Saratoga Hospital Gets High Financial Rating from S&P

It may not be the sexist of stories, but given the critical role the Hospital plays in our community the news release below indicating that its financial condition is very strong is excellent news.

N E W S   R E L E A S E

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 12, 2019

S&P Affirms Saratoga Hospital’s ‘A’ Rating

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., November 12, 2019—For the second year in a row, Saratoga Hospital has earned an ‘A’ rating from S&P Global Ratings, which noted the hospital’s strong, consistent operating performance, solid unrestricted reserves, growing admissions and leading market share.

S&P also cited Saratoga Hospital’s “favorable affiliation” with Albany Med. The S&P outlook for Saratoga Hospital remains “stable.”

The hospital continues to be one of the highest rated in New York state.

“The ‘A’ rating affirms the financial strength of our hospital and results in significant benefits to our community,” said Gary Foster, Saratoga Hospital vice president and chief financial officer. “We continue to be well-positioned to add the technology, talent and programs that are essential to the long-term health of the Saratoga region.”

Because A-rated bonds are more attractive to banks and other investors, Saratoga Hospital can finance capital improvements at lower interest rates. That frees more resources to invest in patient care.

The S&P report described Saratoga Hospital’s financial profile as “very strong” and pointed to its “multiyear history of producing stable financial margins and cash flow” as well as its “prudent expense management and revenue growth initiatives.” The report also noted supply-chain, purchasing and other efficiencies made possible by the hospital’s affiliation with Albany Med and Columbia Memorial Health and resulting in millions of dollars in annual savings. 

Saratoga Hospital sought its first S&P rating in 2003 when issuing bonds to help finance construction of Saratoga Surgery Center on the Wilton campus. The hospital’s rating has been upgraded from ‘BBB+’ in 2003 to ‘A-’ in 2012 to ‘A’ in 2018.

***

About Saratoga Hospital: Saratoga Hospital is the Saratoga region’s leading healthcare provider and the only acute-care facility in Saratoga County. The hospital’s multispecialty practice, Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, provides care at more than 20 locations, ensuring easy access to programs and services that can have the greatest impact on individual and community health. Saratoga Hospital has maintained Magnet designation for nursing excellence since 2004. Through its affiliation with Columbia Memorial Health and Albany Med, Saratoga Hospital is part of the largest locally governed health system in the region. For more information: www.saratogahospital.org or www.facebook.com/SaratogaHospital.

# # #

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Peter Hopper

Director, Marketing and Communications

518.583.8679

phopper@saratogahospital.org

Public Meeting on Parking Solutions

The Gazette reports that the Department of Public Safety will hold a public meeting on Thursday, November 21, at 6:30PM at the City Center to gather public input as the city prepares to seek proposals from outside consulting firms that specialize in municipal parking issues.

The article points out that the city’s success as a tourist destination means that although the city has about 2,300 public and private parking spaces in or near downtown and three parking garages, nearly all those spots are often taken even on weekdays.

Solutions proposed in the past such as charging for public parking have been dropped after being met with resistance. While the new City Center garage will be one answer to the problem, in the short term it will contribute to the problem temporarily taking away spaces in the High Rock Avenue lot during construction.

Here’s a link to the full article:

https://dailygazette.com/article/2019/11/16/saratoga-springs-looking-for-new-parking-solutions

Times Union Watch: Mark Scirocco Becomes Another Victim of Bad Journalism

In the October 22, 2019, edition of the Times Union, Wendy Liberatore reported the following allegation made by Dillon Moran, who at the time was the Democratic candidate for Saratoga Springs Public Works Commissioner running against the incumbent Commissioner, Skip Scirocco:

He [Dillon Moran] also said that Scirocco’s son, Mark Scirocco, continues to require a driver to work for the city’s DPW, something that Moran finds disconcerting.

The problem was that this was not true, and Ms. Liberatore must have known it to be untrue when she reported it. She had reported months ago that Mark Scirocco’s drivers license had been suspended for ninety days. Since it was well after the 90 days, it should have, at a minimum, prompted her to both question Mr. Moran’s assertion and check on the status of the suspension. She could also have checked with the city’s Human Resources Office regarding Scirocco’s status before printing Moran’s statement.

Bad as that is, it does not match the response by Casey Seiler to whom Ms. Liberatore reports. As the correspondence below documents, Mr. Seiler asserts that since the accusation was made by a candidate for public office, the policy of the Times Union, according to Mr. Seiler, was to seek a response from the opponent in order to address the issue. Mr. Seiler then observes that Ms. Liberatore was unable to secure a response from Commissioner Scirocco.

He then goes on to ask Mark Scirocco to address a series of questions that are at best only indirectly related to the issue of whether the newspaper had printed a patently false statement. For example, Seiler asks “Are you still a meter reader or have you taken on another set of tasks?”

