening day, and will be covering all of the action for Thursday's paper.

But, I don't look forward to the noise and hoopla that accompanies the track, spilling out of the Union Avenue gates onto Caroline Street, Broadway, and all other areas of downtown. Maybe I'd be more excited about it all if I were into gambling, but, simply put, I can't afford to loose any money, so I abstain.

The other consequence of the track opening tomorrow is that some offices in City Hall will go on virtual hiatus, as work to keep up with the influx of thousands of people suddenly steals focus from more mundane matter that can be dealt with as easily in September as they can in August.

The Planning Board does it right, taking a month-long break in August, and presumably heading for the hills, or else taking up seats in the grandstand -- I'm not sure which.

Last year's opening day was marked by copious rain. I can only hope that his year will be dry. After all, if I'm going to be out there, I'd prefer not to get wet.

Friday, July 24

That's a whole lot of nothing.

You can read a full account of the groundbreaking at the GlobalFoundries microchip factory in tomorrow's paper, but here's the brief version.

My first observation, upon arriving at the site, was that it is one huge clear cut. You know that it's a 223-acre site, but you can't really conceive of what that means until you behold it in front of you.

I saw a similar clear cut when Skidmore College constructed its Northwoods Apartments, and I remember having a similar reaction, but this project is a whole order of magnitude larger. The giant skidders, graders and dump trucks moving around the site looked as small as Tonka toys from the press conference site.

A retention basin could swallow The Saratogian whole -- and no, I'm not talking about the Sunday edition, I mean the whole building.

Based on words spoken at the event, the project's economic impact in the area should be equally mammoth. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, July 22

What tangled webs

At the kick-off of Ron Kim's campaign for mayor earlier this afternoon I had the chance to catch up with former mayor Valerie Keehn.

When asked about Ron Kim's chances for election, she spoke at length about what a poor job she feels Scott Johnson is doing as mayor. Still bitter? Perhaps, but she did have a legitimate complaint about the Independence Party.

The party has asked its members not to sign petitions that aim to get other candidates onto the ballot as write-in candidates -- a process that several Democrats are hoping will allow them to primary the Independence line, which is viewed as important in November's election. A letter sent by Independence city chairman Gordon Boyd said that the endorsed candidates were chosen by a party committee, and he asked for the voter's support for them, noting that other candidates are "likely to raise taxes."

However, this stance is at odds with statements about voter participation made on the state party's website. Basically, Keehn is saying that if the party is all about voter choice, the voters should have the right to choose who gets a spot on their line come November, and not a committee

The basis for her complaint is not really about the Independence Party's possible double-talk, but more about who comprises the city's Independence Party slate of candidates. For the most part, the endorsed candidates are Republicans.

OK, that's all well and fine. Those candidates were interviewed, deemed to fit the proper message, and were duly endorsed. The same can be said of Commissioner John Franck and Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, who have also been endorsed.

The trouble lies with the chairman himself, Boyd, as well as Ed Miller, candidate for Public Works.

Both are former (current?) allies of deposed Commissioner of Public Works Thomas McTygue. The same could be said of Franck, although he seems to be aligning himself more closely with Kim these days.

Keehn's objection is that Boyd, under the mantle of the Independence Party, is, in her view, continuing to advance McTyuge's agenda of 2007 -- oust Keehn AND her friends. Politics are politics and rivalries are nothing new, but if I were a voter registered in the Independence Party, I would want candidates that truly fit the party's agenda, and not candidates advanced because of a rivalry among members of another party.

Tuesday, July 21

Planning Board preview

I didn't get a chance to write a preview of Wednesday's Planning Board meeting for Wednesday's paper, but there will be a meeting (if you're wondering why, it's because when given the choice between writing about politics and development I've almost always chosen politics.)

But, since the meeting is happening, I thought it bore mentioning here. This will be the last meeting before the board takes it's customary August break. Only three applications on the agenda, none of which should be too contentious.

The most interesting, I think, item on tomorrow's agenda comes as the last item, as a staff discussion. At tonight's City Council meeting, the body voted to apply for open space preservation money from the county to to purchase 5 acres on Kaydeross Avenue East, to preserve existing public access to Kayderosseras Creek. The purchase would cost about $60,000, with the city contributing up to half, if it is successful in securing a county grant.

