Charter Change: They Are Back…(Actually they never left)

Recently, Gordon Boyd, the former treasurer of the now defunct Charter Review Commission, appeared on LookTV to advise the public that their proposal for charter change would be back on the ballot in the coming November election.

Link: http://www.looktvonline.com/nys-supreme-court-dismisses-saratoga-charter-referendum-recount-pt-2/

In the February 22nd edition of Saratoga Today, Mr. Boyd announced:

“Our core leadership group is investigating the legal, procedural and campaign dynamics of getting a petition drive going as allowed under the law, and how we can put the same exact proposal (as 2017) on the petition and placed on the ballot this coming November.”

The famous Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, spoke of permanent revolution.  It seems this city is living through permanent attempted charter change.

During this last week alone there have already been two instances of charter change proponents publicly resuming their advocacy for a change in city government: a Readers View in the Saratogian written by the former Charter Review Commission Chair Bob Turner, and a radio interview with the former Charter Review Commission Vice Chair Pat Kane. Bear in mind that their next bite at the apple is some nine months away.

The Apparent Decline Of Political Science At Skidmore College

Traditionally political science was a discipline that among other things, taught students how to critically assess the kind of manipulation that today’s professional campaign consultants produce to sway the electorate.  It appears, at least as regards Skidmore Professor Robert Turner, that he has embraced the techniques of modern campaigning rather than expose its abuses.   Some of us had hoped that having endured a year of this kind of campaigning that we would be granted some respite. But in  the February 18th edition of the Saratogian Turner published yet another of his ubiquitous exercises in spin.

Turner’s Saratogian Readers View concerns Supreme Court Judge Thomas Nolan’s recent ruling on Gordon Boyd’s petition regarding the November charter change vote.  In his ruling Judge Nolan addressed two distinct issues.  I have discussed these in a previous post but it is helpful to review some background on them before looking at Turner’s remarks. Here they are again briefly.

  1. Judge Nolan first addressed Boyd’s request to have the Board of Elections release documents he had requested through a FOIL. The Freedom of Information Law procedures are quite clear and specific regarding the responsibilities of the person seeking documents and the institution holding them.  The petitioner is required to send a request for documents  to a particular employee responsible for addressing requests.   This is important because the receipt of the request starts a “clock” that in turn requires that within a specific number of business days that the documents be provided or that the person seeking the documents be advised as to when a determination will be made regarding their availability.  This then starts another clock which requires at the end of a fixed number of business days either the documents be provided or an explanation given as to why they are not available.  If the documents are not available, the law then sets out an appeal process to a different employee at the institution.  It is only after this internal appeal process has been exhausted that an appeal for the release of the documents can go to a court.  So there is a reason for the procedures.   They are to insure that the petitioner gets a response in a timely manner.  In the case of the request made by Gordon Boyd on behalf of Mr. Turner and other charter change advocates, the FOIL was not sent to the appropriate employee originally and therefore no subsequent appeal was ever executed.

2. The second issue Judge Nolan addressed was Boyd’s request for a recount or re-canvassing of the votes cast in the November charter referendum. State law requires that a recount of ballots can only be imposed if the petitioner can document that there was a problem in the voting process that placed the accuracy of the results in doubt.  There are a number of types of evidence that can meet this requirement.  For instance a report of a mechanical failure at a polling place, perhaps a power outage or other interruption, might be reported by the inspectors at a polling place or by a voter or other observer, or evidence that persons not actually eligible had voted might be presented.

 

Mr. Turner’s Readers View repeatedly waffles back and forth between these two issues.

After a long tutorial about the voting machine technology ending in the fact that the machines produce backup images of every ballot, Turner then tells his readers, “However, the Saratoga County Board of Elections has decided not to provide these to the public, nor have they provided any explanation as to why.”

This attack is rather a stunner.  The Board of Elections had nothing to do with denying him the images.  The request for the images was done as a Freedom of Information request by Gordon Boyd.  The petition to Judge Nolan included the request that the county be impelled to honor Mr. Boyd’s FOIL for the ballot images.  Judge Nolan denied this request noting that Mr. Boyd did not submit his FOIL to the correct officer and that in addition he never of course pursued the internal appeal process.

