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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, April 19

Late night issues driving away the tourists?

Here's a Sound Off the paper received some time in the last couple days that did not make the cut because this "fella" went over the allotted time (30 seconds).

Still, I thought it should be aired, particularly after three heads of Saratoga Springs business and tourism spoke out against the message that Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen has been espousing.

"I was out in Chicago on business the other day and I was having lunch with a client. They live in Chicago and normally they come to the track in August with their family and this fella said 'You know I've heard of all of the violence in the streets and all of the movement down there to try to clean up the streets and how horrible it is.'

So they are not going to take their vacation this year and come to Saratoga. Keep it up Chris Mathiesen, I think you're doing a great job. Unfortunately it's what you want and not necessarily what's best for this area. Stick to what you do best, which is dentistry, because you are really giving this town a bad name."

In this case, though, since Mathiesen, the city's public safety commissioner, was singled out, I wanted to give him the opportunity to respond to the Sound Off.

I sent him the message so he could respond to it verbatim. Here is what the Commissioner had to say:

"To the person who wrote this Sound Off, it is hard to understand why anyone who has been coming to Saratoga Springs would not now come because we are trying to clean up 'all the violence in the streets'. Such a person would know that we have been referring to late night activities in the nightclub district. One would think that such a person would not return to Saratoga Springs if we were NOT addressing these problems.

It is hard to understand how eliminating this blemish on our reputation as a safe, fun place for tourists, conventioneers and Skidmore students is 'not necessarily what's best for this area'.

And yes, I do provide excellent dental services for my patients. Thanks for the compliment.

I am also doing a really good job as I serve on our City Council as well as in my oversight of the Public Safety Department. It is the late night problems in our nightclub district that are 'really giving this town a bad name.'

Please feel free to have the Chicago businessman call me. (518 587 3550 X 2627)

Chris Mathiesen"

Anyone else have a comment on this issue? Leave them below.

And remember (particularly when leaving comments), stay classy Saratoga.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree that Mr.Mathiesen is probably hurting more than helping. I am very familiar with the last nigh scene in question and I read the police reports on here pretty much every day. The amount of arrests and incidents don't reflect the amount of mayhem he talks about constantly. With the amount of people that are out the amount of drama that actually happens is pretty minimal. Start showing some numbers to back up your statements.

April 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live here and I try to avoid the area late at night and on weekends because of the unpleasant atmosphere (loud and obnoxious drunks) even when no crimes are happening. I know other locals stay away too. And I live close enough to know exactly what it is like. How much business is being lost by people avoiding Saratoga because they don't want to be part of that scene? The bar owners seem to feel they want the drunks because they generate revenue, but you don't know how much you're losing because of the atmosphere you've created.

April 20, 2012 at 1:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always felt that the bikers with loud pipes are more disruptive to a pleasant downtown than drunk kids. When will the cops start applying noise ordinances against the bikers?

April 20, 2012 at 4:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not a legitimate argument,what other business are or would be open at or after midnight that you and others are in such fear to go to? Actually by closing the bars earlier it would hurt other business more because said drunks would just come out earlier when other business might actually be open.

April 20, 2012 at 4:18 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a former patient of our Public Safety Commissioner, he is a fantastic dentist. As a Public Safety Commissioner i see he has the ability to think a problem through and remain professional, not emotional. Cant really ask for more than that. So far so good in my opinion!!

April 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not emulate what all politicians do...if you can't beat 'em, bribe 'em. If you want them to close earlier, offer up the bars that do close early a monetary "gift" which will cover their losses for closing earlier.

April 20, 2012 at 4:52 PM 
Blogger togadiver said...

Mathiesen claims that the drunks are driving business away. In other words, me. Well I'm no drunk. I'm 46 and an upstanding citizen of Saratoga for over twenty years. I happen to enjoy the "night clubs" as he puts it. They are not all night clubs Mr Mathiesen. Many of these great business are restaurants. Mathiesen is probably of the same ilk that would have a great ikon like Siro's close it's doors because people are having too damn much fun !! The only reason this town is thriving while everyone else is dying on the vine is because it is so fun, and yes mr mathiasin, that includes the " nightclubs".

April 20, 2012 at 5:44 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commissioner Mathiesen is being harrassed by the bars & their obnoxious patrons to facilitate keeping the bars open late.
My friends and I avoid Broadway due to the obnoxiousness that goes on down there. Consequently businesses are losing day time and night time business due to the bars. I don't know the businesses on Broadway anymore, because I don't go there. Instead, my friends and I go elsewhere.

April 20, 2012 at 6:14 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is better for business? The family of 4, 5, or six people or the convention party of 10 or 12 eating dinner with drinks, or the late-night drunks? You're losing the former by catering to the later.

April 20, 2012 at 7:02 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mathiesen needs to focus on what is REALLY happening, and what he can do with the laws ALREADY ON THE BOOKS to make the city safer. Look at his two big arguing points - The St. Patrick's Day Tragedy (although it really was PLURAL) and The Caroline St. "Riot".

Let me start by saying, it's horrible anytime a life is cut short. That being said, has The Dentist looked at how the situation was handled that night? Wasn't there a prior incident, earlier in the night, with the two groups involved in the incident, where no tickets were issued and no arrests were made?

