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

Tuesday, April 27

Yepsen for NYS Senate in the 43rd (or so we hear)

Rumors are swirling around a supposed campaign announcement this week that would pit Saratoga County Supervisor Joanne Dittes Yepsen (D) against Joe Bruno's handpicked successor for the 43rd Senate district Roy McDonald (R).

Today the Saratogian received a call from a mysterious man calling himself "Steve", we'll call him "Mr. E. Steve", saying that Yepsen will host an event at 2 p.m. Thursday at an undisclosed location to make an undisclosed announcement. What it appears Mr. Steve doesn't know is that DSCC officials have already confirmed she will be announcing her campaign this Thursday.

Also today, an anonymous source with knowledge of the race told us, "There is heavy speculation that Joanne Yepsen will run against Roy McDonald." We'll be running news of the announcement when more details are available tomorrow, and I'll see you all "somewhere" Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, April 21

Silly goo-goos, reporting is for reporters

Read an interesting report on an Albany-based blog today about a new event being planned by the state's "good government" groups AKA goo-goos. They have invited state leaders, including our Governor, who has proven politically impotent without a campaign, to appear before the public and go "on the record" with their plans for reforming state government.

As a former intern of one of these groups I can't help but be amused by this initiative. Here is the comment (with minor edits for clarity) I've posted at the blog where I read the release:
This is just silly. These officials go "on the record" every time they talk to reporters. Is the idea that they will become more open and willing to enact real reform in front of a live audience? Isn't that what Capital Tonight does? Is there some sort of populist, tea-party-esque aspect to this event that is going to scare these people into complying with the demands of the public?

Or maybe having that many advocacy groups in one room will make them think twice about changing the institutionalized graft that gives incumbents the power to raise obscene campaign funds and then draw their own district lines to ensure their seats stay conformed to the specific shape of their derrières.

As a capital area newspaper reporter, I’m offended by the implication that we don’t do enough to hold elected officials accountable. And as someone who has worked for NYPIRG, maybe they could try mobilizing their network of students for events other than internal board meetings and retreats. It seems like there are two few activists and too many bureaucrats anywhere you look in Albany.

Information on the event can be found here.

Tan v. green, and work in progress

4/20 came and went yesterday at Skidmore without as much as a puff from the student body, in public anyway. Officials told me today that their was a maximum of 51 students on the lawn near Haupt Pond at the "stoning hour" and that campus safety issued zero citations throughout the day.

I spoke with and overheard several students yesterday who said the holiday had moved indoors due to this year's additional scrutiny. One student mentioned a potential gathering in one of the Northwoods Apartments, but clammed up when I identified myself as a reporter (from that local rag that rained on the pot parade no less). There was also mention of a possible marijuana themed hike through campus trails.

Local T.V. news coverage I caught this morning characterized the event as a failed pro-cannabis protest. From our coverage last year and after speaking with several students I have never been under the impression that there was ever any political statement intended.

My question to Skid Kids, why not? As mentioned in the paper and on this blog earlier this week, the issue of cannabis legalization has a history of peaceful public displays of disobedience. Yesterday I expected students to react to the increased authority presence in one of two ways: sitting around smoking cigarettes and reminiscing about the good ol' days when 4/20 was an unofficially sanctioned "community event", or a critical mass would gather, light up, and wait for officials to make the first move. The latter would've made my day a hell of a lot more interesting.

My point is, you can't pack your pipe and smoke it too. If smoking on the lawn on 4/20 was important to students, they would've started organizing last year, invited Ron Paul and Woody Harrleson, and had a U of C Boulder style demonstration or some sort of pro-pot presentation.

This year proved that Skidmore's cannabis quotient is a non-issue. College students are inevitably going to use illegal substances on any given hour of any given day on any given campus, typically without conviction. Now we just have to wait for this year's "reefer madness" list to be released in July.

Now that that's out of the way, I am working on getting the grand tour of the site of the indoor recreation center for an update piece. At last night's City Council meeting Rec. Director Linda Terricola identified the center as the new home of Camp Saradac starting this year. After walking by the site over the past few weeks I am very interested in seeing how close crews are to completing the project that played a large part in the 2008 city election.

As always, tips are always appreciated. 583-8729 ext. 219.

Monday, April 19

The politics of pot

I'm watching the comments appearing below my story on public cannabis consumption at colleges across the country on April 20 with great interest. It should be no surprise that one of my goals in writing this story was to mitigate a conversation about the social effects and politics of marijuana and avoid the string of personal pot-shots (pun intended) taken at Skidmore students, faculty, staff, law enforcement and the Saratogian last year.

To re quote Judy Ekman, outgoing executive director of the Saratoga County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Council, “People tend to generalize on the negative and not generalize on the positive.”

No one busted for possessing a small quantity of marijuana as a first offense on Tuesday is going to be locked up, as some readers seem to believe. According to Saratoga County D.A. James A. Murphy III, most first time offenses are dismissed under the condition that the charged attend some form of substance abuse counciling.

