Joe Levy Reports On League Of Women Voters Debate between Mathiesen and Burger

Joe Levy went to the LWV debate and here is his report on it:

I was at the event and want to mention a few observations while they’re still fresh in my mind. For the record, I’m not a registered Democrat and don’t have a horse in this race.

First, as I approached the UU building, a Burger supporter was installing lawn signs on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street in front of the venue. An LWV representative made it clear that campaigning of any sort was not allowed and the signs were then removed. Inside, there was a full house of about 150 people, give or take. The audience was asked by the LWV moderator to refrain from comments, jeers, or cheers during the forum and that courtesy was generally observed.

Questions from the audience were written on 3×5 note cards and passed on the moderator, with each candidate answering the same question in alternate order within a 1.5 minute time limit. There was also an optional opportunity to comment or respond back, which rarely happened.

For the most part, the candidates were in agreement on a wide variety of issues from disaster preparedness to maintaining the integrity of the Green Belt to keeping the city owned ambulance service. They nit-picked over the staffing of fire trucks, last call at the bars, and civilian review of complaints relating to police actions.

They differed strongly in relating how Ms. Burger came to resign as City Attorney. Ms. Burger said that she was being asked to perform duties that in her view were unethical; Dr. Mathiesen said that the five council members were all in agreement that she wasn’t a good fit (read: not a team player) and gave her the choice of resigning or being fired.

Although their general disagreement over the Collamer lot and land swap was well-documented by John in his interviews with Tom McTygue and Dr. Mathiesen [ ], one question that I had (and asked) was finally answered. Although Ms. Burger was acquainted with Joseph Zappone as a fellow lawyer, she came to distribute his last minute offer to buy the Collamer lot in her then official capacity as City Attorney. During the public comment period, Mr. Zappone presented his surprise offer and it was passed on to Ms. Burger by the clerk. She gave it a read and then had copies made to distribute to the five council members for their perusal. Apparently, it was as much as a surprise to her as it was to everyone else in the room and she had no prior knowledge that it was coming.

Regarding the Saratoga PAC, Ms. Burger said that she spoke with their representatives earlier, but couldn’t figure out what their angle was, and decided not to accept any money from them (I guess she hadn’t seen the list of donors or she might have figured it out). Previously, Dr. Mathiesen also said he would not accept money from that group and called for reform of campaign finance laws in general.

Finally, in the event that one or the other lost the Democratic primary (as is sure to happen), neither would agree to endorse the winner. Yes, politics does make people crazy.

2 thoughts on “Joe Levy Reports On League Of Women Voters Debate between Mathiesen and Burger”

  1. There was also that ‘sign guy’ on the bike with a ‘mobile billboard’ with Sarah’s campaign sign on it going up and down N’Bway.


  2. Further thoughts:

    There were many other Q&A’s, but I wanted to highlight the issues that John has focused on here — possible changes to Green Belt zoning, Saratoga PAC, the Collamer lot sale and one more, which I’ll add, below.

    Both candidates had some differences over the use of the land for the proposed City Center parking lot. While Dr. Mathiesen welcomed new proposals (RFP’s), his original support was for the plan as first submitted and his body language suggested that he was skeptical of any new plans emerging. Ms. Burger seemed to favor a mixed use structure, as well as a comprehensive development review of the entire city-owned property on High Rock Avenue.


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