Nevertheless, Mark Scirocco responds to all of Mr. Seiler’s questions.

In spite of this, Mr. Seiler still maintains that Commissioner Scirocco needs to respond before the paper will print a correction.

File This Under The Category That “Life’s Not Fair”

So there was a time when there were editors at newspapers who would have felt driven to correct any inaccuracy that appeared in the newspaper with all speed possible. They would have considered it a blot on their reputation to leave an untruth remain in print especially one that sullied someone’s reputation.

This unfortunately is not the case with the Times Union in general and Mr. Seiler in particular. Why should the unwillingness of Commissioner Scirocco to talk to the Times Union be a reason to refuse to correct an error in the newspaper for which there is ample documentation proving that the statement is false?

The reality is that Commissioner Scirocco is just one of a number of elected officials who refuse to take Ms. Liberatore’s calls. This story is a vivid example of why so many are reluctant to engage with the Times Union.

It is particularly troubling that Ms. Liberatore and Mr. Seiler would abuse their power by using the correction of an untrue statement about Commissioner Scirocco’s son as leverage to get the Commissioner to talk to them.

Below is the exchange between Mark Scirocco and Casey Seiler that is really worth a read. The TU never did publish a correction.

____________________________________________

From: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2019 5:07 PM
To: Smith, Rex <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>
Subject: Request for correction

Hi, Mr. Smith.

My name is Mark Scirocco, Skip Scirocco’s son. I read the article today 

https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Water-issues-central-Public-Works-race-14546073.php

and it contains a blatant lie. Mrs. Libertore put in her article that I, ” continue to require a driver to work for the city’s DPW.” This is something that is totally untrue and I would Kindly request that it be removed and a correction be applied to the article. I have retained representation because Mrs. Libertore has also made claims in other articles about me that are also untrue, mainly claiming that I was assigned a driver, when the truth of the matter is that I have always worked and driven around with my supervisor and continue to do so to this day. She also implied that I received special treatment when she knows this is false as well, as she had foiled the records of other DPW employees who were treated the same as I was, she knows that claim to be false as well. While I am a great supporter of the press and their duty to hold public officials accountable, there should also be some standards in regards of truthfulness and not repeating false and salacious statements against private citizens. 

Thank You,

Mark Scirocco

____________________________________________

From: Rex Smith <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>
Date: Sunday, October 20, 2019 at 9:47 PM
To: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Cc: Casey Seiler <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Subject: RE: Request for correction

To Mark Scirocco:

Thank you for your note. I apologize for not responding more quickly.

Unfortunately, I’m going to be traveling Monday, so I’m unable to look into this personally. I am copying Managing Editor Casey Seiler so that he can be aware of your complaint, and he and I will discuss the matter Tuesday. If there are errors in any article, we are pleased to correct them immediately. Meanwhile, we will look into your claims.

Sincerely yours,

Rex Smith

____________________________________________

From: Seiler, Casey <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Sent: Monday, October 21, 2019 9:44:51 AM
To: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Cc: Smith, Rex <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>; Liberatore, Wendy <wliberatore@timesunion.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

Mr. Scirocco:

I’ve discussed this with Wendy, and she’s correct in noting that she was quoting a claim from your father’s political opponent, which she then took to your father so he could offer a response, which was also included in the story. That’s standard journalistic practice when covering a factual dispute between two politicians.

A few questions that would help us gain clarity on this subject:

  • What’s the current status of your driver’s license? Would it allow you to operate a city vehicle?
  • Before your 2018 arrest, did you need a partner to perform your work?
  • Are you still a meter reader, or have you taken on another set of tasks?
  • If you are a meter reader, can you explain why that job requires two people, so we can take that description to other municipalities to determine if it squares with their practices?
  • Are there other DPW meter readers who work with partners to the extent that you do?

I can be reached at 518-454-5619 to discuss these questions or any other issues you might have.

Best,

Casey

____________________________________________

From: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Date: Monday, October 21, 2019 at 12:30 PM
To: Casey Seiler <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Cc: Rex Smith <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>, “Liberatore, Wendy” <wliberatore@timesunion.com>, John Kaufmann <john.kaufmann21@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

The statement is completely false  and the reporter knows it’s completely false as per her own reporting. She reported back in January, in your own paper, that there was a 90 day suspension.

While the suspension was far less then the 90 days, it would be safe to conclude that the 90 days had elapsed several months ago. Why you guys would be asking me now as to the status of my license is befuddling. She had also reported in the paper  That the only thing required to have the privileges reinstated is the license as again per her reporting, 

Unless you’re seriously suggesting that she still thinks it’s within the 90 day period, she knows his comment to be false and still decided to print it. Knowingly printing false information, regardless of the source, seems to me to be the antithesis of good or standard journalism as printing the comment lends it credence or validity, or at the very least portrays that there is still an argumentative point. 