Rather than acknowledge that the original denial was due to his own group’s ineptitude, Turner blames the Board of Elections.  As if this were not enough he has the chutzpah to proudly tell his readers: “This is why I have filed a FOIL request with Therese Connolly, Deputy Clerk of the Board for copies of the TIF files. The TIF files of our ballots are public property.”  Ms.  Connolly is in fact the FOIL officer and the person who was supposed to be sent the FOIL application in the first place.

Curiously when the election results before the opening of the absentee ballots showed a modest majority in his group’s favor Turner had a very different attitude towards the Board of Elections.  At that point he told the Times Union, “It [the Board of Elections] is a bipartisan institution that is mandated by law and their oath to conduct the elections according to law.  I do not understand why the three city councilors don’t trust the Board of Election to handle the counting of absentee ballots.”

At another point in his piece Mr. Turner briefly acknowledges the law requires proof of “voting machine malfunction or irregularity” in order to order a recount.  He then  makes the leap to the assertion “…However, in order to show a malfunction or irregularity, you need copies of the ballots, which can only be provided by the Board of Elections.”    This is an incorrect statement but he takes it further:

“It’s a Catch-22. In order to get a recount, we need to show the Board of Elections has made a mistake, and the ONLY WAY [emphasis added]to do that is to have the Board of Elections provide the TIF files of those ballots, which they have declined to do. When Judge Nolan’s decision stated that the ‘petitioner presents no facts to support or justify his request,’ it is because the Board of Elections Commissioners would not show us copies of the ballots.”

Mr. Turner chooses to ignore the fact that copies of the ballots are not the only evidence that can show the Board of Elections may have made a mistake and refuses to acknowledge that they were unable to produce any evidence of any kind of irregularity occurring in the election.

Now Mr. Turner may fairly feel that the requirements for a recount in New York State are excessively restrictive.  Unfortunately, this is not enough for Mr. Turner.  Instead he chooses to portray as villains those who are charged with following and administering these laws, namely the Board of Elections and Judge Nolan. The problem is that to merely criticize existing laws does not allow for the drama that portrays him and his group as victims of an odiously entrenched malevolent establishment and thus stir his supporters to righteous indignation.

The full speaking out piece is here: http://www.saratogian.com/opinion/20180217/readers-view-win-or-lose-transparency-should-always-be-at-top

More Crazy Stuff From Another Direction

Rick Thompson, who is an avid supporter of charter change , has a talk show on WSPN.  I do not listen to it.  I don’t expect it enjoys a large following given it is on Skidmore Radio on a Saturday morning.  Someone sent me a recording of the show from  February 17th, though.   Pat Kane was the guest.  Mr. Kane was the vice-chair of the Charter Review Commission.

If the reader finds some of this less than coherent or logical it is because the program had a sort of stream of consciousness character to it and I transcribed it as I heard it.  Here is the full recording:

The following is a transcript of some of the discussion that occurred at the end of the show.  I think it needs no analysis.

Mr. Thompson, after indicating that they will be discussing the charter change legal case offers the following:

“Judge Nolan is a Republican.  The County Republican Party donated money to see that this proposal did not pass.  Republican people that were running for office donated from their campaign funds…and some Democrats to see that this charter change didn’t happen.  So the political input of this is huge…and you are talking about county funds being used when this was a city issue so right there I am thinking Judge Nolan is kind of impartial…”

Kane responds:

“There were some irregularities we heard.  If you wrote in a name it kicked the ballot out.  Blah, blubba blah.  Machines break down but you always expect your day in court.  It’s not required in New York but you expect your right.  And I was there when we filed with the court.  At that time the Republican Commissioner I drove to his house.  First we met with Judge Nolan on Friday after Thanksgiving. So he told us to submit that to one of the Republicans Commissioners for the county.  I went to his house.  I think his words and I can’t say them on the radio but to get off his bluh bla, bluh bla property.  We did supply him with the information.  For whatever reason I may be wrong.  I hope I am.

