Father Kirwin Preaches At Mass At St Peter’s Church On Cruelty At The Mexican Border

I received the following note from a friend who attended a recent mass at St. Peter’s Church:

“At the 11:00 AM mass at Saint Peters Church yesterday (June 17, 2018), Father John Kirwin,  retired priest, resident of Lincoln Avenue and former member of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, said mass as a substitute for the pastor.  Father Kirwin started his homily on the topic of Father’s Day and quickly progressed to the issue of children at the Mexican border being separated from their parents.  As he developed his theme and mentioned the policies of the present administration, more and more people began leaving the church, apparently in protest of Father Kirwin.  However, once he finished, the  parishioners who remained (the majority of the congregation) gave him an enthusiastic applause for nearly a half minute.  This was all very unusual for a Catholic service.”

Father Kirwin was kind enough to send me a copy of his notes for the service:

11TH Sun B ’18                   (Mark 4:26-34)

‘O God. . .at whose bidding the seed will sprout and the shoot grow toward full stature. . . . . we wait for God’s kingdom NOW growing in our midst. . . ‘

Earlier this morning, across the street getting my nytimes,  the young woman serving me wished me a Happy Father’s day, if I was a Father; and she said Yes I was,  as I had my puppy waiting for the treat she always has for him.

I said no, I wasn’t Charley’s father, I was his master,

I HOPED I WAS CAPABLE OF MORE THAN BEING A DOG’S FATHER!

Nothing wrong with dog’s, but, we should keep things in perspective.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about fathers whose children have been separated from them and put in detention facilities, due to their undocumented status,    

in this GREAT COUNTRY OF OURS. 

Separating children from parents,

And basically imprisoning them?

How GREAT IS THAT?

I saw a FACEBOOK item inviting people to update their profile picture with a frame stating:  

FAMILIES BELONG TOGHER 

my screen showed a friend and his first born and only son, out fishing.

 

Another facebook item claimed that

DOCTORS were CONCERNED ABOUT irreparable harm to separated migrant children.

It spoke of the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics flying to Texas and visiting a Rio Grande valley shelter for migrant children, where she saw a young girl in tears. 

“SHE COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE THAN 2 YEARS OLD, JUST CRYING AND POUNDING AND HAVING A HUGE, HUGE TEMPER TANTRUM.

The child was just screaming, and nobody could help her. 

And we know why she was crying. 

She didn’t have her mother or father who could soothe her and take care of her.”

Can’t we do better than that?

The number of migrant children in US Government custody is soaring, as a result of a policy decision by the current administration to separate children from their parents, who are being prosecuted for unlawful entry.

Hundreds of children being held in shelters are under age 13.

The current occupant of the white house and the top justice officer of the country, claim the administration is enforcing immigration law.

Are such laws just, and must we obey them?

The speed with which news spreads in our day, leaves us stunned and bewildered.

What can one do when faced with so much suffering?

What can we do to change this situation?

The call in the gospel is addressed to all.

It consists in sowing small seeds of a new humanity.

Jesus does not speak of big things.

WHAT SHALL WE SAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE,

OR WHAT PARABLE SHALL WE USE TO DESCRIBE IT?

Perhaps we need to learn to appreciate little things and small gestures.

We do not feel called to be heroes or martyrs every day, but we are called to put a little dignity into each corner of our world.

We can all sow little seeds of the kingdom of God, in  a complex and sad world that has all but forgotten the joy of things small and beautiful,  

like children separated from their fathers and mothers on this Father’s day 2018.


 This is a link from the Catholic News Agency on Pope Francis’ recent pronouncements on the issue at a recent gathering of Mexican politicians and diplomats at the Holy See:

Catholic News Link


This is a link to a CBS story on the Catholic Conference of Bishops taking a position that the Trump policies are immoral:

CBS Story


These issues tend to be abstract for many of us.  For a heart wrenching description of the way our country is dealing with the children here is a link to a story from the news site “Democracy Now.”  A staff member of a not-for-profit organization that houses these children describes incidents of children who have been taken from their parents clinging to each other and crying as staff attempt to separate them.  He resigned in protest.

Democracy Now Link

 

 

 

Amazon Plans Monster Distribution Site In Town of Schodack

Amazon Amazon has plans to build a “Fulfillment” center in the town of Schodack which is just south of Albany.   The building would be 1,015,740 square feet.  It would be about a third of a mile long.  It is claimed that it will employ 800 people full time.  It would have 30,500 square feet of office space, 95 loading docks, 300 tractor-trailer spaces and more than 1,000 employee parking spaces.

According to the Albany Business Review:

“The request seeks a deviation from the usual formula in which the property tax exemption gradually declines every year until the entire value is taxed. Scannell Properties [Amazon’s agent] wants a 50 percent reduction for the entire period, with the assessment frozen at $55 million, said Bob Pasinella, executive director of the IDA. The terms are being negotiated.”

“The project would generate more than $1 million in property taxes [JK: They claim] during the first year, considerably more than what the town, school district and county get now, according to Amazon representatives.”

