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Monday, June 4

More than one way to skin a cat (with a short update)

Over the weekend, I wrote a story about how bar owners are trying to address some of the issues raised by Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen regarding late night on Caroline Street.

In the course of talking to Mathiesen about some of the ways the bar owners and he have been dealing with last call issues, he brought up an interesting proposal which I had never heard before, though he said it was something he has discussed previously.

He has been looking at some way to have bars and clubs which are open past a certain time pay a fee for the cost to the city of policing the area. Mathiesen said he brought it up to bar and club owners in January.

"We need to look at ways of cutting those costs," he said, citing police overtime expenses and the number of police it takes to handle large crowds late at night.

*The next paragraph is the short update. I neglected to include this to begin with, but it was part of Mathiesen's argument. It seemed to speak to a couple of the comments that came in overnight and this morning. I meant to include it the first time but it slipped my mind. My apologies (And by the way, I don't particularly mind people leaving the same comment five times, but it doesn't mean it will get posted any sooner, I need to review them first and for good reason).

Mathiesen pointed out that special events — such as the Saratoga Race Track, 5k races and other things that require special police details — already have to pay extra fees for emergency services. Last year, for instance, according to Saratoga Assistant Fire Chief Peter Shaw, the around 38 percent of the Fire Department's overtime costs were reimbursed by special contracts. I don't have the figures at this point for how much police overtime was taken care of through reimbursements.

Bar and club owners have said that rolling last call back an hour — which is supposed to be voted on at tomorrow's City Council meeting (though it will then need to go to the county and then the state) — would hurt their bottom dollar significantly.

"If they are making that much money then they can certainly pay the cost for having police downtown," he said. In the past he said it amounted to welfare for the businesses because it costs the city more money for police than they bring in through sales tax.

At least two bar owners, though, have not heard of that plan — at least not substantially.

"It was a brief, couple minute discussion," said Tom Clancy, owner of (surprise, surprise) Clancy's Tavern on Caroline Street. But he said it was dropped after no one could come up with a way to ensure that it went specifically to late-night policing and overtime, not just to the general fund.

John Baker, owner of Gaffney's, remembers things a little differently. As he recalls, the discussion (which he too said was brief and ended with the general fund question) was about having a fee tacked on to cabaret licenses, which are necessary for any business wanting live music, and it was modest (he said $250).

Baker, though, said he wants numbers on how much police overtime is spent late at night and how it correlates to the time of last call.

"As a business person, I'll pay my fair share, but I don't want to be penalized for being legally open," he said.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe it's being penalized for being legally open... it's more like being taxed for being legally open.

Bottom line the Public Safety Commissioner is calling for a "guerrilla tax" on businesses to pay for the costs of a police presence downtown.

June 4, 2012 at 12:08 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with John Baker, let's see the numbers. Let's also see the numbers on how much tax revenue is generated by late night sales. That will probably require the businesses to open their books a bit. Should be very interesting . . .

June 4, 2012 at 12:36 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really?? Why does this guy have such an issue with what time the bars close? Cant he move on to something important already instead of beating a dead horse. The bars already do pay for the police to be there, it's a fee called TAXES!

June 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another tax.....on top of the city taxes that the bars already pay for "services" like public safety.

What if there is a fire, will the bars have to pay another tax on that too?

June 4, 2012 at 3:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Businesses should be responsible for policing their own establishments, which to this point hasn't really been an issue. I see what he's getting at. "Oh, let's get some of that lucrative 3-4 am revenue that the bars are making." This means the bars open their books a little bit which, I can't imagine their really making that much between 3-4, and strengthens his argument that they should be closed anyways. I don't know why he doesn't just cut his losses. This has already painted him as a worry-wart convinced the city is in chaos. I think he's succeeded in at least getting the message out that hey, alleged grown-ups, tone it down while you're here. Six weeks out of the year this city is run by horses, gambling and booze. If he doesn't like it, maybe Cohoes needs a new Public Safety Commissioner.

June 4, 2012 at 3:50 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they are making that much money they should be able to afford it!? Really? That's what our taxes are for. Manage the department better.

If the Racino needs the fire department over there with an ambulance for emergencies every other hour then tax them too! This is out of control.

June 4, 2012 at 10:03 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fiscal control of the Public Safety is poor at best. OT has been an expense that is often self generated. Most bars own the building they occupy and pay significant taxes as well as generate sales tax as well. This is a poorply concieved plan by the Commissioner but not as poor as the EMS service which is still not billing for a majority of the calls. One term is too mcuh for the Commissioner. He should resign now.

June 5, 2012 at 5:29 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Bars for the major portion of the year do not stay open until three let alone four o'clock. The issue is blown out of proportion by one man's opinion. Most complaints come from noise issues which are being addressed by new policy. The two deaths that ocurred in the last two years were not the results of closing times but personal behavior which cannot be legislated. I would be more conerned by EMS service which will definitely based on latest information will be a loser.