I will also include information showing that Mr. Moran also knows it to be false. In a correspondence to me last year, he apologized to me for being raked over the coals and said “Skip did nothing wrong.”  

As for the other questions, they have been answered ad nauseam at this point.  Why Mrs. Liberatore decides to rely on poor sourcing choices is beyond me and up to you and the Times Union to figure out. 

•Ms. Liberatore  knows I have a license, as per her own reporting.

•Yes. I have worked with my supervisor Skip Colucci, for years now and still do.  He is the one, long before my arrest, that determined it was better for the two of us to work together. 

•I was never just a meter reader, I’ve worked with Mr. Colucci installing meters, since I was hired in 2013. It is just one of the many tasks we perform, which also  includes reading meters. 

•Not just a meter reader; but Mr. Colucci, my 76 year old supervisor, determines why the job requires two people. It’s essentially a job that deals with construction aspects and often times requires more then one set of hands to do the job. We also perform tasks faster, which means we are not holding up homeowners for greater periods of time. 

•Not just a meter reader; but the other two meter readers perform the task of just reading and not installing, comparing out job with theirs is not an accurate comparison. 

____________________________________________

From: Seiler, Casey <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 5:07 PM
To: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

That’s great, we still need to hear from your father. This should be easier.

C.

_________________________________

From: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 8:58 PM
To: Seiler, Casey <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

Yes, it should be easier. You should be contacting the individual who made the claim that is being questioned and ask him to provide you with the proof of his claim. In fact, this should’ve happened before you even reported it in the paper as a fact. The fact that you’re asking the injured party to disprove an allegation instead of asking the accuser to prove it is quite a different than what seems to be normal practice. 

_________________________________________

Some Thoughts On The Results of the 2019 City Elections

The Times Union’s article on the Saratoga Springs elections was, if nothing else, consistent with their ongoing message about Saratoga Springs politics. Here are several excerpts from the article.

Madigan was also boosted by large donations totaling $52,000 — many from developers, builders and supporters of Saratoga Hospital’s expansion.

“Morrison, who had less than $20,000 to spend, ran with a message of “Your Voice, Your City,” casting herself as a representative of the average citizen over monied interests. Her primary win, however, opened up a rift in the city’s Democratic committee that led to a host of resignations.

Contrast this with the Gazette coverage which was brief:

“Madigan ran on her record, which includes cutting or holding property taxes in the city steady for the eight years she has been in office. Morrison criticized her for being too close to developers in the city.

And there was this from the TU article on the Public Safety Commissioner race:

Hicks got early support, but Dalton was shored up by more than $33,000 in support from many of the same donors who supported Madigan.

And in contrast this from the same Gazette article:

Hicks, a career member of the National Guard, has faced criticism over a 2013 domestic violence arrest (charges were dismissed) and other personal matters, and was running without support from the city Democratic Committee.

So the take by the TU was that the results of the election were based on the largess of the business community in support of insiders over feisty outsiders.

I go with the Gazette view. The challengers had to overcome a city on a roll. Working in harmony with other members of the Council, Mayor Meg Kelly had brought to closure major issues that had vexed the city for a number of years. In particular, they were issues that festered under Mayor Yepsen whose terms were marked by ugly conflict at the City Council table and an inability to move forward on any of the initiatives begun during her tenure.

So with the City Center ready to build its parking facility, a location for the long needed east side EMS station established, the legal actions blocking the bike trail resolved, a new facility for Code Blue for at least two years located, the eighth year with no tax increase, and a Council table free from bickering and infighting, the challengers had little in the way of concrete issues to go to the public about. The Hospital expansion was about the only question of substance and the challengers were unable to rally the public in opposition.

To her credit, Commissioner Madigan was a tireless campaigner. She knocked on door after door right up to the day of the election. She needed to because her opponent, Patty Morrison showed similar grit.

The only other issue the challengers had was the incident of Commissioner Madigan’s emails to Scott Solomon but apparently it did not find enough traction to undermine her campaign.

I find it interesting that the Times Union never wrote a story on the Solomon emails. Given the TU record in their coverage of Commissioner Madigan it seems more than strange that there was no story. I would love to know why they never covered it.

As for the victory of Robin Dalton over Kendall Hicks for Public Safety Commissioner, I again go with the Gazette story. It was not money that was at the root of Dalton’s victory. The police report on Kendall Hicks that alleged he had battered his girl friend along with the letters to him from a woman convicted of using her underage daughter to produce pornography raised sufficient doubts about his suitability to be Commissioner to doom his campaign.

