Dr. John Brueggemann Candidate for School Board, Has A Problem With Facts

 Dr. Brueggemann’s web site includes the following:

 

The relevant text which is highlighted states:

“It is their (the insurance carrier’s) considered view that Ground Monitors should not be rearmed.”

 This is simply false and easily documented.  There is a video of the meeting in which the representative of New York State Insurance Reciprocal addressed this issue which can be viewed at https://youtu.be/zg3avEzGjl4 .  If you move the pointer to 1:12;54 you will hear the representative for the insurance carrier say regarding arming the school monitors:

 “Whether they do or don’t, is a question for the community and the school board, and as a risk manager, I’m going (to) lean either way.“  

 It is important to note that the insurance representative expressed concerns about the potential liability the school would take on in arming the monitors and he emphasize his concern that the monitors be thoroughly screened and that the school would need to insure that there was on-going training to insure their readiness.  It is absolutely crystal clear, however, that he was careful to avoid committing to taking a position and that he left that decision to “the community.”

What I find particularly disturbing is that the screen shot above was taken from Dr. Brueggermann’s Facebook page yesterday (April 20, 2019).  This is important because Dr. Brueggemann has been advised about this issue and, as will be documented below, is fully aware of what the insurance representative said, and yet he has failed to amend his Facebook page to correct his erroneous representation of what the insurance representative said.

 My Odd History With Dr. Brueggemann


Earlier this year I contacted John Brueggemann to interview him about his candidacy for the Saratoga Springs School Board.  As I often do, in order for him to feel comfortable
, I told him that our conversation would be off the record.  

I honored that commitment and readers of this blog will note that until this post his name barely appeared on my blog site let alone any discussion of what he shared with me in our phone conversation.  

As he has sent me an email (see below) drawing from our phone conversation I no longer feel bound to keep that conversation confidential.

In our phone conversation, Dr. Brueggemann had told me that the representative of the school’s insurance carrier had recommended the school both utilize the services of two School Resource Officers (SRO) and that the school district not allow the monitors to carry fire arms.

I had no reason not to believe Dr. Brueggemann so in the first of the four posts I wrote on the issue of arming monitors I repeated what he had told me.

I subsequently viewed the video of the meeting where the insurance representative spoke (see above) and realized that what Dr. Brueggemann had told me was, to be generous, not accurate.  As previously noted, while the insurance representative did recommend the two SROs, he had been very careful not to take a position on the issue of arming monitors one way or the other.

So on March 22nd I published a correction under the title “Two Corrections To Guns Or No Guns Part #1”. The post was very brief and simply stated that the insurance rep had not recommended disarming the monitors.  Again, in order to honor my commitment to Dr. Brueggermann, I attributed the source of my misinformation only to a “candidate for the school board.”  No name, not even a gender.  

On March 25th Dr. Brueggemann emailed me (see complete email below).  

He asserted that he had become the targets of internet trolls because of my blog.  I was stunned, in light of the care that I had taken to avoid referencing him as my source of misinformation

He went on to chastise me for the correction I had published (a correction made necessary by his misrepresentations to me) for my apparent failure to understand the obvious.  He wrote:

“We do not have armed grounds monitors and they (the insurance carrier) do not recommend rearming them. That is a simple fact, which I tried to convey to you, that is somehow obscured in all the words you have written.”

 Dr. Brueggemann seems unable to grasp the distinction between the insurance representative declining to recommend arming the monitors (which he did) as opposed to the representative taking a position opposed to arming them (which he didn’t).  

As Dr. Brueggemann is a professor of sociology and, based on my conversations with him, an intelligent and well read individual,  I am unable to understand this.

In fact his email contains a fragment of the transcript from the meeting at which the insurance representative spoke and it contains the reps refusal to commit on how the school system should decide on arming the monitors.  How he can send me this transcript with the rep’s actual words and continue to assert that the rep holds a position on whether or not to arm the monitors is truly perplexing.

