Blogs > Saratogian Newsroom

The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Friday, July 27

The "Weather story"

Some reporters hate them, others love them. Often, it's whether you've had to shovel snow or pump out your basement that day that makes the difference.

I personally, as Online Editor Emily Donohue called me Wednesday, am a "weather nerd." That means I'll often be the one to call the meteorologist when the region is expecting torrential downpours, biblical flooding or enough snow to strand you on the highway — or that's at least what they always tell me to expect when I call.

There is something about calling scientists who are in the midst of some technical issue, talking enthusiastically about the inner-workings of their field (and you better pull up a chair if you ask a meteorologist to explain "in layman's terms" how a weather system comes to be) that always makes me wish I'd become a scientist. My wife just called me a nerd, too.

So I called the National Weather Service Wednesday and asked what the weather was supposed to be like Thursday. I don't do it everyday, but I'd heard it might be nasty.

The meteorologist I talked to said "there is potential for some isolated tornadoes."

So what am I to do?

I don't want to hype up "the sky is falling" issue, but at the same time someone whose daily job is the weather just told me we could be looking at a reenactment of the Wizard of Oz.

As a reporter, I didn't want to be the one to not tell my readers Thursday — after a twister had carried away the brand-new Tempered by Memory sculpture — that a scientist told me Wednesday to expect that.

Obviously it's better that everyone prepare for something that never happens rather than be caught off guard.

That's what I've told myself all afternoon, anyway, after reporting Wednesday that tornadoes were possible when Thursday it turned out to be just a rain storm — and not even a bad one at that.


Thursday, July 26

Some people pay more than the ticket price

The Saratoga Springs Courtroom was packed Thursday morning when I went to see what happened with Melody Holiday, the woman accused of stealing money from a children's soccer program.

While her case was adjourned to a later date and her attorney offered no comment (glad I waited an hour and a half), I wasn't bored (most of the time).

All of the arrests from SPAC concerts over the past month or paraded up in front of the judge to have their various drug and disorderly conduct charges pleaded down, adjourned in contemplation of dismissal and put off until they could get a lawyer.

One man went before the judge inexplicably carrying what appeared to be the plastic box for a Disney VHS.

Judge Jeffery Wait looked at the dates of his charges — two unlawful possession of marijuana charges and one underage possession of alcohol charge — and asked "which concerts were those?" The man answered: Phish and Brad Paisley.

"You have an interesting taste in music," Wait replied.

The man was representing himself and asked the ADA for an offer, which he made: Plead guilty to one UPM, the other will be dismissed and the underage alcohol charge will be ACOD'd. The man accepted (after a little confusion).

"Are you planning on attending any other concerts?" Wait asked him, to which the man gave a non-committal answer about considering an upcoming show.

The judge told him he may want to reconsider. "You're not very lucky," he said.

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Monday, July 23

Debate scheduled for next month

Busy week last week, so I never got to blog about a few things. I'll start with the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority Meeting.

The rumor before the meeting was that Ken Ivins was going to be putting these resolutions forward that were "sure to spark some debate" as one person told me.

The resolutions would force the chair to go to the City Council for salary approvals, roll back Director Ed Spychalski's salary to a modest $116k (down from $152k last year and $144k this year, in case anyone doesn't know — I'd link to a previous story but there is so much history to this that I think it would be more efficient just to put "Spychalski" into the search bar on The Saratogian's main site), and would change the SSHA's policy on contract approval to encompass anything more than $2,000.

Well, there was debate, but it was just about whether to discuss the resolutions at last week's meeting. Spoiler alert: they didn't.

When Ivins made his motion to put the issue on the agenda, a stir ran through the board.

Chair Eric Weller asked one of the SSHA's legal counsels, John Hicks, if adding the resolutions to the agenda "is germane?"

"It is not germane," Hicks responded.

Nonetheless, Ivins made his motion to add the resolutions followed by....

"Al, second the motion. Al. Al, second the motion. Second the motion Al."

Ivins, "whispered" urges to Al Callucci to second the motion (perhaps they had discussed it before), but Callucci was staring at the other side of the room. Finally, Ivins gave up (literally threw his hands up).

That's when Al seconded the motion, but there was a full ten seconds between the motion and its second. He later said "sorry I was asleep," with a laugh.

After all of that, too, they were the only two to vote to put the motions on the agenda. They'll be back, though, next month, when they will be "sure to spark some debate."

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Friday, July 13

The SSFD just made my son's year

I decided I had to put this out there because no matter what you think of the Saratoga Springs Fire Department, my son Atticus loves them.

Every day he comes with me into Saratoga Springs via Lake Avenue, he invariably starts to get excited at about Circular Street.