None of the six [machines] were in Saratoga Springs.  We do somewhat of a clearing of the machines were there any irregularities.  They’re saying there is no discrepancy in six of the election districts in the county.  None of them were in Saratoga Springs and this is what this law suit is about…Saratoga Springs.  They tested six machines and none of them were in Saratoga Springs and I don’t buy that.  But here again, let’s take the high road I don’t begrudge anybody but it smells.  So far I have had one hundred and forty-seven email from people who are just angry about what’s wrong with asking for a recount?  I mean we’re citizens of Saratoga County.  It does smell of something.  I don’t want to get into some conspiracy thing because that’s not relevant but to think this is going to go away is just wrong.”

Thompson says:

“Well, I think number one there should be something placed against Judge Nolan.  That right about there is totally insane. He’s behooved to the Republican Committee.  They endorsed him and they are paying money to the group opposed to the charter.”

Kane:

“I’m a Republican and I’m not defending Judge Nolan.  Obviously we filed with the county.  We did as instructed in January 8 and we were under the impression that we were going to wait for oral arguments which number one never took place.  Number 2 we were going to wait for the Appellate Division which is a higher court which was handling a very similar issue in Essex County [ he goes on about attending that case in Albany] We thought we were all waiting for that because it is a higher court.  Whether it comes or not we don’t know which is fine ‘cause as I said one hundred and forty-seven people have wrote to me already and I am sure there’ll be more who will participate in getting this back on the ballot.  I think its going to pass so overwhelmingly let it run in November it’s no big deal.”

 

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “Charter Change: They Are Back…(Actually they never left)”

  1. It is my opinion that Charter Change keeps coming up because the Commission form of government has many serious flaws. I do expect to live to see the Commission form soundly defeated in a City-wide referendum at some time in the future. The fact that the November’s tally was so close is a strong indication that the Commission form has lost the support of a majority of Saratogians. (Some of the NO votes came from those who had misgivings about specifics.) Demographics will make it harder for SUCCESS to succeed in the future. I think that it would be best for all if we could drop this issue for at least a few years.

    Chris Mathiesen

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    1. Almost right Chris, seems to be your story, the reason it was so close? It’s an off year 2,000 fewer people voted in Nov.2017, it won’t be that way this fall beside city managers are a dying breed just ask Bennington Vt and Gordon’s sister City Watertown NY,they’re dumping these forms, must be because they work so well.

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      1. merlin, what do you mean an off election year? Last Nov. was not an off year for the most important election for Saratoga that of electing our City officials. Your side has so many excuses of why it was close, the fact is Saratogians want a change and will get it. Also talk about dumping, how many Commission forms are left in the country, about 25? City Manager cities keep growing.

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    2. It seems to be working just fine Chris. Many things for many people have been accomplished last year at Town Hall, as always. There will invariably be those who pick nits and make fanciful comparisons, are dissatisfied and opine on being able to run thing better themselves, unable to work together with office holders to further the city’s agenda. Not surprising, I found that last year four out of five times in communications with the commissioners, my concerns were promptly responded to and satisfied. Denial is a terrible waste of time and energy.

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  2. I often write in candidates and I did so this past election. I have never had a problem with my ballot not being accepted. Also let’s not forget all the money the pro side took form the State wide County Manager Association. They wanted it to go thru so their members could have another job offered to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John, I have only read your blog once or twice over the years but someone told me you mentioned my name so I wanted to thank you. My radio show as other community DJ’s on the station are very much listened to on Skidmore radio both on 91.1 FM and streaming. I really didn’t think I had a large following until the Casino issue came along and I received quite a few emails and calls about a few of the guests I had on at that time. Just so you know I enjoy a large audience because the show is on Saturday mornings as did our show when it was on Moon radio. I feel it is a great way to talk about Saratoga Springs and highlight the businesses we have in the area and many more interesting guests, as well as local politicians to let us know what is going on in Saratoga Springs, if you ever want to be a guest let me know we could probably have some fun.

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    1. Hey Rick–You are THAT radio host on WSPN (Skidmore Community Radio) and you only checked this blog now? You’ve only checked this blog TWICE?
      Nice to see you’re soooo informed.

      I’ve caught your show many times on Saturday morning only because you are on right before Happy Bob and those goofy Polish American wedding crashers; infecting my living room with manic euphoria every Saturday morning!

