Bob Turner, Gordon Boyd, and Jeff Altamari Decline Invitation To Meet With The Charter Review Commission

A sub-committee of the Charter Review Commission invited Bob Turner, Gordon Boyd, and Jeff Altamari to meet with them and offer their views.

In emails to them,  Ms. Bush, the executive assistant to Vince DeLeonardi,s who is both the City Attorney and the chair of the new charter commission, asked them to come “…to discuss your experience with previous Charter efforts and the current review.”

The email asked them to offer some possible dates when they could meet .

Mr. Boyd and Mr. Altamari responded that their schedules were such that they would be unable to participate.  Mr. Turner’s terse email simply stated that he declined to meet.

I FOILed for the associated documents.  Here is a link to Ms. Bush’s invitations and their responses.  FOIL Re BoydAltamariTurner


Preet Bharara’s Podcasts: Extraordinarily Well Done

Recently I was introduced to the podcasts of Preet Bharara.  Mr. Bharara was the Federal Attorney whose jurisdiction included New York.  His podcasts begin with him answering questions submitted by listeners.  The shows then continue with an interview on some area of law and social policy.

I have been gently criticized by friends for the length of many of my posts.  The criticism is not without merit.  I expect I could be clearer and more concise.  Nevertheless, my interest is to explore more fully than the general media, issues that I view as more complex.  Not to compare myself with Mr. Bharara, what I like about his podcasts is that they  take on the complexity of their subject matter.

One of my pet peeves is the ease with which people who are not attorneys decide the merits of cases based on newspaper accounts or on their own reading of a particular statute.  Often people read these laws through the lens of their personal interest.  They may miss the possibility of other ways to read the text.  They also are often unaware of other statutes that may bear on their case and conflict with their interpretation of it.

Mr. Bharara’s podcasts represent a great resource for understanding important public policies in light of both the strengths and weaknesses of our legal system.  I highly recommend them.

The show is called “Stay Tuned With Preet.”  This is a link to one of the media sites that carries his show.  Link to podcasts


Mathiesen Cautions On Bike Lane Plans For Lake Avenue

The truck route that Dr. Mathiesen wanted but was rebuffed by Wilton.  The bright red line identifies Loudon Road.  The purple line is Weibel Avenue.


The alternate bike route that Dr. Mathiesen recommends for consideration.  Lake Avenue is the main thoroughfare cutting across the middle of this image.  The bike lane would run along the North side of Lake Avenue starting at Richie.  It would start past the problematic area on Lake.

Public policies that appear on their face to be “no brainers” often turn out to be far more complex than first appears.  Such is the case with the proposed dedicated bike lanes for Lake Avenue.  In a very thoughtful letter to the editor in the Saratogian, past Commissioner of Public Safety, Chris Mathiesen, cautions against the currently proposed plan. 

In his letter he make reference to a “bike sharrow.”  This is a “non dedicated” bike lane.  It is marked in a way to advise drivers of the potential presence of people on bikes.  It also shows people on bikes the best area to ride in.  This is in contrast to the more rigorous “dedicated” bike lane where no other activity such as parking or cars is  allowed..

I emailed the current Commissioner of Public Safety, Peter Martin, seeking his assessment of Chris’s concerns.  To date I have not heard from him.  If or when I do, I will post his response.

Lake Avenue Bike Lanes

During 2017, the section of Lake Avenue east of East Avenue was re-paved. The Public Safety Department is responsible for striping the traffic lanes and a request was made that the striping be done in such a way that would allow for dedicated bike lanes between St. Clement’s and East Avenue.  Traffic regulations consultant and Public Safety Garage foreman Mark Benacquista met with me on site to discuss his options before starting the striping project.

After my discussions with Mark and after going door to door to determine the neighborhood opinions on the traffic and parking regulation changes that would be necessary for bike lanes, I decided that bike lanes should not be placed on that section of Lake Avenue. The factors that I had to consider included the irregular width of the street which is quite narrow in certain areas and the requirement that, without expensive widening of the street, bike lanes  would make necessary the elimination of on-street parking on the north side of Lake Avenue from St. Clements to East Avenue.  There is a heavy demand for parking due to East Side Rec activities.  While some neighbors were in favor of bike lanes despite the loss of parking, others were opposed.  Ultimately, I felt that it was not fair to take away on-street parking from residents and business people who had enjoyed this privilege for many years and to place heavier parking burdens on narrow adjacent streets such as Ritchie Place, Forest Avenue and Pinewood Avenue.