The following is the unedited email that Dr. Brueggemann sent me:

Subject: RE: First Post Re Saratoga School District Armed Staff Issues

From: John Brueggemann

To: John Kaufmann

Date: March 25, 2019

John, I was very surprised by your second post regarding NYSIR. NYSIR presented the BOE with a series of recommendations. Rearming the grounds monitors was not one of them. We do not have armed grounds monitors and they do not recommend rearming them. That is a simple fact, which I tried to convey to you, that is somehow obscured in all the words you have written.

During the 30 plus minutes I spent speaking with you I mentioned the importance of expert supervision, training related to working with young people and special needs students, and ongoing active shooter training. So far, you haven’t mentioned any of these things. Nor the fact that no real experts recommend arming security guards without those conditions.

Below is a transcription of the BOE meeting when the NYSIR official spoke and then your words characterizing what he said?[sic] Do you really think you gave an accurate summary? I do not. Indeed, I think it is highly misleading. I don’t care about the names I’m being called on social media based on your blog. Trolls will be trolls. But I believe you’ve mislead the public on a key issue. I’m glad you provided the link. Anyone who watches it will know. But I’m afraid most people won’t go to the trouble. 

Sincerely, John

“The NYSIR perspective would be looking at it also from a liability standpoint and the different perspectives. To me, it’s a governance issue, if the Board makes a decision to disarm these security guards. You have these full-time School Resource Officers armed in the building, plus you still have your security personnel that are in the building. Right? They are there to provide assistance and like you say they are highly trained ex-law enforcement professionals in your building. So there are a number of them who can provide assistance in the event of an emergency situation. 

If the school district were to say ‘yes, we need to have them armed,’ I would want to have, as the assistant chief said, top notch requirements in place for them in everything that they do when it comes to weapons controls and weapons procedures to the point where the full-time law enforcement people have in place.

From a liability perspective there is a lot that can go wrong and the school district in hiring those individuals is taking on that liability. So, from a risk management perspective, that is how I would look at it.

Whether they do or don’t, is a question for the community and the school board, and as a risk manager, I’m going lean either way. [JK:My emphasis] You don’t have them, are you still safe? You look pretty good with a school resource officer and the trained staff that you have in place right now that  understand what their role and responsibility is. And like I say, when we did the assessment, we were outside the school at the beginning of the school day for the morning arrivals and there were school staff everywhere doing a fantastic job, controlling the grounds, covering a high impact time of day. You know, a lot of bodies outside that are potential targets.

So that is the perspective that NYSIR would bring to it, looking at it from a liability perspective, saying if you’re going to do it, there are a lot of controls you need to have in place, you know, at the high school.” 


[JK: This is from my correction post which he included in his email] One candidate for the School Board told me that the risk of arming the monitors was such that at the recent community meeting on safety, the District’s insurance agency had recommended against it. This turned out not to be true. The insurance representative instead told the audience “I can lean either way…..It’s a governance issue.” Here is a link to the video of the meeting. The insurance representative can be heard discussing the issue between 1:11:33 and 1:13:33

 

 

Unprecedented Funds Raised In School Board Races

The Times Union and the Gazette ran stories about the school board candidates’ fund raising efforts.

The Saratoga Parents for Safe Schools raised $33,000.00.  They have spent over $17,000.00.  They used the money to do automated calls to district residents and to purchase lawn signs.  Their endorsed candidates are Dean Kolligian, Ed Cubanski, and Shaun Wiggins.

John Brueggemann raised over $4,700.00.  He spent nearly $1,500.00 so far.

Connie Woytowich, Heather Reynolds, and Natalya Lakhtakia raised under $500.00.

Candidates are only required to file financial reports if they raise over $500.00.  The Gazette reported that district officials did not recall a time before this when candidates had to file financial reports.

Brueggemann and Reynolds both have been critical of the candidates accepting money from the Saratoga Parents for Safe Schools because they believed it would undermine the candidates’ independence.

