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

Friday, February 28

The other Green man of the 21st *Updated*

Donald L. Hassig is one of two men running for the Green Party line in the 21st Congressional District. He was unavailable when I wrote about the primary, the candidacy of Matt Funiciello and the divergence of Hassig and the Green Party the last time he ran for that seat. 

Unlike his Green Party competition, Hassig said he doesn't believe he can win this election. "I'm in it to win it in 2020," he said, echoing himself in 2012 when he first ran for Congress. "I'm not going to win. No Green Party candidate is going to win. The purpose of this campaign is to get media attention on the issues." He said without his influence, "Fracking would have never been discussed at all (in 2012)."

Don't tell that to Funiciello, though, who said "This isn't an issues campaign. I'm in it to win it."

Here are Hassig's major campaign issues, as he relayed them to me:

1- Stop hydrofracking in the US entirely. "If we don't have a healthy environment, no matter what else we do we're sunk."
2- Free healthcare for all Americans.
3- Free education to all Americans through graduate school. "It's such a basic necessity. People shouldn't have to incur huge debts and drag them down. Our country can afford this."
4- Free organic food for all Americans. "Our country shouldn't be just about getting people what they have to have, but about giving the country wonderful things."
5- He wants to pay for the last three with taxes on "financial instruments... Any time you are making money off of selling money."
6- A jobs program that promotes more teachers  (for the free education) more doctors (for the free healthcare) and more farmers (for the free organic food).
7- Get out of the World Trade Organization and renegotiate Free Trade agreements.

As for other political issues Hassig has seen: in 2012 when he ran for the seat, Hassig was denounced by the Green Party for comments he made on immigrant labor on North Country farms, particularly dairy farms.

“I do not want Mexicans on the farms of St. Lawrence County, or the farms of Clinton County, or the farms of Washington County — any of these farms,” Hassig said, according to North Country Public Radio.

"I'm not a racist. I don't have a racist bone in my body. I didn't think about racism (when I said it). I said it straight from the heart. The reason I said 'I would like to see them get their asses kicked out of here' is because it is not good for the American people, for American farming and for American cattle."

He said dairy farming is a complicated business and when the boss speaks English but the workers only speak Spanish, it can create issues. "I do not approve of immigrant laborers who do not speak English working on American dairy farms."

Plus, he said, it takes jobs way from Americans.

 But he said he forgives the Green Party for denouncing him, despite it being "pure bad behavior, (since) they weren't interested in my explanation."


Originally, the blog post stated:

As for his Green opponent, Funiciello, Hassig said he is the product of the Green Party becoming elitist. "There is a caste system here in America," he said, and the Green Party is putting a business man over a "grassroots activist."

But Hassig said that is not what he meant.

"I said that the Green Party leadership, meaning Gloria Matera, Michael O'Neil, and Peter LaVenia did not like me because they were elitists and I was a person from the lower levels of American society.

 I do not have any reason for believing that Matt Funiciello was recruited by the Green Party leadership to enter the NY-21 race. I certainly did not say that the Green Party was putting a businessman over a grassroots activist. Your article makes me appear to have a negative attitude toward Mr. Funiciello. I have a positive attitude toward him."

He did, in fact, have a positive attitude toward Funiciello when I spoke to him. He also said he believed the Green Party establishment was becoming elitist, however, at one point he also said Green voters were more likely to support Hassig, as a "grassroots activist."

*End of Update*

The state's Green Party co-chair said the party will not be endorsing either candidate before June 24 primary.

Meanwhile, Funiciello said he doesn't believe Hassig was a serious candidate, since he dropped out before the 2012 election to endorse Democrat Bill Owens.

"That was a mistake," Hassig now says, and that he did it at the time because Owens' opponent (and current candidate) Matt Doheney was "such  total fracking cheerleader" and he considered Owens "the lesser of two evils."

Despite the two Green candidates' differences, they both agree the Green primary will be good for the party. "I like the idea of more Green issues being brought up and more people talking about them," Hassig said.

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Wednesday, February 26

Scirocco folds

Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco doesn’t want a casino in the Spa City.

In a Reader’s View submitted to The Saratogian, the city council member argues that the casino would threaten downtown businesses, the City Center as an event space and the Saratoga Racecourse through competition.

“Our racetrack charges admissions and patrons pay to park; how will the racetrack fare against the free admission, parking and beverages that the casino offers?” he asked, and though I’m sure no one was ever kept out by the $3 admission, his point is taken.

“By allowing a casino resort into our city we are giving up any say or control and we are inviting subsidized competition to unfairly challenge our historic racetrack, downtown, and city center and will likely disrupt the quality of life and uniqueness that we are charged with protecting as elected officials.”

