Mayor Yepsen Parrots Saratoga National Golf Course Talking Points; Safford Channels Saratoga National Golf Course

In an article in the October 29 addition of the Gazette Newspaper Joanne Yepsen repeated the talking points propagated by Saratoga National Golf Course.  She told the Gazette Newspaper that the current zoning would allow the 400 acre golf course to be subdivided into two acre lots were the golf course to fail.  “I’m an open space person,” she told the newspaper.  “It’s very important to me not to have any kind of sprawl at Exit 14.”

Mayor Yepsen has been to enough meetings to know that this is not only an inaccurate characterization of the zoning requirements out there, but that it represents the scare tactics that SNGC has promoted continually.  The zoning for that area is highly restrictive.  It would preclude simply dividing the land currently used by the golf course into two acre lots.  All wetlands, steeply sloped land, and other types of sensitive land not only cannot be built on but must be excluded when calculating how many units can be built.  Following the exclusion of all that land, only fifty percent of the land that remains can be built on and the units must be clustered.   The process of determining all of this is called a conservation assessment.  No assessment has been done yet.  Bear in mind that the golf course includes water, wetlands, and some significant slopes.  These types of land would be excluded from the calculations even before reducing what is left by fifty percent.

Mayor Yepsen has also successfully avoided addressing other aspects of SNGC’s plans.  There is the issue of the intensive commercial activities that the “resort” will bring with its large hotel and proposed retail.  In addition there is the history of the players in this who have ruthlessly pushed the bounds of everything they do as noted in previous blogs. In the Gazette article Yepsen cynically exploits the fear of sprawl to divert the discussion from the damages that the proposed resort would inflict on the conservation district. Who would have thought that a Democrat elected as Mayor of our city would play the role of fixer to violate our greenbelt.

The problem we as voters face is that John Safford views the idea of the conservation district as an actual barrier to growth rather than a cherished asset to protect.  Based on his statements there is little if anything in the way of development that Saratoga National might seek that he would oppose.

Saratoga PAC Goes Into Attack Mode In Mailings Against Chris Mathiesen…The Uglier Side Of Politics In America

As many of you may have already seen, the PAC has gone into gear and their most aggressive mailings so far have been in support of Rick Wirth in his campaign to defeat Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen.

The mailings focus on three issues.

The Collamer Building

This involves the sale of the Collamer Building and the purchase of a plot of land on Route 9P.  Earlier this year I published a long piece in which I presented both Commissioner Mathiesen’s version of events along with Tom and Bill McTygue’s version.  I would direct readers back to that piece.  It was posted on August 16.

There are a number of ironies about the mailer.  First, the decision to purchase and sell the properties was supported by all five of sitting Council members.   This was done after a very long process which was fully vetted by all the members of the Council.  The fact that the PAC endorsed Michele Madigan and John Franck who supported the decision speaks to the ethical standards of the PAC as a whole.

It is also worth noting that Larry Novick, who is an executive with Bonacio Construction, acted as a facilitator in the negotiations between the city and Joel Aronson who owned the land the city wanted for the EMS station and who wanted to develop the Collamer Building.  At the time, Aronson was planning to have Bonacio Construction convert the Collamer Building to condos if the project went forward.  Novick, who had been involved with the purchase of the “Lillian’s Lot” from the city used his experience to help develop the plan for the land deals.   Subsequently, Joel Aronson and Sonny Bonacio had some sort of falling out.

Sonny Bonacio played a central role in establishing Saratoga PAC and is one of its most significant contributors.  Again it is rather cynical for him to have aggressively pursued the land transactions and now help fund an attack on Commissioner Mathiesen for the very same project.

The Crime Wave

Saratoga PAC paid for a mailing on behalf of Rick Wirth with a screaming headline “Surrendering Saratoga’s Safety.  To read this material one would think that the Crips and the Bloods had invaded Saratoga’s neighborhoods.  The crime rate has gone up.  When the  numbers are very low, it does not take much to create a spike.  In fact, according to Police Cheif Greg Veitch, a gang of criminals operating in 2013 caused the numbers to jump before they were apprehended. 

To get a perspective on the crime figures presented by the PAC consider these numbers provided by Veitch:

The absolute numbers can be found at the FBI and DCJS websites.

Crime Rates: per/100,000
All violent crime:
USA- 443.7
NYS- 381.8
SS- 222.3

USA 135.0
NYS 121.8
SS 58.3

Agg Assault:
USA 265.9
NYS 229.4
SS 142.2

The arrest rates are even more important:
USA 29.6%
SS  50%

Agg Assault:
USA 56.3%
SS 92%

The largest increase in total numbers of violent crimes was for robbery and aggravated assault in 2014.  We not only have fewer crimes per/100,000 than the national or state averages but we make arrests at a much higher rate when those crimes are reported to us.

We arrested 92% of all reported felony assaults in the second degree in 2014.  Only 5 felony assaults were reported in the downtown area and 4 were closed by arrest. 

Homelessness and Vagrancies

Another PAC mailer displays in bold letters the following quote from Chris Mathiesen regarding the homeless problem in Saratoga Springs: “There’s not a lot the police can do.”  Having run an anti-poverty agency for sixteen years, I can attest to the challenge of working with the homeless.  There are usually significant mental health issues involved.  The fact is that there are important civil rights issues as well that severely limit what can be done to address this issue.  Mr. Wirth was the Commissioner of Public Safety himself for a term and knows this.  This is the kind of political posturing that adds to the cynicism of the public and does not speak well for Mr. Wirth.  It is easy to talk about involving social service agencies in dealing with the homeless and it is entirely another thing to solve the problem.