This criticism seems to me to be opportunist by playing on people’s appropriate resentment about groups funding candidates in general.  Normally such contributions come from business groups with financial interests in influencing government policies.  In the case of these school board races the money is not coming from big corporations but from people who support using armed monitors as a security resource in protecting schools from shooting incidents.  

Saratoga Springs Moves Aggressively To Meet Paris Climate Accord Goals 

The Paris Climate Accord Goals called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels by 25% by 2025.  Unbeknownst to most of us,  Saratoga Springs has been moving aggressively toward meeting those goals by reducingthe city’s use of fossil fuels.

 

In the fall of 2012,  Larry Toole, who at the time was on the board of Sustainable Saratoga, with the help of his son Cameron, wrote a proposal to create a solar grid on the land that had been used for the city’s landfill.  Mr. Toole did a presentation to the City Council and Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan volunteered to work with Sustainable to make the project a reality.  

 

Commissioner Madigan created a committee to assist her in crafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) and in moving the project forward.  The committee was made up of Larry Toole (Sustainable), Lynn Bachner (Finance Department Deputy),  Christine Gillmett-Brown (Director of Finance), Mark Torpey (New York State Energy Redevelopment Authority), Shauna Sutton (Deputy Mayor), Tim Wales (City Engineer), and Matt McCabe (past Commissioner of Finance).  

The project was a huge success.  Today 40% of the city government’s electricity needs are provided for by solar power from the grid at the landfill.

 

Currently, at Commissioner Madigan’s initiative and with full Council support one of the key elements in the city’s reconstruction of city hall will be retrofitting the structure to reduce its carbon footprint through structural enhancements and through the establishment of a heating and cooling system that uses state of the art technology. The city will also be moving ahead with changing the city’s street lights to LEDs.

It is important to note that the city’s automobile/truck fleet still generates a significant amount of carbon emissions, but with Mayor Kelly’s recent announcement of the settlement of the legal disputes involving the Geyser Road Trail, the city is taking another significant step forward in encouraging people living in and visiting the city to walk and bike rather than drive where possible.

 

At last Tuesday’s City Council on April 16th Commissioner Madigan and Tina Carton, Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, Historic Preservation, and Sustainability announced the establishment of a “Sustainability Hub” soon to be up on the city’s website. This site is meant to both highlight the city’s achievements in combating carbon emissions but also to make the public aware of programs available to the city’s citizens to assist in this critical goal.

 

While there is always more to be done, Saratogians should be encouraged by the steps city officials, particularly Commissioner Madigan and Mayor Kelly, are taking to move our corner of the world toward a more sustainable future.

This is a link to Commissioner Madigan and Administrator Carton’s presentation on the new “Sustainability Hub”.  

.


Here is a press release on the presentation.

 

City of Saratoga Springs to Unveil Sustainability Hub during April 16th City Council Meeting

Saratoga Springs, NY — At the regularly scheduled City Council meeting on Tuesday April 16th, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan and Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, Historic Preservation, and Sustainability Tina Carton will deliver a presentation highlighting all of the sustainability progress made by the City to date, and unveil a new “Sustainability Hub” on the City website.

 

The initiatives that will be highlighted include the Spa Solar Park, the City-owned electric vehicle (“EV”) charging stations, alternative transportation options, and legislation that fosters green, energy-efficient programs within the City. Commissioner Madigan will also discuss sustainability-focused future efforts aimed to benefit both the City budget and Saratoga Springs residents, as well as the City’s collaboration with Sustainable Saratoga, a local not-for-profit that has played a key role in the City’s sustainability efforts.

 

Madigan stated, “The City Council has taken a variety of steps in recent years to make Saratoga Springs a model community in terms of sustainability and resiliency, and projects like the Spa Solar Park have shown that these types of projects are not only good for the environment but also can positively impact the City’s bottom line. The new Sustainability Hub will highlight all the good work done by the City, and provide a one-stop shop for residents interested in learning about everything from where EV charging stations are located to how they might qualify for an energy-efficient property improvement loan through the Energize NY PACE Finance program.”

