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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, January 27

Saratoga Citizen will present financial analysis, council not likely to attend

The following is correspondence between Mayor Scott Johnson and Saratoga Citizen organizer Pat Kane regarding the meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., Jan. 31 at Saratoga Springs Public Library for the presentation of the group's fiscal analysis. After reading this and speaking to council members today, I am pretty sure the council will not be appearing at said meeting.

Look for an upcoming story on this issue set to be published this weekend.

Letter to Saratoga Citizen 1-24-11

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Monday January 31st at 7:00
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:28:16-0500
From: Patrick Kane
To:'Scott Johnson',
CC: Brent Wilkes

Scott Johnson


Saratoga Springs NY

Mr. Johnson,

Per your request, Saratoga Citizen Inc. will be presenting a fiscal note presentation to the council on Monday January 31st at 7:00 PM at The Saratoga Springs Public Library

Please join us in The Community Room on Monday evening.

I am traveling this week, so please contact me via cell phone listed below if I can be of help.

Thank you

Pat Kane

Letter to Saratoga Citizen 1-26-2011

Also, there was some question about when the vote occurred to approve the contract with Barton & Loguidice for design and installation of new gas pumps at the DPW garage. Video of the vote is posted at the city's website.

Tedisco wants the state to stay "O.U.T." of debt, Gibson appointed to Rebublican Policy Committee

Some updates from the inbox; Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga) has introduced the O.U.T. (Over-Expenditure/Under-Expenditure/Transfer-Notification) of Debt Act following the discovery of overspending by the former state Senate Democratic majority.

According to a release, the legislation would require the Comptroller to be immediately notified of any over-expenditure of taxpayer monies and that all leftover funds are allocated to the general fund to pay down debt, unless the Governor and Legislature deem otherwise. If state agencies fail to comply, the Comptroller would be mandated to cancel any unapproved over-expenditures/under-expenditures or transfers.

“For New York’s government it should be O.U.T. with end of the year spending binges. Too many agencies attempt to empty their coffers at the end of the year to justify their budgets. This is when deficits build up,” said Tedisco.

Updated 3 p.m. - The bill is currently being drafted and will be introduced soon.

In Washington; Congressman Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) was appointed by House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price of Georgia to the Policy Committee for the 112th Congress.

“With his extensive military and education background, Congressman Gibson will provide significant contributions to the Policy Committee’s work,” said Price in a release on the appointment.

“I was honored to accept this appointment to the House Republican Policy Committee under the leadership of Chairman Price, and am looking forward to the opportunity to expand the number of issues on which I can have an impact. As every American is aware, our country is facing a number of significant challenges as we try to improve our economy and build a better future,” said Gibson.

Front Page: Saratoga Citizen to present financial report Monday, state ethics bill being discussed behind closed doors

Good morning! I'll be off starting tomorrow until Tuesday, when the City Council is scheduled to meet beginning at 6:50 p.m. for the firetruck hearing.

A few notes I didn't manage to get in yesterday; I keep getting calls about Saratoga Citizen's New York State Board of Elections disclosure form being late, despite my earlier post explaining that they are late to file and are reportedly working on it.

I spoke with group organizer Pat Kane yesterday. He said he would be completing the report last night and submitting it to the state, so we can look for that on the NYS BOE site sometime next week.

Kane also confirmed that the group has scheduled a presentation at Saratoga Springs Public Library for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31, to reveal the financial information requested by Mayor Scott Johnson during his State of the City Address. An official release on the meeting is pending and will likely be sent today.

Also, I heard from Rep. Chris Gibson's communication director Stephanie Valle, who called to ask who Gibson was speaking to during the State of the Union as President Obama was discussing the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Screen cap from the YouTube video shown below:

Valle said the Rep to Gibson's right is Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell, who represents Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Gibson spent time stationed during his military career. No word on what was being said during the applause, but it's interesting to see that Gibson was in on the speech's bi-partisan seating arrangement.

in the headlines this morning; The city Planning Board gave a positive advisory opinion to the City Council in the case of a planned land swap between Saratoga Golf and Polo Club and Saratoga Hospital. They started discussion on the Lillian's Lot too late for coverage. [Srtgn]

In Albany, an ethics overhaul is being discussed, in secret (oh, the irony). [LoHud]

State Senate Democrats and the four member Independent Democratic Conference are already engaged in a war of words over spending. [DN/DP]

Good government advocates are calling for Gov. Cuomo to look at tax increases to balance the budget. [TU/CapCon]

Wednesday, January 26

Front page: 200K needs bonding for new city garage fuel pumps, and Obama delivers the Salmon of the Union?

