Rick Fenton, Bob Turner, “It’s Time Saratoga!” and the Age of Alt Facts

One stands in wonder at the cynicism of “It’s Time Saratoga!”.   It doesn’t matter that it has been brought to their attention time and time again that they do not have the data to assert that they know the percentage of employees in city hall that support charter change and yet it seems that not a day goes by that I do not see this asserted in the media.  I am hard pressed to explain this.

In the November 3 edition of the Saratogian Rick Fenton who is the head of “It’s Time Saratoga!” repeats it yet again.   Referring to “the first ever survey” of city hall employees he asserts:

“To the question, does our current charter ensure accountability? 57 percent said no. Does it prevent wasteful spending? 67 percent said no. Effectively manage the city? 72 percent said no. Should the city have a city manager? 65 percent said yes.”

Similarly, Bob Turner made the claims on a popular website during the same week.  Mr. Turner wins the award for having posted this misinformation the most times.

In the parlance of the times, these are alt facts.

There was nothing that any credible person would call  a “survey” done as I have repeatedly documented on this blog.  An unscientific questionnaire was sent out by email to an indeterminate number of city employees and a modest number responded.   The questionnaire may offer some indication that some employees in city hall support change but it is fundamentally dishonest to suggest anything beyond that.

As the leader of “It’s Time Saratoga!” I expect that Mr. Fenton shared responsibility for the door hanger that promised people the city will save $500,000.00 a year “Immediately” if the charter is adopted.  Even the controversial financial statement put out by the Charter Review Commission did not claim this much.

So I ask the readers of this blog to help me understand Mr. Fenton, Mr. Turner,  et al.

I am from the old school.  I do not expect people to see the world the way I do but when it comes to facts, I consider it fundamental to try to get them right.  When I make a mistake of fact on this blog I acknowledge it.  I do this because I value my reputation with the readers of this blog.  If I am wrong, by acknowledging it I hope that readers will have confidence in what I say in the future.  Aside from how I am perceived, it is important to me personally to be honest with others.

I hope this blog contributes to a more thoughtful city politics.  Misrepresenting the truth to pass some legislation, no matter how beneficial it might seem, only serves to corrupt the ability of our community to move forward in a humane way.

I understand that people like Mr. Fenton and Mr. Turner want to get the charter adopted.  I expect they and other members of his group  may calculate that many of the people who read the Saratogian or their website or share this information on Facebook will have no idea that these men are presenting what appear to be compelling numbers but in fact is information that cannot be supported by fact.  What I do not understand is how little they care about the thoughtful people who see how unethically they are behaving.

What makes Mr. Turner’s actions in this all the more troubling is that he has a class of students studying this campaign this semester and he is teaching it.  What if you were a student in his class and privately critical of his behavior?  Would you express this in any of the class discussions or in any written assignments?

It makes you wonder, do these people believe that by winning an election it somehow validates them and their shrewd and unprincipled behavior?  Do they see people who value honesty as foolish and naïve?


6 thoughts on “Rick Fenton, Bob Turner, “It’s Time Saratoga!” and the Age of Alt Facts”

  1. I recently read an article titled “America is Facing and Epistemic Crisis.” Epistemic: relating to knowledge or to the degree of its validation. While this article was about national politics, we are suffering from the same validation of facts right here at the local level.
    This Charter campaign of repeating false and unvalidated information over and over to make the case for how we govern our city has been deplorable and those involved with the Commission should be ashamed. Regardless of how many times the Charter Review Commission has been called out for their suspect data relating to their ridiculous employee survey, their spin on our low property tax rate, the savings that will not be seen on “day 1” if this charter is adopted by eliminating deputies, their false information about lifetime taxpayer funded health care for city council members, turf wars, lead in the water, common city lawsuits, and any other spin they rely on daily / regularly even though it just doesn’t hold up actual validated facts…they continue to peddle it to anyone who will listen – dupes, I suppose.
    Bob Turner has run a campaign of blaming our elected officials and the form of government by spinning everything that has happened in this city over the last decade into some sort of horrible negative “watch out Saratoga Springs residents The Sky is Falling.”. He has to do this otherwise he doesn’t have any reason for the change. Things are too good for this sort of change he is recommending, so he and his minions have gone about creating problems where they don’t exist. It seems to be working. If it does work, the taxpayers will feel the effect, and this we will lay at his feet. There will be a mess for the next decade, at least, in our city.
    Meanwhile, my taxes are low, we borrow at low interest rates, the city is safe, the water is clean, and my city is active and prosperous.
    Skidmore and the Saratoga Springs community should, and most likely will be, ashamed of Turner and his ilk, what kind of local government professor makes his point to change the form of government by excoriating all the good we have in this city? He’s no better than those pushing ““fake news” burped up by the alt-right”.


  2. Click to access City-Hall-Employees-survey-results.pdf

    Here is the link to all of the survey data. I don’t understand what part of this you feel is fabricated?
    Everything that you want to know is on their website – total transparency.
    In the presentations that I attended they explained that they did not survey the police and fire fighters. So they are not counted in the number of surveys sent. Maybe that is why you are coming up with a discrepancy in your calculations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t you see that the statistics are presented to show what they want them to show. They had a very small response meaning that they had a small sample. The statistics they are providing are from that sample not the entirety of the City Hall employees. By stating as they do, they are misrepresenting the actual numbers. Very poor form for a commission that is being led by a college professor who certainly knows that this is far from transparent.

      “….they explained that they did not survey the police and fire fighters.” Just more reason the statistics they are sharing are not proper.

      PS: Just spent a fair amount of time on the website. I could not find the survey or the statistics. This seems to only by on their mailings.


  3. The Charter Commission’s conduct in this affair has been nothing short of a disgrace. It is not hyperbole to say that they conspired, with financial assistance assistance from a DC lobbying PAC (well over half their funding) to hijack our government. The Mayor has admitted complicity in this conspiracy (see: http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20171104/NEWS/171109907 ).

    It is my hope that voters are smart enough to recognize this flim-flamming of facts, dubious accounting, fake surveys, rudeness by the co-chair toward an elected official, and just plain stupidity by the chair (who can’t even spell civic leaders’ names right!) and send these conspirators packing. Vote No!

    Whoever wins the Mayoral election should commit to an examination of the Charter by people who are objective. This group is about as objective as the Taliban. Their arrogant conduct towards the electorate should not be rewarded.


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