What A Tangled Web This Absentee Ballot Count Has Become

I may very well have misunderstood John Franck regarding the role of a lawyer representing the city in the review of absentee ballots from the November 7th election.  I had understood from him that the attorney the city was to hire was to defend against any absentee ballots being set aside.  It is now my understanding that the city has no standing regarding the absentee ballots and that, according to Franck, the lawyer is simply going to be an observer.

For those of you following all the accusations flying around, it has been alleged by now former Charter Commission member Gordon Boyd (the Charter Commission officially ended at 9PM election night) that Franck somehow contributed to the fact that some voters did not turn the ballot over and vote on the charter.  John Franck told me that in the event the charter fails he expects that there will be some kind of litigation regarding the charter vote.  He told me that he believes that the city needs to be prepared to deal with such suits and having an attorney observe the process of counting the absentee ballots is part of this.

The decision to hire a lawyer was made at a special City Council meeting that was held at noon today, Monday. Mayor Yepsen issued a press release [see below] complaining about the calling of the special meeting to secure an attorney alleging that: “I only found out about the meeting by a member of the press.  This is not how our city has done or should do business; this is not serving the whole constituency.”

This is utterly bizarre because the email announcing the meeting was sent out from her office on the previous Thursday over her name:


From: “Lisa Shields” <lisa.shields@saratoga-springs.org> To: “Tony Izzo” <tony.izzo@saratoga-springs.org>, “Lisa Shields” <lisa.shields@saratoga-springs.org>, “Christian Mathiesen” <christian.mathiesen@saratoga-springs.org>, “Christine Gillmett-Brown” <christine.brown@saratoga-springs.org>, “Donna Buckley” <donna.buckley@saratoga-springs.org>, “Eileen Finneran” <eileen.finneran@saratoga-springs.org>, “frank coppola” <frank.coppola@saratoga-springs.org>, “Joanne Yepsen” <joanne.yepsen@saratoga-springs.org>, “John Franck” <john.franck@saratoga-springs.org>, “John Hirliman” <john.hirliman@saratoga-springs.org>, “Kathy Lanfear” <kathy.lanfear@saratoga-springs.org>, “Lindsey Connors” <lindsey.connors@saratoga-springs.org>, “Lisa Ribis” <lisa.ribis@saratoga-springs.org>, “Lisa Watkins” <lisa.watkins@saratoga-springs.org>, “Maire Masterson” <maire.masterson@saratoga-springs.org>, “Marilyn Rivers” <marilyn.rivers@saratoga-springs.org>, “Meg Kelly” <meg.kelly@saratoga-springs.org>, “Michele Madigan” <michele.madigan@saratoga-springs.org>, “Mike Sharp” <mike.sharp@saratoga-springs.org>, “Miriam Dixon” <miriam.dixon@saratoga-springs.org>, “Skip Scirocco” <skip.scirocco@saratoga-springs.org>, “Stefanie Richards” <stefanie.richards@saratoga-springs.org>, “Trish Bush” <trish.bush@saratoga-springs.org>, “Vincent DeLeonardis” <vincent.deleonardis@saratoga-springs.org> Sent: Thursday, November 9, 2017 4:43:36 PM Subject: Special Council Meeting Monday November 13

On behalf of the Mayor: Commissioner Franck has called special city council meeting for Monday, November 13. So far, there has been a request for one agenda item. Please let me know if there other other items to add to your agendas before 5pm today.

Thank you,

Joanne Yepsen, Mayor

City Hall, Suite 9

474 Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

(518) 587-3550 x2520


I have to say I am skeptical of the value of having any attorney spend time watching the absentee ballots being opened.

It seems odd to me that Mayor Yepsen and the “It’s Time Saratoga!” folks carry on about paying for lawyers to be involved in this process.  According to the Gazette, Mayor Yepsen went down to the Board of Elections the morning after the election with city Assistant Attorney Tony Izzo and former Charter Commission members Bob Turner and Gordon Boyd to explore the legal issues associated with the election and the subsequent processing of absentee ballots with the Democratic and Republican Commissioners of Election.  As Mr. Izzo is on the clock, a city official (the Mayor) along with partisans who are for the charter seem to have already utilized an attorney at taxpayers’ expense.  As we Jews say, Oy!

It is also ironic that Mayor Yepsen seems outraged about allegedly not being properly advised about the special Council meeting but sets up a conference call with a representative of the New York State Board of Elections with Commissioner Mathiesen and the city’s attorneys and does not invite the other members of the Council to attend and then reports on what happened not to them directly but only to the press.