Our department also determined that a bike sharrow would not be a safe alternative because of the heavy tractor-trailer use on Lake Avenue which also serves as state Route 29. It was suggested that Caroline Street might be a safer and more workable alternative for bike traffic.  I also suggested that sharrows on York Avenue from Ritchie Place to Circular Street and ultimately through an alley and on to the major bike trail on High Rock Avenue should be considered.  Hopefully, these and other alternatives can be considered.  Nearly everyone would like to see better accommodations for bicycles.

It should also be noted that the truck traffic on Lake Avenue exists because of the decision of the Town of Wilton not allow trucks from Route 29 to use a small portion of Weibel Avenue and Route 50. The Route 29 truck route for traffic going west to east is posted to avoid Lake Avenue but instead to proceed out the Arterial to the Loudon Road ramp and then on to Weibel Avenue.  Unfortunately, truck traffic going east to west on Route 29 cannot follow a similar route without Wilton’s cooperation.

Mark Benacquista has recently retired after 29 years with the Department of Public Safety. During my tenure as Commissioner (2012-17), I found Mark to be a great source of information on traffic regulations as well as an effective and knowledgeable manager of the Public Safety garage.  He also advised the City’s Planning Department and land use boards.  Many thanks to Mark Benacquista.

Christian E. Mathiesen

Death of Worker At Belmont Exposes Unconscionable Conditions At Racetrack

In its June 23rd edition, the New York Times reported  that a worker at Belmont Park Racetrack died from hantavirus.  The illness is typically contracted by “inhaling air contaminated with rodent droppings in confined spaces, or, in rare cases, via a bite”

The New York Racing Association runs Belmont as well as the Saratoga racetrack.  NYRA had been taken over by the state and more recently re-established as a private organization.  The conditions described in the article in which the mostly immigrant workers live are appalling.  Inspectors from the New York State Department of Health ordered that 32  workers be moved from  existing housing due to “dangerous conditions”.

Here are several quotes from the article:

“Drawn by the feasts of horse oats and refuse, rats often pass unimpeded from the barns through holes visible in the sides of the cinder-block dorms and small clapboard shacks where the workers live, according to workers who reside there. Rooms are often shared, and many are squalid, with mattresses or pallets on the floor, some with punched-out windows covered by cardboard. The workers asked not to be named because they feared reprisal for criticizing the facility, which is state-owned and operated by the racing association.”


“One worker, who said he has lived in the barracks on the racetrack grounds for 20 years, showed a reporter the roughly 10-by-12-foot room he shares with another man: Blotches of blood from crushed bedbugs stained the walls. Next to a pillow was a can of repellent with which his roommate sleeps.”

A spokesman for NYRA told the New York Times that they were working on addressing the problems.  The question is how did they allow these conditions to develop and to continue for years.

Link to NYT article

More On John Witt’s Development Proposal Overlooking Saratoga Lake and His Plan To Clear Cut There

This is a  link to an interesting article in Saratoga Today which is a follow-up to my earlier post on John Witt’s efforts to build a huge development that critics say threatens the water table and Saratoga Lake.

Link to Saratoga Today story



Phantom Golf Driving Range Goes Down

Interesting article in Saratoga Today  by Marissa Gonzalez on the city shutting down Gary Stone’s driving range on Weibel Avenue.  What I find of interest, but not surprising, was that Mr. Stone could ignore the zoning laws of our city for so long.  In the article he asks, “If there were no permits, how could it be running for twenty years?”  The answer is that the city has done an appalling job of enforcing the zoning laws.  The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals has set the tone by forgiving pretty much every land owner/developer who comes before them asking that they approve a variance after the fact.  In Mr. Stone’s case a court upheld the city’s determination that he had 79 violations.  In fact fifteen years ago, a court found Mr. Stone in contempt for his violations.  He is the poster child for the utter failure of administrations both Republican and Democratic to enforce the city’s land use laws.

 I will happily credit Mayor Kelly’s administration for doing what other administrations simply ignored. 

Link to Saratoga Today story

Father Kirwin Preaches At Mass At St Peter’s Church On Cruelty At The Mexican Border

I received the following note from a friend who attended a recent mass at St. Peter’s Church:

“At the 11:00 AM mass at Saint Peters Church yesterday (June 17, 2018), Father John Kirwin,  retired priest, resident of Lincoln Avenue and former member of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, said mass as a substitute for the pastor.  Father Kirwin started his homily on the topic of Father’s Day and quickly progressed to the issue of children at the Mexican border being separated from their parents.  As he developed his theme and mentioned the policies of the present administration, more and more people began leaving the church, apparently in protest of Father Kirwin.  However, once he finished, the  parishioners who remained (the majority of the congregation) gave him an enthusiastic applause for nearly a half minute.  This was all very unusual for a Catholic service.”