Lacking EMS Services

Probably the most cynical ploy is the attack on Mathiesen for “Lacking EMS Services” on the east ridge and then attacking him for the cost of defending the city for the purchase of the land that the new EMS station would be located on.  This of course is just an extension of the attack on the Collamer Building

The Saratoga PAC chair Rob Manz has been very clear that the number one priority of the PAC is to change our Comp Plan and zoning ordinances to allow for more development. More specifically their goal is to elect a City Council that will allow Saratoga National Golf Course to expand into even more of a resort than they already are by adding a hotel, retail, and more. Their real problem with Chris Mathiesen is that he has been a consistent and persistent voice on the Council in defense of the greenbelt and in opposition to SNGC’s plans. This means Mathiesen must be replaced by  a more compliant Council member, namely Rick Wirth. Will the PAC succeed in their expensive campaign targeting Chris Mathiesen and create a Council more to their liking?  We will know on Tuesday. Polls are open from 6AM till 9PM.

Yepsen Reveals Her Position On Saratoga National Golf Course: Conservation District? What Conservation DIstrict?

Yepsen Joins Madigan and Franck In Threat To City’s Greenbelt

In December of 2014 the Saratoga Springs Council voted unanimously for a resolution offered by Chris Mathiesen to ban Planned Unit Developments in the city’s conservation district.  Each member of the council waxed eloquently about the importance of the city’s greenbelt.  They all fell over themselves expressing their support to maintain the rural character of the outside district.

It is clear that it was this event that precipitated the establishment of Saratoga PAC.  Some have claimed that the City Center Garage is also a key element of their agenda.  This is refuted by the simple fact that Commissioners Mathiesen and Scirocco supported the resolution to move the proposed garage forward but in spite of this were not endorsed by the PAC.

The failure of the construction/real estate/finance sectors to amend the Comprehensive Plan to allow PUDs in the greenbelt was a wake-up call to them.  In spite of their heavy representation on the Comprehensive Plan committee they could not muscle PUDs into the greenbelt.

It is also important to understand that the network behind Saratoga PAC realized that they needed to do more than organize a way to influence elections, they needed to mobilize to effectively lobby the City Council to change the nature of the debate.

It is important to understand the basic principles here.  The Comprehensive Plan’s goal was to insure that the conservation district was not only green in general but just as important, that it rigorously restricted any activities that would serve to undermine the rural character of the greenbelt.  All intensive retail and hotels were to be directed to the downtown.  It was understood that businesses have as their goal, to expand in order to make their operations more profitable and successful.  Once  these operations are allowed in the rural area it creates the social forces to undermine the bucolic ambiences which was the goal of the Comp Plan.

So the press was on.  The same people behind Saratoga PAC began mobilizing their network to email, call, and meet with the members of the City Council.  They turned out in force at City Council meetings.  Suddenly, Commissioner Madigan began advocating for Saratoga National Golf Course by attempting to change the definition of a club house to include a hotel with a hundred rooms.  John Franck thought it was a terrific idea.  A coalition of Madigan, Franck, and Yepsen referred the idea to the Planning Board over the objections of Mathiesen and Scirocco.

Suddenly the Saratoga PAC people and their followers started showing up at meetings and they found that in Yepsen, Madigan, and Franck they had a newly receptive audience.

Mayor Yepsen who has done her best to avoid any substantive statements on the issue has now come out in an interview with Saratoga Today supporting Saratoga National Golf Course on the basis of the promised easement of land. Here is a link to the full article

There are now three narratives regarding Saratoga National Golf Course.

One, put forward by Yepsen, Madigan, and Franck touts all the land that will be protected from development.  They rely on an incredibly tortured argument originally crafted by an attorney hired by the city, that somehow the Comp Plan allows for hotel and retail in the greenbelt.

The other, put forward by Mathiesen and Scirocco, points out the obvious.  Creating a resort that includes a large hotel and major retail fundamentally violates the Comp Plan.

There is a third narrative.  This narrative is that the easement promises are a cynical fig leaf put forward by Yepsen, Madigan, and Franck to divert the discussion from the central issue of not only the dubious violation of the city’s Comprehensive Plan but to avoid addressing the issue of why retail and hotel operations are damaging to the rural character of the greenbelt.

If you watch any of the Council discussions or review the comments from the candidates that have appeared on this blog you will note that the proponents simply refuse to discuss the question of the appropriateness of the hotels and retail shops in the greenbelt.  They simply change the subject to how they are supposedly going to protect green space or how what they want to do is somehow legal.

The central thing to remember is that the players in this know full well that in the end the courts decide what is legal.  If the majority of the City Council approve a hotel and retail, then the only option to block the action would be in the courts.  Litigation of this kind would be extremely expensive and Franck, Madigan, and Yepsen would have the city’s taxpayers money to defend the decision.  They know that trying to sue this city would be prohibitively expensive.

The grim reality is that we voters who care about this issue have very little choice.  John Safford openly advocates an extreme version of property rights that would go even further.  He has made it quite clear that he considers the conservation district an obstacle to development.  Ken Ivins supports SNGC’s plans to become a resort.

There are really only two candidates who have made clear that they both understand what a conservation district is and why the proposal by Saratoga National Golf Course is a profound threat to the future of our greenbelt.  They are Chris Mathiesen and Skip Scirocco.

John Safford Responds To Question On Global Warming In A Very Unusual Way

I have to admit that I have been rather busy lately John but I don’t remember seeing your question on Global Warming before this post. My problem with being questioned about Global Warming is when asked that question I get a sort of deer in the headlight look that is similar to when I am asked if I believe in Hell. The reason is that, like the belief in Hell is based on the philosophy of the Bible (and some pagan religions) the philosophy of Global Warming is based on the Tragedy of the Commons, which is an article written by Garrett Hardin, an ecologist, in 1968. The question for me is not whether the earth is getting warmer by why. According to the followers of Hardin human greed is the cause. The question then becomes what to do about it and this is where the Bible and the Doctrine of Global Warming separate. The Bible advocates for self-discipline and calls on the better angels of our nature to solve it , while the Doctrine of the Commons advocates for Government regulation of the “sinners” (basically those greedy bastards who take more than their fair share). The problem is that the Doctrine of the Commons has not proved out scientifically because unmitigated greed seems not to be the overriding nature of humankind but is mysteriously mitigated by strange unscientific observations of such things as the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

Here is an interesting obituary from the New York TImes of Mr. Hardin Obituary From New York TImes

John Safford Snubs Question On Climate Change; Campaign Based on Transparency Clouds Over

I recently went through the Sustainable Saratoga candidate questionnaire and I was struck by John Sanford’s responses.  Here is an example:

Question #2: What, if anything, would you propose to do locally to confront climate change?