June 5, 2012 at 6:51 AM 
Blogger PM Prosser said...

Instead of just griping - I'll try to add ideas.
1. Hire TEMPORARY police for summer season ( if that isnt happening already )
2.and/or Open the city to state & county police assistance more during peak times
3. ENFORCE said noise ordinance in ALL clubs with SPECIFIC DECIBEL LEVELS ( yes that means city tavern and Metro too, NOT just Gaffneys )< the current enforcement consists of officers making a decision based on what they PERCEIVE is loud >
4. Pay attention to all the drug dealers trolling up and down Caroline St all night long and arrest them accordingly - its not just alcohol causing the problem- throw a little coke / meth in the mix and it's "on"
5. Prosecute and PUBLICIZE the arrests even if it's " somebody important " or their children - sometimes change comes from within.
6. Make bars like City Tavern close their windows downstairs when having a loud multi-piece band so their music doesnt come spilling down the street. Unless of course they have a courtyard outdoor music permit, which I doubt they do.
7. Form a committee with bar owners, city officials, the three branches of law enforcement /fire ems and residents to actually start coming up with some concrete IDEAS - TOGETHER to stop the insanity and go forward with some solutions.

June 5, 2012 at 7:46 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the "extra" cost of policing the track-generated activities in August? What about the "extra" cost of policing First Night activities? Racino? Skidmore? The police are already paid to do a 24/7 job. Imposing activity-specific charges is just a money grab, and targeting the late-night bars is discriminatory.

June 5, 2012 at 8:10 AM 
Blogger Larry said...

Why in the world would he penalize businesses with cabaret licenses, those places have to stop their music at 1:00am? Does this guy ever think before he speaks?

June 5, 2012 at 8:13 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it could be argued that All business tenants downtown should be charge such fees.

As the tourist crowds swell downtown so do incidents of all types of crime like petite larceny, littering, etc... so therefore an added police presence is downtown during the day.

Just because bars and nightclubs are primarily open during the night does not mean they should be singled out as the only businesses responsible for overtime patrols.

June 5, 2012 at 12:01 PM 
Blogger Eyeinthesky said...

This man is a prime example of an amateur that takes office and thinks he has unlimited power that is not subject to oversight by the legal system. He believes that he should brainstorm in public prior to investigating the possibilities of his ideas. He gets people riled up in regards to ideas before he even researches the restraints and legalities of his proposals. This is because he is an amateur who fails to understand that there is more to his ideas than just his will and the process of instituting it. There are many aspects to the types of issues he faces. Through research and collective information from his resources he could save a lot of his own energy and the energy of the public that reacts to his ideas by performing the research prior to blurting out the impossible.
The commissioner fails to restrain his tongue because he fails to recognize the existence of the legal system, his resources (the factual information his fellow professionals possess) as well as the rules of engagement. The only thing he recognizes is his own will and goals. This is a true sign of arrogance, narcissism, disrespect and self-promotion. He was telling the truth when he stated that he couldn’t see why people fail to see things his way. Spoken like a true disrespectful, arrogant, narcissistic person.
In this particular proposal (thoughtless rant) he failed to investigate the basics prior to proposing another self-promoting cure all. As always he comes out swinging with his genius idea while he is void of any realistic answers to the reasonable questions that surround them. The do-ability factors are not important. The legalities are not important. The possible negative repercussions are not important. The processes of the systems are not important. The fairness is not important. Just see it his way and applaud him as some of his supporters do on these blogs.
I admit that some of his causes such as making downtown safer and creating a more comfortable environment are noble. I believe that has also been the main concern of all the past commissioners. The difference is that they didn’t recklessly drop poorly thought ideas (Bombs) on the community causing political chaos and panic in the minds of the public on a routine basis. They didn’t attempt to show their loyalty to the cause by being loud and thoughtless. Most all of them did reasonable amounts of research and sought sound advice as well as opinions prior to proposing ideas to the public.
All this man has really successfully accomplished is dividing the people in a thousand ways.

June 5, 2012 at 12:04 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Police Department has to maintain a "presence" in our bar district..It is kind of like babysitting" us from "ourselves"..
The idea of charging Bar owners a fee for this service is just common sense..Baby sitters do get paid!!.We are not talking about losing "revenues" from our Restaurants serving food from 2 AM to 4 Am..We are talking about alcohol only being served...Correct me if I am wrong but from what I have seen "kitchens" in our bar district close WAY before the bars serving alcohol do...Old saying about bars "nothing good happens after 2am"...All the bar owners seem to be locked into "what has worked in the past"...Einstein had a theory on insanity...He believed that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"...To those bar owners that are "Not insane"...Keep keep on believing what worked in the past will work in the future...

June 5, 2012 at 12:06 PM 

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