Good morning!

Our union may be strong, but most folks fixated on running out and getting some smoked salmon after the State of the Union last night. [NPR]

More on the SotU in a moment; in Saratoga, DPW Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco says the council must bond $220,000 this year to replace gas pumps at the DPW garage in compliance with a NYS DEC consent order. [Srtgn]

NYRA and the state Senate Racing Committee consider the opening of NYRA branded tele-theaters in NYC. [Srtgn]

On the Senate floor in Albany; the pols are up to their old tricks again as Democrats decry a rules change approved by Republicans blocking Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy from being the tie-breaking vote. [DN]

Democrats also cried foul after the GOP appointed the four-member Independent Democratic Conference to chair committees, one of which hasn't been an active committee in four years. [TU/CapCon]

Back to the State of the Union; New York pols echoed the President's message of teamwork. [Record, NYT]

The "enhanced" (or powerpointed) video cast of the speech really brought home the need for consolidated salmon. [VH1]

Check out the "enhanced" State of the Union broadcast here.

Tuesday, January 25

Front page: It is still quite cold, state Senators clash over new seating arrangement and Obama ballin' in Schenectady (VIDEO)

Good morning!

It's still pretty cold, but it was COOOOOOOOLDDDD yesterday! [Srtgn]

Rensselaer County Working Families Party chairman James Welch went before a grand jury in the Troy voter fraud case. [Record]

In "who wudda guessed?": There was a partisan flap yesterday in the state Senate over new seating assignments for the four-member Independent Democratic Conference and the allocation of office funds. [TU/CapCon, LoHud]

Here is the tale of the tape (it will automatically start at the good part):

Support for publicly funded campaigns, cited by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State Address as a part of his ethics reform agenda, is already strong. [IthacaJo]

President Obama did a little off course sightseeing after his visit to General Electric in Schenectady Friday (or did he?). [TU/LoPo]

"Obama" raps about the Electric City:

Monday, January 24

VIDEO: 2011 Saratoga Springs State of the City Address

Here it is, Mayor Scott Johnson's 40 minute State of the City Address, with edits for applause and a shortened moment of silence.

The Democratic response to the State of the City Address

Sent by Brent Wilkes on behalf of Saratoga Springs Committee Chairman Thilo Ullmann.

Democratic response to State of City Addresss - 01.23.2011

Front page: Saratoga Citizen reacts to the State of the City, Scirocco to request $200,000 bond for DEC mitigation

Good morning, and welcome to the working week!

If you missed Mayor Johnson's State of the City Address yesterday, complete video of the speech will be posted here later today. Here is today's story on the speech.

The biggest news from the speech was Johnson's personal message to Saratoga Citizen; the City Council will not act to approve or reject their petition of referendum without an analysis of finances.

The charter changers said they will meet with the council for a preliminary analysis of what the transition from a commission form of government to a council-manager form will cost and future benefits from the switch.

Local officials and Saratoga Citizen organizers had mixed reactions to the speech. [Srtgn]

Also in the headlines; DPW Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco will reportedly ask the council to bond over $200,000 to comply with a DEC settlement agreement. [TU]

Rep. Chris Gibson talks about his goal of bringing nuclear power to the region. [PstStr]

The new State senate Independent Democratic Conference will be offered committee posts, but no chairmanships. (LoHud)

The fight is heating up against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed property tax cap. [NYT]

Cuomo is also being criticized (ironically) for keeping ethics reform efforts behind closed doors. [Daily News]

Friday, January 21

T.G.I.F. - Snow day!

In case you haven't noticed due to the lack of a front page post, I've got today day off. Something about the Secret Service not wanting me to leave the house when the President is in town... whatever.

So I'll be listening to and reading coverage of Obama's Schenectady visit from the comfort of my office chair while sipping on cocoa.

Another reason why I'm not on the clock is so I can cover Sunday's State of the City Address, the third delivered by Mayor Scott Johnson.

The speech is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the City Center. What do you think the mayor will speak on this year?

Thursday, January 20

Lillian's Lot on Planning Board agenda, City Hall ceiling creates stairwell hazard

It looks like the Mayor wasn't kidding when he said the city owned parking lot between Lillian's and Cantina is "absolutely" going to sell this year.