The Planning Board agenda does not offer any hints about what, exactly, will be discussed, but it should be interesting nonetheless.

As far as the regular agenda:

First up, we have the proposed development at 60 Weibel Avenue. Applicant Landmark RES LLC, represented by the LA Group, are proposing to build 20,000 square feet of commercial space, 65 one-bedroom residential units and 110 two-bedroom units in a collection of buildings on a 12.6-acre parcel.

Although the parcel is zoned T-4, urban neighborhood, it is hard to imagine intensive development in the suburban-feeling Wilton. For more back ground on the project, read this story. The application is coming for a continued public hearing.

Next up, we have a proposed cell tower off of Route 50. The tower, which is designed to address a dead spot between Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa, is coming before the board for a site plan review.

Previously, the tower was the subject of a joint meeting of all three of the city's land use boards.

Finally, there is a public hearing regarding a special use permit for 129-135 Maple Avenue , in a T-5 zone. The property is currently occupied by two Victorian buildings, which house rental units. Development of a larger building has been proposed for the site, which is across Rock Street from the Old Bryant Inn.

Monday, July 20


(Albany, NY) Just days after new research from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study of 140,000 women, indicated clear health benefits relating to breastfeeding for the mother and newborn, the New York State Senate has passed the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights (S1107A).

Sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), this legislation is based on the recognition that many women forego the option of breastfeeding their child, despite the health and economic implications of using formula. Oftentimes, women who forego breastfeeding are those who can least afford it—low-income women, whose child was often placed on formula shortly after birth, without their knowing. Once a newborn has adapted to formula it is nearly impossible to switch to breastfeeding.

The legislation is designed to be educational, so that every new mothers can make a fully informed decision—many will continue to find that formula is the best option, but hopefully even more will realize the benefits of breastfeeding and make that choice.

Many studies have shown that there are fewer medical problems and hospital stays for breastfed infants, which translates into lower healthcare costs and workplace absenteeism. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports extended breastfeeding because it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancers in breastfeeding mothers. Other benefits include a lower risk of adult-onset diabetes and osteoporosis.

Additionally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports extended breastfeeding because it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancers in breastfeeding mothers. Other benefits include a lower risk of adult-onset diabetes and osteoporosis.

“This is good for baby and this is good for mom,” said Senator Krueger. “Women are often made to feel ashamed when they breastfeed, and oftentimes if they start, quit after a few weeks. Women are buying expensive, less healthy formulas when they can’t even afford food for themselves. It makes no sense. It is time that we as a society stop being hung up on breasts -- after all 51% of us have them evolutionarily engineered for feeding babies -- and start doing what is right for the health and well-being of our newborns and moms.

She added, “This is common-sense legislation that empowers and supports these new mothers by providing them the information they need prior to, and after the birth of their infant so they can make the best decisions for their child and themselves."

The Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights requires that new mothers be informed of breastfeeding options before they deliver, while in the maternal healthcare facility, as well as after leaving that facility. In addition, it bans commercial interests (formula providers) from pressuring new mothers while in maternal facilities. Included within the Bill of Rights:

· Before You Deliver: The right to information free from commercial interests, which provides the nutritional, medical and psychological benefits of breastfeeding; An explanation of some of the problems a mother may encounter, and how to avoid or solve them.

· In the Maternal Healthcare Facility: The mothers' right for her baby to stay with her after delivery to facilitate beginning breastfeeding immediately; to insist the baby not receive bottle feeding; to be informed about and refuse any drugs that may dry up breast milk; 24 hour access to the baby with the right to breastfeed at any time.

· When You Leave the Maternal Healthcare Facility: The right to refuse any gifts or take-home packets, distributed by the maternal healthcare facility, that contain commercial advertising or product samples; access to breastfeeding resources in one's community.

The Assembly has also passed this legislation and it is awaiting action by the Governor.