I manage a lot of properties in Saratoga and the last few years have been more than normally cold and snowy. When you ask this question I am inclined to answer that I confront whatever I am personally challenged with.

I thought this was a rather odd response and I heard from a source that has been reliable in the past that Mr. Safford does not believe that global warming is an issue.

As people who follow this blog may have noted, Mr. Safford has not been shy about posting here.  He also has run his campaign almost entirely on the theme of transparency.  There is a certain irony because that was pretty much what Joanne Yepsen ran on two years ago.  So I emailed him asking his position on global warming.  When I did not hear from him, I emailed him again and as of today, he has still not responded.

It appears that I may have found a rather opaque spot in his campaign.  From where I am sitting I cannot make out what his position is.

Ivins Joins The Pack Fleeing The PAC

Following my posting of the statements by Democratic candidates regarding Saratoga PAC, I received this release from Ken Ivins who is running against Michele Madigan for Commissioner of Finance.

My position on the Saratoga PAC endorsing Michele Madigan

First off I did not seek or interview for the endorsement of the Saratoga PAC and would have refused it if they had offered.

I heard that the Saratoga PAC has endorsed my opponent Michele Madigan. Considering my opponent has received many donations from the PAC’s members, it didn’t surprise me at all that they chose to endorse her. She has been, after all, in lock step with the City Center’s agenda of pushing through their single-use parking garage to be built of (sic) the public’s property. And, not to mention, she has also been working with the Saratoga National Golf Course’s attorney, as well as, authorizing our city attorney to work on their behalf, to help create an application the city could adopt. The Saratoga PAC supports both of these projects so in turn it makes sense that they support Michele Madigan.

My vote is not for sale and I prefer the voters’ endorsement on Nov. 3rd.

In her press release Commissioner Madigan stated:

.While I appreciate that the Saratoga PAC’s, … recent endorsement of me as a candidate for Finance Commissioner indicates that this group believes I have the leadership and management qualities worthy of the public’s trust,(my emphasis added) I want to confirm that I have not sought the group’s endorsement nor will I request the IECs financial support.”

It is very clear that Saratoga PAC’s endorsements are based on land use issues such as Saratoga National Golf Course’s resort proposal and the City Center’s garage.  In that context Ms. Madigan’s suggestion that she was endorsed because of her management skills rather than her support for these two development issues seems a bit disingenuous.

Having said that, Ken Ivins made clear to me that he supports Saratoga National Golf Course’s campaign to build a resort (I would argue it is already a resort but they want to make it much bigger).  So for him to criticize her on that issue seems a bit hypocritical.

Eddy Miller, Chairman of the Saratoga County Independence Party, Speaks Out On Candidates

To The Editor,

Glance into the mirror! Have you ever missed the opportunity to stand up to a bully? A bully that’s pushing around a friend that has shielded, fought and protected you?

Right now, Commissioner Mathiesen is receiving a brow beating trying to maintain our status and integrity as one of the prime destination stops in the world. Fast food chains,strip mall’s,tire shops… etc, positioned along our Greenbelt at Exit 14 will not enhance “Our City in the Country”.  Development at the Gateway to our City will only diminish our values and detract from the entire county. It gets worse: this will effect the precious originally of our great Saratoga Racetrack. Millions of visitors may not except ordinary!

Wealthy developers have tried all types of games to confuse and trick our City Council members and fool the Citizens of Saratoga Springs. They recently formed a PAC slinging mud and propaganda at three of our strongest Council members. Commissioner’s Madigan, Scirocco and Mathiesen are at odds with these selfish special interests groups.

I just gazed into the mirror and realized that I have nothing to prove to anyone except to myself, my family and my neighbors in Saratoga Springs.
Vote for Chris Mathiesen, Michele Madigan and Skip Scirocco on November 3rd, I am!

Eddy Miller
Saratoga County Chairman, Independence Party
Saratoga Springs


Donations To Candidates For City Council

Cash Received

Average Donation

Median Donations






Joseph Levy and I have downloaded data from the New York State Board of Elections regarding the donors to the candidates running for Mayor and City Council in Saratoga Springs this year.  We chose to select for “all donations received from January 1, 2014 to present”.  As I understand it, the candidates are required to report quarterly on their donations.  The last filing date was October 1 so the data does not include donations for October which is a very important period for candidates and could include new donors not previously identified.

The data in the charts is for specifically identified donors.  The candidates also reported donations in a category called “Unitemized” which we are not listing.

In addition, the names that appear are sometimes organizations and other times individuals.  Joseph Levy and I have done searches on the web to find out who these people and groups are.  As careful as we have tried to be, our findings are subject to error.

Here are the latest totals for the candidates.

Mathiesen $11,598.01

Wirth $16,764.17

Yepsen $58, 864.00

Safford $30,819.75

Madigan $7,718.65

Ivins $4,145.54

Franck $14,845.47

Scirocco $7,776.73

McTygue $10,382.17

Linked to this blog are spreadsheets for each candidate with the complete listing of donors.  I have also written a program to cross reference the donors and candidates to see who has given to more than one candidate. For instance:

John Franck gave to Joanne Yepsen and Michele Madigan

Michele Madigan gave to John Franck and Chris Mathiesen

Chris Mathiesen gave to Michele Madigan

Joanne Yepsen did not contribute to any of the other incumbents nor did she contribute to Bill McTygue.