"Fire! Fire! Fire! Truck! Truck! Truck! Beep! Beep!"

Friday night when my wife and he picked me up from work, I decided that I'd let him get a closer look.

He was excited to say the least (see below).

The firefighters were not only accomodating and welcoming, but Firefighter Bull (I didn't ask his first name and only know his last because that's what his shirt said) said he would have offered a tour of the station if there wasn't construction going on. Then, while my son was beaming about being so near the firetruck ("Beep! Fire! Fire! Red! Truck!"), Bull opened the door and invited me to put him in the driver's seat.

Now, I feel like I should state here that I never said "Hey, I'm from The Saratogian" or anything like that. I was just a guy off the street with an excited little boy in my hands as far as he was concerned. He took out the hose for my son to see, let him get up in the driver's seat and was more inviting than I could have asked for.

I didn't stop for a story, I stopped because it would make Atticus's day/week and instead it made his month/year.

He's not quite two and has an age-appropriate attention span that generally lasts as long as something is in front of him, but he wouldn't stop shouting the whole way home ("Fire! Vroom! Drive!").

So I just wanted to give a public (as public as my blog can get, I guess) "Thank You" to the SSFD. You made my son as happy as I've ever seen him.


Thursday, July 12

Michele Madigan says the last call bell just rang...

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan was the sole City Council member in the room when a county committee put the kibosh on changing last call.

State Liquor Authority representatives issued a ruling that any request for a change would have to be county-wide and come from the Board of Supervisors. Last week, though, a committee at the county voted not to make that request.

Madigan said the fact that the vote happened surprised her, but the vote itself did not.

Madigan said at the City Council table the night they forwarded it to the county that "I have no problem letting the county decide this."

After the vote, she told me: "I’m completely disinterested in this issue, and the county needs to solve it or this issue is going to keep coming up year after year after year."

At this point though, standing on the other side of the county vote, Madigan said: "As far as I'm concerned the county has spoken.""

She said she doesn't know if Mathiesen will come to the City Council before he makes his way to a conversation with State Liquor Authority representatives, which he said is his next step, but as far as she's concerned "It's done."

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Friday, July 6

SSHA... I know, I'm sick of it too.

However, I wanted to put Mayor Scott Johnson's response to the Compliance and Communication Plan (memo, suggestion, whatever we're calling it now) from the SSHA. If you recall, I hadn't heard from him when I wrote the last story about it, but of course I hear from him the day after the story ran.

He got back to me June 28 (Thursday). He was out on Monday and Tuesday and didn't get the letter until Wednesday, which is why I hadn't heard from him.

*Also, as an aside, I never published a blog post that I wrote a week ago. I just published it. It's about Ed Spychalski's salary, if anyone still cares, but it published in the order it would have originally appeared. You can find it here.

So the SSHA's response, in the words of John Franck, basically "flipped (the City Council) the bird." It covered topics high and low (though I won't get into the author's recollection of how the bedbug controversy, executive director's salary and general operation of the SSHA actually worked), but it declined to address the approval process for employe salaries (about half of what the City Council asked them to address).

Mayor Johnson, though, wasn't surprised.

"I almost expected that kind of a response," he said. "The request was essentially asking them to admit they were wrong."

Just for a (really) quick recap, state law requires that the SSHA submit its employee salaries to the City Council for approval. The SSHA hasn't done it in more than a decade. The city Council asked them to — all of them since they stopped. That, Johnson said, was one of the problems he saw with the "request or demand" that the Council issued.

However, he said he expects the issue to be addressed in the audit being conducted by the State Comptroller's office — or at least the process which the SSHA used to come to the executive director's $152k compensation in 2011.

With that, I will wash my hands of the SSHA news... until the next scandal.

Stay classy Saratoga.

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Thursday, July 5

Come on, it's right after a holiday

So I'm sorry that there isn't a whole lot to this blog post. I was incommunicado near the Canadian border over the holiday so I'm still playing catch-up, but it seems entirely appropriate, given this particular holiday, to plug a blog from none other than Captain America.

Here it is at

The Cap'n looks like he/she has been blogging since June 12 and already there are some unseemly pictures and posts, but isn't that what people want anyway... I'm looking at you Saratoga in Decline.

In fact, it seems this anonymous blogger has a particular predilection for jabs at John Tighe's aforementioned blog (and him too).

Seems to be an avid reader of The Saratogian, given the number of mentions its gotten in the past month, so I can't argue with his/her taste (I don't want a bunch of comments about that either, public). Also seems to like Michele Madigan and dislike Mayor Scott Johnson, but that's just guessing based on content.

Anyway, check it out Saratoga and of course, let's keep it classy — speaking of which, I'm going to mention straight away that both of those blogs may include adult-oriented language and/or pictures.

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