“This is common sense legislation and I applaud Senator Krueger for her diligence over the last several years, in developing this bill and getting it passed by both houses,” said Senate President Malcolm A. Smith. “We have to do what is right for our children, and make sure that new mothers have the information they need to make the choice that is best for themselves and their new baby.”

“The scientific evidence in favor of breastfeeding is compelling and this bill will help new mothers to make informed decisions,” said Senate Health Committee Chair Thomas K. Duane (D-Manhattan). “Among other provisions, the Breastfeeding Bill of Rights will ensure that commercial interests do not improperly interfere with this important postnatal decision.”

"As basic as some of these rights are, they are consistently violated. There is a very real problem of women feeling pressured out of breastfeeding because the information they received early in their child's life was manipulated by commercial interests more concerned with their bottom line. The Federal government's Healthy People 2010 initiative has set a goal of increasing rates of breastfeeding mothers to 75% upon birth, and 50% until six months of age. It is critically important to support women who choose to breastfeeding their newest family member,” Krueger concluded.

Thursday, July 16

New Senatorial candidate takes stance on homosexuality

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed by Governor David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's seat in January, knows that she is facing a primary challenge in 2010 from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

She may also be interested to learn that Saratoga Springs resident Tom Torgesen plans to challenge her as well.

Torgesen called me earlier today to talk about gay men and women in the Navy. He said that Gillibrand spoke yesterday about "forcing homosexuals into the Navy" (his words are in quotation marks in this post), and he was calling me to say that he was staunchly opposed to that position. For the record, I was unable to find any news coverage of Gillibrand's discussion of this topic, and her press office stated that she has not addressed the matter publicly in some time. But, that is neither her nor there.

This blog post is about a senatorial candidate's position on the issue of gay men and women serving in the Navy.

Why doesn't Torgesen think the Navy should be made to accept gay men and women?

"It's a sin. Homosexuals, according to God's word, can't make a sound judgement. Most guys in the Navy don't want homosexuals in the Navy. They're doing the fighting, so we should give them what they want," said Torgesen.

What if gay men and women want to be allowed to fight for their country?

"Find another place to go, find another country. Homosexuality is from Hell, we don't need any Hell in the Navy."

Torgesen said to me that God's word should be used to govern the nation, and when I asked him about the first amendment to the Constitution, which is generally interpreted as creating a separation between church and state, he refused to answer my question, calling it "unlearned."

Torgesen said that he served in the Navy from 1970 to 1977. As a man running for public office, and a rather high one at that, I thought he might like to discuss his service in greater detail, so I asked him where he served.

He responded with a question: "Have you served in the Navy?"

I have not.

"Then I'm not telling you a damn thing."

Imagine what would have happened if John McCain had offered this response when asked about his time in the military during Vietnam. Same for John Kerry. Perhaps, like George W. Bush, Torgesen only did a brief stint in a reserve unit and is embarrassed to admit it. Who knows. If he did see active duty, he's not talking about it, at least not to me.

As a candidate for Senate, I am also concerned about Torgesen assertion that, if elected, he would ask to be placed on active duty.

"I don't believe in sending men or women into battle and sitting behind a desk. George Washington set the example."

In one final twist to the conversation, Torgesen refused to give me his phone number. No candidate for any post has ever previously refused to give me their phone number. Most offer it up freely, in hopes that I'll call to write more about them. Instead, he asked me to drop by his home.

No matter, the white pages took care of things for me.

Tom Torgesen is running for Senate. If you would like more information on his campaign, write to Tom Torgesen, 258 Caroline Street. Or, call (518) 587-2719.

By the way, he says he's a Democrat.

Wednesday, July 15

Further FOIL updates

Some time ago, I updated readers on The Saratogian's ongoing quest to secure a copy of police and fire labor contracts, as well as a copy of the police policy manual that regulates operations in that department.

Today, I received word from City Hall that we will be receiving the contracts in short order (probably tomorrow or Friday.)

City Hall, and specifically the Department of Public Safety, maintains that some parts of the document are too sensitive to be released to the public, so we will not have access to the entire document, but it seems that the city will provide us with 137 pages (form still to be determined -- either paper of pixels) of the manual.