The eighth and final item on the draft agenda for the Jan. 26 meeting of the city Planning Board reads, "420 Broadway, (Lillian's Parking Lot), 420 Broadway, site plan review for mixed use building in the Transect-6 district."

Think of it not as losing a parking lot, but as gaining a building. Look for an update on this after the board's preliminary meeting on Monday afternoon.

Speaking of buildings, an email posted to the doors of the back "perp walk" stairwell of City Hall says employees should avoid the corridor due to chunks of ceiling falling from overhead.

The note is dated Jan. 18 and addressed to city public safety officials, who use the stairway to bring prisoners up and down during court appearances.

Written by city Public Safety Director Marilyn Rivers, she instructs, "Whenever possible, please use the front stairways or elevator to access the second floor of City Hall."

The email cites the difficulty of working on the roof to repair the problem due to weather, and adds that DPW, "will be working to remedy the situation as effectively as they can given the circumstances."

Saratoga Citizen late to file with NYS Board of Elections, Franck spends 28K on attorney costs

I've got two calls this week asking about the status of Saratoga Citizen's semi-annual filing with the New York State Board of Elections.

Callers have noted that the filing, which was due Jan. 18, is not visible on the BOE's website. The reason for this is that the report is late, but being compiled now, according to Saratoga Citizen organizer Pat Kane.

"We're doing that right now," Kane said on the phone yesterday afternoon, adding that the group is currently reviewing annual tax and financial information.

I also spoke yesterday with NYS BOE Communications Director John Conklin, who initially was unsure if Saratoga Citizen was even obligated to file with the state board because their referendum has not yet been cleared for ballot placement.

Because the group filed a semi-annual report in July 2010, Conklin said, they have a "continuing obligation" to file at least the semi-annual periodic reports and any reports for any period where there is "any activity around the ballot proposition."

They may file a "no activity" report if they have raised under $1,000 in the reporting period, a figure the group may or may not have reached since the July report.

Conklin said the agency typically sends notices to committees who fail to report after five days past the deadline, meaning letters will start to be generated today. If there is no response, they will generate another letter with an "order to show cause" for not filing. Any past-due reports filed up to this point are accepted without penalty.

Committees that fail to respond to the first two letters are then slapped with a $500 civil penalty (charged to the group treasurer), the first step in legal proceedings. At this point committees are required to pay the $500, plus interest, and file the report.

Another note on the charter petition, specifically litigation; As of Jan. 14, Accounts Commissioner John Franck identified the total amount spent on the two law firms hired by the city to deal with the case as being just over $28,000.

He broke it down in an email that included a copy of his court ordered certification of the first petition:

"As of today the total amount of attorney fees are $28,083.52.

Brown and Weinraub, PLLC - $20,520.90

Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, Firth, PC - $7,562.62"

As I've previously noted, the Accounts Department has $68,044.78 budgeted for professional services in 2010 (line A305 1354 54720 in your 2o11 Adopted Budget).

At the time the budget was passed (Nov. 30) they had already spent $58,204.78 from that line. The contract for Brown & Weinraub to vet the petition was approved by the council July 26, and the contract with Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, Firth as counsel for the legal case was approved August 27, indicating to me that most of that 28K likely figures into the $58K already spent.

Front page: Gillibrand and Gibson to accompany Obama to Schnectady, Gov's mandate relief team meets

Good morning!

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
will accompany President Barack Obama to Schenectady tomorrow. [Srtgn]

Troy officials offer reflections on preparing for Obama's Sept., 2009 trip. [Record]

County officials talked WiFi, timecards and spam at the first meeting of the Board of Supervisor's Technology Committee, chaired by Spa City Supervisor Matthew Veitch. [Srtgn, PstStr]

Down in Cap City; the state Senate voted to approve state spending limits and a provision requiring a 2/3 vote to create taxes in a series of what will likely end up as one-house bills. [AP via Record]

Gov. Cuomo is considering laying off up to 15,000 state workers in his executive budget. The senate announced Wednesday 130 staffers will get the boot. [NYT, TU/Cap Con]

Cuomo's "Mandate Relief Task Force" met for the first time Wednesday, with public employee pension reform being identified as a top issue. [WXXI, TU]

The Saratoga Springs City Council tabled a resolution Tuesday that will address mandate relief and property taxes when it returns for their Feb. 1 meeting. A website with a form for mandate relief suggestions is online at

In Washington; Congressman Chris Gibson was one of 245 House Members to vote on a bill to reform the health care bill championed by President Obama last year. [DN]

"Ultimately, I believe the fate of this repeal effort will hinge on the content and the quality of the replacement bill," Gibson said in a statement read on the House floor. Check out the video here.