Here are some more of my findings from the cross referencing:

  1. It is interesting to see which candidates gave to which other candidates.  In spite of her very large campaign chest, Joanne Yepsen did not contribute to any other candidates.  Michele Madigan contributed to John Franck and to Chris Mathiesen but not to Joanne Yepsen.  Chris Mathiesen only contributed to Michele Madigan.  John Franck contributed to Joanne Yepsen and Michele Madigan but not to Chris Mathiesen.
  2. Matt Jones is an attorney.  His father was Mayor of the city for a number of terms.  He regularly represents the Saratoga Springs City Center.  He represented the D’Andreas in their failed attempt to amend the Comprehensive Plan to remove their land from the Conservation District so that they could build a denser residential development.  Mr. Jones’  contributions to Yepsen and Madigan were made in 2014 and his contribution to Franck was in February and May of this year.   It is interesting that during the same period he did not contribute to either Mathiesen or Scirocco.
  3. Peter Martin, Democratic Supervisor, contributed to all four sitting Democrats.
  4. Former Mayor Raymond Watkin contributed $400.00 to Joanne Yepsen, $200.00 to John Franck, $100.00 to Bill McTygue, and $99.00 to Republican Rick Wirth who is campaigning for Commissioner of Public Safety.  Since Mr. Watkin is suing the City over the sale of the Collamer Building which was championed by Commissioner Mathiesen, this is not surprising.
  5. Bruce Clements is the son of Tom Clements who was the Republican Supervisor representing the city for many years.  He is a prominent Republican.  His donations to Wirth and Safford were to be expected.  Less expected was his donation to Michele Madigan.
  6. Phil Klein was one of the City Supervisors for many years.  He was a prominent member of the Republican Party.  He is currently an executive in the insurance division of the Adirondack Trust.  Not surprisingly he contributed to the campaigns of Safford and Wirth but he also donated to Michele Madigan and did not contribute to Skip Sciricco.
  7. Frank Parrillo is a prominent developer who owns extensive property.  For example, he owned {and may still own) the land where the huge Hampton Hotel and Condos were built across from the Parting Glass.  Not surprisingly he gave to Safford and Wirth.  He gave his most generous contribution, however, to John Franck ($500.00).
  8. Thomas Roohan, who owns Roohan Realty, gave $1000.00 to Safford and $500.00 to Scirocco.  He also contributed $100.00 to Michele Madigan.
  9. Saratoga Gaming LLC is a PAC representing the Racino.  They contributed $250.00 to Yepsen, $100.00 to Franck, and $600.00 to Madigan. They did not give any money to Mathiesen or Scirocco.
  10. Gordon Boyd, one of the leaders of Saratoga PAC gave $100.00 each to Yepsen and Madigan.
  11. Clark Brink owns the local McDonalds and is a contributor to the PAC.  He has contributed to Wirth and Safford.
  12. D.A. Collins Corporation’s CEO is the spokesman for Saratoga PAC.  The corporation gave $1000.00 to Safford and $205.00 to Wirth.
  13. Pat Design, it is rumored, will become Bill McTygue’s deputy should McTygue win.  His wife Bonnie Design gave $250.00 to McTygue and $125.00 to Wirth.Peter Faith who is with Edwards & Kelcey, Land Use Planning Consultants gave to both Wirth and Safford
  14. Peter Faith who is with Edwards & Kelcey, Land Use Planning Consultants gave to both Wirth and Safford
  15. Eileen Finneran is Commissioner Mathiesen’s Deputy.  She gave to Mathiesen and Madigan.  She did not give to Yepsen or Franck.
  16. Michael Hoffman, President of Turf Hotels, the proposed hotel to be built on the former site of the ,Weathervane Restaurant gave Wirth $500.00 and Franck $200.00.
  17. Tom Lewis, past chairman of the City Republican Party and chief of staff for Kathy Marchione gave to Wirth and Safford but not to Republicans Ivins or Scirocco.
  18. Northeast Government Consulting  represents Laker Development which is owned by  Kevin Dalpos.  Dalpos was appointed by John Franck to the Comp Plan Committee and  took very strong pro-development positions on the Comp Plan chanages.  NGC contributed $550.00 to Michele Madigan and $200.00 to John Franck.
  19. Ronald Riggi of the super rich Riggis gave $500.00 to Scirocco and $500.00 to Wirth.
  20. Vincent Riggi of the super rich Riggis gave $1000.00 to Joanne Yepsen and $250.00 Scirocco.
  21. The Police Union gave $500.00 to Yepsen and $500.00 to Madigan.
  22. Francine Vero is with the Harris – Beach  law firm that is outside counsel for the city. She gave $100.00 to Yepsen and $200.00 to Franck.
  23.  Charlie Wheeler who serves on the City Center Board gave $75.00 to Yepsen and $50.00 to Safford.
  24. 1760 UNION STREET LLC is a PAC that we have been unable to identify.  As near as we can tell they are related to real estate.  They each gave Yepsen $1000.00
  25. 422 BROADWAY LLC another obscure PAC gave $500.00 to Safford.

John Safford

Full List Of Safford Donors

As would be expected, Mr. Safford is generously supported by the Republican network which includes the usual amalgam of business interests.  There was an obscure contributor identified as 422 Broadway LLC.  I emailed him asking who this entity was.  He never responded to my email.  The list was extensive.  I have identified some of the larger donors here and some others I thought of interest.