Now that we appear to be near getting these documents in hand, I am wondering what readers would like us to report from them. Feel free to weigh in.

Tuesday, July 14

Potato Fraud

Earlier today, my co-worker Mareesa Nicosia posted on her blog about two new brands of potato chips, both claiming to be the "original" Saratoga chip.

One brand is produced by the Saratoga Salsa and Spice Company, the other is being market by the Saratoga Specialties Company, and are being called Moon Brand Original Saratoga Chips. Both are being sold in area stores. The Salsa and Spice Company's chips are just being called Saratoga Potato Chips.

We received a sample of the Moon Brand chips today, and I think we were all a little excited to discover what was inside the fancy packaging -- a cardboard box with an old-timey image on the cover. Upon sampling, however, we discovered that the "Saratoga Chips" were indistinguishable from any other store-bought potato chips. The packaging also revealed that the chips are made not in Saratoga, but in Pennsylvania.

To the best of my knowledge (and the consensus of the Newsroom), what distinguishes a Saratoga chip from any other potato chip is that it is thicker and it is spiced, at least, that is how they are served in area restaurants. The Moon Brand chips were both thin and spice-free (save a healthy dose of salt). So, I'm not sure how those chips qualify as "Original Saratoga Chips." Must be the box.

Ordinarily, I would eat free potato chips, throw away the garbage and be done with it, but Moon Brand purveyor Danny Jameson called the newsroom twice to complain that he hadn't received his own post on Mareesa's blog.

Maybe he ment to call advertising?

We haven't sampled the Spice Company's chips yet, but unless they've got a healthy dose of aromatic spices, I'm prepared to strip the mantle of "original" from both of these products.

George Crum is turning in his grave.


Steve here. Hello.

I've snuck into the City Desk blog again because I thought this was worth getting all your opinions on:

In an Op-Ed piece yesterday in the New York Times, Rick Lazio (you all remember him, right? The would-be state senator from Long Island defeated by Hillary Clinton in 2000 and now a potential candidate for governor next year) is putting the call out to convene a state Constitutional Convention.

Nothing odd there. I doubt I'm alone in my belief that, given the nonsense of the last month, it's a necessary step. I think the interesting kicker, though, is that he wants to see a unicameral legislature established.

"Unicameral" takes me back to fourth-grade social studies.

Maybe it's a good idea; I don't have an opinion on it just yet. But I really don't see it happening.

What are all your thoughts?

Monday, July 13

Silipigno's self serving rehtoric (take II)

Earlier today, I stumbled upon another press release issued on behalf of Spa City businessman David Silipigno. This one states that Silipigno derives good feelings from work that he has done on behalf underprivileged children in and around Saratoga County. We've seen something like this before.

The press release (published on, references the Northwoods Health System.

Of course, readers probably better-remember Silipigno as the guy whose Broadway offices were raided by the FBI and other agencies back in June. Sill no word on what, exactly they were looking for, however, Silipgino's latest venture,, has apparently "merged into another organization's business model." Whatever that means.

Silipigno has still not been returning phone calls on the mater.

In other news, Silipigno's attorneys filed an action in Ballston Spa today, challenging the assessment of his Meadowbrook home.

The home, at 36 Stony Brook Drive, is assessed at $7.6 million. The action alleges that based on market value estimates, the assessment should be $2.1 million. The assessment had previously been challenged before the Board of Assessment Review, which denied a request for an assessment change.

So, even if is gone, it's good to see that Silipigno still has the funds to challenge his home's assessment.

Friday, July 10

A staple bids SPAC adieu

Darci Kistler, a 30-year member of the New York City Ballet, will give her final performance at SPAC tomorrow. Kistler, the last member of the ballet hand-selected by ballet founder George Balanchine, will retire next year, ending her 28-year stint as principal in the ballet.

I've just returned from an interview with Ms. Kistler, and will have a feature article on her, her career, and the next stage of her life in the Sunday Saratogian. Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, July 9

School district: Hang your head in shame

About six weeks ago, I wrote a story about a boy and his mother who rode their bikes to the Maple Avenue Middle School -- only to be reprimanded for breaking the school's no-riding-to-school rule.