Gibson, who made "repeal and replacement" of the health policy a focal point of his campaign, will join Gillibrand and Sen. Schumer traveling with the President to Schenectady tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19

Ivins confident $8.7 mil budgeted sales tax has been reached

At last night's City Council meeting, after the planning/building department fee schedules were approved, Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins Jr. gave his customary report on city finances with some good news.

First, the final numbers for 2010 occupancy tax are in for a total of $417,000, that's a 9.6 percent increase over the $400,000 collected in 2009.

Ivins also said he was feeling "pretty good" about making the budgeted $8,700,000 in sales tax revenue, a sentiment he repeated on the phone Wednesday afternoon.

"I am pretty confident that we will meet that $8.7 million figure at this point," he said, "Maybe even a little bit higher, especially with gas prices."

Comparing the figures from the 2010 and 2011 budgets; in the 2010 budget, $7,094,399.62 was budgeted as "2009 Actual" income, or the total for the year reported at the time the budget was passed. In the 2011 budget, the "2010 Actual" line is 6,771,525.25.

That leaves around $1,928,500 left in 2010 to realize the $8.7 mil. budgeted; while in 2009 the gap was only $998,574 to hit a projected $8,092,973.

Ivins explained that when the 2010 budget was drafted (the copy I have from the city website is dated Dec. 16, 2009), sales tax numbers were in through October, 2009 while for the 2011 budget (copy dated Dec. 2, 2010) the numbers had only been reported through August, 2010.

He also gave two other figures to illustrate his confidence in the projection: $6,506,000 and $6,771,000, the year-to-date returns reported at the end of September 2009 and September 2010, respectively.

That $265,000 bump was going into the holiday season, a positive indicator, Ivins said, as downtown businesses report strong sales through the end of the year.

Front page: New city building/planning fees, gas prices could hit $4 per gallon by mid-year

Good morning!

WAMC is reporting an increased danger of roof collapses after yesterday's storm. Later this morning (around 10:35 a.m.) they will welcome veteran Saratogian reporter Paul Post for an interview (by phone I'm guessing, since he filed a story from Uganda yesterday!).

In the hump-day headlines; the Saratoga Springs City Council approved a new fee schedule for the building and planning/economic development departments last night. [Srtgn]

Fuel prices could reach $4 per gallon by summer. [Record]

Hundreds of state Senate staffers are expected to receive layoff notices today. [TU/CapCon]

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand wants President Obama to discuss cybersecurity and the hoarding of rare earth metals with Chinese President Hu Juntao during his state trip. [NYO]

Tuesday, January 18

Arbitration hearing with public safety unions on city health care consolidation plan cancelled, new date unclear

A meeting in Saratoga Springs scheduled for today with an Albany-based arbitrator to discuss resolving a grievance filed by the Saratoga Springs Police Benevolent Association and Firefighters Local 343 unions was canceled due to weather.

At City Hall, Mayor Scott Johnson and Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton indicated that a February meeting, scheduled during a marathon session in Albany last month, would also likely be canceled because of a scheduling conflict.

Johnson said he felt his patience was being "pressed" by the unions, who filed the grievance last summer before the consolidation from five to one health insurance carrier was set to take effect.

Seeming annoyed with the scheduling conflict after taking the time in December to schedule two additional hearings, Johnson said he may take action on the measure, switching the plans for retirees, who are not under current contract protections, if another hearing was not rescheduled in a timely manner.

Front page: Cuomo polls well in first month, Gibson says a replacement health bill is still on his agenda

Good morning! I had such a nice time covering yesterday's citywide Martin Luther King Day events. Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Yepsen said the event planning committee would be looking to "enhance" the volunteering component of the celebration for 2012.