      I did catch your show with the communists.
      They were akin to listening to sniveling weasels crying for the last scraps of the rotted carcass of fame and relevance before they meet up with their ultimate demise; their useless retirement into oblivion.

      If you want a REAL scoop on what’s going on, maybe interview their wives! (lol)
      Tongue-in-cheek kids…

      Dzień dobry! (Jen-Oh-Bray!)

      -JC

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  4. What is the definition of madness: Doing the same thing over and over with the same result. These zealots have a hidden purpose and we don’t want to have it happen to us. Like a piece of gum in the carpet, it makes you very upset you cannot make it go away!

    Like

  5. Just sent a donation to https://www.marchforourlives.com/ in an effort to support young people that are trying to help make a positive change in our country. It saddens me to think that after the lose of a local challenge to change the form of government which involved name calling, hostile rhetoric ,and the loss of much needed time and money , that the challengers of the Charter could not take this moment in time in being helpful in aiding the real victims in the U.S.; our nations students, parents, and citizens. The challenge is painting a falsely unsavory picture and perhaps unwittingly aiding in the perversion of our politics. I am somewhat appalled that Skidmore College’s Board of Director’s is allowing a professor of Political Science to come to a classroom each day as an ideologue that teaches a course to students while continuing carrying on hostility to the local government in Saratoga Springs. If I were a parent trying to help my child with a keen interest in political science which college to attend I personally would dissuade my child from considering Skidmore College.

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    1. Hi Miriam!

      While the donation is commendable in common circles, one might be misinterpreting the cause.
      Perhaps, Professor Turner has something to share (ideologically speaking) with George Clooney?

      “George and Amal Clooney Donate $500,000 to March for Gun Control in Name of Twins Ella and Alexander…The couple announced they are making a donation to the upcoming “March for Our Lives” event…George also praised the survivors of the Florida school shooting for their bravery in a statement to PEOPLE.” You can find more here:
      http://people.com/movies/george-clooney-amal-donate-500000-to-march-for-gun-control/amp/

      You sure you want to be a part of this?

      -JC

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  6. So the same people who can’t figure out how to do a proper FOIL request and then can’t even admit they made a mistake want us to believe that they have written a better charter for the city??

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Groundhog Day…

    As one who predicted the Charter Ideologue’s loss, let me double down on this prediction: Assuming that they can get on the ballot in the first place (which is no slam dunk, BTW – a petition drive is not the same as being an “official” commission) using their own resources and PAC money that they get from the City Manager’s Benevolent Assn or something similar – they aren’t going to lose by 10 this time…

    It will be much worse.

    For they are a gang of certified three time losers, and people – even those that are for intelligent charter change, are going to give these fossils a classic ass-whuppin’ – their leadership has lost all semblance of credibility with the electorate. If they really cared about their cause, they would step aside, for they are damaged goods. But their egos won’t allow it, and therefore their doom is preordained.

    For instance, one of the biggest selling points for change in the last farcical go-round, that wholesale flushing scheme that the changers advocated, was the rancor in City Hall – which as we now see was exacerbated by the Mayor in office at that time… it appears (albeit so far) that the animosity at the City Council table has quelled, removing a big issue in their favor.

    I’d also like to say that if I were Mayor Kelly, I would be rather furious at these guys. After she supported Charter Change in the last election. they have given her a whopping 50 days or so before raising their tired ideas again. Nice loyalty!

    In my opinion, the Mayor should reward these pompous egotists by appointing a new Charter Commission, and tasking them to conduct themselves in the way the Comprehensive Plan Committee behaved – that is, to come up with a list of strategic, surgical recommendations to improve the Charter – not some sort of Taliban-like makeover that is clearly not called for. Let’s look at term lengths; let’s look at ways to make this governing structure that works, work better.

    Eventually, groundhogs do not come out of their hole anymore – for fear that they will be kicked in the kisser. OUR groundhogs have not learned that lesson yet… but they will.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Arthur, just a point of correction, if you get the needed signatures which is not hard to achieve you can get the proposal on the ballot. Yes it is that easy.

      Like

      1. I recognize that, Nigel – to clarify, I was just saying that they would have to do a little bit extra work this time… I’m sure Professor Turner has already made gathering signatures part of his ‘real-world lesson plan’ for his students. Given this gang’s lack of savvy with filing FOIL forms, though, I am sure that they will need several extra signatures to survive the eventual challenges. Good: let them all keep busy. They are still going to lose, because their plan is flawed.