  1. Mr. Safford received $500.00 from something called 422 BROADWAY LLC which we could not locate on the web.  It turns outs that it is a real estate holding company owned by Bonacio Construction Company and the building is the “Washington Building.”
  2. Mark Baker who is the executive director of the City Center gave him $50.00.
  3. BCR Restaurant Corp. is a holding company for Pennell’s Restaurant owned by Bruce Cerone.  It contributed $1,000.00.
  4. Theresa Elmore Behrendt is a heavy duty Republican.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.  She donated $1,000.00
  5. Bruce Clements owns an insurance agency and is a prominent Republican.  He was more generous to Safford ($250.00) than he was to Yepsen ($100.00)
  6. D.A. Collins Corporation.  Very large construction company which helped organize Saratoga PAC.  They contributed $1,000.00
  7. Eisman Farms is a big thoroughbred breeder.  Owned by Kriss Eisman.  Contributed $500.00.
  8. ESMI of New York (Fort Edward) does industrial clean up.  Contributed $1,000.00.
  9. Gaffney’s contributed $133.75.
  10. Mark Haworth is a partner at Bonacio construction.  Contributed $1000.00.
  11. Horseshoe Inn Bar and Grill contributed $300.00.
  12. Mike Ingersoll from the LA Group only contributed $75.00.
  13. Andrew Jarosh (on the executive committee of the city Republican Committee)  contributed $50.00.
  14. Kate Jarosh (married to Andrew)  contributed $40.00 and gave nothing to Ken Ivins.  She was his campaign manager in previous elections  and his deputy when he was in office.
  15. Joseph Kakety is chief sales officer for College Loan Corporation and a big donor to the national Republican Party.  He donated $1,000.00.
  16. Tom Lewis was past chairman of the city Republican Party and an executive at Stewarts.  He is chief of staff for Kathy Marchione.  He is chair of the county Blanning board and serves on the city Planning Board.  He contributed $250.00.
  17. Frank Parillo Is big local developer.  He contributed $150.00
  18. Tom Roohan is a well known local realtor and has been a committeeman on the city Republican Committee.  He contributed $1,000.00.
  19. Sam’s Tires threw in $50.00
  20. Sutton For Mayor – Shauna Sutton lost to Yepsen in the last election.  Her committee contributed $500.00.
  21. Anthony Swiatek of Minerva Coins and Jewelry contributed $250.00
  22. Cliff VanWagner who is on the Planning Board contributed $100.00
  23. Charles Wait, President of Adirondack Trust contributed $250.00.

Joanne Yepsen

Full List Of Yepsen Donors

Ms. Yepsen was the champion fundraiser.  Many people contributed to her campaign.  With a few exceptions the list below is for people who donated $500.00 or more.  Attorneys were heavily represented in this group.  There were also several leaders of Saratoga PAC.

  1. 1760 UNION STREET LLC and 73 TROY ROAD LLC gave $1000.00 a piece.  They both have the same address in Cohoes, New York.  I emailed Ms. Yepsen asking who these donors were.  She did not respond.
  2. Jeffery Altamari donated $1000.00.  Mr. Altamari is Ms. Yepsen’s campaign treasurer.  He is also the treasurer of Semass Recycling Management Corporation
  3. Robert Beck donated $1000.00.  He is President. of John W. Danforth Company, mechanical contractors
  4. John Behan runs a consulting firm that specializes in planning issues and has done business with the city.  He contributed $800.00
  5. Gary Bordeau contributed $1000.00.  He owns Bourdeau Builders
  6. Steven Bouchey contributed $900.00.  He owns Bouchey Financial Group – Investment Advisers
  7. FPI MECHANICAL, INC. contributed $500.00.  They are an HVAC and plumbing contractor in Cohoes, NY.
  8. HASBROUK, PATRICIA? Donated $500.00
  9. HEMMER, DAWN? Donated $1000.00.  Her address is Syracuse.
  10. John Hendrickson (husband of MaryLou Whitney) donated $1000.00
  11. Joy Heyman? Donated $1000.00
  12. Hodgson Russ LLP is a law firm of which Robert McLaughlin is an attorney. Combined  donation was $950.00
  13. Jeffery Honeywell of the law firm Girvin & Ferlazzo in Glenmont contributed $1000.00
  14. Anderson, Anthony, and Tricia Ianniello whose law firm is involved with land issues contributed $2,350.00.
  15. Thomas Kersher of Kershner, Gross and Co.  Financial Services donated $500.00
  16. Frank Kiepura who is in financial services donated $500.00
  17. Lincoln Concepts LLC of Virginia donated $500.00
  18. Michael Phinney, architect, donated $1000.00
  20. Northway Title Agency donated $1000.00
  21. New York Thoroughbred Horsemen donated $1000.00
  22. Vincent Riggi  donated $1000.00
  23. Saratoga Gaming Resources (Racino) donated $250.00
  24. Saratoga Springs Police Benevolent Association donated $500.00
  25. Spa City Recycling donated $500.00
  26. TRINITY BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT CORP of Massachusetts donated $700.00
  27. Jeffery Vukelic is one of the founders of the Saratoga PAC and President and CEO, Saratoga Eagle Sales & Services Inc., beer distributors. Contributed $500.
  28. Charles Wait is President of Adirondack Trust and a leader of the Saratoga PAC.  He donated $500.00

Michele Madigan

Full List of Madigan Donors

Ms. Madigan received more donations from donors who also gave to Republicans than any other candidate.  She was also the only candidate to receive a donation from Tom Newkirk of Saratoga National Golf Course.

  1. Mark Baker, the executive director of the City Center contributed $50.00
  2. Gordon Boyd who is one of the founders of Saratoga PAC gave $100.00
  3. Bruce Clements whose father was the Republican Supervisor for many years and was a prominent Republican contributed $100.00
  4. John Franck used his campaign fund to donate $250.00
  5. Attorney Matt Jones whose practice includes land-use issues donated $350.00
  6. The Independence Party contributed $300.00
  7. Phil Klein who is a prominent Republican, former Supervisor,a donor to Saratoga PAC, and is an insurance executive with Adirondack Trust contributed $99.00
  8. Chris Mathiesen and his deputy, Eileen Fineran, contributed
  9. Thomas Newkirk of Saratoga National Golf Course contributed $125.00.
  10. Northeast Government Consulting contributed $550.00
  11. Saratoga Gaming (Racino) contributed $600.00
  12. Saratoga Springs Police Benevolent Association contributed $500.00

Bill  McTygue

Full List of McTygue Donors

The most interesting donation was $1,000.00 from Daniel Garrity who is the senior owner of Saratoga Raceway and Casino.  Bill and his brother Tom played a very public role in supporting the Racino’s bid for expansion.

