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:
The arrest rates are even more important:
“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.