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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, January 31

Blogging or lack thereof

Remember the days when I used to blog? For those of you who don't, I think I'm with you-- it seems like a lifetime ago.

Believe you-me, it's not because I don't like to blog. Indeed, it's a lot easier than writing a story — unfortunately, lately if I want to blog that would mean a story does not get written.

For those who don't know, we've been down a reporter ever since Suzanna Lourie left us. Add to that another reporter's January schedule which seems to have more vacation days than working days and you get an equation that equals a dead blog (and an unprecedented amount of overtime at The Saratogian).

What is particularly terrible about that situation, is there has been a lot to blog about.

For instance, I started a blog post (which will appear at the bottom of this blog post) two weeks ago and didn't finish it. In fact, I stopped in the middle of a sentence. I don't remember why. Undoubtedly I had to run off to a meeting, accident, fire, scandal, investigate an anonymous tip, etc.

But I want to ensure the world wide web out there, I will return to cyberspace with a vengeance whenever my workload slows enough to allow it.

But here, to at least give the loyal dozen or so people who still check in on the blog from time to time a little something to read, here is a two-week old blog I finally found time to finish.

11:39 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 17. City Hall.
Mayor Scott Johnson sat in his desk, loosened his tie and said "If I heard it once I heard it 1,000 times about the need for transparency in government. Is that what happened here tonight?"

Johnson seemed to be the last person in the City Council chambers earlier that night to know that the vote was coming on assigning the Fire Department to take over ambulance transport service in the city.

"I haven't decided that yet," the mayor said moments before the vote. "Am I the alone here in terms of not understanding this was going to be the vote this evening? We have a lot of unresolved issues that have been raised even tonight."

After a pregnant silence, Accounts Commissioner John Franck responded. "It was my understanding, going into tonight, that it wasn't a definite answer that we were going to vote on this this evening, but after the workshop I feel that the votes are there and that isn't going to change.

Franck said "I think everyone has some unanswered questions," but voted for the measure provided there was a "sunset clause" that would require the City Council to vote to continue with the program after a two-year trial period.

And despite the mayor's opposition to the plan, (here's where I stopped) the council passed the fire department's takeover of EMS service at a vote that came after deadline (11 p.m. — our print story said the vote was coming).

Mathiesen, days later, responded to Johnson's claims. "There was nothing opaque about the vote," he said. He pointed out it had been on the agenda. It wasn't a late add.

However, I will point out that in a conversation the day before with Deputy Commissioner Eileen Finneran, she said the vote was "just to get the ball rolling," on the fire department taking EMS over.

"The ball is rolling," Johnson said. "In fact the ball is gone."

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Thursday, January 5

Circle of Seeber

Maybe it's just me, but this whole Kate Seeber drama is just fascinating (probably why I'm writing about it so often).

It reads more like a movie or John Grisham novel than a real-life court drama.

The rabbit hole goes deep in this case.

There is obviously the 2001 trial of Jeffrey Hampshire after the shocking murder of Ruth Witter. There is the equally shocking verdict and the jury saying afterward that "We hate it, but our hands were cuffed. We had to go on the evidence they gave to us, and the charges from the judge. I would have loved more evidence. They put us in a bad spot."

Another juror seemed sure Hampshire did it, but didn't have the evidence in front of him.

Later, of course, there is Hampshire's spotted arrest record (burglary seemed to be his hobby), and the St. Patrick's Day. car ride that took Ryan Rossley's life. for which Hampshire was found guilty of evidence tampering.

Then Katherine Seeber's confession that only netted her five years off a potentially life-long sentence (From 25 to life down to 20 to life) and the subsequent court case over tossing her plea that wound through the courts but was eventually upheld.

Upheld, that is, until Garry Veeder committed suicide and tossed the whole issue into question.

A lab tech at the NYS forensic lab, Veeder admitted to not only faking some of his results, but to actually not knowing how to work the microscope.

Here is a report from the State Inspector General affirming that point.

Here's an exerpt from page 3:
"The assessor also noted that Veeder was unable to articulate or perform basic tasks in fiber analysis including proper operation of a microscope used in several key tests in fiber examinations."

Now, 12 years after the saga started, it may be coming full-circle with a trial of Katherine Seeber for the murder of Ruth Witter.

I don't even know that John Grisham would make this stuff up. No one would buy it.

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Tuesday, January 3

New City Council - Old dynamic?

After two years of four ayes and one nay in the City Council, it will be interesting to see how the new 3-2 Dem lead in the chambers will shake out this year.

It was before my time, but I have heard stories of the old council where shouting and political maneuvering were par for the course.

A former City Coucil members told me the other day: "You'll have fun this year... as a reporter."

I agreed.

How these discussions go tonight, though, will be interesting and will give a little insight into how the council will function this term.

Anthony "Skip" Scirocco said he is optimistic. "They seem to be willing to work with us and obviously we have to work with them," he said, referring to the only other Republican member of the council, Scott Johnson.

For example, it seems that the new Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen seems to have decided he wants to discuss his campaign platform in its entirety, tonight.

Everyone else's agenda is short and sweet. The mayor said last week the first meeting of the year is generally short and simple, to let the new people get acclimated.

I don't think Mathiesen got the memo.
His agenda is:
1. Discussion: Late Night Alcoholic Beverage Sales
2. Discussion: Ambulance Service
3. Discussion: Safety on entry ways into the City

And the seemingly-apolitical:
4. Discussion: Recommendations from City Real Estate Committee presented at the 12-6-11 City Council meeting.

And just to be clear, I'm not against these things being discussed. As a reporter, it gives me something to write about on an otherwise sparse agenda.

Well, hell, welcome to 2012, we're going to get right into it.

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