The City Council meeting held on April 16, 2019 will begin at 7:00 PM at the Recreation Center (15 Vanderbilt Ave.) and will also be streamed live on the City website.

A copy of this release can be found on this City website: https://www.saratoga-springs.org/2444/Sustainability-Press-Release

 

Michele Madigan

Commissioner of Finance

City of Saratoga Springs

474 Broadway

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Patrick Kane: A Man Seemingly Of No Shame

In June of last year, Pat Kane submitted a picture (see below) of Mark Scirocco to Marilyn Rivers who is the director of the Risk and Safety Office in Saratoga Springs.  The picture, which turned out to be a fake, purportedly showed Mark in the driver’s seat of a city van in violation of city policy.

Mark Scirocco is the son of Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco.  Mark works for the Department of Public Works.  In January of this year he was convicted of Driving While Ability Impaired which is a violation (as compared to a misdemeanor or felony) and his license was suspended so he was prohibited from driving a city venicle.  He continued to work for the department riding with his supervisor reading water meters.  

A little history: Pat Kane, who is a registered Republican, was Skip Scirocco’s campaign manager when Commissioner Scirocco first ran for office and was elected Public Works Commissioner.  As far as I can tell they had a falling out over Commissioner Scirocco’s unwillingness to support Mr. Kane’s campaign to change the city’s form of government.

Apparently, Mr. Kane was quite persistent in pressing his allegations against the Commissioner’s son.

In the end, Kane received a letter (see below) from the City Attorney regarding his allegations. The letter detailed the features of the picture that showed it was a fake.

It is profoundly disturbing that Mr. Kane would go to this kind of length in an attempt to both embarrass Commissioner Scirocco and threaten his son’s job.

Bethesda Church Announces Plans For Facility To Provide Shelter For A Variety Of Constituencies

Bethesda Episcopal Church has launched an ambitious project called Mercy House. They hope that it will be a comprehensive community resource.  Below is a rendering of the proposed facility along with a press release describing their plans.

April 14, 2019                                                                                     .

Bethesda Episcopal Church Forms New Non-Profit to Help the Homeless

Saratoga Springs — Bethesda Episcopal Church of Saratoga Springs has created Mercy House of Saratoga, Inc., a new, non-denominational, non-profit that will provide temporary residences for a wide range of needy people.  Housing will be offered in partnership with several local agencies in a new building to be constructed next to the church on Washington Street.

Those to be served include victims of domestic violence and their children, homeless military veterans including women with children, people living with mental health and substance use diagnoses, and race track backstretch workers who are in recovery from physical injury or substance abuse.

Partner agencies include the Backstretch Employees Service Team (BEST), Transitional Services Association, Veterans and Community Housing Coalition, and Wellspring (domestic violence).  These agencies will identify and refer individuals and families — people already in our community who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

A fifth organization, In Our Name, will offer a “pay as you are able” café for guests and the community, a center for discussion and discovery, employment readiness and socializing.

A New Four-Story Building

Mercy House will offer housing in a four-story, 30,000 square-foot building that will be constructed at 26-28 Washington Street, just off Broadway in Saratoga Springs.  The building will also serve as the parish house for the church.  Construction for the $9 million building is expected to begin by the end of 2019.

“Mercy House was formed to further our religious mission to help people in need,” said Darren Miller, Bethesda’s Senior Warden.  “When the Bethesda congregation began planning our new parish house, we saw the opportunity to do more for the Saratoga community.  Mercy House will offer hope to people who are facing a tough stretch in their lives. The downtown location offers easy access to bus lines, a supermarket, a community center, employment opportunities, and a primary-care health facility.”

“Dignifying humanity has always expressed the heart of the church’s mission,” stated The Very Rev’d. Marshall J. Vang, Bethesda’s Interim Rector. “What we are creating is more than a collection of stone and mortar. Mercy House will be a place of renewal and hope.”

