Saratoga Springs Democratic Chairman, Charley Brown, Caught in Lie

On May 20th I emailed Saratoga Springs Democratic Chairman, Charley Brown, asking him whether  Joanne Yepsen had informed him of her decision not to run for re-election prior to her issuing a  media release.  On the same day he emailed back writing that she had not.

Following a request by one of the followers of this blog who had challenged the truthfulness of Mr. Brown’s assertion, I emailed Chairman Brown asking for permission to post his email to me.  He declined.

As it turned out, what he had written me was untrue.  I wrote to Mr. Brown and advised him that I planned to post the unfortunate truth and offered to allow him to write an explanation to the readers of this blog.  He sent me the following statement:

“I was told 16 hours prior to the Press Release”


Tara Gaston Endorsed By City Democratic Committee for Supervisor

I want to publically apologize to Tara Gaston.  Ms. Gaston was endorsed by the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee for County Supervisor along with Pat Friesen.  I did not have her name in the original story about the endorsements.

I have offered to post links to her campaign website once she sets it up.

Also omitted from that story was the endorsement by the committee of Francine Vero for City Court Judge. Again apologies for this omission as well.


Carey Woerner: One of Handful of Democrats In The New York State Assembly To Vote Against Single Payer

On May 16th the New York State Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a single payer health care plan for our state.  According to the website Spotlight News, the vote was 87 to 38.  Ms. Woerner was one of a handful of Democrats in the Assembly to vote no.

Here is an excerpt from the article on the Spotlight News website about the Health Act that Woerner voted against:

The New York Health Act would establish a universal health care system within the state, known as New York Health, and expand coverage eligibility to include all residents, regardless of wealth, income, age or pre-existing condition. In addition, every enrollee would have access to the full range of doctors and service providers offered. The plan would provide comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care, primary and preventive care, maternity care, prescription drug costs, laboratory testing, rehabilitative care and dental, vision and hearing care.


Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee Delays Endorsement in Mayoral Race

The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee met on Saturday morning to endorse candidates in city races.  They endorsed Commissioners Madigan for Finance  and Franck for Accounts.  They endorsed Peter Martin for Commissioner of Public Safety.  They endorsed Pat Friesen and another person for the supervisor races.   They made no endorsement for the Public Works Commissioner.

Interestingly, they declined to take action on the mayoralty race.  My understanding was that it was a very close vote to delay an endorsement.

Mayor Yepsen released her letter announcing her decision not to run the day before the endorsement meeting.  In her letter she endorsed her deputy Meg Kelly for mayor.   I received confirmation from Charley Brown that Mayor Yepsen did not contact him prior to releasing her letter/announcement to the media.  Apparently, the committee declined to endorse Ms. Kelley on the basis that the process should be an open one in which all interested candidates would be considered.

While I expect that Ms. Kelly will, in all likelihood, receive the endorsement, the Mayor showed a lack of judgment in this affair which did more harm to her deputy than good.   It is to the credit of Mr. Brown and the majority of the committee that they insisted on an open process.



Extraordinarily Insightful Talk By Rolling Stone Columnist Matt Taibbi On The Media and Trump

Personally, I have found much of the talk about the presidency of Donald Trump repetitive and not especially interesting.  This talk by Matt Taibbi focuses on the mechanics of the media’s coverage of Donald Trump and how he is a transitional figure.  Whether you are a supporter or opponent of Donald Trump I think you will find this talk of interest.  Much of it deals with the business of modern news coverage.  It also deals with the symbiotic relationship that has existed between the major media players, especially television, and the presidential candidates they cover.  For example, for the last few election cycles the media has been charged by the candidates, both Democratic and Republican, to cover them.  This includes planes, buses, hotels, meals, media rooms, etc.  Taibbi shares that three days he spent with the Trump campaign cost $12,000.00.  This is not unique to Trump.  The result is that only the media with the deepest pockets can afford to be “on the bus.” 

Trump supporters, don’t be put off by the title. 

City Democratic Committee: Like the Proverbial Bachelor, Afraid To Commit

The May 9th Saratogian had an article titled “Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee Updates Platform Statement.”  The statement from the Democrats is a study in vapid spin.  There is nothing in this “platform” that the Saratoga Springs Republican Party would not whole heartedly embrace.

