Blogs > Saratogian Newsroom

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

Tuesday, June 18

Authority over Housing Authority?

Well the Housing Authority was as contentious as ever Tuesday night at the City Council meeting where Democrats attacked each other over what should be done about the salaries of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority.

"You need to do your job tonight and take a vote on this resolution," Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan told Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen, who was trying to table the vote on disapproving Housing Authority salaries proposed by Madigan.

Mathiesen said he did his job every City Council meeting.

"You're not doing it tonight by asking me to table this resolution," she responded.

Mathiesen was arguing that he needed more information about the salaries before he could vote to disapprove the SSHA salaries Tuesday night.

That was, ironically, the same argument Mayor Scott Johnson used to justify voting for the disapproval, something he said was "not a vote of no confidence" about the SSHA, just a vote that indicated he did not have enough information to make up his mind.

Meanwhile Madigan and Accounts Commissioner John Franck basically said Mathiesen was making their point for them.

They have repeatedly requested information from the SSHA and though some has been provided, the supporting documentation for the salaries has not been among it.

SSHA policy requires that they basically justify the salaries they pay their employees.

"I cannot even fathom how you can justify a public employee's salary doubling in four years," Madigan said (again to Mathiesen).

As an explanation, here's something from a year and a half ago:
"(Executive Director Ed) Spychalski’s 2011 compensation is $151,956, not including benefits, including the use of a publicly-owned vehicle. His starting salary in November 2006 was $74,777 and he has received $77,179 in pay raises since then."
That included two bonuses, so in the fiscal year that starts next month his salary is being proposed as about $145,000.

"Is he overpaid? Possibly," Mathiesen said. "Is he outrageously overpaid? I don't think so."

Mathiesen said he needed more information from the Housing Authority before he would vote on the issue.

"We've been talking about this for 19 months now," Franck said. 

Here's another couple tidbits from past stories:

According to the State Comptroller's audit of the SSHA conducted last year, Spychalski makes more than 93 percent of the housing authority directors in the country.

That includes the directors Plattsburgh, Troy, Schenectady and Albany, each of which handles “significantly more tenant rentals” than the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority.

In fact, Spychslki at his peak made about $45,000 less than the New York City Housing Authority director, John Rhea, who managed 178,882 apartments, 2,602 residential buildings and 334 developments, according to its website.

Anyway, it's unlikely the vote will have much of an effect on the SSHA.

They vote on their 2013-2014 salaries with their budget Thursday and Board member Al Callucci said he expects the budget to pass, as is.

"There's no reason it shouldn't," he said, after the City Council meeting. 

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, June 13

Still waiting for it...

Still no official announcement from John Arpei about running for Accounts Commissioner, but the Republican Committee keeps making that point.

They are also still looking for a Finance Candidate to run against Michele Madigan, a prospect that seems to be getting dimmer with every announcement.

P.O. Box 3105
Saratoga Springs NY 12866
Phone: (518) 587-6670 and Fax: 587-6672

City Committee Endorses John P. Arpei for Commissioner of Accounts for 2013 City Election

Saratoga Springs, NY – June 12, 2013 – The Saratoga Springs Republican Committee met for its monthly meeting at the ITAM in Saratoga Springs, where it made another endorsement for the 2013 election cycle.

The Committee previously made endorsements for Mayor, the Commissioners of Public Safety, Public Works and for County Supervisors.

John P. Arpei, a retired auditor who worked for the State of New York, Office of the State Comptroller, received the unanimous support of the Committee. “We were most fortunate to have John step forward to join our slate of strong candidates and we look forward to helping them win in November. We encourage anyone interested in running for our one open seat to contact us” said David Harper, Chairman of the city GOP Committee.

The committee is still looking for interested candidates for the Commissioner of Finance. Interested parties should contact David Harper - Chairman

Contact:  David Harper – Chairman, 518.587.6670

Labels: , , , , ,

Standard and Poor's report on the city's bond rating

I meant to post this yesterday when I put the article in for the newspaper. Here is the S&P report outlining the reasons for the city's AA+ Bond rating. 

And why not, I'll post Michele Madigan's press release about it. See below.

Mayor Johnson took exception to some of her language in the statement, particularly the use of the word "languishing" when referring to the union contracts. He (and PBA President Paul Veitch) both said it was somewhat standard to have the contracts expire and be renegotiated in the following year (they all expired at the close of 2012).