The first floor of the new building will be primarily dedicated to Bethesda’s parish activities and offices.Residents and housing partners will have access to first floor Bethesda parish rooms for events, counseling and meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, with which Bethesda enjoys a 75-year relationship.

The upper floors will include 18 apartments(1- 2- and 3-bedrooms) plus communal space to accommodate up to 47 individuals.  There will be a two-bedroom apartment for a full-time, on-site manager employed by Mercy House, and a digital security system will assure resident safety.

“Feeling safe at home is something we often take for granted,” said Maggie Fronk, Executive Director of Wellspring. “As Wellspring works with families that have experienced abuse, a key factor in building a future free of violence is the ability to find a safe, affordable place to live. Domestic violence is the primary cause of family homelessness in Saratoga County. Bethesda Episcopal Church’s housing program will afford individuals and families much needed affordable housing with access to employment opportunities, public transportation and services.”

“The importance of a caring community as integral to the healing process cannot be overestimated,” said Paul Ruchames, Executive Director of BEST.  “BEST is honored to be a part of this project and pledges to do all possible to help it come to fruition and later, to thrive.”

“Transitional Services Association is excited to be a part of this collaboration with the Bethesda church,” said Sybil Newell, executive director. “For the past 40 years we have provided housing and supportive services to individuals living with mental health and substance use diagnoses in Saratoga County. One of our biggest struggles has always been finding safe and affordable housing in the Saratoga Springs area that is also accessible to resources and services. The proposed project- Mercy House- will fill a great need in our community to provide housing to vulnerable individuals, in an optimal location.”

“We’re  excited about our partnership with Bethesda Episcopal Church to provide stable, supportive and affordable housing to our veterans, said Cheryl Hage-Perez, Executive Director of Veterans & Community Housing Coalition.  “This partnership will create an opportunity for single, homeless, female veterans with children to remain stably housed while receiving the support services they need to live a productive and successful life in their community.  This project will provide the only services for this target population in our area.”

“Food For Thought is a café based upon the mantra of ‘Feed, Teach, Employ, House’ said Frank Zarro, In Our Name’s coordinator.  “Each of these critical human needs will be addressed within the walls of the Bethesda annex. Meals will be served every day, on a pay-what-you-are-able basis.  Everyone will be included and no one will be turned away. We also hope to help Mercy House’s guests to develop job-ready skills and habits to support the hospitality community.”

“Mercy House builds on Bethesda’s long-standing commitment to helping people in need, including establishing the Home of the Good Shepherd in 1871 and sustaining it for more than a century,” Miller said.

“Homelessness in Saratoga County is a byproduct of our community’s economic success over recent decades,” said Gordon Boyd, President of Mercy House.  “We will provide a resource to meet a major share of the need, but the work of others must continue and grow.  Like other challenges Saratoga County has met over the years, when everyone gets involved, good things happen.”

Mercy House was incorporated in October 2018.  Its Board of Directors includes both members of the parish and of the outside community.  Assistance provided at Mercy House will be non-denominational.  Mercy House is planning a campaign to begin in the coming months to raise the additional capital needed to begin construction.

Republican Candidate for Finance Knocked Off The Ballot

Republican candidate for Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Rob Barile’s petitions were successfully challenged by Bill McTygue.  The result is that he will not appear on the ballot in November on the Republican line (he will still appear on the Conservative line) and whoever wins the Democratic primary will in all likelihood be the next commissioner of Finance.

As Bill McTygue has been heavily involved in Patty Morrison’s campaign, I contacted her.  Her only response was “no comment.”

I contacted Matt Hogan, chair of the Saratoga Springs Republican Party.  He offered the following:
“I haven’t been able to confirm that his petitions were disqualified.  If they were, I can only say that these things are best decided by the voters rather than the lawyers.”

I contacted Michele Madigan, the current Commissioner of Finance, who is Ms. Morrison’s opponent in the Democratic Primary.  She told me, “I considered challenging his petitions but decided against it.  The public is best served when they have a choice of candidates.”