Locally, bicycle advocates and anyone not given to semi-paranoid beliefs that there is a pedophile hiding behind every tree spoke out against the policy, and the school board duly agreed to re-consider the policy during their summer recess -- we followed the story through several meetings, and articles on the topic can be found here.

I had just about forgotten about the story, as school was over for the year, and peace was seemingly restored to the school-aged set, but I received an email earlier today from the Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network's Doug Haller, alerting me that the story had garnered some attention in a few other outlets.

The story was mentioned in posts Tuesday on both Switchboard, a blog hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Big Blog, hosted by the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Clearly, both of these blogs are putting forth an agenda -- and that agenda includes promoting bicycling as a viable method of getting around, and as a legitimate alternative to buses. And, that's an agenda that I'm OK with.

Thanks to both blogs of seeking out my story, and for putting it for more readers to see and digest.

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I regularly rode my bike to school with friends. It was faster than walking, and -- I think -- more fun. Having been properly trained to ride in and around traffic by our parents, we were always safe as we rode, and we were never threatened by child molesters either.

In addition to doing something good for the environment, riding to school gave my friends and I a feeling of Independence -- a feeling that I would hope Spa City parents and schools would want for their students.

Wednesday, July 8

Rick says good bye

Well, it seems that I forgot to mention that I was going on vacation. My apologies, especially to those who spent the holiday weekend wondering why their comments had not yet been posted. Rest assured that I am now back at work, and have posted all of the comments I found pending upon my return.

Although I did not attend last night's City Council meeting (I was enjoying the final hours of my time away), it seems as though it was business as usual, with members of the council arguing over the adequacy of the budget cuts, and members of the public yelling at the council over the need to install a water main on Gilbert Road.

See, I leave for a few days and everything stays the same! Well, not quite everything is the same. Chief Photographer Rick Gargiulo has moved on to greener pastures, namely Ellis Hospital. Rick has been a part-time X-ray tech at the hospital for quite some time, and he recently accepted an offer for a full-time gig at the hospital, which will leave him with a slightly more-favorable schedule, and more time to pursue freelance photography.

Although Rick and I often differed on matters of politics, citizenship, and economies of scale, he was a fun presence in the office and a talented photog. We'll sure miss him!

For the time being, Rick's departure has left us with only one full-time photog, Ed Burke, although I've heard that we're going to replace Rick in the near future.

That's all for today.

Wednesday, July 1

Union follow up

In the wake of yesterday's protest by DPW workers outside the City Center, and a blog post here on Monday, I've been taken to task on a few issues, including an anonymous protester calling me biased against unions.

I think some of the allegations of bias stem from an editorial written by Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo, which did side with the city, agreeing that the pay increases requested by CSEA are not affordable to the city. I, however, have done my best to present both sides of the continuing wrangling over the city's expired labor contracts. If there are specific areas where readers think I can improve, please give me specific suggestions.

It was also mentioned to me that the paper did not contain any real suggestions for revenue enhancements. Lombardo's key suggestion has been to change the way police and fire over time is administered so that less-senior officers (who earn a lower wage) get preference on OT. This may or may not be a feasible suggestion, especially given that the OT structure is a long-established formula, and changing it wouldn't be easy -- but I do think it's a real suggestion.

Obviously, paid parking is out there too.

If you won't like those, and property taxes are not the answer, another thought might be to increase the contribution of CSEA employees toward their healthcare. Although some employees already contribute, the amount is minuscule compared to contributions made by private sector workers. This isn't a revenue enhancement so much as a cost savings, but less money out is always a good thing. Of course, this is being discussed, although CSEA prefers to save on a Canadian prescription plan, rather than making a contribution.

Oops, I suppose I just my bias show again.

I was also chided by union reps on Tuesday for numerous references to an inflatable rat that was expected to appear at the rally. It didn't show, and the stated reason was the weather. However, upon arriving, I was told that the rat's appearance was only a rumor. Not true. A CSEA spokeswoman told me directly that the rat would appear last week.

Perhaps the rat stayed home because the union recognized that it had already curried enough bad-sentiments, and that bringing the rat would only serve to inflame the situation.