Madigan was also not pleased with the time it took me to write the article. I told her I was going to do something with it, but it wasn't particularly newsworthy since the rating hadn't changed, it was a reaffirmation of the already good credit rating.

I said something to the effect of: "'Everything is still good in Saratoga' doesn't make for the best headline.'"

Here was her response the other night:
When we spoke earlier today you gave me the impression that you think the recent news from S&P isn't actually news, because "there was no change". This belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how rating agencies communicate with the public.  To say there is "No Change" means there was no communication. It sounds as though you are saying the Yankess winning the Series is not news because they won it last year. S&P actually issued a rating of AA+ for Saratoga Springs, the fact that this is the same rating they gave us last year does not diminish the fact that this is a stellar credit rating and that it was based on current information.  If you look at any trade press or investment press, you will see that every single utterance from any of the main four rating agencies is reported ad nauseum. The Saratogian is the "trade press" for local politics, so I would expect, at the very least, that you would see fit to mention this latest rating action from S&P.  The only way investors of our bonds can find out about our current rating is through the press or a subscription to S&P.  The Gazette did publish our rating for this year so it can be located easily, but sometimes they are fee based.  It's the Saratogian that really needs to publish our rating for this year.

Thanks, Michele

I disagree with her fundamental concept here. Trade press covers it because the people who read trade press care about bond ratings. She uses the analogy of the Yankess, but I would compare it more to the India team winning the Cricket's World Cup.

That might make the news in places that care about the cricket world cup, not here.

She also said to me "when I see stories about compost" that she thought the bond rating was more important. 

I'm not saying the city's bond rating isn't important, but it wasn't so important to the everyday people of the city unless it actually affected their daily lives.

Thus, we waited to run the story until I could pair it with an update on the city's union contracts, which as the report points out “could put some downward pressure on Saratoga Springs’ finances in the next few years.”

The compost story, for example, may not have impacted Saratogians' daily lives, but it was certainly a talker.

For instance, it generated 23 comments on the website. As of 11:37 Thursday, the bond rating story generated one, and it was about the union contracts.  

I think Commissioner Madigan's perception of the newsworthiness of the city's bond rating may be somewhat skewed, since, let's face it, she reads trade journals.


I spoke to Michele Madigan today and it seems we may have had a breakdown of communication over the article and possibly have misconstrued one another's points of view.

She emphasized that she was just trying to get across the importance of the bond rating because she knew it wasn't the sexiest news story.

Also, she said cricket IS very important in some places (with a laugh, of course).

And next week she will be bringing up some of the Housing Authority salary questions at the City Council. We'll see how that goes.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 12

Release from the Yepsen camp:

Building Momentum, Yepsen Picks (Up, I think belongs here) Two  New Endorsements
Adding to her endorsements by the Democratic and Working Families Parties, in the past two weeks, Saratoga Springs Mayoral Candidate Joanne Yepsen has been endorsed by the Independence Party and the RFK Club.
Saratoga County Independence Party Chairman Ed Miller released the following statement following the endorsement of the Independence Party:
"If hard work, integrity and vision for the future of Saratoga Springs are important, Joanne Yepsen is the best choice for Mayor.  The Saratoga County Independence Party is pleased to endorse Supervisor Joanne Yepsen as the 2013 Mayoral candidate for Saratoga Springs.  Our committee recognizes Joanne's tireless advocacy for our horse racing industry and our local economy.  Joanne has a plan to strengthen our horse racing and agriculture industry and plans to work with all levels of government on both sides of the aisle to tackle the multitude of critical issues facing the growing city of Saratoga Springs.  She is  a genuine public servant with an strong independent voice,  remarkable record of accomplishment,  and passionate leader for all the people of Saratoga."
This Independence Party is the third established political party to endorse Yepsen in her bid for Mayor.
The Capital Region RFK Club, a good-government Democratic organization also recently endorsed Yepsen’s candidacy, with Co-Chair Matt Peter releasing the following statement:
"The RFK Club is proud to endorse Joanne Yepsen because of the commitment she has displayed to serving her constituents and to the Values we share.  We look forward to supporting Joanne in her election and working with her as Mayor to bring continued progress to Saratoga Springs."

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 7

Wait for it....

I'm told that the official announcement from John P. Arpei that he is running against John Franck for Accounts Commissioner won't happen until next week. Just for everyone's information.

That leaves just Finance Commissioner on the table for the Republicans and another supervisor race for the Democrats.

I've heard neither has great prospects of getting those spots filled on their slates of candidates, but there is certainly still time left.

Labels: , , , ,