  1. Belmonte Builders (Peter Belmonte) contributed $500.00
  2. Blue Star Enterprises. Appears to be a real estate holding company registered to Stephen Ethier who is a local realtor and developer, and partner with  Belmonte  in developing former Ellsworth Ice Cream property on Division Street. Contributed $500.00
  3. Daniel Garrity who is the principal owner of Saratoga Raceway and Casino donated $1000.00
  4. Harlan McGee Engineering of Malta contributed $400.00. Architects and engineering consultants, specializing in the resolution of civil litigation and claims involving personal injury, property damage, etc.

Ken Ivins

Full List of Ivins Donors

Ken Ivins had very modest success in fundraising.  He did not receive the endorsement of the local Republican Committee.  It is interesting that the county committee donated money to him.

  1. Commercial Coverage Inc. contributed $500.00.  Mr. Ivins works for them.
  2. Personal Coverage Inc. contributed $500.00.  Same owner as Commercial Coverage
  3. Republican County Campaign Committee donated $400.00

Skip Scirocco

Full List of Scirocco Donors

Skip Scirocco appears to have been modest in his fundraising.

  1. Vincent and Ronald Riggi , twin brothers and partners in the turbine business, contributed $750.00
  2. Thomas Roohan realtor and founder of Saratoga PAC and prominent Republican contributed a total of $775.
  3. Matt Jones, Attorney contributed $250.00
  4. Frank Parillo, major developer, contributed $250.00
  5. Stuart Ginsburg is a financial adviser with Wells Fargo.  He contributed $250.00
  6. M & J Construction/Red Rolls LLC owned by Mannie Balestero contributed $1000.00
  7. Anthony Swiatek of Minerva Coins and Jewelry contributed $250.00
  8. A.C. Riley (AKA AC Dake) former Mayor contributed $200.00

Rick Wirth

Full List Of Wirth Donors

No surprises here with the exception of the bizarre donation from Leon Pokoik .  The other donations are pretty much the standard network of real estate, construction, finance, and institutional Republicans with the exception of former Democratic Mayor Ray Watkin who is suing the city over the Collamer lot sale.

  1. D.A. Collins – Construction and founder of Saratoga PAC contributed $205.00
  2. Joe Dalton – Past President of Chamber of Commerce contributed $99.00
  3. Goldstein and Costello Agency – Bail Bondsmen from Albany contributed $500.00.  Wirth is a private investigator.  Maybe he tracks down bail jumpers?
  4. Michael Hoffman who is a partner with Frank Parillo and owner of the Turf Hotels contributed $500.00
  5. J2 Designs – Landscape and Construction.  Mathiesen will not let them use the city streets for parking their trucks.  Contributed $130.00
  6. Scott Johnson,  former Mayor,  contributed $500.00
  7. John Lant is a used car dealer (Lant’s Auto Sales) contributed $200.00
  8. Tom Lewis (see Safford listing).  Only contributed $55.00
  9. Frank Parillo – developer – Hampton Inn – Contributed $275.00
  10. Leon Pokoik – Candidate for Town Commission, Longboat Key, Florida. The Pokoik family owns real estate in Manhattan. In 2006, Leon was charged by other family members of embezzling over $2.2 million from the business, the amount that he actually agreed to reimburse.  Contributed $1000.00
  11. Ronald Riggi (Turbines) contributed 500.00
  12. A.C. Riley (see Safford) contributed $290.00
  13. Patrick Rocco is a Captain with the Saratoga Springs Fire Department.  He contributed $200.00
  14. Saratoga Cleaners contributed $200.00
  15. Todd Shimkus is president of the Chamber of Commerce.  He contributed $100.00
  16. Stewarts Shops contributed a mere $150.00  (they are saving their money for the PAC)
  17. John Baker of Gaffney’s contributed $475.00
  18. Anthony Swiatek (see Safford) contributed $100.00
  19. Cantina Bar and Restaurant contributed $250.00
  20. Turbine Services (more Riggi money) contributed $1000.00
  21. Cliff Van Wagner on Planning Board contributed $150.00
  22. Scott Varley, realtor, contributed $300.00
  23. Ray Watkin is past Democratic City Mayor.  He contributed $99.00

Chris Mathiesen

Full List of Mathiesen Donors

Commissioner Mathiesen received many small and medium donations.  He is supported by the most progressive wing of the Democrats in the town.  The only large donations he received were from Rob Mains ($900.00) and Amy Durland ($1,385.00).  They are married.  He did analytical work for the investment industry and she served on the Planning Board.  I will take the liberty of noting that Amy Durland has put in endless hours over the last few decades fighting the good fight to protect the greenbelt and to support thoughtful development.  I am not surprised by her generous support for Commissioner Mathiesen because Ms. Durland is someone who acts on what she believes.

John Franck

Full List Of Franck Donors

John Franck is a staunch supporter of Saratoga National Golf Course and his donations reflect his enthusiasm for development.  It is interesting that he received all this money even though he has no opponent.  He did not report on any income during the quarter that ended October 1.