According to NYS Penal Law, first time offenses are violations subject to a fine up to $100. The public consumption of marijuana is a class-B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail.

For substantive conversation's sake, here is an update on efforts to legalize marijuana in the state of New York.

There are bills in both the Senate and the Assembly (S.4041-b/A.9016) this year that would legalize marijuana possession and use for patients with "severe debilitating or life-threatening" conditions. The policy would also require the Department of Health to issue registry identification cards to certified patients and caregivers, and outlines registration requirements for certified sellers and producers. The measure is written into the Senate's 2010 budget proposal, but who knows when that is going to be sorted out.

The information out there on the overall medical effects of marijuana are largely inconclusive because the drug itself is rarely used in labs that instead use a synthesized version of THC (
delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol A.K.A. the stuff that gets people high).

What is known about the drug through years of cultural analysis is that it induces a state of mild euphoria that has a psychological effect on users for better (ie. those suffering from debilitating pain due to illness) or worse ( ie. those who cant figure out why their car is moving so fast on the way back from the Phish show when the speedometer only says 20 MPH).

The way I see it, if you can prescribe someone enough pills for pain reduction that they could potentially commit suicide, it shouldn't be that hard to allow patients access to marijuana, a drug from which it is "virtually impossible to overdose".

A majority of New Yorkers appear to think that legalization of cannabis for medical use is a good idea.

Wednesday, April 14

Sweeney in the clink

Ex. Rep. John Sweeney, who used to represent New York's 20th Congressional District (pre-Murphy, pre-Gillibrand) decided to get an early start on his 30-day sentence in Saratoga County Jail, following a conviction on his second DWI. Tonight will mark his first night in the slammer.

Click here to read more.


Tuesday, April 6

$2,230,000 & event information

As some of you may know, tonight at 6 p.m. the City Council will meet
for their third budget workshop in just less than a month. I've been hearing reports from all over (inside and outside City Hall) that Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins has found undedicated funds somewhere that could make up for a chunk of the $2.23 million deficit.

Ivins has been tight lipped about the existence of those funds, where they may have come from, and how they would affect the budget. You would think someone in his position would want that type of news to be reported sooner than later. While interviewing officials yesterday I
found it odd that while the Accounts department was given a new bottom line, Commissioner Wirth and Mayor Johnson were simply told to aim lower.

Commissioner Scirocco gave me no indication that he had received notification that the amount would be decreased, agreeing that the number stood at $500,000.

Other papers have reported that the deficit had been lowered due to better than expected sales tax numbers, but Ivins said yesterday that $2.23 million was the number to reach.

I guess we'll get the answers tonight.

Tonight's workshop will not feature a public comment portion, but privilege of the floor will be allowed at the beginning of the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. A budget workshop with public comment is scheduled at 6 p.m. April 14 in the council chamber.

There are a few upcoming events not (directly) budget related worth checking out.

This Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Saratoga Springs Public Library non-partisan charter review group Saratoga Citizen will formally announce plans to put the Council-Manager Form of government on the ballot this November. "Focus on the future" will be the theme of the meeting.
Also, on Saturday, April 17 at the Saratoga Hilton a retirement party will be held for former Saratoga Springs Police Chief Ed Moore. Cocktails will be served at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow a 7.

Tickets can be purchased for $48, that price includes a five dollar donation to not-for-profit support group Kelly’s Angels Inc. The group benefits local children who have lost a parent to cancer.

You can RSVP and get ticketing info by contacting Moore at or 518-588-7497 by April 10. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Thursday, April 1

Dear "anonymous",

There have been a series of comments I have chosen not to post from an anonymous reader who claims the mayor and Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins have "announced" a new round of layoffs to department and union heads, quoting exact numbers of DPS and DPW employees set to be let go.

The reason I have decided not to post these comments is because when I called the mayor, Commissioner Ivins, and union reps, they all said that this so called "announcement" never happened.

For those of you who have valid tips, please contact me directly. If you have a tip with soild info that I can follow up on and get some answers, I'm all ears. If you want to remain "anonymous" for publication purposes, so be it. If I burnt my sources, I wouldn't be a very good reporter.

That said, you can reach me at or 583-8729 ext. 219. I'm also in the office Mon-Thurs usually from 10 a.m. until around 7 p.m.

Regardless if you wish to remain anonymous in print, I'm going to ask you your name if you call with a tip.


Brooklyn senator starts campagin against sagging pants

If this is an April Fools Day joke, it is very, very well executed.

According to the New York Times today: "Brooklyn residents awoke Thursday to the sight of two ''Stop the Sag'' billboards -- and more were on the way, organizers said. The signs show two men in jeans low enough to display their underwear. The billboards were bankrolled by state Sen. Eric Adams, who also made an online video to send his message: 'You can raise your level of respect if you raise your pants.'"

Check out the videos below or Topeka "Stop the Sag" for more stories.

While you're on YouTube make sure to check out their new TEXTp feature. If you think 1080p looks good, wait until you see this.