Sarah Burger and the Friends She Keeps

Sarah Burger appears to be a one issue candidate.  Her campaign can be pretty much reduced to her attack of Chris Mathiesen over his handling of the deal to build an emergency station on the east side.  She has been pretty much silent on all the other major issues facing the city.  In particular she has been no where to be found on the question of the Saratoga National Golf Course attempt to breach the city’s green belt.

The answer to the mystery may be revealed by the company she keeps.  At her event announcing her run she chose Gary Dake, the head of Stewarts Shops (whose ugly stores are a road map of sprawl) to introduce her.  Mr. Dake is one of the founders of a new PAC which appears to have been created because of the defeat of the Saratoga National Golf Course.

In addition, her web site, which contains many pictures from her fund raiser (and which has only the most vague and nebulous statements about where she stands on the issues) has a picture that includes Todd Shimkus, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.  As far as anyone can tell, Mr. Shimkus has never seen a development he did not love and embrace.  In spite of the fact that his board never took a position on bringing full casinos to Saratoga Springs, after the Racino itself, he was probably the most ardent cheerleader for them.  He was also the full throated advocate for Saratoga National Golf Course’s attempt to breach the city’s greenbelt.  The following is a link from Ms. Burger’s site.  Mr. Shimkus is at the far left of the picture.

4 thoughts on “Sarah Burger and the Friends She Keeps”

  1. Hi John, I am certainly more than a one issue candidate and encourage you to read my Saratogian readers views which include my position regarding not only the land swap deal, but the proposed parking garage (I strongly support the city centers needs and comprehensive development of the taxpayer owned high rock ave property, my opponent has shepparded the proposed garage ), my strong position in favor of civilian review boards (wholly consistent with WFP platform and something my opponent has been publicly against), ideas regarding traffic enforcement and department operating plans. More to come as we move forward. Always happy to talk. Best, Sarah


    1. Point well taken. I am unclear exactly where you stand on the city center garage that distinguishes you from Chris Matheisen. Do you support the city center’s proposal or do you not? You will pardon my skepticism but too often politicians offer vague statements meant to finesse the issue so as not to offend anyone.
      I am willing to cut you some slack that you worked for the mayor and could not publically address the issue of casino expansion. I would note that the resolution crafted by the mayor was a strange document. It opposed the state amendment that had already passed but it carefully avoided stating that the city actually opposed the casino’s expansion. The Times Union editorialized about the dubious wording of the resolution. Since you were the city attorney at the time, could you explain why the resolution did not directly oppose the local expansion?

      You did not enter into the debate over rewording the zoning for the city’s greenbelt to allow PUDs and then subsequently for adopting an overlay for the Saratoga National Golf Course. Could you share with the readers of this blog:
      1. Why you were silent during the time this was being debated?
      2. Where you stand on the question of what accommodations the city should make for Saratoga National Golf Course?


      1. John:

        Ill do the best I can here and appreciate your consideration.

        Parking garage: I am opposed to the proposal. I believe I was very clear about that in my readers view entitled “reckless disregard for taxpayer property” and on radio interviews. My opponent has consistently supported the proposal and defended his position recently at the public library at a forum regarding development of the taxpayer owned high rock avenue parcel. Had I been on the City Council one year ago I would have brought folks together (hopefully a joint council member effort) and issued a RFP for comprehensive development of high rock BEFORE voting to send the applications to the land use boards. I would not have put the project application and subdivision on my agenda (my opponent did) and if it appeared on another I would have voted no and moved forward with a RFP anyway. Lots of time and money were wasted this past year and to the benefit of no one.

        Casino resolution:
        As City Attorney I worked very little on the resolution. I do not know the answer.

        Much of this happened before I decided to run for office. My understanding is that recently the council sent a zoning text amendment question to the planning board regarding the definition of “clubhouse.” From what I know of the project proposal it defies common sense to include much of it in that definition. I am very concerned about our city in the country and question why the incumbent allowed residential development to continue during his 4 yr tenure unchecked in the outter districts despite his concerns regarding fire/ems services. The issue re natl is ongoing so Ill reserve further comment until I can review what the planning board comes up with.

        Hope this helps. I will be appearing on multiple media outlets in the coming weeks regarding my candidacy and platform. Please do not ever hesitate to reach out directly. We may not always agree but I promise to listen and carefully weigh all options before making a decision.


  2. Much thanks for your thoughtful response.
    1. I am troubled by your response to the issue of the resolution introduced by the Mayor and passed by the City Council on casino gambling. As noted in the original question to you, the resolution was written in a carefully parsed way so that it did not actually oppose the racino’s proposed expansion. In your comment you say that you “worked very little on the resolution.” I take that to mean that you did work on it. You also responded that you do not know why it did not oppose the casino expansion. I hope you can understand my skepticism about your response. You were the City Attorney, you were consulted about the resolution in your capacity as City Attorney, and yet you have no idea why it was worded in such a dubious way. The purpose of this blog is to provide information so readers can make up their own minds but, with respect, I find your answer difficult to believe. If you would like to respond in more detail to this I would welcome posting your response.
    2. You announced your candidacy in February. I grant that the controversy over the issue of whether to allow PUDs in the greenbelt predated your announcement, but I cannot give you a pass for not involving yourself in this important issue prior to announcing your candidacy. The question of how to deal with the Saratoga National Golf Course plans, however, continued beyond the date of your announcement. Aside from that, I do not recall you participating in any of the meetings either before or after your announcement regarding SNGC or the Comprehensive Plan. I think you would agree that the question of how to address the SNGC’s ambitious plans for development in the city’s greenbelt is one of the most important public policy issues that our City Council members must address. Commissioner Mathiesen has taken a very strong, clear, and consistent position on this issue. In reviewing your web site, I can find no reference to this issue. In fact I believe your comments on this blog are the first you have made regarding the issue. Even those comments are quite vague and non committal. “From what I know of the project proposal (my emphasis) it defies common sense to include much of it in that definition.” You then state that “The issue re natl is ongoing so I’ll reserve further comment until I can review what the planning board comes up with.” The fact that Todd Shimkus, who has played a major role in advocating for SNGC is a strong supporter of yours only adds to my concerns. Please note that should you decide to take a clear position on the issue, you are welcome to return to the blog and I will post your comments.
    3. You say “I am very concerned about our city in the country and question why the incumbent allowed residential development to continue during his 4 yr tenure unchecked in the outter (sic) districts despite his concerns regarding fire/ems services.” This seems to me to be a rather unfair criticism of Commissioner Mathiesen who has one of the strongest records on protecting the greenbelt. What action would you have taken had you been Commissioner to halt residential growth in the greenbelt while awaiting the expansion of fire/emt services? Would you have sponsored a moratorium on all residential building in the greenbelt until an emt site was constructed?


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