On Tuesday, August 8, I interviewed Mark Baker, Republican candidate for Mayor of Saratoga Springs.
Originally from Wisconsin, Mark spent 33 years as the executive director of the Saratoga Springs City Center.
I sent him the questions we would be discussing and asked him to respond in writing to facilitate our discussion when we met in person. Included below are the answers he sent me.
Mark is far from most people’s idea of a stereotypical politician. We had a wide ranging thoughtful discussion of city issues free of popular buzzwords and platitudes.
The one troubling part of our conversation for me was our discussion of the city’s greenbelt. While Mark supports the comprehensive plan’s requirement for low intensity development in this area he was not willing to be more specific than that. My attempt to get him to take a position on Saratoga National Golf Course’s quest to expand to become a resort were fruitless. He said he was not familiar with the details of whatever ended up being their final proposal.
I think it speaks well for Mark that he agreed to meet and spend considerable time with me particularly in light of the fact that we do not totally agree on every issue. Development in the greenbelt is a high priority issue for me. I came away from our conversation feeling that while I do not know how he would respond to future proposals from players like SNGC I think he may be open to changes in the greenbelt that I would oppose.
What Mark did demonstrate is that he is accessible to voters in this city no matter what their political perspective and that he will listen and engage them in a thoughtful way.
From Mark Baker:
Given my gmail and primitive computer I will have to answer your questions separately below versus editing your questions or attaching to your questions. I will go in the order as presented;
City Center: The City Center was the “key-stone” to an excellent home grown economic development plan to help Saratoga re-emerge as a year ’round destination community. The City Center was at the heart of the renaissance of the downtown retail and food/beverage businesses. This influx of convention and year round guests has helped build sales tax revenues and downtown growth with quality/boutique retail and unique restaurants. It was also a part of the infill of downtown.
Saratoga has become what was envisioned over 3 decades ago as a vibrant, economic driver, and year round destination location. The City Center was the major element in this vision.
I am running and will succeed as Mayor under our current Commission form of government. I am confident I will build consensus with the individual Commissioners, show leadership and allow the City Council to properly serve the needs of this great city.
Regarding the proposed “wholesale” change in our form of government, I find several areas troubling in the new proposal; cost and more importantly, accountability. While it is healthy to have dialogue and discussion about alternatives, I believe at this time it is best for Saratoga Springs to remain with the current Commission form of Government.
As Mayor, I will bring to the Council, for its consideration, proposals for specific Charter Sections to be considered for modification.
The most recent proposal for donated land to accommodate a safe and possibly more cost effective “pedestrian/bike trail” should be quickly assessed and reviewed. If the new proposal is in fact a “better way” to accomplish the mutually endorsed goal of a bike access across Rt 50 to the Spa, it should be weighed against the current plan and the best solution embraced.
The other issues (pending Article 78 and ED) regarding the current plan need to be considered in assessing the trail options.
Tying up a great concept (bike trail accesses) in litigation and not moving forward is not a palatable solution.
Land Use Boards:
The function and realities of our current zoning and the role of the respective Land Use Boards, always need to be reviewed and “tooled” to stay current and fresh in their directives, interpretations, and jurisdictions.
All proposed development should be handled fairly, with due diligence, and given clear, timely review and guidance from the Land Use Boards.
Each project, may need to be reviewed from a unique and refined perspective–i.e. why we have the respective Boards.
Interpretation of commercial versus non-profit projects may require a different optic to assure that the public benefit is being assessed in the approval or denial process.
My concern was with process and also the interpretation of the term “boarding house”. I am not opposed to the concept of offering a human service answer to those in need especially the homeless. This project is very unique and the greater community-private and public (not just those within 100′) need a clear understanding of goals, operational format and safe-guards.
Communication and transparency on this project is paramount to dispel half truths and fear.
3 thoughts on “An Interview With Mark Baker, Republican Candidate For Mayor”
Looking for a clear answer on issues -seems like everything has to be reviewed to reach the best decision -for the benefit of everybody, etc
Plays a good game of politics, no real answers. How about some reviewing and some honest answers, even if you lose a few votes?
Ten random, yet related thoughts, if you please….