In the headlines; a new Siena Research Institute poll shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulling close to 70 percent approval. Siena's Steve Greenberg said the numbers are due in part to Cuomo's "carrot and stick" approach. [Record, LoHud]

At yesterday's Saratoga Springs Public Library MLK Day program, Congressman Chris Gibson told reporters he believes a replacement health care reform bill is still on the agenda. [Gztte]

State Sen. Jeff Klein (now of the Independent Democratic Conference) has been criticized by Dems. for the amount of party campaign cash pumped the 2010 campaigns of Susan Savage and Joanne Yepsen. [TU]

What's up with the "Committee to Save New York" anyway? [NYT]

Monday, January 17

City Council to vote on new building, planning fees at tomorrow's meeting

Here are the fee schedules the City Council will be considering at tomorrow night's meeting after receiving a positive advisory opinion from the city Planning Board last week.
City of Saratoga Springs Building Department Fees 2011

City of Saratoga Springs Office of Planning and Economic Developmet Fees 2011

It is unclear whether a vote on this would confirm the council proposal to be able to amend the fees by resolution, without review from either the city or county planning boards.

There are at least $300 in new fees here; including $100 for a demolition permit and $50 for a roofing permit. What do you think of these new fees?

Front page: Johnson speaks out, and Tedisco offers VLT aid bill

Good morning and, if I may quote the great Elvis Costello, welcome to the working week!

Check out my final article in the Q&A series with city officials with Mayor Scott Johnson. I spent an hour speaking with the mayor on everything from charter change to the Lillian's lot. Johnson is scheduled to deliver his third State of the City Address on Sunday, Jan. 23, at the City Center.

In the headlines this morning; Assemblyman Tedisco has introduced a bill that would repeal the 2009 amendments to the VLT aid funding formula that shut out Saratoga Springs. [Gztte] Check out the text of the bill, which was referred to the Ways and Means Committee, here.

The VLT bill is just one of more than 4,000 bills introduced in the first few weeks of the new session. [IthacaJo]

According to New York Post "insiders," Gov. Cuomo will allow a shutdown of state government if his austerity budget is not passed. [NYP]

Friday, January 14

T.G.I.F. - Look TV in Saratoga Springs and two new websites from state pols

Happy Friday folks! We made it to the end of the second week of the year.

Look TV will be expanding into Saratoga Springs next week, with negotiations ongoing for the airing of City Council meetings. [Srtgn]

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was in the room with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when she opened her eye for the first time Wednesday. [Gzzte]

The Office of the State Comptroller has released a list of state Senate staffers who have been laid off thus far this year. [TU/CapCon]

There are a couple of new websites created by electeds to compile public ideas for change in Albany; Sen. Greg Ball's "You Cut Albany" and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Citizens Campaign". [LoHud]

At the same time Cuomo is criticizing special interest groups for their role in government he is reaching out to them to help implement his plans. [IthacaJo]

Thursday, January 13

Front page: Planning board passes fee oversight to City Council, sales tax revenue up statewide

Good morning! There's nothing like 9 inches of snow to cure that gray sky, slush streets, winter blues... until it melts of course.

In the headlines; the city Planning Board blessed a measure that would allow the City Council to establish and amend planning and building fees by resolution. [Srtgn]

Pia Carusone, Saratoga Springs native and chief of staff for injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was interviewed by Brian Williams. [PstStr]

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reviewing raises given to NYS Police brass just before he came into office. [TU/CapCon]

Sales tax revenue showed increases throughout the state in 2010. [IthacaJo]

New York legislators are speaking out against Sarah Palin's use of the phrase "blood libel" during remarks on the media response to the Tuscon tragedy. [DN]

Wednesday, January 12

Front page: State Senate committee assignments, Schumer calls for security funding, and SNOW!

Good morning! It's snowing!

Click the "Snow Closings" banner at the top of the home page to see what is closed and postponed this morning.

In non-snow headlines...

Senate committee assignments were announced. Sen. Roy McDonald will chair Mental Health, and Sen. Hugh Farley will be vice chair of Banks. Farley said he is not chairing the committee because he expects a "significant leadership appointment" in the coming weeks. [Srtgn]

The new four member Independent Democratic Conference was not (yet?) appointed to committees. [LoHud]

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called for more Homeland Security funding for the Capital Region. [Record]

State Senators
and Assembly members will go through ethics training. [TU/CapCon]

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will start his "Take it to the People" tour this week in Jackson. [SoP]

Tuesday, January 11

Charter fight rumbles on: "Stalling this in an absolute slap in the face." (UPDATE 2 p.m.)

2 p.m. - Just consulted my copy of the 2011 Adopted Budget; the new line A3051354 54720 shows actual spending by Accounts on professional services at $58,204 and a revised/projected amount of $68,044, so there is a little more wiggle room there for lawyers.