It is easy to imagine the crafting of this document as an episode from the HBO series Veep with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her staff struggling mightily over every tiny banality.

The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee identifies six areas for the platform.

  1. “Keep city government fair: The Democratic Committee supports public debate to improve government.”
  2.  “Maintain and promote the quality of life: Besides smart, sustainable growth, [Saratoga Springs Democrats] value a robust mix of opportunities that build community, diversify our economy and make our City a wonderful place to live.”
  3.  “Plan for the long-term: infrastructure, water resources and financial stability: Sound, proactive fiscal planning must continue to protect the excellent financial health our City has achieved and to ensure it keeps meeting residents’ needs.”
  4.  “Safeguard open space and the environment with smart sustainable development: Decisions about development in Saratoga Springs should be guided by a comprehensive vision for our “City in the Country”—a plan that balances continued economic growth with the essential need to preserve our open lands and the wellbeing they provide.”
  5. “Preserve and enhance public health and safety: While our police, fire and emergency medical responders provide services on the front line, all City Council members and their departments play a role in protecting the safety of the City and the health of its residents.”
  6.  “Address housing needs and services: The City lacks enough housing that is affordable for people who work here, retirees, and younger residents.”

Two things worth noting about two items.

Sustainable Saratoga has been waging a major campaign to amend the city’s zoning ordinances to require large projects to include affordable housing elements.  The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee has been silent all during this campaign.  Even if they had problems with elements of the proposal, one would expect them to be a voice in the “public debate” championed in their first item.  Regrettably they are not.

As for protecting the greenbelt, similarly, during the heated conflict over the plan by Saratoga National Golf Course to build a one hundred room hotel in the city’s greenbelt along with retail, and other items in clear conflict with the comprehensive plan, the committee took no position.  In fact, the committee never allowed a vigorous discussion of the issue at their meetings for fear of internal conflict.

Here is a link to the full platform story.

Some background is in order here.  The battle between Democrats Mayor Valerie Keehn and Commissioner of Public Works Tom McTygue between 2005 and 2007 was acrimonious, bitter, and personal.  It is hard to overstate how rancorous this conflict was.  Regrettably, it was not limited to the city council chambers.  Attempts to transact business by the City Democratic Committee became impossible.  Shouts and threats between the warring factions meant Committee meetings descended to unheard of depths.

It is much to the credit of the current Democratic chair, Charlie Brown, that he was able to patiently move the committee back to an atmosphere of civility.  With his pony tail and Birkenstocks he appears an unlikely chairman, but he is extremely well liked by the members of his committee.

The problem is that this détente was accomplished by basically jettisoning any principled stands on local issues by the committee.  Given the fact that the Democratic members of the City Council are divided on most issues, the price Mr. Brown requires of the committee is that they take no positions lest they come into conflict with one of the elected members of their party.

Full disclosure: Jane Weihe is my wife.  Decades ago, my friend Tom McTygue, the only Democrat on the council at the time, appeared to entertain the idea of allowing the Anderson’s to develop land at Exit 14 into an office park.  Jane Weihe decided, as part of a strategy to defeat this effort, to take on Tommy and what ensued was a hotly contested election for the committee seats of the Democratic Committee.   Jane’s slate won overwhelmingly and she became their chair.

People will probably be amazed to learn that Jane and Tommy went on to work together for years.  This was not to be the only time that Jane and the committee had differences with Tom on issues.   The secret was that Jane never made things personal.  She also ran meetings on controversial issues in a way that respected the members of the committee and kept the focus on issues rather than personalities.  Her differences with Tom were always principled and never were tainted with ego and power moves.  Tom, for his part, knew that he needed the party at election time and it was in his interest to maintain a relationship.  Jane in turn believed that the city needed Tom and that he did an extraordinary job running  his department, keeping the city beautiful, restoring the casino and Congress Park to their past glory, plowing snow (which in those days there was a lot of) and much more.

Tom McTygue has a well deserved reputation for being tough and not afraid of a fight.  With that in mind, Jane and the committee’s ability to disagree without self destructing is about the best example I can think of that it can be done.

It is a sad waste that our current Democratic Committee seems only concerned with winning elections and cares so little for issues.  The excuse is always that division will only serve the Republicans.  One would have hoped that the Bernie Sanders campaign might have shown a light on the importance of  focusing on issues but at least in Saratoga Springs the lights are still out.