Blogs > Saratogian Newsroom

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

Monday, February 25

City Council - 2013, III

It's been a month since I wrote about the upcoming November election and some of the rumors going around the city have changed and some have become a little more than just rumors.

First, Mayor Scott Johnson has not publicly announced whether he will run for re-election in November, but he told me last week he made up his mind about it "some time ago."

He said he is waiting until it is the right time for him personally and "the right time for the office" to announce his decision.

Johnson also emphasized the fact that when he makes this announcement, to bear in mind that his decision was made long ago.

When I said it sounded an awful lot like he wasn't planning on a run at reelection, he said "I didn't say that."

Other people in the community have said that, though. I've heard from a number of people involved in Spa City Politics that Johnson is calling it quits, but to be clear, that is just speculation until he says one way or the other, as City GOP Committee Chair David Harper pointed out.

"I've heard that rumor as well," he said Monday. "I've also heard the rumor that he IS running."

As for a replacement Republican candidate, the name I hear most out there is Dave Patterson, the former 8th grade Social Studies teacher, one of the guides of historic Saratoga Tours and all-around nice guy (not to editorialize).

Harper would not confirm whether Patterson would be running for mayor if Johnson doesn't run, but he did say he has spoken to him and "I think Dave is definitely a candidate."

Another name floating around is that Ken Ivins may take a run at office again — though perhaps not for the same one he held. There's been talk about him running for city supervisor or Accounts Commissioner, but I don't know which.

In the same vein, Rick Wirth is another name that has become more and more solidified in the discussion about a run for office. Of course, in his case it is for the same one he left, Public Safety Commissioner.

On the other side of the aisle I have heard on pretty good authority is that Joanne Yepsen is, indeed, running for mayor.

When  I talked to her Jan. 24 she wouldn't say which position she is planning to run for in November — mayor or supervisor. "There are several options on the table," she said, adding that she is having "preliminary conversations," about which she would choose. 

I didn't reach her Monday for comment about it, but I've heard from a number of people that it is just a matter of time before she announces (I hear early March). 

There was talk (particularly by Republicans) that Yepsen could technically hold both her supervisor position and be mayor at the same time, but — and this is purely my take — that would probably not go well for her during the race.

 City Democrat Chair Charles Brown would not confirm Yepsen's intention's Monday, saying "until it is announced, that is not official."  He said "It wouldn't disappoint me if she was (running)."

What is official is that John Franck is running for his fifth term as Accounts Commissioner. He told me that, unequivocally, last week.

Brown said Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan is holding an event on Friday where she will make an announcement (the subject of which is still a mystery).

He also said that while Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen hasn't officially announced, he is confident he will run for re-election.

As for the candidates who are not official, Brown said he "I think within a month all of this will be decided on our side."
Harper, on the other hand, said he couldn't offer a firm timeline. In fact, he sent out a press-release Monday looking for candidates (see below).

                                      Saratoga Springs GOP seeks candidates

SARATOGA SPRINGS – the City of Saratoga Springs Republican Committee is seeking registered Republicans who reside in the City of Saratoga Springs and are interested in being interviewed and selected as the endorsed Republican candidates for the City Council or for City Supervisor(s) in the November 5 general election.

Those interested in an interview and endorsement for these public offices must submit a letter of intent stating the office they are seeking along with a resume to: David Harper, City of Saratoga Springs Republican Chairman, 480 Broadway, Suite 214, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

All letters of intent and resumes must be received no later than March 6th. Interviews will be conducted on March 13 beginning at 7:00 pm at the ITAM at 247 Grand Avenue.

Any questions regarding this announcement can be directed to Dave Harper, Chairman at 518.727.1499

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 19

Comprehensive conversations

Though it hasn't been on many agendas lately, the formation of the Comp Plan Committee in the city has been getting a good deal of discussion as of late by the members of the City Council, but they aren't the only ones.

Four people spoke out against the Comprehensive Committee that has been formed by Mayor Scott Johnson over the objections and without the input of the four other members of the City Council. If you'll recall, Johnson formed the vast majority of the committee by himself without formally informing any of the City Council members in late2012.

Only Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco submitted a recommendation (from the list of suggestions). The other three Commissioners (all Democrats, unlike Johnson and Scirocco, which I'm sure is just coincidence), did not submit recommendations. They also tabled a vote on hiring a consultant for the process, later calling the whole thing “Dead on arrival.”

I'm planning a follow-up on the whole thing this week to see whether the committee is going to be meeting without the consultant or not, but I figured while I wait for this executive session to be over I'd post some of the public comments for the meeting to the blog.

The first to voice concerns about the formation of the committee was City Democratic Committee Chair Charles Brown.

He said “If all of the commissioners had a say in how that board was picked, it would be a different board, but perhaps not that drastically,” but he said what would be different would be the sense in the city that everyone had played a role in the formation of what everyone agrees is perhaps the second-most important document in the city.

I would think the democratic process would dictate that we would bend over backwards to ensure all of the voices were heard, since we all live in the city,” he said.

Two others also spoke in general terms, one chastising the mayor and asking he be more conciliatory, and the other saying more renewable energy interests should be included.

In a very eloquent appeal to inclusion, Theresa Cappozola called on City Council to disband the current committee and enact another “in a more democratic manner.”

Capazola pointed out that “the overwhelming majority of members represent development interests or rely on development interests.”

She said she and others who do not support development in the city's “Green Belt” have “become powerless against development because they always seem to be in control and we don't have a seat at the table.

This is a comprehensive plan,” she said, “not a development plan.”

She also asked the rest of the City Council not to vote for any consultants for the project because it would “merely legitimize” the committee which she said is “overly and improperly weighted to development interests.”

The way the committee was formed, she said, has stripped the public of “our small amount of power at the polls” since four of the city's five commissioners were not involved in the process. “This is history repeating itself,” she said. “This is the same fight and the community never wins.”

Anyway, I'll be following up on this, since the last I talked to the mayor about it he said he didn't know if they were going forward with meetings without a consultant.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, February 15

Scirocco hires Scirocco

That was the headline in the print version of the story in Friday's Saratogian. It ran on the second page, but for whatever reason never made it online so I figured we could put it here (where I could have a little more control over the comments, too).

Here is the story:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco has hired his son, Mark, as a city water meter reader. 

Mark Scirocco was third on the list of eligible candidates who took the civil service test for the position, which pays $15.71 an hour — $32,771 a year. 

Skip Scirocco said the position does not pay benefits because it is a temporary position at this point.
“He’s a very good worker and he’ll do a good job,” he said. 

The commissioner did not interview the top two candidates, a Saratoga Springs resident who scored 95 and a Ballston Spa resident who scored 90. Mark Scirocco’s score was 85. 

Commissioner Scirocco said he eliminated the second-highest scorer because he was not a city resident. He did not explain why he did not consider the highest-scoring candidate. Civil service law allows the employer to choose from among the top three candidates.

The position is considered a temporary, three-month position to fill in for a meter reader who is out on disability, but the possibility exists for longer employment. 

— By Barbara Lombardo and Lucian McCarty

Barb wrote most of it, but I did the reporting on it (I was in the middle of something else so she took it up). 

Anyway, the story actually came from Skip Scirocco who volunteered the information to me in a conversation about something totally unrelated saying: "I just want to come clean about this, since I'm sure you'll hear it somewhere else." 

Obviously in this city there is some precedent for this (Skip's predecessor, for example) and he followed all of the rules for this hire. Skip said he worked for the city before and that he's working out well. 

The guy who is out with a medical condition may not be back because it seems like it may be long-term, in which case this position will likely become permanent. 

Anyway, I'm sure there will be some comments, so let's keep them civil. I won't publish any personal attacks so don't bother.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, February 14

Blotter for Feb. 12 and 13

Report of a black Ford Bronco running a stop sign on Vichy Drive every morning. Stop it.

It looks like the mischief-makers were out Monday night as there was a report of someone having his car shot with a paintball and another one of someone’s car and house egged.

 Someone called to report that a woman's “stolen vehicle” is actually in a man's driveway. The call out on it was cancelled. Seems like a misunderstanding.

Wednesday's blotter:

47 Walnut Street: Welfare check on a cat. Who knew you could ask the police to do that? (Cat is fine, by the way).

Caller reports crane fell over. Officer advises “no problem.” I think that depends on who you ask, officer.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 12

Mayoral differences

Former Mayor Valerie Keehn says she doesn't know what is going on with current Mayor Scott Johnson's formation of his Comprehensive Plan Committee.

After some contentious politics, Johnson named all 13 members of the committee, breaking with precedent.

Keehn was the last mayor to appoint a committee to review the Comp Plan. She called the other day to clear up the debate about how many people she appointed.

Johnson said she had appointed 11 and each of the commissioners had appointed 1 each.

Keehn said that's not what happened. "It's incomprehensible to me why he wouldn't look up the info or just ask someone who was on the committee at the time," she said.

Of course, to be fair, I tried that. No one I talked to could remember with certainty (not even one of the commissioners who made the appointment). And I couldn't find it anywhere in the minutes, coverage of the City Council or in the Comp Plan they came up with.

It's clear Johnson didn't form the committee the way mayors before him had, though.

Johnson started forming the committee in November. It was in The Saratogian a couple times, but he never communicated directly to the other members of the City Council that the committee formation was underway. 

Keehn said when she was mayor, the first thing she did when forming the comp plan committee was request recommendations from the City Council for who should be on the committee: She took two recommendations from each of the commissioners and she appointed the remaining seven seats.

"I didn't say 'Maybe I'll accept your appointments," she said, which is a contrast to Johnson's assertion that recommendations would have to come through him to get to the committee.

He also initially chose 11 names, said he wanted to keep the committee to 13 members, and suggested the commissioners choose someone he had already chosen to be on the committee.

Before Keehn, Ken Klotz (who formed a committee in 2000) appointed five members of the committee and let each of the commissioners appoint one as well. He told me he based that on previous precedent.

Klotz's plan was the last to be adopted. Johnson said Keehn's plan "died on the vine," the committee did, in fact, generate a plan — it was just never voted on.

The required vote of the City Council for adoption would have come when Johnson was in office. It just didn't.

"He probably tossed it in his garbage can," Keehn said.

She said she considered it "an insult" to the work and time the 15-member committee had put in that the plan was never voted on.

"I'd like to know specifically why he decided it wasn't worth him even looking at," she said.

Johnson has not yet returned calls looking for comment. I'll add his comments to the story when I hear back from him.

And while Keehn say's Johnson "probably tossed (the Comp Plan) in his garbage can," someone kept it and here it is:

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, February 11

Blotter for Jan. 26 to Feb. 11

So obviously I haven't posted these in a while (my bad), so instead of going through every detail of the last two weeks blotters, I'm going to be much more selective with what I single out here in the blog.

Obviously anything that was newsworthy went into the newspaper. So this is all just what didn't raise to that level, but stuff that is interesting to see that the police deal with on a daily basis.

And here we go...

Jan. 26: Nothing to see here (at least in the blotter). Someone refused to pay their cab fare, until they did. Couple accidents. An electrical fire that was put down quickly.

Jan. 27: I was off that day. This blotter covered my birthday the day before and apparently a lot of people were celebrating by causing mayhem. 

One guy had two DIFFERENT stolen plates on his vehicle and a third inside. So that’s interesting.
About an hour later a male was arrested for being “possibly intoxicated” and stripping. He later smashed his head into a car window. He was taken to the ER. 

A little after midnight a woman “came inside (a) bar with (a) bloody face -  Unknown what happened.”

A person called police for their intoxicated son who was “in a snow bank, trying to walk home.”
Someone hit a lamp post, knocking it over and exposing wires on Union Avenue. They drove off before police got there. 

Also there were a lot of reports of people refusing to leave places while intoxicated and at least two instances of refusing to pay cab fares.

Jan. 28: 2:14 p.m.: Welfare check for female who hasn’t been heard since last night.