 

Sustainable Saratoga To Offer Repair Café: Fight waste!

You can help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills by bringing items in need of repair to the Repair Café organized by Sustainable Saratoga and the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The event will be held  Saturday, June 16, from 11AM until 2PM in the library’s Harry Dutcher Community Room.  Instead of throwing away that broken toaster or toy, repair coaches will be available to help repair items free of charge. Tools and materials will also be on hand.

More information is available on line at:

http://www.sustainablesaratoga.org/repaircafeblog/

 

 

County Denies Second FOIL For Ballot Images: Turner Channels Trump

Robert “Bob” Turner is a professor of political science at Skidmore College.  He was also the chair of the city’s previous Charter Review Commission.

In an era in which facts are treated with careless indifference and in which spin and hyperbole have replaced measured pronouncements, it is especially dismaying to read Professor Turner’s remarks to area newspapers. His most recent misstatements came after his second FOIL request for images of  the ballots cast in  last November’s charter vote was rejected.

In recent editions of the Gazette, the Saratogian, and the  Times Union newspapers Professor Turner makes reckless attacks on the two Saratoga County Election Commissioners. Rather than  enhancing public dialogue and providing insight into an important issue, he presents erroneous information and creates a poisonous  atmosphere that is not helpful in trying  to understand the controversy.

Professor Turner wrongly accuses the Commissioners of the Board of Elections William Fruci (Democrat) and Roger Scheira (Republican) of obstructing his FOIL request. He is quoted in the Saratogian as saying, “By refusing to follow the Court’s decision in Kosmider, the Republican and Democratic appointed Commissioners of Elections, Roger Scheira and William Fruci, are undermining the public’s confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.”  He told the Gazette, “…I’m not going to let a couple of local political appointees deny the public what’s theirs.” And “The Republican and Democratic county election commissioners can’t even bother to articulate some sort of rationale and reason that the ballots shouldn’t be open to the public.”

The problem is that neither of these men had anything to do with the denial of  Turner’s  FOIL request.A simple question to put to  Turner would be, exactly what evidence did he have that it was the Election Commissioners who thwarted him? The only document he possesses is a letter signed by the county’s FOIL officer denying his FOIL request.

After reading Professor Turner’s comments I called Bill Fruci, the Democratic Election Commissioner, whom I have known for decades and asked him about his role in this controversy.  He explained to me that he was never consulted regarding Professor Turner’s FOIL request.

This was hardly a surprise.  Decisions regarding FOIL requests are decided by an institution’s FOIL officer.  The FOIL officer is required to make a determination by testing the request against a set of legal standards of what is accessible.  My experience leads me to believe that in addition to the county’s FOIL officer, the decision was probably made by the County Attorney, James Dorsey.  I emphasize probably because I have no way of confirming my suspicions.  

Then there is the problem of  Turner’s operatic characterization of the controversy.

 Professor Turner asserts that the denial of his FOIL undermines “…the public’s confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.”  In a statement reminiscent of a certain President he asks, “Why not show the public the ballots?  If the election was run properly, there is nothing to hide.” 

 So Professor Turner not too subtly suggests to the readers of the newspapers that there has been some sort of conspiracy (organized by the two Elections Commissioners) to subvert the election.

 Can Professor Turner really be serious?  Remember, when he thought his Commission’s charter would prevail and that the City Council was trying to somehow block the process, he was quoted in the area papers lauding the virtues of the Board of Elections.

 In fact, I for one do not believe that our democracy is put into jeopardy by Professor Turner’s recent FOIL denial.  The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Third Judicial Department has recently ruled that digital ballots are FOILable.  The decision is under appeal.  I am cautiously optimistic that the New York State Court of Appeals will support the lower court decision and resolve the matter.  

 The denial of Professor Turner’s FOIL is hardly the threat he would have us believe.  Our democracy is threatened.  Dark money, suppression of voters, and gerrymandering are real threats that deserve our alarm not the denial of Dr. Turner’s FOIL.

I can tell you from experience that no matter what the FOIL request is, the inclination of institutions is to deny requests if the standards make that at all possible.  I  myself have had the experience of having FOIL requests  I thought were unfairly denied but lacking the money to challenge the decisions in court had to simply accept the decisions.

I actually agree with Professor Turner that the public should have access to the electronic images of the ballots he requested.  Where I strenuously part company with him is on who was responsible and where he should have directed his gratuitous criticism and on the magnitude of the impact his FOIL denial will have on our democracy.

In spite of his profession as a political scientist, Professor Turner has a history of not being burdened by the need for proof when he talks to the area papers. Professor Turner has wrongly  publically pilloried Mr. Fruci and Mr. Scheira.  He owes them an apology.

Charter Review Commission Shows Thoughtful Approach To Potential Changes

The previous charter review commission pressed a narrative that the city’s commission form of government was by its very nature riven by conflict and run by deputies who were political hacks. While the members of that commission put in many long hours  their lack of knowledge of how government actually works was reflected in their often meandering discussions .  They basically largely focused on their belief that the problems of city government were the result of the commission form of government and assumed that a city manager would resolve everything.  By their second meeting they had dismissed exploring correctable problems with the commission form.