Also, I know he's a dentist, not a doctor, but there were TWO deaths that night. One happened inside the walls of our cop shop, and under the noses of Saratoga's finest. What is being done to make sure that citizens, accused of crimes, but still innocent in the eyes of the law are safe and secure while under the watch of the SSPD?

At the risk of hurting "morale", like drug testing might, how about we get things in order on the corner of Lake and Henry, before we worry about Caroline St.

His next big incident is the "riot" that happened over the summer. Have we had an investigation into how to keep something like that from happening again. Let's be real on one hand we hear about how officers were OVERWHELMED in Club Shadow, but the reports show cops (Officer Skidmore assault himself) having time to hunt down suspects in a pizza shop?

Bigger question yet, where are the convictions? We heard about the arrests, but that means nothing. Where are the convictions? I've read of ONE conviction from that whole incident, and hear NO MENTION of any restituion to the city for injuries and overtime incurred as a result. Why isn't Mathiesan telling us about CONVICTIONS on Caroline St, rather then WORTHLESS "arrests", that mean nothing?

April 20, 2012 at 9:06 PM 
Anonymous Kyle York said...

When the issue is Urban Gorillas, I stand with the "Welcome Legal Biker" crowd. As for the illegal cretins who modify their motorcycles to rattle their testicles, I recently hand-delivered a copy of the NY laws to the City Council members, chapter and verse, by which Commissioner Mathiesen could make downtown more livable... while turning a tidy profit in tickets and confiscated chrome.

April 21, 2012 at 2:05 PM 
Blogger togadiver said...

Please, you and your friends should stay away. Maybe a quiet village like Corinth is more your style. How about Schylerville, I'm sure that's much more pleasant.

April 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This area is as just as safe as it was in the years the family has been vacationing here. Like any area a few bad headlines will impact the reputation. Personally, it is more of a hazard having war protestors stand on the corner of Broadway and Church blocking drivers view of pedestrians crossing the street. Almost hit someone today when they popped out from the crowd.

April 21, 2012 at 3:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The facts do not support the issue. This is a man with a personal agenda like some other council memebers and is making his personal agenda a city agenda. As far of quality of control of DPS the decision and organization effort to take over the Cities Ambulance Service was ill prepared and a rush job that will inherently create additional costs to the city from year to year. I personally like Commissioner Mattheison but he is not the man for this job. His poor choice of Deputy reflects this as well. When political beliefs come before what the right decision is everything deteriorate from there. There is no oversight of day to day operations of DPS just political agendas.

April 22, 2012 at 1:36 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an idea...let's set up some bleachers on caroline street...have a lottery drawing for the seating and have a late night sober veiwing of what really goes on down there...everybody is required to attend at sometime during the might be the only way to rid the town of these ilks and finally shut them all down and open up ice cream shops and tee- shirt stores and get back to what made Saratoga Springs!...."Sissy Tourists"

April 22, 2012 at 6:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last year’s high profile early morning episode of Caroline Street violence, presumably induced by alcohol abuse, in which several City police officers were injured, should have reminded the then commissioner of public safety and the mayor of the danger and liability that environment creates.

Then Commissioner Wirth covered for the bars, calling the June 26 incident “isolated.” He said it should not provoke discussion of what appropriate steps might be taken to address the underlying problem. The mayor, as usual did nothing. In fact he hid behind his part ownership in at least two downtown bars as the reason he could not discuss the matter.

Wirth should have been aware of his City Charter mandated obligation to do so: “The Commissioner of Public Safety shall be responsible for the protection of City residents and their property from crime, fire, hazard, disorder, and natural disasters.”

Even a casual review of the available public record calls to question the veracity of the commissioner’s claim – reported in the June 27 edition of “The Saratogian” – that the “melee” was an isolated incident. Here are but a few others as reported by area media outlets:

“Two Visiting Canadian Firefighters Beaten Outside Saratoga Bar,” News10, February 15, 2011

“Officer Hospitalized after Saratoga Springs fight,” Times Union, March 28, 2011

“Man Arrested for allegedly punching a Saratoga Springs police horse,” The Saratogian, August 24, 2010

But, of course, this was not an “isolated incident.” Rather it and other early morning acts of street violence fueled by alcohol abuse have become increasingly frequent, dangerous and deadly.

The community recalls the 2010 senseless, tragic death of a young man resulting from yet another such “incident.” Then, as now, some interests seem to dismiss them as the regrettable but tolerable byproducts of a vibrant but fragile downtown bar business whose life blood would stop flowing if forced to close at 3 AM.

And since the June 26 fight, which necessitated an inter-municipal police response, a number of arrests resulting from a general lawlessness in the Caroline Street bar area have been reported.

The Chamber and Tourism expressions of concern might be better centered on working with the current commissioner of public safety to educe the risks of alcohol fueled violence and the real danger of increased DWI instead of whining about its negative publicity.

Perhaps the Chamber and Tourism Bureau are not privy to the fact that last year’s sales tax revenue was an all time high and greatly exceeded what was budgeted. This year is likely to be even better. Their “concerns” about loss of business don’t seem honest.

April 23, 2012 at 9:49 AM 

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