1) First – I read this blog because I am interested in politics. Local politics. I don’t come here for the pretty pictures, for there are very little – save for John’s occasional forays into Shakespeare in the Park, etc. – I come here for local political discussion, and I do not think it is a stretch to assume that others who read this blog are politically interested as well, regardless of their POV on a given issue… Whether it is 10 people or 10,000 – every reader is a potential vote. Except for that oddball who lives in Nebraska, of course…
2) Second – Radio silence by a candidate will move exactly zero votes towards that candidate. It might, however, move votes from said candidate towards their opponent who gives their position(s).
3) Third – the format you offered Mr. Baker – emailed responses to questions, is eminently fair and non-partisan. I presume Mark was given sufficient time to reflect and consider his answers, which led to a thoughtful response before hitting the send button. The candidate has a record of his/her responses, and the reporter need only: Copy. Paste. Done. This is not laziness; this is interest in accuracy. When I wrote about politics, I always offered, and sometimes insisted, that candidates and office-holders write down their responses to important and/or controversial issue questions. It’s their neck, and the voting public’s noose. John is performing a public good by being a disseminator. His intro above the Q+A is his opinion – clearly separate from the candidates remarks.
4) Fourth- this is a side note but also relevant. I do have to take issue with John when he characterizes Mark Baker’s comments as “…free of popular buzzwords and platitudes.” In fact, Mr. Baker’s remarks are generously laced with them (see me after class and I’ll show you plenty). But who cares? They are his buzzwords and platitudes, organized to convey his positions and vision for the City of Saratoga Springs! I wasn’t looking for his review of Shakespeare…
5) Fifth – The inherent weakness of the emailed Q + A format is that it does not allow for follow-up questions, which can be revealing (hi Donald45). Presumably, John got his answers in the mentioned follow up discussion, if there were any. But the key point of all of this is that the candidate received a nice opportunity to put his/her best foot forward and tell you why you might consider voting for them. An unpaid commercial, with none of the negative ‘commercial’ connotations.
6) Sixth – Therefore, what candidate in their right mind would refuse such a vehicle?
7) Seventh – I’ll backtrack a little from the above statement to say that every candidate has the right to determine his/her campaign strategy, and, perhaps, their research has determined that all of John’s readers DO live in Nebraska and this entire discourse is a sham. Or, they have some other reason why they don’t want to do it. Fine. Then: Decline. No one will fault you, maybe. But no response? We are blessed with two viable, extremely qualified candidates. It could make a difference in what could be a close election. Plus, it’s rude – gotta say…
8) Eighth – I haven’t blasted anyone yet, like a good blog commenter should, but that is about to change. Quoting John from his August 4 post: “Mr. Landry (note: Meg Kelly’s Campaign Manager) replied something to the effect that his inbox was very full of emails” – as a reason/excuse for not responding. Now, I must assume that Jane, who was told this – was exhibiting the same forthright honesty that I have witnessed from her for more years than Mr. Landry has been alive (sorry, Jane…). On that assumption, I would like to share with Mr. Landry a quote from my H.S. football coach, who also happened to teach me five years of Latin: ‘Toughous Est!’
9) Folks, if you want to frost me up, whine to me about how busy you are! Gee, I get up before dawn to write my blog, work a full day-job, and go out at night to cover this or that – my life, my choice… But you’re busy, Mr. Landry? What, did someone put a gun to your head to take this job? Do you think it’s going to slow down after Labor Day or something? Get real. Mr. Landry, to quote my coach again, this time in English: “Its big-boy pants time!” This is the major leagues, not some academic exercise.
10) (and finally) Every Mayor I have covered, even those that would like to throw me down an elevator shaft, would return my calls within 24 hours – often in the same business day. I would look for the same from any Mayoral candidate. Therefore, I call upon Ms. Meg Kelly to respond to John – one way or the other. Meg, you know I like you a lot personally. IMHO you are more than qualified to be Mayor (as is Mark Baker). But this has gone on long enough. Yes or no? Among other things, John is a voter, as is his readers. The time for radio silence is over.
Anyone that would vote for someone that won’t even talk to their constituents (let alone for an interview) shouldn’t even be allowed to vote.