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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, April 30

City Council 2013 — VIII

Well played Ken Ivins...

Keeping it a secret what he planned to run for was a good play to get news coverage of an announcement that he would be running for supervisor, or at least to ensure it (particularly at 8 at night. I've got stuff to do!).

What he was planning to announce, in fact, may even have been a secret from him. He told me Monday he made up his mind about what to run for last Thursday. 

Ivins said "some people have really twisted my arm big time," to run against Accounts Commissioner John Franck. Ivins said he seriously considered it. In fact, I'm told he may have called Franck to tell him he was going to do it.

"That would have been rough on Ken," said Democratic Chair Charles Brown. "He probably made a good choice" to go for supervisor.

He took a couple of potshots at the Democrats in his announcement.

"This has probably been the most contentious council we have had since the Val Keehn days and I think we owe that a lot to the Democrats at the table."

But mostly he talked about the offices he decided not to pursue in lieu of a run at supervisor. 

He said he wouldn't run for public works or public safety because Skip Scirocco and Rick Wirth are running for those, but he was then able to run through the other three seats at the table as possibilities, since no one has announced a run at finance, accounts or — most importantly — mayor on the Republican ticket.

GOP Committee Chair Dave Harper said they have a candidate for that office, but won't say who yet.

He said it will be announced "on or before" May 13, when the GOP Committee will make their endorsements.

I've heard rumor for a little while here that it may be Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton making a run at mayor and she has not denied it.

I called her today to ask about it. She called me back after 5 p.m. (you're not supposed to conduct political business during business hours as a city employee) and said she gave her word she would remain silent about who is running for anything, so she declined to comment.

"But I notice you are not calling me to deny that you are running for mayor," I said to her. She, again, didn't deny it.

Just rumor, but...

Harper said they need two more candidates to have a full slate (Which if they have mayor, would leave finance and accounts, assuming they endorse Rick Wirth). 

A few of the names he dispelled, though, were Jay Rifenbary, former Saratoga Springs School Board member and current motivational speaker, who Harper said "gave (running for Public Safety) strong consideration but pulled out." Similarly, he said Vice Chair of the ZBA Kieth Kaplan has also pulled his name out of consideration for any office (I had heard he might run for finance commissioner, but I guess not).

When I asked him about whether they would have a full slate when push came to shove, his eyebrows went up and he said "I'm not sure about that."

On Democratic Chair Brown's end, he is confident his side will have a full slate. 

At this point they'll need two supervisors and a Public Works Commissioner, which they didn't run in 2011. Brown said "I think we have one" and that he would not be a "paper lion."

For supervisor, Brown confirmed that Peter Martin is "genuinely considering" a run at the office. He is currently the interim Saratoga County clerk, but said he won't be running for that office.

He last ran in 2009 when he lost to Ken Ivins for Finance Commissioner, so it would be deja vu all over again like in the Public Safety race.

Brown, of course, said he doesn't think it will end the same. "Ken is qualified, but I suspect he won't be our next supervisor." 

In fact Christian Mathiesen told me he has spoken to Wirth about his run at his job and essentially said he would like to see the race run (and end, I'm sure) the way it did two years ago.

It was, I must say, a positive and respectful race on both sides.

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Wednesday, April 24

More than just rumors...

UPDATE: At about the same time that Lucian hit publish on this blog post, WNYT ran an exclusive report confirming Cole's retirement. We've since confirmed that news, too, although Cole has not returned numerous phone calls. Here's our story on his retirement and his turbulent 3-1/2-year tenure as police chief:
-- Emily

This is a rumor, but one that I have heard from a number of people (people who would know if it were true).

Chief Cole may be retiring from his role at the head of the Saratoga Spring Police Department.

I'm not sure of the reasons.

I have put calls in to: Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen, Deputy Commissioner Eileen Finneran, Cole's office and cell phones but they didn't answer and I haven't heard back.

I did speak to Assistant Chief Greg Veitch, who I hear is the likely successor, but he said he had no comment about the rumors.

He said, however, that he is no longer considering a run for Saratoga County Sheriff, a change from earlier this month when he told me he was.

Police Benevolent Association President Paul Veitch said he too had heard rumors, but would not comment on them.

Civil Service Commission Secretary Patsy Barrigan said her office has not received any letters of resignation or retirement from Cole.

She said a Civil Service list is being compiled from a test in March but won't be done until June. In the meantime, the names of the five people who took it are not public.

Last time around (in June 2011, about a year and a half after Cole's promotion to chief), there were only two people who took the test: Greg Veitch and now-retired Captain Michael Chowske.