I received a release that summarizes the work of the current commission whose membership is made up of the Commissioners and their Deputies.  I strongly urge the readers of this blog to take a few minutes to peruse the document.  It made me feel very good about the people who serve us in city hall.  The summary shows that the members of this new charter commission  have a thorough understanding of the way city hall functions.  There are thoughtful recommendations being considered that will ultimately  go to the voters about reorganizing the responsibilities of the various departments so the city can operate more efficiently.  The reader will find an amazing lack of turf conflict.  It is also impressive how civilly and professionally these people handle their differences.  I don’t know how anyone reading this release or watching the videos of their meetings cannot come away feeling a sense of pride about our city government.  Credit also needs to go to Mayor Kelly who selected the members of the committee and crafted its mission.

 The current Charter Review Commission regularly sends out releases that summarize the work of each meeting.  They meet the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays monthly at 4PM in the City Council chambers. Meeting minutes and video recordings are available on the City website.  In addition a public forum will be held Wednesday, May 30th at 6PM in the City Council Room. City residents can also give feedback at each of the commission’s meetings or through the city website  Link


MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT: 2018 Charter Review Commission Update

Date: May 25, 2018

Saratoga Springs, NY — The 2018 Charter Review Commission (“CRC”) held its sixth meeting on Wednesday May 24th at 4pm in the City Council Room. During this meeting the CRC reviewed the sections and the proposed edits discussed during the meeting held on Saturday May 19th for the benefit of those CRC members who were unable to attend, and also completed its initial review of the remainder of the current Charter.

As a reminder, the CRC was formed on March 6, 2018 by Mayor Meg Kelly with the goal of finding efficiencies and organizational improvements to better serve the people who live and work in the City of Saratoga Springs. The Commission’s proposal will be voted on by City residents via a referendum in the November 2018 election.

Below are some of the topics that have been discussed in the past two meetings, along with a recap of some of the discussion points. No discussion noted below is final. The CRC intends to review and vote on each section later in the process, along with a comprehensive review by outside legal counsel.

• Within the Finance section, the CRC again spoke about moving the Capital Budget from the Mayor’s section to Finance, so that the City Council member elected to create and manage the City’s Operating Budget also manages the Capital Budget. The Capital Budget inherently influences the Operating Budget and therefore the tax rate paid by City residents. Other potential Finance edits discussed included more explicit language around the Finance Commissioner’s role as Internal Auditor and adjustments to the budgeting calendar, as to allow Finance more time to finalize and present a Comprehensive Budget to the City Council and residents.

• When discussing the Public Works portion of the Charter, the CRC referred back to earlier conversations regarding Recreation, Parks, and Open Space all potentially moving to Public Works, given this department’s stated responsibility over City land and facilities. There was also some discussion around facility management responsibilities between Public Works and Public Safety, and if this separation, and any possible changes, should be discussed further within the Charter.

• Regarding the Public Safety section, the most material issue remains the potential merger of Code Administration in Public Safety with Building and Zoning Enforcement with the Mayor’s Department. There seems to be consensus among the CRC that combining the group, either in full or partially, makes sense and would increase efficiencies internally and for residents, though the most appropriate structure has yet to be determined.

• Within Accounts the topic that received the most attention was the requirement that the Commissioner of Accounts shall be a licensed assessor. The CRC discussed what the City’s options might be according to State law.

 

• In the Legal Matters portion, the CRC largely agreed that the City Attorney should continue to be appointed by the Mayor, but that that appointment should require the advice and consent of the City Council. Per the Charter, the City Attorney serves as general legal advisor to the City and all its departments, not just the Mayor, so many felt the other City Council members should have the ability to vote on the appointment. Also discussed during this section was the potential creation of an administrative unit which would include other groups that support departments across City Hall, though no consensus was reached on the structure or which groups would potentially be included.

• Other topics discussed from the remainder of the existing Charter include the necessity for an inside and outside tax district, limitations imposed on the City’s bonding limit, and the term and number of County Supervisors explicitly laid out in the Charter, among others.

• Outside of the Charter review itself, the CRC approved the brief questionnaire that will be given to attendees of the May 30th public forum, and the CRC Chairman updated the broader commission on matters such as retaining outside council and subcommittee meetings with select groups and individuals.

As always, the meeting minutes and video recordings from CRC meetings are available on the City website. City residents are also invited to give feedback at future CRC meetings, the public forum to be held on Wednesday May 30th at 6pm in the City Council Room, or through the City website (http://saratoga-springs.org/2144/Charter-Commission ).

 

 

 

Saratoga Springs To Sponsor Gun Buyback Day

A city gun buyback program will take place Saturday, June 2, from 9AM to 3PM. Unwanted long guns and handguns can be brought to the Unitarian Universal Church parking lot at 624 North Broadway. Local businesses have raised money for gift cards to be given to those turning in guns.

More  information is available on the city website and the Police Department’s Face-book page.

 Here’s a link to the story in the Saratogian: 

Link to Saratogian