City Accounts Commissioner John Franck, who's decision not to certify a petition brought forth by charter reform group Saratoga Citizen to place a referendum on the 2010 ballot was overturned by state Supreme Court Judge Tom Nolan last week, said he will certify the petition based on the judge's order, as soon as it is officially delivered to his office.

"I have to certify based on the court order," Franck said Tuesday, with the expectation that the official documents will be identical to those provided by attorney's last Friday.

Franck said that he will meet with the city's legal counsel in this matter and Mayor Scott Johnson this week to decide whether or not to appeal the ruling, which he described as "new case law."

"I don't really know if it's worth it," he said of the costs associated with an appeal.

Franck said that the cost to the city of hiring Brown & Weinraub to vet the petition documents, on which his decision not to certify was based, was $21,000.

The city also hired Fitzgerald, Morris, Baker, Firth to handle the group's challenge to his decision. Both firms charged $200 per hour, and Franck said the total cost for both would likely end up being around $30,000.

Line A3051354 54720 of the 2010 Adopted Budget shows $40,000 budgeted for professional services in the Accounts Department.

Franck said he does not believe that Saratoga Citizen has a legal right to a special election (which he added is costly) because they did not request the measure be considered in a special election in their documentation. Based on his understanding of state Municipal Home Rule Law, the City Council will have 60 days from the day he certifies their petition to validate or reject the referendum. The group has already supplied the necessary overage of signatures to override a council rejection, but those signatures are also in court.

"I don't think we're going to see that," Franck said of a special election, noting that the measure would likely be on the citywide election ballot in November, meaning candidates may be running for offices that would not exist in the following years.

"The city taking yet another 60 days is insane," said Saratoga Citizen organizer Pat Kane on the phone this morning.

"What more do we have to do to get the will of the people recognized?" he said, adding that he advocates for putting the measure to a vote as soon as possible.

"I just can't understand what they don't understand about this petition process," he said of the council, "Stalling this in an absolute slap in the face."

Kane added that he has heard the figure of $20,000 referenced as the cost of a special election, and that the group is looking into the possibility of running the referendum as part of local school board elections in May.

Franck said the council will likely discuss the referendum at their Jan. 18 meeting, possibly in Executive Session with attorneys.

Front page: Officials and media pros react to Arizona shooting

Good morning! I missed one hell of a news weekend, which on the mental health front, may have been a good thing.

I am disappointed that I wasn't on hand to talk to the Saratoga Citizen crew Friday after the ruling on their petition. I'll be touching base with them later today for further reaction.

Local elected officials and media experts react and provide analysis of this weekend's tragic shooting in Arizona which killed a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge and has left a Congresswoman seriously wounded. [Srtgn, CBS]

Schenectady officials joined in a national moment of silence for victims of the attack. [Gztte]

NYRA is reporting an uptick in off-track betting through their own phone and internet wagering systems since the demise of NYC OTB. [Srtgn]

In a Q&A Monday, Gov. Cuomo said he did would not link a property tax cap and rent regulations, he wants an on-time budget, and he does not approve of the breakaway independent Senate Democratic conference. [TU/CapCon]

The "three men" are still in a room, now in the Executive Mansion. [NYT]

Friday, January 7

Saratoga Citizen wins petition lawsuit against John Franck, appeal may require council approval

Of all the Fridays, it had to be the day I left for Boston at 1 p.m....

As you may have read at, charter reform group Saratoga Citizen have won their lawsuit filed in response to Accounts Commissioner John Franck's non-certification of their petition for a charter referendum. The decision, order and judgment documents are posted below:

Saratoga Citizen v. John Franck - Decision Order and Judgment

According to those still at the office, Franck has said he has not been officially served with the documents, and will consult with counsel before proceeding with an appeal, which may or may not require a vote by the City Council.

Look for an updated story in tomorrow's print edition and online.

Tedisco puts up anti-borrowing bill, Gibson to appear on ABC Sunday

Two releases this morning; Assemblyman James Tedisco issued a release calling for passage of his "Truth in Borrowing Act," which has passed in the Senate from 1993 to 2008.

“When it comes to solving New York’s budget woes, more borrowing is not the answer. The state’s been there, done that and our economy and job climate is now a lot worse for wear,” said Tedisco.

Also, Congressman Chris Gibson will appear on ABC's "This Week" Sunday with Christiane Amanpour to discuss his military career and policy agenda.

Front page: Obama coming to Schenectady

Good morning!

In case you haven't heard, President Barack H. Obama (we share a middle initial) will be in Schenectady on Tuesday. Check, the Saratogian's Twitter feed @SaratogianNews and Facebook page throughout the weekend for updates on this story.

Also, there has been a citywide snow emergency declared starting at 9 a.m. today. Make sure you move your cars!

Assemblyman Tedisco said he would be open to a pickup game of two on two basketball during the President's visit. [Srtgn]

Most speculation is that Obama will visit one or two General Electric facilities during his visit. [Gztte, TU]

In non-Obama visit news; if you're going to an big Cuomo event this season, wear layers. [NYT]

And if you do think it's too cold, don't ask Sandra Lee about it! [Fox]

Thursday, January 6

Hugh Farley appointed to top Senate committees

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has appointed Senator Hugh Farley, R-Schenectady, to the Rules and Finance Committees.

Here are the GOP assignment rosters for each.

Rules: Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (Chair), Senator Tom Libous (R-C-I, Binghamton) (Vice Chair), Senators Jim Alesi (R-C Perinton), Hugh Farley (R-C, Schenectady), Kemp Hannon (R-C, Garden City), Owen Johnson (R-C, Babylon), Bill Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), Ken Lavalle (R-C-I, Port Jefferson), Carl Marcellino (R, Syosset), George Maziarz (R-C, Newfane), Mike Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), Steve Saland (R-C, Poughkeepsie), and Jim Seward (R-C-I, Oneonta).

Finance: Senators John A. DeFrancisco (R-I-C, Syracuse, Chair) , Jim Alesi (R-C Perinton), John Bonacic (R-C-I, Mount Hope), Hugh Farley (R-C, Schenectady), John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport), Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick), Martin Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), Kemp Hannon (R-C, Garden City), Bill Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), Ken Lavalle (R-C-I, Port Jefferson), Betty Little (R-C-I, Queensbury), Carl Marcellino (R, Syosset), Mike Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), Joe Robach (R-C-I, Rochester), Steve Saland (R-C, Poughkeepsie), Jim Seward (R-C-I, Oneonta) and Senator Cathy Young (R-I-C, Olean).

From the release: "The Senate Finance Committee is also responsible for reviewing bills or resolutions that provide for an appropriation. In addition, the Finance Committee is responsible for reviewing nominations sent by the Governor for appointments, and moving the nominations to the full Senate."

Front page: The state of the State of the State

Good morning! I'm still buzzing with excitement after the State of the State yesterday afternoon.

Check out a video replay and transcript of the speech here. [TU/CapCon]

Local officials were generally pleased with what they heard, with some concerns. [Srtgn, Gztte]

State residents, who were invited to attended the event for the first time, also reacted positively. [Record]

The speech suggested a pro-business approach. [NYT]

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver supported a property tax cap and independent redistricting reform in his remarks made before Cuomo. [TU]

As reported yesterday, four Senate Democrats spilt to form a new independent conference. [WXXI]

My highlight of the speech: "Ships passing in the night." [DN/DP]

Also, in D.C. yesterday, Congressman Chris Gibson made it official. [Srtgn]

Wednesday, January 5

Live from Albany: The scene from the State of the State

Follow along from the State of the State Address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. The speech will be also be broadcast live here and at Follow along with the City Desk on Twitter @SaratogaCDesk.

1:30 - "Ladies and gentlemen, please clear the aisles and take your seats. Others are coming in." It looks like a five minute delay may be in order.

1:20 - A voice just announced for everyone to take their seats. Legislators are filing in. T-10.

12:31 - According to reports on Twitter, Dean Skelos has been elected Senate Majority Leader, with John Sampson as Minority Leader. No surprises.

12:30 - The room is really starting to fill up now with an hour to go before Cuomo is set to take the stage. It seems to be everyone but the legislators, who are all in session electing leaders.

12:08 - One and a half hours before Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to take the stage here at the Empire State Plaza Convention center and the crowd has been filing in for about the past 30 minutes.

The stage is backed by a banner listing each New York county with an image of their respective county seal, and three screens have "New York at a Crossroads. A Transformation Plan for a New New York," projected as the title of the speech.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that four Democratic senators have broken ranks to form the "Independent Democratic Conference". They will not support neither Dean Skelos nor John Sampson in the vote to lead the house. [TU]

Front page: City Council passes racing resolution, State of the State updates live

Good morning!

Much to my surprise, my interview with Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth is in fact not running today. So goes the newspaper biz; look for it Thursday or Friday.