  1. Dean Michael of Asset Manager, Saratoga Hotel Group, Real Estate Development donated $200.00
  2. DBS Realty Holding company for Northway Estates mobile home park donated $200.00
  3. FITZGERALD MORRIS BAKER FIRTH P.C. Law firm from Glens Falls represented city in water and landfill issues donated $500.00
  4. Collin Grady Manager at US Foods, formerly with Mazzone Group (Food Service) Mazzone is one of the principal owners of Saratoga National Golf Course.  He contributed $100.00
  5. Michael Hoffman President of Turf Hotels, proposed hotel on site of Weathervane Restaurant donated $200.00
  6. Jo-ann’s Candy House contributed $900.00.
  7. Kimberly Jones, wife of E. Stewart Jones (well-known criminal defense attorney) contributed $250.00
  8. Matt Jones, local attorney, contributed $500.00
  9. LEMERY GREISLER LLC law firm contributed $500.00
  10. Adam McNiell Financial advisor, President of McNeill Financial Group contributed $250.00
  11. Bill McTygue contributed $300.00
  12. Ira Mickenberg, attorney, contributed $200.00
  13. Northeast Government Consulting, a legislative lobbying firm which represents Laker Development  Group. Kevin Dalpos of Laker Development  was appointed to the Comp Plan Committee by John Franck.  Was known on the committee as a development zealot. Contributed $250.00
  14. O’DELL & O’DELL, PC, Law Firm in Glens Falls, contributed $200.00
  15. Frank Parillo , real estate developer, business partner of Michael Hoffman (see above #5), has business relations with Franck. Donated $500.00
  16. RIDA ARCHITECTURE PLLC, Dominic RIgosu donated $400.00
  17. Patrice Shannon Editor/Associate Producer at Curiosity Stream (video production) donated $300.00
  18. Andreas Spungen, Yoga instructor, donated $500.00
  19. James Towne, Jr, Attorney, member of NYRA Franchise Oversight Board, $250.00
  20. Plumbers and Pipefitters Union donated $500.00.  Larry Bulman was the chair of the Saratoga County Democratic Party and head of the local Plumbers and Pipefitters Union before going to Washington for a high union post.
  21. Cliff Van Wagner has been on the City Planning Board for decades.  He has been a prominent Republican and is about as close a friend of the development community as there is.
  22. Francine Vero Business and Commercial Litigation Attorney, Harris Beach LLC donated $200.00
  23. Nancy Vetter donated $300.00
  24. Raymond Watkin, past Democratic Mayor, donated $200.00
  25. Sarah Whittle donated $500.00

City Demorats Respond To Saratoga (Super) PAC’s Endorsement

Ellen Kiehl who serves on the executive committee of the city Democratic Party sent me the releases shown below.
I think it is very important that these candidates have all spoken against “super PACs” in general and Saratoga PAC in particular. I congratulate them on their leadership on this issue. I still find it quite troubling that a group dedicated to opening the greenbelt to more intense development felt comfortable endorsing Franck, Madigan, and McTygue.

PAC_responses as of 10-21-15-1 PAC_responses as of 10-21-15-2 PAC_responses as of 10-21-15-3 PAC_responses as of 10-21-15-4

Joseph Levy Goes Undercover At Saratoga PAC – It Doesn’t Get More Dramatic Than That


Bob Manz Testifies To The Faithful


Apparently Money Does Not Buy You Style Or Happiness


Bob Manz Reveals The Winners

Ever since it was formed, the Saratoga PAC (Political Action Committee) has generated an unusual level of interest, as well as speculation about its ultimate objectives.

Its stated goal is “to advocate positions on local, county and state legislation that will foster, encourage and support a balance between expanding economic opportunity and protecting our environment while enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.” In the first few weeks of its existence, it raised over $46,000 from individuals and businesses. To help guide its agenda, it mailed 14,000 questionnaires to registered voters in Saratoga Springs. In additional, this “Quality of Life Survey” was posted online for anyone to fill-out.

October 20th was the day when the results of the survey would be revealed at a fundraiser at the Holiday Inn on South Broadway, along with candidate endorsements. John was otherwise engaged and asked me to attend.

As I entered the hotel’s parking lot, it soon became apparent that all of the public spaces were full. Could there be a special event in progress? Let’s find out. I drove around the block, parked in front of the Gaslight Apartments on Federal Street, and walked back to the hotel.

Out front, on the Broadway sidewalk, there were a handful of demonstrators from SCRAP (Saratoga County Residents Against PACs), an organization that was formed as a response to the Saratoga PAC. Their press release said, “Protesters will call for all local candidates and elected officials to pledge to reject the money of this Super PAC, and ask voters to reject candidates who are willing to accept dark money from this or any Super PAC.”

As a point of fact, Saratoga PAC is not a “Super PAC.” That’s the colloquial term for what Federal election law terms an “independent-expenditure only committee.” The latter is an entity that may not make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties, but which may engage in unlimited political spending independently of those campaigns. The money sources behind Super PACs are often cloaked in secrecy.

The Saratoga PAC operates under New York State election law as an “Independent PAC.” While independent expenditure committees cannot give money directly to candidates, they can support them through an unlimited supply of independently purchased advertisements and campaign mailings. They are also obligated to reveal the names of their donors, as well as the amount of their contributions. You can visit the New York State Board of Elections Candidate and Committee Search Page, enter Saratoga PAC in the search box, and follow the links to their latest disclosure forms.

Since just about everyone who attended the meeting entered through the lobby, which is set back from the street and hidden from the sidewalk by foliage, the demonstrators were pretty much ignored. In practical terms, it seemed to be an exercise in frustration.

Entering what would normally be a banquet hall at 5:30PM, there were 80 or 100 people in attendance and the party, fueled by a table of crudités and a cash bar, was in full swing. There was a minimum $25 contribution requested to cross the threshold, so it’s safe to say that at least $2,500 was raised that night from the crowd. Including the latest (September 30th) filings with the State Board of Elections, that brings their total contributions to around $53,000 (we don’t know exactly how much has been raised since October 1st).

I was only there for a few minutes before PAC Chair and founder Robert Manz, President of the D.A. Collins Construction Co., came to the podium in the back of the room and made a brief PowerPoint presentation. He began by outlining the results of the survey mentioned above. He reported that there was about a 10% response rate, which he thought was “above average.” In fact, the response rate for surveys varies all over the place and without a basis for comparison, say, with a similar survey distributed among a similar population about similar topics, that figure has to stand on its own. Turning it around, one can also say, with some accuracy, that there was a 90% rejection rate.