He isn’t the first City Council member to submit Reader’s Views on the subject. In January, both Michele Madigan and Christian Mathiesen submitted their views, though neither took as definite a stance as Scirocco did.

Two common themes flow through all three of their arguments: more development at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway create a small, manufactured casino complex with shops, restaurants and a hotel for downtown establishments to compete with; and the city needs more control over what goes on at the casino.

“Without some control and oversight over what could eventually be built in our city, it will be difficult to support expanded casino gambling within our boundaries,” Madigan wrote in her letter.

Mathiesen wrote something a little more firm, and also invoked the need for guaranteed money from the state as a hosting community.

“Without ironclad guarantees of annual income for the city and county, consistency with our comprehensive plan and city council and land-use board control to limit the Saratoga Casino and Raceway to a moderately expanded stand-alone facility, I cannot support their proposal.”

Mathiesen and Scirocco’s thinking was the same on that point too.

Scirocco said, basically, that the money that the city could take in as a host community can’t be counted on, pointing to state money for hosting Video Lottery Terminals the city saw evaporate in 2009 and with it, funding for 10 cops and as many firefighters.

Of course, all of their discussion of whether to allow a casino may be a moot point, regardless, since as he points out: “Unlike Massachusetts, the New York State Gaming and Development Act was written without home rule; meaning that the Massachusetts voters have the power to veto any proposed casino resort in their community and we do not.”

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Saturday, February 15

Southworth makes it a crowd

Former Ballston Town Supervisor Patti Southworth announced Saturday that she will make a run at unseating Republican Hugh Farley from the New York Senate seat he has occupied since Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford.

That makes her the third candidate running for that spot (including Hugh at least).

Farley represents the 49th Senate District, which encompasses the western half of Saratoga County, all of Fulton and Hamilton counties, as well as portions of Herkimer County and Schenectady County, including the city of Schenectady. The district has 76,126 registered Republicans, 57,437 registered Democrats and 10,313 Independence Party voters.

He is the longest-seated state senator, having coasted to his 19th senate victory in 2012 against Democrat Madelyn Thorne with about 59 percent of the vote. (61 percent of the Saratoga County vote).

The two look as though they will be squaring off again this year, with Thorne already scooping up the Saratoga County Democratic endorsement, but the two will have a little company in the race this year.

Southworth was chair of the Saratoga County Independence Party until last year. She is now a registered Democrat, but said she was running even without the party's endorsement.

"I've never been one to  be a part of the political machine. It is very important in my eyes that people have a choice when they go to vote."

She made her announcement on 1160 WABY's Phil Barrett Show Saturday morning and then we spoke on the phone afterward.

Southworth has been endorsed by the Democrats in the past, but this time she said she would be running without that nod, though she will be interviewing with Hamilton County Democratic Committee. Saratoga County Democratic Committee Chair Todd Kerner said Southworth was present during the Thorne interview and never expressed any interest to him in running for the office.

After six years as Ballston Town Supervisor, she opted not to pursue a fourth term, instead making a brief run for Saratoga County Clerk last year (she said she was running in March and withdrew in May).

Southworth ceased that run after saying she had 150 people call and tell her she should run for state office.

"It made me sit back and think 'what is happening in state government,'" she said. "The people need someone who will use common sense, be an independent voice and stand up for what's right for the people."

She said she will focus on jobs, taxes, the environment and education, as well as "trickle down taxes" where the state pushes new mandates on to local governments without economic support.

Southworth encouraged anyone who wants to talk to her about the issues, her campaign or anything else to call her on her cell at 441-6548.

And in case you are interested, here is a video of the endorsement interviews we held with Farley and Thorne a couple of years ago.

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Tuesday, February 11

Grassley and the SSHA

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is asking the David A. Montoya, inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate some "possible financial and administrative mismanagement at the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority." (Imagine that!?)

The request is based in part on information from John Kaufmann, the man who has fed this story since its inception with fresh information like logs for an intriguing fire (couple examples here and here, — he even made a guest post on this blog). The other part of what Grassley is basing his questions on is reporting from The Saratogian. You might recall, we've written about the SSHA once or twice?

Anyway, Grassley's office is specifically looking at the potential conflict of the SSHA hiring one of their employees sons as their attorney at $37,500 a year as well as some of the travel expenses the Comptroller deemed inappropriate in the past, the hiring of an assistant director with a starting salary of $89,500, as well as some other things.

This isn't the first time Grassley has questioned some of the SSHA's practices — not even the first time he has questioned whether there is nepotism in the publicly-funded authority.

Here is the letter he sent to the inspector general. I'll be following it as always.

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Friday, February 7

All turned around

Writing a story about the Broadway Corridor Study that was just conducted to figure out what could improve the traffic flow there and came across an interesting little tidbit that I guess I'd never thought of at the intersection with Broadway and Church/Lake Avenue.

The left-hand turn signal coming off off of Lake/Church is backwards!

What I mean by that is that if you are taking a left from Lake Avenue onto Broadway you will get a green light first, followed by a green left-turn arrow — the reverse of what you might get at, say, any other intersection anywhere.

Some City Council members were questioning the sequence the other night at their meeting but representatives of Greenman-Pedersen Inc., traffic engineers, said there is, in fact, a reason for that.

Apparently, about 30 years ago the light was just like a normal one and you could turn left first, but that meant that they were often turning in front of pedestrians trying to cross Broadway, rather than waiting for them to cross.

With the left-hand turn signal coming second, pedestrians have the opportunity to get a head-start across the road before traffic tries to take that left turn and that will make the traffic wait for them.

In fact, I was sitting in the third-floor of City Hall (in the law library I didn't realize existed) trying to get a good video of the traffic situation at that intersection and I saw this in practice. By the time a car got the green turn arrow, a person was already halfway across the road and the car waited.

So there you go. There is a reason for everything.

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Thursday, February 6

Bog Meadow

To me, it actually sounds like the kind of place where you wouldn’t want to drink the water, but what do I know about hydrology?

Not much, apparently, since the project to put three new wells there as supplemental sources of the city’s water are moving forward this year.

There was a presentation on it at Tuesday’s City Council meeting (So very sorry I missed that), but it was apparently the same one I saw last year outlining the project. In sum, it will cost about $1 per gallon-a-day of added capacity to the city’s water system and since it has a $1.5 million price tag, you can do the math easily.

 In all, the project will bring the capacity of the city up to 9 million gallons a day, which is good because that is what the Department of Health is requiring of the city to expand its capacity. Right now it candeliver 8 million gallons of water a day, according to City Engineer Tim Wales.

That comes from the previous iteration of this Bog Meadow presentation when former Public Works Director Bill McTygue repeatedly interruptedPublic Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco’s presentation by grumbling “WRONG!” 

This time I understand he was also in the audience and also had some words with Scirocco, but I wasn’t there to witness it.

 Anyway, Bog Meadow needs to be done and supplying water to the city by June to satisfy the Department of Health and Scirocco said it is an “aggressive schedule” but doesn’t foresee any problem meeting the deadline.

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Wednesday, February 5

Jeff Hampshire released from prison

So I was catching up on what I missed while I was doing my National Guard training and one interesting thing of note is that now Jeffrey Hampshire is out of prison.

For those who might remember, he was doing 2 to 4 years in prison for evidence tampering.

He was out drinking in Saratoga Springs on St. Patrick's Day 2010 when he and his friends got into a verbal dispute downtown with another group of revelers. The two groups seperated, but when Hampshire got into the passenger seat of Travis Carroll's Nissan Maxima, Carroll sped out of a downtown parking lot, striking Ryan Rossley and sending him into Henry Street.

According to testimony, Hampshire said "Go, go, go!" and told Carroll that Rossley was getting up. Rossley didn't move from the spot he landed on Henry Street and later died of the injuries.

Hampshire went to prison, though, because he had some role (however apparently small) in helping Carroll dispose of the windshield that had Rossley's blood and hair in it.

The trial was an interesting one, both because a mistrial was declared at one point due to some testimony by a Saratoga Springs Police investigator and also because in the decade preceding the hit-and-run Hampshire had been convicted of two felony burglaries and acquitted of one murder.

In 2001 he was accused of murdering Ruth Witter, his ex-girlfriend Catherine Seeber's step-great-grandmother. She went to prison for the crime while he walked free. (Her saga is winding and tragic and too much to get into, but if you're interested it's mostly right here).

The ADA tried to build a case against Hampshire as a persistent felony offender, which could have put him behind bars for life, but the judge didn't agree.

Anyway, I thought it was blog-worthy that Hampshire was released less than a month ago (Jan. 10) which was on the low end of his 2 to 4 year sentence.

He will remain on parole until 2015.

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....And we're back.

Well, I'm back.

After spending a third of a year vacationing in the warm heart of the Midwest (Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri) I'm back at the City Desk for coverage of all things Saratoga Springs. (And I brought such wonderful weather with me too.)

I'm still getting back into my reporting shoes here — still don't have my phone back and I may be using this computer against company policy — but I'm reacquainting myself to the civilian world and the world of news all at the same time.

I'll be back up to speed here in no time though and will be relearning to type — but now with Army Strong fingers!

So for anyone who wants to catch up or feed me some juicy tips about what has happened since I left, my number is 584-4242 ext. 221, I'm on Twitter @SaratogianCDesk and my e-mail address is still

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