In other coverage news, I will be in Albany today for the State of the State Address. Check back here at at the City Desk Twitter feed (@SaratogianCDesk) for updates throughout the day.

In the headlines; the City Council will forward a resolution urging immediate action on VLT funding, OTB restructuring and casino gambling in the Catskills to state leaders. [Srtgn]

In Albany, Gov. Cuomo says today's address will be a mix of optimism and reality check. [AP/Gztte]

Cuomo's transition process is still ongoing with a few top spots still vacant. [NYT]

Senate Democrats are now $3 million in debt after election expenses. [Newsday]

Assembly GOP members are gaining some influence with more members than ever sworn in this year. [Ithaca Jo]

Jon Stewart to Sen. Gillibrand:"You're adorable." [TU/CapCon]

An aid for Gubernatorial girlfriend Sandra Lee asked a rporter to leave a public event yesterday for asking a question about Gov. Cuomo. [WHAM]

Tuesday, January 4

On the issues with Richard Wirth

I realized I haven't been posting the videos that go along with the end of 2010/beginning of 2011 Q&A interviews I did with each City Council member. Better late than never. Here is an excerpt of my conversation with Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth.

Look for a truncated transcript in tomorrow's print edition and a full version online. See y'all in about 30 minutes!

Update from the inbox: Saratoga Citizen to meet tomorrow, Gibson opens Saratoga Springs disrict office

City charter change group Saratoga Citizen will meet tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on Henry Street.

"This meeting will mark the beginning of the THIRD Year of our efforts to explore governmental reform in Saratoga Springs," writes organizer Pat Kane in the email release on the meeting. More information can be found at the group's website or by emailing

Congressman-elect (for another few hours) Chris Gibson announced he will open a district office in Saratoga Springs at 513 Broadway, across from the City Center.

"Having a District Office in Saratoga Springs will help to make certain that local residents in the area have a place to go where they can express their views on legislation pending in DC and can also get help with personal matters involving the federal government,” Gibson said in a release.

Also, Accounts Comm. John Franck called me from Gloversville to give me a head's up on Albany's push for voluntary 2 a.m. bar closings. [TU]

He said he thinks Troy is looking into the same measure, and I'd venture a bet that he brings it up at tonight's City Council meeting; public hearings start at 6:45 p.m., meeting proper at 7.

Front page: Scirocco on the issues, and the charter fight goes on

Good morning!

Check out part three of my interviews with city officials on the recent past and near future of city government. Today, Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco talks paid parking, open meetings, and the importance of engineering.

In the headlines; as residents urged for a return to negotiations with the city, the Saratoga Springs City School District approved a $20,000 contract for snow removal at the East and West Side Rec. Fields. [Srtgn]

Town of Saratoga Supervisor Thomas N. Wood III took his oath of office Monday to become chairman of the County Board. [Srtgn]

A new lawsuit has been filed by Saratoga Citizen against the city after their second round of submitted signatures was also not certified. [TU/SS]

'First Grrlfriend' Sandra Lee was in Latham yesterday at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. [Record]

Her main squeeze, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will take a voluntary 5 percent pay cut. [WXXI]

A new report from good-government groups shows the 2010 campaigns raised $246 million in funds for candidates. [TU]

Senate Republicans removed a security station placed in front of their offices. [TU]

See you all at tonight's City Council meeting at 7 p.m.

Monday, January 3

Front page: Cuomo, day three.

Good morning! I hope everyone had a great X-mas and New Year's! I was somewhat disappointed to return to see no comments on my Dec. 26 story on those working on Christmas Day. I spent a while perfecting the meter on that lede, c'est la vie.

There is already one comment on today's second in a series of end of 2010/start of 2011 interviews with City Council members. Stay tuned this week for the rest of the gang.

Saratoga Town Supervisor Thomas N. Wood III will takeover as Chairman of the County Board in 2011. [Gztte]

On to day three of the Cuomo administration; the new Gov. was lauded by good-government advocates for signing an executive order requiring his office personnel and others to attend ethics training by April. [CapCon]

His entrance to the office, a modest New Year's Eve ceremony, has not been without (minor) scandal. Cuomo's website was accidentally linked to a parody Twitter account. [TU, LoHud]

Other than "tweetgate", he is off to a fast start, removing barriers on Albany's State Street, getting to work on an emergency financial plan and planning a one year salary freeze for state workers. [TU, NY]

Cuomo will deliver the State of the State address on Wednesday.