Barrigan said Chowske still has time to come out of retirement, though, if he wanted to be considered for the job (but added, "who would want to come out of retirement?")

Like I said, I don't know the reasons, but it has certainly been a tough run for Cole as chief.

He started the job behind the 8-Ball, coming in after seven officers were laid off amid budget concerns and things didn't get better.

He was the focus of a sexting scandal that at a time when Rep. Anthony Weiner's political career was crashing and burning for the same reason. 

Last year the department was roundly criticized for its handling of information following a reported rape on a city street.

More recently there have been a series of high-profile crimes (alleged machete assault, alleged hammer assault, alleged beating of a woman with a BB gun on Granger Avenue, sexual assault and robbery of a woman outside her home on Union Street).

Major crimes, including violent crimes, are up for the third year running (See 2010 Public Safety Annual Report, 2011 Annual report and the recent 2012 Public Safety Annual Report).

Recently Assistant Chief Veitch gave a presentation at a Planning Board meeting to address some of the concerns of the public over safety in the Spa City. 

Anyway, I'll of course be following up on this tomorrow (barring hearing from any of the people I have already called tonight), so stay tuned. 

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Wednesday, April 17

City Council 2013 — VII: The Republicans

Matt Veitch evidently is not running for mayor.

His was one of the names I'd heard floated in the recent weeks as a potential Republican opponent to Joanne Yepsen, but it doesn't look like Veitch will be taking that step.

He announced Wednesday that he will be officially announcing his run for re-election to county supervisor tomorrow in this brief statement:
"Supervisor Matthew E. Veitch (R)-Saratoga Springs will be announcing his run for a fourth term as Supervisor on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. He will review his accomplishments, as well as outline his ideas for the future of Saratoga Springs. Please join us at the Spring Run Trailhead, near the intersection of East Avenue and Excelsior Avenue for this important announcement."
It would have been interesting to see the Saratoga Springs supervisors go head-to-head in a winner-take-all race.

Election results show that, since 2007, when he beat-out Yepsen's Democratic running mate, Cheryl Keyrouze, for the second Spa City seat on the Board of Supervisors, Veitch overtook her as the top vote-getting supervisor.

Yepsen won with 4,883 when she was first elected in 2005. 

In 2007, election results show he came in second in the race with 4,584 to Yepsen's 4,946 (Keyrouze took 4,116 votes as a second Democratic candidate).

In 2009 Veitch had flipped the tables, taking 4,757 to Yepsen's 4,240 votes.

Last time around, though, the gap had closed and the two were both neck-and-neck, receiving the least votes either had ever received for supervisor — 4,035 for Veitch to Yepsen's 4,020, though it is worth pointing out that it was essentially uncontested, since it was only the two candidates running for two seats.

Either way, we won't be seeing a Yepsen vs. Veitch race for mayor (womp womp).

It seems we will be seeing Rick Wirth take on Christian Mathiesen for Public Safety Commissioner... again. A Caroline Street bulletin board told me so for certain (though I had heard a while back that he would be running with or without the Republican nod) with a flier that said he would be holding a fundraiser at the Mouzon House at 5:30 p.m May 2 .

And another blast from two years ago, Ken Ivins Jr. will be running for... something. You can hear all about it April 29 at the Thirsty Owl, but it'll cost some campaign contributions.

I had heard a while back that Ivins would be challenging John Franck for Accounts Commissioner, but with an open seat at the Board of Supervisors maybe he's changing his focus. We'll find out at the Thirsty Owl (also get some good wine).

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Tuesday, April 9

Calling all candidates!

Press Release
For immediate release

Saratoga Springs
April 9th, 2013

Charles Brown, Chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, announced today that the nominations subcommittee will soon begin considering potential candidates for City and County public office endorsements. The subcommittee will be scheduling interviews for party endorsement for all offices, and those endorsed by the full committee will receive the complete support of the SSDC for 2013 November election.  All city residents who would like to be considered for endorsement by the party for these public offices should contact Mr. Brown by April 30th at 

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Worth noting

County in Adirondacks takes step to close bars earlier
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
The Associated Press  

ELIZABETHTOWN — A county in the Adirondacks has taken the first step toward requiring bars to stop serving alcohol at 3 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.
Local media outlets report that the Public Safety Committee of the Essex County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a measure calling for the earlier closing time. A final vote on the proposal is expected at a board meeting May 6.
If approved, the State Liquor Authority would make the final decision after a public hearing.
The 3 a.m. proposal is a compromise from an earlier recommendation seeking a 2 a.m. closing time, a move opposed by some tavern owners in the village of Lake Placid.
Supporters of the earlier closing time say the move would reduce alcohol-based problems and their related costs. 


If you don't know why that would be significant in Saratoga Springs, read here.
Essex County is north of Washington and Warren counties. According to my count last April, about two thirds of counties in the state have restricted their last call hours to earlier than the latest the State Liquor Authority allows bars to stay open — 4 a.m. 
The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors shot down a vote similar to the one Essex County took in July before it even made it to a vote of the full board. 

Also, I spoke to Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen the other day about salaries and overtime for a story over the weekend on City Salaries (which now has a list of the salaries for all city employees who make more than $10,000), and we talked a little about downtown problems. 

 It didn't really fit in the story at the time, but he said according to Public Safety numbers, $135,000 in salary and overtime is "directly attributable to additional patrols needed" for the Caroline Street bar district. 

He added that many of the department's injuries  are caused on Caroline Street late at night "when people become emboldened and offer resistance to police."  (They have at least two officers out right now for it)

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Friday, April 5

The long wait is over...

Well the announcement announcing an upcoming announcement has been announced. Wonder what Joanne Yepsen has got to say? 

Sources told me more than a month ago it is "just a matter of time" before she declares her run for mayor and that the decision was already set with Yepsen and the Democratic Committee. It seems that time may be at-hand.
Saratoga Springs

Supervisor Joanne Yepsen Announces Campaign Intentions For The Coming Year

Ending weeks of rumors, Joanne Yepsen will be joined by friends, family and supporters as she announces her electoral intentions for the coming year on Monday April 8, 2013.

WHO: Saratoga Springs City Supervisor Joanne Yepsen
WHAT: Campaign Announcement
WHEN: 12:00 PM,  Monday April 8, 2013
WHERE: 408 Broadway (Lillian’s Restaurant)

Supervisor Yepsen has focused her time in office on protecting our elderly, balancing urban growth with sustainability, serving our returning veterans and saving local jobs by fighting for the preservation of our world class racing industry.  Joanne remains focused on bringing inclusive, accessible, and open government to Saratoga Springs, just as she has for the past seven years.  She looks forward to the many challenges and opportunities of further strengthening Saratoga Springs in the years to come.

Background:  Joanne Yepsen is in her forth term as Saratoga County Supervisor representing the City of Saratoga Springs.  Since her first election in 2005, Joanne has enjoyed broad support across party lines, and has consistently carried the City of Saratoga Springs by comfortable margins.

I was talking to a member of the city's Republican Party recently and he said they don't really have any frontrunner to run against Yepsen at this point (if indeed that is her announcement. It is possible she will toss a curve and say she will be running again for Supervisor or some other office altogether).

Scott Johnson is declining to run for reelection and one of their promising potential candidates, Dave Patterson, is likely not going to run either (why would you if you could be getting a tan, after all). This particular Republican said Patterson was the hopeful opposite to Yepsen, but obviously that is not to be.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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Wednesday, April 3

Public (Safety) Relations

Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen doesn't like this blog

In particular, he didn't like this post from last month and he told the City Council (and anyone else watching last night's meeting) during their meeting that he was "surprised and disappointed" by it.

The post was about Mathiesen's campaign against the late-night chaos of Caroline Street, which he argues can be mitigated by rolling back last call to 3 a.m. from 4 a.m.

It was a failed effort and I said so. I don't think that's up for dispute. It barely made it out of the City Council and It didn't make it out of the committee at the county level (where any change to last call would ultimately have to be decided).

As I pointed out in the blog post, I thought Mathiesen's campaign to change last call was over until the March 19 City Council meeting when he brought it up again under an agenda item labeled: "Lawlessness after 4 a.m." 

He called me last week upset about the post. He accused me of being in the pockets of Caroline Street businesses ("I know The Saratogian gets a lot of advertising from Caroline Street") and of constantly criticizing his efforts.

First off, he is just plain wrong about that. I haven't received any direction from the publisher or advertising department. 

He also asked (not rhetorically, he waited for an answer) if I actually believed his efforts were hurting tourism in the city.

I responded that those weren't my words, that criticism came from the top three leaders of the city's tourism industry. My opinion doesn't matter.

Last night I made it to the big leagues. In an agenda item, "Late night arrests," seemingly solely dedicated to refuting my blog post, he let his criticism be known publicly. Pointing to my post (and me by name, though I had already left and was watching the webcast while filing my articles from the office) he said it was "sarcastic" and undermining his efforts.

I didn't find the post (which by now you should realize I've been linking to as frequently as possible) sarcastic and I'm certainly not ignoring his arguments. 

As I pointed out last week, my post summarized all of his efforts and quoted him extensively throughout. I'm just writing down what he's done and said.

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