        Better to start fresh, with new people and a new approach, to bring about meaningful changes in the charter.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Fascinating, that a man whose conduct proceeds from questionable will and an dubious sense of propriety, who is himself compelled to diminish another; who places his rights and feelings above others, rather than his own; has the audacity to challenge this time around, the Board of Elections, the Judiciary and the general populous for failing to agree with his obsessive quest, now for a fourth time. It will be demonstrated, that the feeble points made, the questionable issues put forth and the flimsy financials that were to have “sealed the deal” and trumpeted about last season, will prove again to be a failure.

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  9. The advice to “taking the high road” at the same time alluding to “a conspiracy” and suggesting “some irregularities” is amusing. A collaborator in the irregularities and alleged fraudulent behavior that took place at Town Hall several years back, that resulted in the premature retirement of two city employees with another who managed to stealthily remain behind the municipal curtain should not be a source of good judgement or guidance. As for smells, this advice from this provocateur clearly has the odor of mendacity.

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  10. Hey Jim!

    We definitely know now, that this whole charade has gotten as low as low can be.
    Think about it: Gordie’s ‘Quixote’ pursuit.

    Such eloquence!
    So damning in its simplicity (albeit one incredulously long run-on sentence…but alas, how does one break up such (freight) train of thought? It was that good!!

    Your semicolons are once again appreciated in this humble forum.

    Gordie et alia: No fortitude for retort?
    You both need another windmill to joust!
    (At least that story includes a Dulcinea.)

    I hear there is a gun buy back program calling…

    -JC

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    1. Thanks.

      If their objections were not so blatant and self-serving, this discourse could have continued with an objective dialogue. Improving our government with amendments should have always been a part of the consideration, but that was not to be, particularly since their mission began with a failed movement and bid for Mayor in 2007. This political group did utilize social media to their advantage, collecting support from friends and new residents, yet they also were guilty of trolling sites and placing political information where it clearly was restricted, ultimately being removed by several site managers. It was contemptible that a disinformation campaign relied heavily on misinformation directed at an unassuming public in order to shape their online political debate. Had the review commission chose initially to provide our public with an objective review of our own successful form of government, not simply a hard sell on their practically pre-determined solution of choice, it may have been healthier for all involved. Choosing to cast long shadows on and disparage our present office holders who do an outstanding responsible and accountable job was regrettable.

      Additionally, the use of an academic political science forum to alter the results of the election and referendum by incentivizing and influencing students to participate without providing an objective view is reprehensible. If that wasn’t enough, as if to borrow a page from the Russian troll sites, their minions cleverly rearranged the name of the decades old “Success Saratoga Springs” association rearranging the words to a competitive FB political action page called, “Saratoga Springs Success”. Such deception is amateurish at best.

      Personally, it was their decision to take outside political action money to alter the outcome of our election and referendum that is most egregious. This speaks not only to desperation but sadly to a loss of ethical and honest fair play one would not expect from these individuals once considered friends in this now, civil war. Furthermore, these are the individuals that would have you believe that they, would do a better job.

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  11. After the Nov. 2017 elections, the Charter Change proposition was ahead by 48 votes. Commander Turner and his henchmen, including Gordo, praised the Saratoga County Board of Elections for their fine work. After the re-count, they fell behind by 10 votes. That was when all hell broke loose. There should be an investigation, etc.
    Saratoga Today quotes Gordo in its most recent issue as saying that they want another vote this November, on the exact same proposal, and “Who are we to change it?”

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  12. Seriously, who are these people?
    It almost sounds like a test to target small, vulnerable municipalities for dominance and control.
    Was this not done in the Ukraine; et alia; by the communist body politic, back in the day?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nice job John, these two are two of the biggest losers in the City why Gordie would want to hook his wagon to these two charlatans is anybody’s guess. Another try in Nov will get thumped,most people that I’ve talked too don’t understand why Skidmore College wants to change the City Government,I tell them I don’t believe that to be the case and if it was why would they put such someone like Prof. Turner in charge of the task?

    Like

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