There were 15 questions on the survey and Mr. Manz continued by revealing what the respondents considered to be the city’s two least relevant issues. These were were prohibiting businesses from using plastic bags and restricting property owners from storing boats, trailers, and RV’s in their front yards.

He then presented what the respondents considered to be the city’s most relevant issues. In descending order, they were (1) the state of water, sewer, and sidewalk infrastructure, (2) the revitalization of South Broadway, (3) helping to the homeless and dealing with panhandlers, (4) a presumed tie between approving a zoning change to allow the proposed expansion of the Saratoga National Golf Club and creating more jobs to attract and keep younger residents, and (5) making the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. The actual tally indicated top support for these measures from about 54% of all respondents.

He continued by talking about the process of interviewing the current roster of candidates for public office. In effect, they were asked to answer the same questions which were posed by the survey. The public and candidate responses were then compared and candidates whose views most closely paralleled the public response were selected for endorsement. These were Republicans John Safford (Mayor) and Richard Wirth (Public Safety), plus Democrats Michele Madigan (Finance), Bill McTygue (Public Works), and John Franck (Accounts). In addition, Cynthia Young, Republican candidate for Malta Town Supervisor, was also endorsed.

While that was almost the end of the presentation, it’s not the end of the story. Saratoga PAC has never mentioned who authored the survey and to get a better idea of how objective it might be, I sent a copy to Thomas Restaino, a long time friend, who was a founding partner of the BRS Group, a market research firm based in San Francisco. For 35 years, surveys were his business.

This is what Tom had to say:

“First, the scale used here is one that I have never seen before and am pretty uncomfortable with for several reasons.

“Does ‘Not Relevant’ mean ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘Not Important At All?’ If Not Applicable, that should always be offered as the last choice, not the first choice. It seems unlikely that it was meant this way, but some people might interpret it as such. Its wording does not fit in with the other points on the scale.

“But here is the greater difficulty — it’s probably meant to indicate ‘Not Important At All.’ That would be in keeping with the wording of the other four choices, and would probably be read that way by most respondents. But, as written, it entirely lacks the polarized connotation of its favorable counterpart, ‘Extremely Important – Key Issue.’ In my opinion, it’s simply too ‘soft’ a term to use as the low interest choice. Bottom line, I think that people will be confused. It’s unclear to me how it would play out in bias, but it would probably affect the absolute numbers more than the relative numbers (i.e., the ranking of the issues). That’s a somewhat hopeful spin on the problem, however.

“Finally, the scale is skewed to the positive. For example, the mid-point is ‘Important,’ when it should be a neutral statement.

“Switching over to the issues themselves, they certainly seem like a worthwhile cross-section to consider. However, they intermix process-oriented steps (e.g., develop a plan, fund a review) with content (e.g., restrict property owners, prohibit businesses). I do appreciate the uniqueness of each issue and its particular chronology, but my concern is the apples/oranges comparison. By casting some issues as studies and others as actions, is there really a level playing field? I would have stripped away the dimension of planning vs. doing for the sake of a more accurate assessment of the core issue’s perceived importance.”

As I see it (and I used to work with Tom at a non-profit research organization in New York City), the core issue is question number 7: “[Do you] approve a zoning change for Saratoga National Golf Club to enable the creation of a 5-Star resort golf destination, helping the region compete more effectively for conference and tourism revenue.” This is one of the problem issues in the survey’s format that Tom refers to. In the industry, this sort of question is characteristic of a “push poll,” which Wikipedia calls “an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of voters under the guise of conducting a poll.”

So, armed with the results of a survey which was arguably worded in ways that are not consistent with accepted practice, and with a slide of the long-vacant Spa City Diner on display to his left, in conclusion Mr. Manz said said that the PAC’s goal was to change local zoning laws and revise the Comprehensive Plan to make it more favorable to development. It’s a comment that seems to have slipped by the other reporters in the room. To that end, the PAC has endorsed candidates who are on the record as favoring the Golf Club’s zoning variance and who will presumably be sympathetic to similar revisions elsewhere. Could we have expected any other outcome?

Consider this: Of the $52,000+ dollars contributed to the PAC to date, this is where most of the money comes from:

  • $9,251.54 comes from Mr. Manz’s own company, D.A. Collins Construction, its subsidiaries, his family, the family of the late D.A. Collins, and a couple of companies that his son, Zachary Manz, is associated with.
  • $6,020 comes from the Dake family, principals in the Stewarts chain of convenience stores.
  • $5,050 comes from Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction.
  • $5,020 comes from Michael and Linda Toohey (he’s an attorney whose specialties are listed as Land Use & Zoning, plus Real Estate).
  • $2,500 comes from James LaVigne, principal of Gavin & LaVigne, a firm that finances capital projects for hospitals and nursing homes.
  • $2,010 comes from the Roohan family, who have real estate interests, both owning and brokering.
  • $1,000 comes from Charles wait, Chairman and CEO of the Adirondack Trust Co.
  • $1,100 comes from Saratoga Pelican Associates, the holding company that owns the Holiday Inn.
  • Finally, another $5,000 was split between Jeffrey Vukelic of Saratoga Eagle and from the DeCresante family, both of whom are beer and beverage distributors.

That’s $31,051.54 from eight families or company groupings in the construction, real estate, and finance industries and another $5,000 from two beer distributors. In effect, only 10 contributing families or related business groupings account for 72% of Saratoga PAC’s funding. The first group clearly wants more leeway to build whatever they want, wherever they want it, and the beer distributors have a grudge to settle with Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who wants the bars to stop serving alcohol earlier in the evening.

There you have it. As a publicity stunt, the survey worked. A lot of people talked about it, as well as the PAC, itself. It got plenty of newsprint devoted to it, as well as some television time. As for what was revealed, except for specific endorsements, the outcome and where the funding presumably will be spent was not unexpected. “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”