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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, May 1

Spychalski takes a poke at some of his critics... I think

Just thought I'd float this little tid-bit out there.
When I was reporting the story in today's paper about the burning bridge between the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority and the Saratoga Affordable Housing Group, I of course had to talk to SSHA Executive Director Ed Spychalski.
During our talk about why the SSHA would no longer be managing the SAHG's (which it created) properties, he said he was done volunteering there.
"I don't want to anymore," he said.
He couched that by saying he just didn't have the time and the SSHA didn't need the money, but there was a touch of bitterness to his voice.
One quote that didn't make the paper because of a lack of space was this little gem:
"There are a lot of people who have managed non-profits and there are a lot of accountants who have done this for years,” he said, “they can do it.”
So of course I had to ask if he was possibly referring to his two biggest detractors, John Kaufmann, the former executive director of the Economic Opportunities Council ("managed non-profits") and Accounts Commissioner John Franck ("accountants").
Of course, Spychalski said he wasn't referring to anyone in particular, but it seemed like a funny choice of words to me...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most fundamental question that has come out of what The Saratogian has labeled “a mess” still seems unanswered. Who’s in charge?

From the outset this question has been allowed to go unanswered. In a December 22, 2011, story THE TIMES UNION reported that the mayor’s office had not initially acted to address the bedbug infestation “…because of territorial concerns with the federal housing authority.”

The answer to the question ‘who’s in charge’ may have also been muddied by some news reports and editorial comments. For example, in a January 23, 2012, editorial THE SARATOGIAN noted that the Authority’s“… lack of accountability is exacerbated by the confusing relationships between the Authority, its board, the city, the state and federal government.”

While it is certainly true that the management of the City’s public housing stock is influenced in large part by rules and regulations of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because of the federal resources which help support its operation, it seems clear that the Authority and its operations are fundamentally governed by the New York State Public Housing Law and the Authority’s own By-laws.

The State Public Housing Law requires the mayor to appoint five (5) of the Authority’s seven (7)- members and, at Section 34, allows the mayor to “…remove a member of the authority for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or misconduct in office, but only after the member shall have been given a copy of charges and an opportunity to be heard in person…”

Title 3 (J) and 3 (K) of the City Charter further define the mayor’s role. Tile 3 (J) reads in part “The Mayor shall make the following appointments: … the Housing Authority Board of Directors…”

And at Tile 3 (K.):

“The Mayor shall have responsibility for the following functions and boards in City government and shall organize such functions to ensure efficient, cost effective operations: … assigned to the Mayor’s office by action of the Council or by virtue of Federal, State, or local laws.”

Finally, the Housing Authority’s By-laws affirm the role of the mayor. The by-laws place the Authority “… under the auspices of the mayor of the City of Saratoga Springs…”

And the same By-laws specifically recognize the authority of the mayor to remove members for ‘just cause.’

And recently HUD has advised that the City is the responsible entity. Still the mayor seems to hide from his responsibility,

Time to do what must be done. But we will not hold our breath.

May 2, 2012 at 9:28 AM 
Blogger Lucian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 2, 2012 at 2:24 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

Anonymous, you bring up some good points. Unfortunately, that question is still yet unanswered.

The mayor has said appointing members of the board is "pretty much it," as far as his authority goes, regardless of what bylaws and state laws indicate or do not indicate.

Meanwhile, HUD has said the local municipalities and the state are in charge.

The state, on the other hand, seems to be a black hole of responsibility. There were several City Council meetings where Assistant City Attorney Tony Izzo said he could not find the person he needed to talk to at the state office of Homes and Community Renewal. Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Mayor Scott Johnson said the same thing.

Eventually they did find who they needed to address, but the issue still has not been addressed.

I guess that's what you are left with when you have an autonomous authority created by the state with a governing board appointed by the city and money from the federal government: everyone's hands on the problem but no ones hands around it.

(and my previous comment that I deleted was taken down because of typos)

May 2, 2012 at 2:27 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It often shocks me when you voice your opinions through the comment thread on your own blog. While you are entitled, as is anyone else, to voice your opinion, I find it to be quite a trivial practice to inject yourself within the comment thread. I understand that you find it to be your responsibility to respond to the futile statements that are often made on these blogs (Mr. Kauffman, thank you for doing us the service of paraphrasing the state public housing law), but I cannot rectify why you believe it’s a good practice to express yourself in this fashion in the first place.

Blogs are not formal, contained, or structured, nor are they restrained by the defined and official formality that inhibits respectable reporting. Because of this vast difference, I suppose one loses a large degree of their professionalism when they grace the public with what you yourself label as “little tid-bits."

As you claim, you wrote this blog to “float” the little tidbit that you found via your phone call with Mr. Spychalski into the minds of the public. But, much like the unprofessional nature of the blog itself, I’d argue that, rather than “floating” the tidbit, you were intending to unprofessionally stir the pot of the endless unfounded information surrounding the story of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority.

A blog (and particularly the comment thread) is meant to facilitate the people to voice their opinions— not the reporter. While the use of a blog strives to live up to the distribution of “facts” to the community, I believe that, as a professional, there’s something to be said about distancing yourself from the things that you insert in the blogosphere in order to allow the public to interpret it as they so choose. In order to do this, one must distance themselves from the comment thread which should, by no means, contain the words of a reporter/editor/or writer who is actually associated with the newspaper itself.

Blogs leave a lot of leeway for ignorance and manipulation. In this specific case, I’d say that Mr. Spychalski outplayed you by giving you a rather enjoyable and deliberate quote because he could foresee that you would then use your professional discourse within the unprofessional blog to “float” the quote to the public and straight to the ears of those he desired to hear it. So, in this sense, I guess your blog is a success because it served as a pawn in a bigger game.

May 2, 2012 at 9:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(continued from my first comment)...

In addition to critiquing your use of the comment thread on your own blog, I must fundamentally disagree with the assertions you kindly floated to the public in your comment on your own blog post.

For starters, please do not float unfounded, misconstrued information to us. You state that, “Meanwhile, HUD has said the local municipalities and the state are in charge.” Please enlighten the public with the lengthened version of this “tidbit”: The authority lies in the local government THROUGH the boards that they appoint—in the case of Saratoga, the “local government” is the mayor, who then appoints 5 of the 7 members of the board. Much of the authority in regulating the housing authority lies within this appointed board.

When the mayor appoints the members of the board, I’d say that their function is intended to represent the collective presence of the community within the housing authority itself. After all, the mayor appointed them with the good faith that they would serve their positions to the best of their ability. In addition, the residents themselves appoint 2 members to also sit on the board. So, rather than the “autonomous” authority that you claim exists, I’d argue that this authority is not, in the least, autonomous, as it is intended to serve as a representative faction for the housing authority.

But if we follow in this line of reasoning with the claim that this is, indeed, autonomous authority, then the best way to get to the root of the autonomy is to begin with its origination: the local government in the form of the mayor who appointed these members in the first place. One could then rightfully say that the autonomy is created by the very faction who has perpetually attempted to stake a claim in asserting their power in the housing authority.

Do you want to know why no one can correctly locate the problem, as you rightfully suggest in your comment? They (meaning the city council and local government) can’t correctly locate the problem because THEY are the problem.

Lest we forget, this began as a situation with bedbugs. It then escalated into a problem that no one could fit their hands around because the central situation—the bedbugs, the healthy and safety of the residents, etc—vanished within the agenda of a few corrupt politicians who fail to realize that they are the orchestrators of the very problem that they cannot contain.

May 2, 2012 at 9:11 PM 

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