2:48 p.m.: Officer advises subject was sleeping. No problem.
No place for late sleepers.
That is all.

Jan. 29: Bank robbery.
Call from someone who advised that her ex-roommate took her car 3 MONTHS AGO for repairs and has not yet returned it.

Jan. 30

Caller advises male in a blue jacket with a brown “knapsack” (whatever that is) standing in the middle of the street waving down cars. Officers advise he is trying to hail a cab.

Jan. 31

Man too drunk to ride his bike. He eventually fell on his head and needed to an ambulance. Wonder if he had insurance…

Feb. 1 A lot of weather-related calls. Wires down, trees down, etc.

Feb. 2

Welfare check on male subject talking to himself. Subject sent on his way.
A fax machine kept calling 911. Paper Jam!
Domestics and a couple minor MVAs as well.

Feb. 3
Random Saturday night problems: Man on some type of narcotic; “unwanted intoxicated male” (is there any other kind?); subject refusing to pay fare for taxi; the usual.

Feb. 4
Not much going on: Hitch-hiker, minor MVAs, overdose.

Feb. 5
Reports of homeless living in a tent in the woods. Contacted park police. Unattended death of a 57-year-old woman on South Federal (could be Stonequist). Nothing suspicious.

Feb. 6
A few things that made the paper: Counterfeit $10 bill, paint-balled houses.
Also a report of an “accidental” 911 call, but on further investigation the dispatcher found there was a history of domestic disputes at the house and sent a police car anyway. They found an “unwanted guest” who was moved along. Kudos to the dispatchers; it’s good to see they are on their toes. They could have prevented something much worse.  

Feb. 7:
Caller reports prescription drugs stolen;
There was also a call of a car into a pole. The driver and his female passenger allegedly fled the scene. Police found the man at Trotters after pinging his phone. She was intoxicated, police say he was not. Saratoga Springs Police Lt. John Catone said he was only issued traffic tickets, including leaving the scene of a property damage accident.

Feb. 8
Male intoxicated sitting in the middle of the sidewalk on Railroad Place. Transported to ER. A few domestics and fights as well.

Feb. 9
Nothing to see here.

Feb. 10
Also nothing to see here.

Feb. 11
Kids on a rooftop on Congress Street throwing snowballs at people. Damn kids. Police got there and turned them over to their parents.
A woman reports getting pushed out of a vehicle on the side of the road. She doesn’t know who they were because she just met them tonight. Moral of the story: Don’t ride in cars with strangers.

Blotter 021113 by lmccarty2656

Whew... and we're through them. I'll try to keep up on posting them more regularly.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 1

More on possible City Council 2013 (Updated)

As I promised in my last post on potential City Council contenders, I have been making phone calls to people whose names I hear working their way through the rumor mill and coming out as considering runs for public office.

Last week, as you might remember, I got noncommittal responses from Ken Ivins, Bill McTygue, Scott Johnson and Joanne Yepsen, all of whom told me they hadn’t PUBLICLY made up their minds yet, but the rumors persist.

Today I called Jay Rifenbary, former Saratoga Springs School Board member and current motivational speaker, whom I have heard is considering a run for mayor against Scott Johnson or a run for Public Safety Commissioner.

Rifenbary joined the uncommitted club and said "not at this juncture," though hastily added that "It is something I want to do, whether it is in the near future or not-near future."

Rifenbary travels a lot, which he said would make it difficult, as well as family considerations, but after his six years on the school board he said "I want to serve again, but I haven't really sat down and had conversations about it."

Still, he said he is "flattered" that his name has been tossed around for a potential seat.

I also put a couple calls into former Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth, who has often hinted at another run for his former seat and whose name has been brought up a couple times in conversation.

Wirth V. Mathiesen II? That would be interesting and a little nostalgic, particularly if there was a McTygue in the race (though he hasn't said one way or the other).


I did catch up with Rick Wirth today, who was also reluctant to go public with any statements about a run for office, but said "I am currently considering all my options," which is not "No," so I guess that's something and we may, indeed, be seeing a repeat of last election's race for Public Safety Commissioner.

Labels: , , , , ,