In the end, it is hard to campaign against success.

City Council Election Results: White Walkers Zero

All but one district in Saratoga Springs has reported as of the time of this post (10:53 November 5, 2019). Meg Kelly won decisively over her opponent, Tim Holmes, 66% to 33% in the race for Mayor.

A malfunctioning voting machine will not yield results tonight from the last district. Enough results are in, though, to call the following races:

Robin Dalton won over Kendall Hicks in the race for Commissioner of Public Safety.

Skip Scirocco won over Dillon Moran for Public Works Commissioner.

Michele Madigan won over Patty Morrison for Commissioner of Finance.

Neighbors of Hospital Mail Flyer With Disturbing Errors–Hospital Responds

A group calling itself Save Morgan Street have put out a mailer that both attacks Saratoga Hospital and urges voters to cast ballots against Commissioners Michele Madigan and Skip Scirocco in this Tuesday’s (11/5) election.

The mailer itself is in violation of the New York State Municipal Law governing elections and campaigning. In order to spend money on activities that support or oppose candidates, New York requires a group to register with the New York State Board of Elections. If they spend less than $1,000.00 they must then report both the contributions they receive and their expenditures to the County Board of Elections. If they go over $1,000.00 they must report this information to the state. I have checked with the Saratoga County Board of Elections and the website for the New York State Board of Elections and this group is not listed anywhere as a committee.

This omission by them could be an oversight but it is emblematic of the carelessness reflected in the content of their attack.

Dr. David Mastriani has written an excellent piece for Saratoga Today to respond to the Morgan Street group’s mailer so I will not repeat his points. [JK:I was unable to get a link to the story so the image of the article appears at the end of this post. Saratoga Today can be picked up all over town]. I would just note as one example of the gross errors in this document that it alleges that the hospital wants to build forty-two homes as part of the project. In fact, the Comprehensive Plan’s designation for the parcels does not allow any structures other than medical offices.

Here are some additional points of clarification:

1. The letter urges votes against Commissioners Scirocco and Madigan because they allege these Commissioners voted twice in support of the Hospital. No such votes ever occurred.

The mailing refers to two events. In the first case, the Hospital had applied to the city to build their medical building as a Planned Unit Development. There was never a vote because both Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner John Franck abstained. Four votes were required to pass the resolution and since the abstentions left only three Council members eligible to vote, the vote never occurred. Similarly, a later attempt by Commissioner Chris Mathiesen to change the Comprehensive Plan so that an office building could not be built in the neighborhood failed to get a second from any of the other Commissioners. Again there was no vote.

2. The neighbors assert that the Hospital attorney used “a loop hole” to circumvent a requirement to notify the neighbors of a zoning change. This kind of allegation ignores how the city makes land use decisions.

The Hospital first tried to get city approval, as noted earlier, through the Planned Unit Development process. The neighbors had been notified of this and it was their opposition that required the super majority vote which never took place because of Yepsen’s and Franck’s abstentions.

The Hospital’s request for a change in the zoning of the land they wished to develop was next considered as part of the Comprehensive Plan process.

The process by which the city decides on the appropriate use of land within its boundaries is routinely done through the drafting of a Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan Commission is appointed by the Mayor. It crafts the plan through a process of meetings that are not only public but videoed.

In the course of their deliberations the most recent Commission approved a number of recommendations for changes in land use in addition to the area where the Hospital wished to build. The process was both very public and extremely contentious. The Commission failed to finalize the document due to the irreconcilable divisions in the group. The City Council under Mayor Yepsen then resolved the outstanding recommendations and unanimously adopted the plan which included the changes in the designation of the land where the Hospital wished to build.

While the decision to allow for the change the Hospital sought in the plan was done in an open meeting and passed unanimously there is no question that the neighbors were unaware that this proposal was being considered. There is no requirement in this process to notify neighbors of changes that are being considered throughout the city. This had nothing to do with some kind of loophole exploited by an attorney.

3. The flyer asserts that the city is promoting the Hospital project because there is a “…webpage on the City’s Official website with a ‘FAQ’ sheet for the expansion.” They are referring to the original 2015 Planned Unit Development application that failed but by law is required to be accessible to the public. To comply with the law the application was posted on the city’s website. This is a very old document that is no longer active. They also note that the PUD proposal refers people with questions to a representative of the hospital rather than to the Planning Department. This is because as a PUD the responsibility for the application rests with the applicant and not the Planning Department. These all fit within the requirements of how PUDs are approved or denied.

I have sympathy for the people in the neighborhood. People are understandably concerned about the impact of a large project. They do their cause no service, unfortunately, by making ill informed and inaccurate accusations.