On an entirely different track, Tara Gaston who was elected as a County Supervisor, has sent out a request for funds to pay for a lawyer to represent her at the absentee ballot count.  I sent her an email asking if the attorney she was raising money for was to just represent her, the Democratic candidates, and/or the pro charter people.  She wrote back saying it was only for her.  It seems very odd given the margin of her win that she would spend money on a lawyer to participate in the opening of absentee ballots.  No one is questioning her victory.

Gordon Boyd solicited moneys to hire a lawyer on the “It’s Time Saratoga!” website the day following the election.

It is my understanding that Gaston and Peter Martin will both be represented by attorney Jim Long.

Readers may pardon my suspicion that “It’s Time Saratoga!” may benefit from attorney Long’s role in reviewing the ballots.

I find all of this excessive and unpleasant.  I leave it to the readers to decide for themselves who if any are the villains in this business.


The following are releases from Mayor Yepsen and from Commissioners Madigan and Franck


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

November 13, 2017

FROM THE OFFICE OF MAYOR JOANNE D. YEPSEN

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY. – Since Commissioner Franck’s announcement of scheduling a special council meeting to hire an outside law firm for the purposes of observing an absentee ballot count for the charter, many citizens have raised questions about what happens next and have voiced their concerns to me about making sure all citizens are represented fairly during this process.  Many of these concerns are born from the inappropriate way the meeting was scheduled.

Unfortunately, our current charter allows for three council members to call a meeting without any notification to the full council.  In the rare case that a special meeting is called, the normal protocol has been to reach out to the full council to ensure availability.  Commissioner Franck, Commissioner Madigan and Commissioner Scirocco, the three Commissioners who have been very vocal against the new Charter proposal, and in favor of the group SUCCESS, chose not to include the Mayor or the Public Safety Commissioner in the scheduling process, both of us who are in favor of charter change.  I only found out about the meeting by a member of the press.  This is not how our city has done or should do business; this is not serving the whole constituency.

In order to respond to citizen concerns, I held a meeting on Friday to review the law and get answers.  I invited Vince Deleonardis and Tony Izzo, our two city attorneys, Meg Kelly, my Deputy and Mayor-Elect, and Chris Mathiesen, Commissioner of Public Safety.  I then called Brian Quail, NYS Board of Elections, and asked him to participate via speaker phone.

The response from Mr. Quail was that in his 17 years of experience, no legislative body has ever hired an attorney for this purpose, and he expressed that it’s probably unlawful.  He clarified that according to NYS election law, groups such as It’s Time Saratoga, Success or a City Council have no interest or standing in the opening of the ballots.  Only a candidate or an individual may hire an attorney to participate in the process of opening absentee ballots.  Furthermore, on Wednesday, 11/8/17, the morning after election day, as Mayor I met with both the Republican and and Democratic Commissioners of Elections at County headquarters, William Frucci and Roger Schiera. I brought our Assistant City Attorney, Tony Izzo, who also acted as the City Charter Committee’s legal advisor, to make sure the City was well informed of the next steps in this process. As Mayor, I am charged with setting up a transition team within 60 days of election day in order to properly move our city forward into full conversion by 2020.

Commissioner Franck has stated in the media that hiring an outside attorney is about protecting the city’s and the voter’s best interest.  If the Commissioners’ real intent were to protect the city, they would have contacted me and the Commissioner of Public Safety for our availability.  It has the optics of being biased and people don’t like that.

The board of elections is already contracted by the taxpayers to protect the voters of Saratoga Springs.   If each individual commissioner feels strongly about this they should use their own campaign funds or private money to hire an attorney, not the people’s money. This is a misuse of public dollars and unfair to the taxpayers.

 CONTACT: Mayor Joanne Yepsen, 518-526-5272



For Immediate Release: November 13, 2017

From the Offices of Commissioner of Finance, Michele Madigan and Commissioner of Accounts, John Franck

Response to Mayor Joanne Yepsen regarding Charter Absentee Ballot Meeting by Three (3) City Commissioners

While we would prefer to have discussions and debates amongst City Council members occur transparently during City Council meetings, given the timeliness of the matter we thought a public response to Mayor Yespen’s statement released earlier today was appropriate.

On Thursday November 9, 2017, an email was sent by Mayor Yepsen’s Executive Assistant with the subject line “Special Council Meeting Monday November 13.” This email was sent to all City Council members, each of their deputies, and the City Attorney’s office, along with other City Hall employees. In the email it is explicitly stated that Commissioner Franck is calling a special City Council meeting on Monday November 13, and asking if any other City Council members have agenda items to add. This meeting, and the related document, was also posted on the internal web portal used by City Council members to prepare for every City Council meeting. The notion that Mayor Yepsen and Commissioner Mathiesen, or their staff, weren’t adequately alerted to this meeting or that the process differs drastically from prior Special City Council Meetings is factually incorrect, and shows either the blatant misinterpretation of actual events, or a failure to appropriately track City Council-related communications. I realize each City Council member is busy, both personally and professionally, but I don’t believe an iteration of “I missed that email” is an adequate response, especially with such an obviously titled email as “Special Council Meeting Monday November 13.”

Had Mayor Yepsen attended she would have heard that the actions taken today by the City Council members in attendance have nothing to do with each members stance on the proposed Charter. Instead, the actions taken today were to ensure that each and every ballot cast by a City resident is accounted for properly, no matter what their position, and that the results can be properly communicated to all City Council members and the City Attorney. The firm we have hired is not there to advocate or influence, but instead to oversee, and to ensure that any representatives in attendance don’t attempt to alter the count. We have absolute faith in the County Board of Elections, who have done a fantastic job over the years, and we see our actions today as providing support to their cause of a fair and legally appropriate election. Seeing this occur, no matter the outcome, is to the benefit of all City residents.

We take issue with the hypocrisy of Mayor Yepsen’s misguided frustration regarding a City Council meeting occurring without her, but then noting that she had a meeting with the City Attorney and Commissioner Mathiesen, followed by a call with a representative of the NYS Board of Elections. The first we heard of this meeting was today via her press  statement and we are hearing details about it through the Mayor’s press release. Given that the Mayor’s meeting happened on Friday 11/10, this would have been useful information for a broader discussion with City Council members. I would also note that from what I’ve been told, Mayor Yepsen also met with Bob Turner and Gordon Boyd, former members of the Charter Review Commission, to discuss legal ramifications. Neither Commissioner Scirocco, Commissioner Franck, nor Commissioner Madigan (myself) have had any meetings with representatives from SUCCESS to determine legal strategy involving the absentee ballots. Additionally, in an attempt to clear up any misconceptions, the entire City Council, not singularly or not even Mayor Yepsen, will be tasked with appointing members to the Charter Transition Task Force should the proposal pass. While the Mayor’s Office is allowed more representatives than other Council members, any potential transition will be an team effort. Whatever the outcome, our hope is that for the remainder of Mayor Yepsen’s term, and for City Council’s going forward, we can engage in transparent, fact-based discussions, even when we might disagree on a given topic.

Thank you.

Commissioner Michele Madigan

Commissioner John Franck

Michele Madigan

Commissioner of Finance

City of Saratoga Springs

474 Broadway

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

518-587-3550 ext. 2557

A Thoughtful Piece By Barbara Lombardo

Barbara Lombardo published a Readers View piece in the Saratogian about a week ago in support of charter change.  It was an excellent piece that laid out the arguments in a thoughtful manner that avoided the inflated rhetoric of many of the other advocates.  It also was the only piece from a charter supporter that I know of that criticized some of the pro-charter leadership  for some of their excesses.

Her blog is quite entertaining.  This is a link to both her piece and her blog:

 

The Agony Of The Charter Campaign Continues

In the November 8 edition of the Times Union Wendy Liberatore wrote a follow-up story on the charter vote.

In the story Bob Turner voices alarm that of the 8,724 ballots cast, 368 did not vote one way or the other on the charter.  Ms. Liberatore wrote, “He and Gordon Boyd, another member of the Charter Review Commission, were told by voters that not all of the poll workers told them to turn over the ballot, as the workers should have.  “We are concerned by the under vote,” he said.

Liberatore goes on to point out that the “The city’s Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, for whom the city clerk works, said he does not know of any irregularities at the polls and that it is often the case that voters don’t turn over the ballot, even when they are told to. But Franck said he didn’t tour each polling site this year like he usually does.”  In true Liberatore fashion she implies that somehow Franck was responsible for the problem.

In a considerably better article that appeared in the Gazette, Bill Fruci, Democratic Election Commissioner, explained that the training of the people from both political parties who staff the polling places is done by the county not the city.  He further noted that it is not uncommon for voters to abstain from voting on items on the ballot.  Also, to have only 4% of the ballots not completely marked is a very modest number.

Liberatore continues, “The charter review commission countered that Franck’s involvement in the fight was also a violation of state law because elected officials are to remain publicly neutral when city voters consider adopting a new charter.”  Since the Charter Review Commission dissolved at 9:00 PM the night of the election, I will guess that this came from either Turner, Kane, or Boyd or all three.  Why Ms. Liberatore did not properly attribute this complaint is unclear.  Consistent with the past comments of the pro-charter spokespersons they (and Ms. Liberatore) ignored that Mayor Yepsen and Commissioner Mathiesen had not been publicly neutral.  Both had written letters to the editor, made statements to the press, and appeared prominently in the pro-charter mailers.

Saratoga Today also has an article in this week’s edition on the on-going saga of the charter. In it Bob Turner in a demonstration of wretched excess compared the charter election to Florida in 2000.  He warns us we are heading for brand new legal territory.  In fact, reliable sources tell me that the “It’s Time Saratoga!” people have hired attorney Jim Long to represent them when the absentee ballots are opened and to potentially challenge them.

In response, there will be a special meeting of the City Council on Monday to consider hiring a lawyer to represent the city in this process.  I spoke to John Franck who told me emphatically (John Franck knows how to tell you something emphatically!)  that the purpose of the lawyer representing the city is not to challenge any ballots but to insure the proper process is followed and to advocate on behalf of the city that to the extent possible, all ballots be counted.  This is to say that should the “It’s Time” people challenge a ballot the attorney representing the city will review and if appropriate defend such ballots.

So, dear reader, you might ask “what is the point of challenging a ballot when you do not know if it is for you or against you?”  Well, the names of all the people casting absentee ballots are public.  Excessively zealous individuals could contact these people trying to find out how they voted.  They could then attempt to invalidate the ballots of those people on the other side of the issue.  I know it sounds bizarre but it has been done in the past.

In contrast to all of this, Richard Sellers on behalf of SUCCESS told the paper, “We’re confident in the Saratoga County Board of Elections and we look forward to a clear outcome.”

I do not know the Republican Commissioner of Elections but I have known the Democratic Commissioner, Bill Fruci , for decades.  Bill, aside from being an extremely nice person has demonstrated over the years extensive knowledge of election law and a high standard for fairness.  Notwithstanding Bob Turner’s hyperbole, this is not the first election in which absentee ballots have  been scrutinized and potentially challenged.  In the end, if one or more ballots are challenged, a judge will determine their validity.

Ballots can be invalid for a number of reasons but the issues are not as obscure as hanging chads.  If the voter checks off more than one choice for the same office or propositions, that particular selection is obviously invalid.  The envelopes the absentee ballots are sealed in must be properly signed and dated.  The post mark must be prior to the election.  All of this is fairly straight forward.  In general the courts have been reluctant in these cases to rule ballots invalid emphasizing the need to protect the right to vote.

Here is a link to the article.

“It’s Time Saratoga!” The Election Is Over But Their Dubious Campaigning Continues

The following was posted on November 8 on the “It’s Time Saratoga!” Face Book Page:  “…we were outspent 2-1..” 

 “It’s Time” is the PAC that was established to promote charter change. In a pair of earlier blogs I posted the latest financial filings with the NY State Board of Elections  by both “It’s Time” and SUCCESS, the group that opposed charter change.  SUCCESS reported raising $22,799.00.  It’s Time Saratoga reported raising $22,399.00.

So based on public records, where would “It’s Time Saratoga!” come up with this extraordinary claim.  One would have hoped with the election being over we might be spared the continuation of these kinds of dubious claims.

I have emailed Rick Fenton, Bob Turner, and Gordon Boyd who have been prominent spokespeople on this site asking them for some sort of supporting documentation for their claim.

 

 

 

When Is A Survey Not A Survey: A Brief Tutorial Regarding Disinformation

There seems to still be confusion about the problems with the Charter Review Commission’s qua survey so in spite of my earlier post on the subject, I thought I would go into more detail here.

An entire industry has developed along with a huge academic discipline regarding how to accurately assess what a particular population believes about something by using surveys.

The classic debacle of the Truman vs Dewey election of 1948 is a sterling example of a survey gone wrong. In this case telephone interviews were done of a sample population to try to predict who the winner of the Presidential election would be that year. Newspapers printed headlines based on the results of that survey showing Dewey defeating Truman which obviously turned out to be wrong.  The flaw was that, at the time, telephones were something of a luxury.  By using that medium the sample was skewed to a group that was more affluent than the overall population and thus not representative of voters in general .

Wikipedia is usually a helpful resource for things like this and here is a link to their explanation about what the methodology for surveying is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survey_methodology

When most people hear the word survey they naturally assume that it references the kind of survey explained in the above Wikipedia entry.

To begin with, there is the challenge of designing the questions.  Critical to this is having disinterested professionals craft questions so that they are free of language that would tend to prejudice the respondents.

Next is the selection of the sample population.  Usually the greater the sample, the more accurate the results.  Costs are commonly a limiting factor.  So a variety of strategies are developed to determine how to get a representative group.  In the case of city hall there would be a variety of problems in developing that sample.  For example, it would be reasonable to assume that certain positions would be more impacted by interactions with commissioners then others and therefore might have stronger opinions on the strengths or weaknesses of the current form of government.  The work of a clerk for example might make them less affected by decisions made by a commissioner than a mid management position.  There is also the factor of how well a particular employee might get along with a particular commissioner.  If they got along particularly well with a commissioner it might prejudice them to support the current form whereas if they did not they might be prejudiced to oppose it.  I am sure there are more issues but this is the kind of analysis that a rigorous professional in the field of survey methodology would be thinking about.  They would be struggling with how can they develop a model for sampling that gives an accurate picture of the population.

Another key element in a professional survey is to insure that the respondents are not allowed to be prejudiced in their responses.  There are a variety of tools and techniques applied to this process.  One of the things to control is that the respondents are reached in a manner and time that keeps them from speaking to one another about the survey.   The last thing a professional wants is for partisans with interests in the survey to affect the respondents.  As I understand it, some surveys where the risk of such interactions cannot be avoided build in a variety of algorithms to adjust the results accordingly.

It is axiomatic that the last thing a proper survey wants is self selecting respondents.  This is a reference to surveys where the participants are not selected according to the designed sample but where the sample is simply based on the people who want to fill out the form.  No adjustments are considered to deal with why some people decided to participate while others declined so it is impossible to determine to what extent those taking the initiative to answer are representative of the larger group.  They may in fact, like those with telephones in the Dewey example, share characteristics which set them aside from the population the survey is looking at.  Thus their responses will not be useful in determining what the group in general thinks.

To be blunt and obvious, no one would pay for a survey in an electoral race if they just sent out questionnaires  with a self addressed envelope to people in a particular district and asked them who they planned to vote for.  Even if they limited the mailing to registered voters or voters who cast ballots in the last two elections, what intelligent person would tabulate the results to determine whether a particular candidate was going to win based on who took the time to send the survey back?

So what did the Charter Review Commission do?

Did they seek the professional assistance from an expert in surveying to help them craft the questions?  No.  They crafted the questions themselves.

Did they consider that the questions might have hidden biases?  No.  They assumed that it was just a matter of asking some straight forward questions.  They were so sure of their good intentions they had no fear that there could be any problem with what they came up with.

So did they seek a professional to help them determine how many respondents they would need in order to draw conclusions about the target population (city employees)?   No.

Did they ask a professional how to determine what a representative sample of employees would constitute?  No.

Did they ask how they might solicit responses in such a way to insure that the survey would not be interfered with by partisans or that it could be done in a way in which respondents would not discuss the survey with others?  No.

What they did was to send out a questionnaire through the city’s computer network.  They didn’t even control that process.  When I asked Bob Turner, chair of the commission, who got the survey, he admitted he did not know.  Apparently there was some sort of internal city mailing list.  Pressed he was unable to offer anything about the nature of that mailing list nor did he know how many surveys were sent out. According to the Commission literature, it was a mailing list that went to employees in city hall.  Why did their survey not include all 398 employees who work for the city?  In some cases it was apparently  because some city employees do not have access to computers but this is not true of major departments that were overlooked. It does, though, expose one of the many limitations of using workplace computers to distribute the survey.

Still, the most damning thing about this survey was that its respondents were self selected.  This means that only employees motivated to respond did so.  According to the Charter Commission’s website seventy-five employees responded.  It is unclear how many employees work at city hall.  It is unclear what constituted working at city hall. Do the police work at city hall? Some do but others are out patrolling. How many? But this is the least of the problems with this survey.  The most serious problem is that it was self selected.

No person in good conscience could claim with certainty that the respondents to this survey were representative of the employees of city hall let alone the city.  The respondents of this survey were simply the seventy-five employees who chose for whatever reasons to answer the survey. No one has any idea how representative they may or may not be of city hall employees in general.

Sometimes the “Its Time Saratoga!” people flat out say that their survey found that 65.3% of the employees in city hall support having a city manager.  Other times they are more nuanced and just say that the survey was of city hall employees then give the numbers omitting that the numbers are a percentage of the 75 respondents only. (Since no one knows how many surveys were sent out we don’t even know how significant getting 75 responses was.)As should be abundantly clear, there is no way based on what was really simply a questionnaire that any conclusions can legitimately be drawn.

As just one of many examples, Bob Turner who chairs the Charter Commission published a letter in the September 10th Saratogian in which he asserted: “These results explain why 63.3percent [JK: The actual percent was 65.3] of City Hall employees said they believed city hall would operate better with a city manager.”  No caveats or qualifications here and patently untrue. 65.3% of city hall employees never told anyone anything. Turner can only assert truthfully that 65.3% of the respondents to that particular question answered it in that particular way. But 65.3% of 75 is only roughly 48 employees, not a number that the Charter supporters want to throw around.  Saying 12% of city employees answered a question saying they preferred a city manager form does not fit the pro charter change narrative.

Other times they simply say that their survey of city hall employees shows that 65.3% support a city manager.  I find this particularly cynical and disturbing.  The innocent reader would take it that the number represented a percentage of all city hall employees.  Instead, in a Clintonesque play of words, if challenged, they can claim they only meant the people who actually took the time to fill out their questionnaire and that they were using the word “survey” in the colloquial sense.  They didn’t mean a real survey.

Having hammered on this abuse of public trust repeatedly, their last mailing, buried among the large graphics and headlines about support for the city charter is the following: “The Commission’s survey and interviews with more than 75 employees found:”  Some might call that qualifying fragment progress.

Survey?  What survey?

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?

 

Litigation On The City Emails: Getting Beyond Conspiracies

There was a front page story in the Saratogian and a story in the Times Union about the city’s litigation regarding redacted emails that were sent between the city center and members of the city council.  The Pedinottis who own the Mouzon House are asking the courts to compel the city to reveal redactions in emails they FOILed the city for.

The contrast between the Saratogian’s story and the Times Union’s is striking.  Reading Ms. Liberatore’s sensationalized stories reminds me of the Damon Runyon quip, “Newspapers? They wrap fish in them.”

As always, there is another side to this story which is apparently too complex or does not serve Ms. Liberatore’s agenda which is to use the platform of the Times Union to gin up stories.

The Pedinottis are suing the city of Saratoga Springs along with the City Center over the planned parking facility.  The city has an excellent attorney in Vince DeLeonardis. 

The key issue here is that the city is being sued and their attorney in order to protect it, is going to limit wherever legally possible, access to documents sought by the litigant.  Anyone with any experience in these matters fully knows this.  I spoke to Chris Mathiesen about where the council stood on this litigation and he assured me that the council had been unanimous in their support of the city attorney in this matter.  Ms. Liberatore has been reckless in her coverage of this story.  To read her story one would conjure up conspiracies between Commissioner Madigan and the City Center as though the rest of the city council did not exist. 

 Ms. Liberatore knew when she solicited comments from Mayor Yepsen that she would play to the conspiracy crowd.  I am sorry but it was no oversight that she did not solicit comments from other members of the council.  They would have told her about the unanimity behind the city’s legal action and by unanimity I mean that Mayor Yepsen supported the litigation.  I know that this will generate a great deal of heat but the truth is that Mayor Yepsen supported the city’s litigation…before she didn’t.  This, unfortunately, is not the first time that the mayor has done one thing and told the public something else.  If Ms. Liberatore were a serious reporter she would easily have exposed this but instead she went the cheap way. 

The heart of this matter was the adoption of a city ordinance that excluded the downtown from a requirement that new construction could not cast a shadow on an adjacent building’s solar panel.  I have written previously about this ordinance.  It makes no sense to have this ordinance for the city core.  We want to focus development downtown.   We do not want businesses like the Pedinottis to be able to block projects by simply putting up a solar panel.  We could not have put up the building where Northshire Bookstore now sits if the building next to it had put up a solar panel.  It was no coincidence or conspiracy that this ordinance was passed following Mouzon House’s litigation.  The fact is that their litigation exposed a problem with the city ordinance.

 Previous to Ms. Liberatore, the Times Union reporter covering the city was Dennis Yusko.  He was a great reporter whose stories had punch but were still thoughtful.  I miss Dennis.

 

Financial Contributors To SUCCESS

[JK: My editor is on holiday in Paris so any errors in this post are entirely my responsibility.]

Interesting who is supporting SUCCESS.  I assume that Mazzone Administrative Group is associated with Angelo Mazonne who is one of the principals of Saratoga National Golf Course.  He along with Tom Newkirk were generous supporters.  I think W.P. Dake is Bill Dake of Stewarts Shops.  I believe that John Hendrickson of Geyser Road is the husband of Mary Lou Whitney.  Charles Wait is the owner of Adirondack Trust.  I assume J. T. Roohan is John Roohan of Roohan Realty.

Contributor Amt
ALLERDICE BUILDING SUPPLY INC. 41 WALWORTH ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
KUCZYNSKI ASSOCIATES 153 SPRING ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
MAZZONE ADMINISTRATIVE GROUP INC. 1 GLEN AVE. SCOTIA, NY 12302 1,000.00
WILLIAM J BURKE AND SON 626 NORTH BROADWAY SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 200.00
BAKERPO, JOHN PO BOX 1290 SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 125.00
BARKER, JONNE 286 SOUTH MAIN AVE ALBANY, NY 12208 100.00
BOCCHI, AMERIGO 4 ALFRED COURT SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 50.00
CLARK, JACKLYN B 18 JUMEL PLACE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 250.00
DAKE, W P 90 BYRAN ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 3,000.00
DALTON, JOSEPH W 14 LOUGHBURY RD SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
DALTON JR., JOSEPH W 14 LOUGHBURY RD SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 500.00
DELSETTE, ELIO H 15 ROCK ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 50.00
GRANDE, JAMES J 34 STORAGE LANE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
HEALY, WILLIAM J 5 VICTORIA LANE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
HENDRICKSON, JOHN 40 GEYSER RD SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 2,000.00
HOFFMAN, MICHAEL 38 HIGH ROCK AVE UNIT6K SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
INGMIRE, LANCE 44 TROMBLEY RD STILLWATER, NY 12170 250.00
JOYCE, CAROL A 122 CIRCULAR ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 25.00
KLEIN, PHILP W 29 WALTER DRIVE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
KLOTZ, KAREN L 232 MAPLE AVE. SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 25.00
KLOTZ, KENNETH 232 MAPLE AVE. SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 25.00
KUCZYNSKI, HENRY J 153 SPRING ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
LAVIGNE, JAMES 87 RAILROAD PLACE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
MARTIN, RANDY 24 UNDERWOOD DRIVE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
MCNEARY, FREDRICK J 264 DANIELS RD SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
MCNEARY, FREDRICK J 6 VICTORIA LANE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 200.00
NEWKIRK, THOMAS J 553 CRESCENT AVE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
PALMETTO, NICHOLAS 5 BEACON HILL DR SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
PARILLO, FRANK J 4 THERESA TERACE MALTA, NY 12020 1,000.00
POKOIK, LEE RAILROAD PLACE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 300.00
PORTER, M T 236 CAROLINE ST. SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
ROOHAN, J T 511 BROADWAY SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
ROOHAN, J T 511 BROADWAY SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
SCARBOROUGH, MIRIAM G 26 MADISON AVE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 99.00
SELLERS, BONITA 73 5TH AVE. SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 500.00
SELLERS, RICHARD 73 5TH AVE. SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 1,000.00
SMITH, NOEL J BROADWAY SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 500.00
SUTTON, SHAUNA M 141 NELSON AVE. SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
SUTTON, SHAUNA 141 NELSON AVE SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
TAIT, ROSEMART BOX 136 SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
VANWAGNER, CLIFF 18 ROLLINGBROOK DR SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
VEITCH, MICHAEL 201 CIRCULAR ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
WAIT, CHARLES V 658 NORTH BROADWAY SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 3,000.00
WEIHE, MARTHA J 44 WHITE ST SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
ZINTER, MARIA J 4313 ROUTE 50 SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866 100.00
Total Contributions: 22,799.00