Father Kirwin was kind enough to send me a copy of his notes for the service:

11TH Sun B ’18                   (Mark 4:26-34)

‘O God. . .at whose bidding the seed will sprout and the shoot grow toward full stature. . . . . we wait for God’s kingdom NOW growing in our midst. . . ‘

Earlier this morning, across the street getting my nytimes,  the young woman serving me wished me a Happy Father’s day, if I was a Father; and she said Yes I was,  as I had my puppy waiting for the treat she always has for him.

I said no, I wasn’t Charley’s father, I was his master,


Nothing wrong with dog’s, but, we should keep things in perspective.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about fathers whose children have been separated from them and put in detention facilities, due to their undocumented status,    


Separating children from parents,

And basically imprisoning them?


I saw a FACEBOOK item inviting people to update their profile picture with a frame stating:  


my screen showed a friend and his first born and only son, out fishing.


Another facebook item claimed that

DOCTORS were CONCERNED ABOUT irreparable harm to separated migrant children.

It spoke of the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics flying to Texas and visiting a Rio Grande valley shelter for migrant children, where she saw a young girl in tears. 


The child was just screaming, and nobody could help her. 

And we know why she was crying. 

She didn’t have her mother or father who could soothe her and take care of her.”

Can’t we do better than that?

The number of migrant children in US Government custody is soaring, as a result of a policy decision by the current administration to separate children from their parents, who are being prosecuted for unlawful entry.

Hundreds of children being held in shelters are under age 13.

The current occupant of the white house and the top justice officer of the country, claim the administration is enforcing immigration law.

Are such laws just, and must we obey them?

The speed with which news spreads in our day, leaves us stunned and bewildered.

What can one do when faced with so much suffering?

What can we do to change this situation?

The call in the gospel is addressed to all.

It consists in sowing small seeds of a new humanity.

Jesus does not speak of big things.



Perhaps we need to learn to appreciate little things and small gestures.

We do not feel called to be heroes or martyrs every day, but we are called to put a little dignity into each corner of our world.

We can all sow little seeds of the kingdom of God, in  a complex and sad world that has all but forgotten the joy of things small and beautiful,  

like children separated from their fathers and mothers on this Father’s day 2018.

 This is a link from the Catholic News Agency on Pope Francis’ recent pronouncements on the issue at a recent gathering of Mexican politicians and diplomats at the Holy See:

Catholic News Link

This is a link to a CBS story on the Catholic Conference of Bishops taking a position that the Trump policies are immoral:

CBS Story

These issues tend to be abstract for many of us.  For a heart wrenching description of the way our country is dealing with the children here is a link to a story from the news site “Democracy Now.”  A staff member of a not-for-profit organization that houses these children describes incidents of children who have been taken from their parents clinging to each other and crying as staff attempt to separate them.  He resigned in protest.

Democracy Now Link




Amazon Plans Monster Distribution Site In Town of Schodack

Amazon Amazon has plans to build a “Fulfillment” center in the town of Schodack which is just south of Albany.   The building would be 1,015,740 square feet.  It would be about a third of a mile long.  It is claimed that it will employ 800 people full time.  It would have 30,500 square feet of office space, 95 loading docks, 300 tractor-trailer spaces and more than 1,000 employee parking spaces.

According to the Albany Business Review:

“The request seeks a deviation from the usual formula in which the property tax exemption gradually declines every year until the entire value is taxed. Scannell Properties [Amazon’s agent] wants a 50 percent reduction for the entire period, with the assessment frozen at $55 million, said Bob Pasinella, executive director of the IDA. The terms are being negotiated.”

“The project would generate more than $1 million in property taxes [JK: They claim] during the first year, considerably more than what the town, school district and county get now, according to Amazon representatives.”


Sustainable Saratoga To Offer Repair Café: Fight waste!

You can help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills by bringing items in need of repair to the Repair Café organized by Sustainable Saratoga and the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The event will be held  Saturday, June 16, from 11AM until 2PM in the library’s Harry Dutcher Community Room.  Instead of throwing away that broken toaster or toy, repair coaches will be available to help repair items free of charge. Tools and materials will also be on hand.

More information is available on line at: