Patty Morrison Declines To Debate Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan

The Independence Party which had previously endorsed Michele Madigan for Finance Commissioner rented a room at the Racino for a debate between Madigan and her opponent in the upcoming Democratic primary, Patty Morrison.  In order to establish fairness the Independence Party enlisted Chad Beatty, the publisher of Saratoga Today, to moderate the debate.

The debate was set to take place on June 13. The invitation to the candidates was issued on May 3

On May 10  Ms. Morrison emailed Eddy Miller, chairman of the Saratoga Chapter of the Independence Party, telling him she was “…unable to fit your invitation into my schedule.”  She went on to say “Perhaps we can reconsider after the primary.”

I contacted Commissioner Madigan who responded with the following:

 “I will always take the opportunity to discuss openly city issues and challenges in a debate format, and if other debates become available I will attend those too.”

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Below is the correspondence between Eddy Miller and Patty Morrison

From: Eddy Miller

To: Patricia Marie Morrison

Sent: Fri, May 10, 2019 8:41 pm

Subject: Re: Follow-up

Ms. Morrison,

Please allow me to express my gratitude for responding to our invite.  We honestly regret that you’re unable to adapt your busy schedule to meet our challenge & attend our event.

The meeting room at the Saratoga Casino Hotel has already been paid for!  The press & the moderator  will be present, and Commissioner Madigan has already accepted the challenge.

Therefore, the program will go on as planned.  If by some chance your schedule eases up & allows you to attend the function, it would sure make things a lot more interesting.

Hope to see you there &  if not, the Independence Party of Saratoga County wishes you “All the Best” in your upcoming primary.

Thank you,

Eddy Miller


—–Original Message—–

From: Patricia Morrison

To: Eddy Miller

Sent: Fri, May 10, 2019 4:23 pm

Subject: Follow-up

Mr. Miller,

Thank you so much for thinking of me.  I’m not able to fit your invitation into my schedule.  Perhaps we can reconsider after the primary.

Patty Morrison

Candidates for Public Safety Commissioner To Discuss Immigration Related Issues

I received this release from the Saratoga Immigration Coalition:

SARATOGA IMMIGRATION COALITION (SIC) GENERAL MEETING

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 6:30

PNEC Church, 24 Circular St. (Nolan House), Saratoga Springs. 

The first part of this meeting will be devoted to immigration-related issues in the campaign for Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety.  We will hear from Robin Dalton, the Republican candidate, and from Ellen Egger-Aimone, campaign manager for the Democratic candidate, Kendall Hicks.  Due to a death in the family, Kendall Hicks will not be able to attend this meeting in person.

Confessions of a Special Interest PAC Supporter

[JK: This is a guest post by Jane Weihe. Most of you know that I am married to Jane]

There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings about Political Action Committees (PACs) in general and teacher PACs in particular. The term PAC has come to conjure up in many people’s minds big corporate money (think Koch Brothers) used to buy lawmakers to enact legislation that will fill the pockets of so-called “special interests” (another abused term) and  thwart the “public interest”.

I think it is unfortunate  that the terms “special interests” and “PACs”  tend to be used only pejoratively when in fact both can denote a wide range of groups and funds that are active in the democratic political arena many representing what a lot of us would term progressive causes and candidates.

Wikipedia defines “PAC” as follows:

“an…..organization  that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation.”

The first PAC in fact was established in 1943 by the CIO, the progressive coalition of unions that broke off from the more conservative AFL.

I suspect many readers actually contribute to a variety of PACs as I do in an effort to support “special interest groups” who are lobbying for legislation and supporting candidates who we hope will support our stands on particular issues.  In my case I regularly write checks to the Planned Parenthood PAC and to the NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC as well as the Sierra Club PAC. Many of you may make very different choices as to which PACs you send your money to, but I bet a good portion of the readers out there regularly support PACs of one sort or another maybe without fully realizing it.  My checks are made out to NARAL for instance.  The word PAC does not appear on my check, but on the back of their donation form is a request for donor information needed to comply with federal laws  for  contributions to the “NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC” [my emphasis].

I’m betting too that most of us don’t think of the groups we support as “special interest groups” but in fact these groups do have a special focus or “interest” whether it is women’s health or the environment or some other area.

This brings us to the hot issue of PAC involvement in this year’s Saratoga Springs School Board election. So far the focus has been on the “PAC” established by Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools. This group is actually not a PAC but has some of those characteristics. The formation of this group, its endorsement of candidates, and the amount of money they have raised has been the subject of much vitriol and concern particularly on the part of my liberal friends who frequently use the word PAC to describe SPSS and automatically labeled this as being  unacceptable in our local political arena even before the more recent controversy over how that money is being spent.

What has been overlooked and seems to be less controversial, so far anyway, is the role of an actual PAC that has just announced its support for a slate of candidates in this unusually contentious School Board race.

On Friday the Saratoga Teachers Association, a New York United Teachers (NYSUT) union local, announced their support for three candidates.  I don’t know how many readers realize that the Saratoga Springs TA has supported candidates for School Board in every race that I can remember here in Saratoga. While Kathryn Gallien in a recent blog comment finds it “a little silly” to characterize the teachers as a “special interest” in a school board race, and argues that “their endorsement is hardly the same as seeking or taking PAC money”, I would beg to differ on both counts.

I spent 34 years teaching in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District and was an active member of the BHBL Teachers Association, also a NYSUT local, during my entire career and am still active in the area NYSUT retiree chapter, RC10.  Some of the responsibilities I took on in my local included  raising PAC money, lobbying state legislators, and working to get out the vote for our endorsed candidates on the national, state and local level. We organized teachers were and are very much I’m proud to say a “special interest group” just as the Sierra Club and, yes, the NRA are.  In our case our “special interest” is and was, of course, education but while we share certain goals with say the PTA and our priority was certainly the well-being of our students, as a professional organization we also were concerned with our working conditions, our relations with our employers, our retirement and more.

I just returned from attending the NYSUT Representative Assembly where delegates from locals across the state convene to adopt resolutions to guide the legislative priorities for our union’s lobbying efforts and also to guide candidate endorsements. The range of topics included the tax cap, arbitration decisions, and temperature standards in classrooms for example. And when I lobbied state legislators with NYSUT’s Committee of 100 in March we talked with state legislators about money for education and a mental health curriculum and teacher evaluation standards and charter schools. And yes, we wanted to know particularly where officeholders we had supported stood on these issues and yes, we were listening to their answers and evaluating their support for our issues and evaluating whether or not to support them in the next election. So yes, I would say like the Sierra Club and many other groups we have our “special interests” and thus we organized teachers are indeed a “special interest group”.

I again would disagree with Kathryn when she says “An endorsement is hardly the same as seeking or taking PAC money.”  If an endorsement is indeed meaningful it comes with resources that will be put into the campaign on behalf of the candidate.   In the case of a NYSUT local’s endorsement there will be quite a bit of resources made available, all of it funded by NYSUT’s PAC, VOTE/COPE.

Union dues cannot be used to support candidates or campaign committees so NYSUT has a PAC called VOTE/COPE which uses voluntary contributions from members to support endorsed candidates. Some of that money can be returned to locals to support local school board candidates. One of the responsibilities I took on as an active teacher was to run our annual VOTE/COPE campaign and to participate in the decisions on local school board endorsements in Burnt Hills.  Once we endorsed we had the PAC resources to be able to mail to every NYSUT member in the district and had access to NYSUT phone banks to make calls to NYSUT members active and retired to urge support for those we had endorsed.

So I find it unfortunate that Dr. Brueggemann has stated that :

“I’m running the old fashioned way. No PACs. No outside money. No special interests. I’m not beholden to any partisan agenda.”

In spite of the above statement Dr. Brueggemann sought and I assume will accept the endorsement of the Saratoga Teachers Association which I would argue is indeed a “special interest group” and one that will be spending a good deal of PAC money to promote him in the School Board race. I fully support my union’s participation in the democratic process by endorsing and supporting candidates with the money collected from many small donors. “Special interest” and PACs are not for me  automatically pejorative terms.  Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case with Dr. Brueggemann.

Words matter. It would be good if Dr. Brueggemann’s words more closely aligned with his actions.

 

 

Teachers Union Announces Endorsements

The Saratoga Springs Teachers Association, a local of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union, announced their endorsements today for the Saratoga Springs School Board.  They have selected:

John Brueggemann

Dean Kolligian

Natalya Lakhtakia

This now puts the full force of NYSUT ‘s PAC behind them.  Over the years the teachers have established an impressive organization to support their endorsed candidates.  It includes phone banks and mailings to all NYSUT members living in the school district.

Now I applaud the teachers for organizing themselves to be a force in their community.  I applaud them just as I applaud Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools for similarly banding together to communicate their concerns to our community.  It is called Democracy.  Neither of these groups is gathering money from corporate interests. Both have relied on the contributions of many small donations from private citizens.

When John Brueggemann announced his campaign for the School Board he issued a press release in which he stated the following:

 “I’m running the old fashioned way. No PACs. No outside money. No special interests. I’m not beholden to any partisan agenda.”  

He now finds himself in a difficult position.  As the readers of this blog will recall, I have criticized Dr. Brueggemann for what I considered a cheap and exploitive campaign which criticized the money SPSS raised and accused Shaun Wiggins, Ed Cubanski, and Dean Kolligian of lacking independence because they accepted the SPSS endorsement.  In spite of his criticisms of the three SPSS candidates along with Connie Woytowich, Dr. Brueggemann sought and has now received the support of probably the most powerful PAC in the district.

—————————————————————–

candidates-letter-1.pdf

John Brueggemann: Troubling Issues Continue

By many accounts Saratoga Springs School Board candidate  John Brueggemann provided the most polished presentation at the League of Women Voters forum Wednesday night.  In a venue that provided an unthreatening vehicle for presenting oneself, he excelled.  I expect that he drew effectively on his years as a professor at Skidmore.

A closer look at the substance of his public record continues to raise troubling questions, however.

Central to Dr. Brueggemann’s narrative is his repeated assertion that his positions are based upon the sound advice of experts.

In an earlier post I reported that his Facebook page stated that 

“I take comfort in the fact that our protocols are aligned with the recommendations of the New York State Insurance Reciprocals which insures some half the schools in the state.  It is their considered view that Grounds Monitors should not be re-armed.”

This statement is simply false.  There is no other way to fairly characterize it.  At a public forum on safety in the schools, the representative of the insurance company told the audience:

 “Whether they do or don’t, is a question for the community and the school board, and as a risk manager, I’m going (to) lean either way.“ 

It is important to acknowledge that the insurance representative emphasized that the school system would need to carefully assess how to address the need for training the monitors first.

All of this was covered in an earlier post on this blog, but what is extremely disturbing is that as of today (May 10), weeks after this misrepresentation was brought to Dr. Brueggemann’s attention, the erroneous information remains on his Facebook page.

It is not as though this were some minor technicality, it is central to his position that the monitors not be re-armed.  I find it inexplicable that he not only has failed to acknowledge his original error but that he continues to promote it.  After all, Dr. Brueggemann is a professor of sociology who professionally operates in an environment in which fastidious accuracy is a prerequisite.

This is not the only example of his ignoring critical information central to his repeated claim that his position opposing the re-arming of the monitors has the support of experts.

In many ways, just as disturbing has been his omission of the testimony given on behalf of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

I would ask the reader: who would have greater insight into the resources necessary to provide protection to the schools than the police department that is charged with that responsibility?  Assistant Chief John Catone advised the audience at a School Board meeting where Dr. Brueggemann was present,  that he viewed the support of armed monitors at the schools as essential in order to maximize the ability to respond to a threat at the schools.

Now I am sympathetic to the position that any expert advice should be considered with some skepticism and weighed against other relevant information.  The problem in this case is that Dr. Brueggemann has inexplicably not even acknowledged that this advice was given.

Again, it is hard to understand how a scholar with Dr. Brueggemann’s credentials can assert that all the professional advice supports his position when he is fully aware of the police department’s advice which counters his position.

Which brings me to what I find in many ways the most disturbing aspect of how Dr. Brueggemann has performed in this campaign.  Dr. Brueggemann not only ignores these kinds of troubling facts, but he refuses to respond to legitimate inquiries about these omissions.

One of the most important aspects of being on the School Board is the willingness to engage with citizens who may be critical of decisions that a board member may make.  Citizens do not have license to be rude or offensive in questioning the members of the School Board, and Dr. Brueggemann has every right to dismiss someone who behaves offensively to him.  What he should not do, as a member of the School Board, though, is refuse to address valid questions put to him that are of significant importance to the community.

I have written several times to Dr. Brueggemann with concerns.  While Dr. Brueggemann cannot be compelled to answer such questions, one would have expected at least a courteous acknowledgement.  One might expect this, but in Dr. Brueggemann’s case one would be disappointed.

So I am using this blog to make a courteous request of Dr. Brueggemann.

I am offering him the opportunity to publish his unedited answers to the following questions on this website.  My three questions are:

1. Why have you not corrected your Facebook page to accurately present the position of the representative of the district’s insurance company regarding the re-arming of the monitors?

2.      In asserting that your position that the monitors should not be re-armed is based on the advice of professionals, why have you not acknowledged that the police department does not support this?

3.      Assistant Police Chief Catone was quite specific in laying out the reasons he believes the monitors should be re-armed.  Would you please address the points he has made. 

As indicated by the title of this blog, I find it deeply troubling that Dr. Brueggemann appears to be unwilling or unable to address critical issues regarding his platform.  I am hoping that he will show me and the public that my criticisms are unfounded by taking up my offer and responding to the above questions.  I hope that he will respond in the constructive spirit that has prompted my questions.

Shafer Gaston and the Issue of Misogyny

Shafer Gaston is a member of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee and is married to Saratoga Springs County Supervisor Tara Gaston.  

Mr. Gaston maintains a Facebook page.  On May third in a thread regarding announced Republican candidate for Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton, someone named Abe Viveros posted a comment in which he referred to her as “That c..t” . 

Normally, as the readers of this blog know, I would have put up a screen shot documenting this but in this case I prefer not to.  If anyone wants to confirm my accuracy they can visit Mr. Gaston’s Facebook page.  The thread was on May 3rd beginning at 9:16 PM.

For those unfamiliar with Facebook, Mr. Gaston controls what goes up on his page and can remove any comments at his discretion.

In courtesy to Mr. Gaston, I emailed him giving him an opportunity to reconsider allowing this remark on his “page.”

He responded by expressing surprise that I was concerned because he could not understand why I would expect him to “prevent someone from saying what they want on a public Facebook page.”  He went on to defend Mr. Viveros’ right to say anything he wanted “…as are you and all the other conservatives that come over to whine about being ‘bullied’ when they are being quoted.”

For all my criticisms of Mr. Gaston, I find it hard to believe that there is not some limit to his tolerance for what he allows to appear on his page.  For example, I do not think that he would allow someone to publish a comment on his page that referred to Kendall Hicks, who is the Democratic candidate for Commissioner of Public Safety and who is black, using the  “N” word.

I looked up the definition of mysogyny using Google and found the following:

“dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.”

It is regrettable that Mr. Gaston does not seem to understand that what he allows on his Facebook page contributes to the debasing of women which is all too common in our society.  

—————————————————————————————-

To: Shafer Gaston

Date: May 5

Subject: Crude Epithet

Shafer,

On your Facebook page on Friday (May 3) night you allowed someone on your page to refer to Robin Dalton using the C word.  People took you to task for allowing this kind of truly odious comment.  In the thread you acknowledged the comment and rather than take it down you offered the following response:

“All I have done is posted the words that someone else said, and there are now a tone of people coming out of the woodwork to tell me to be more civil.  Maybe I am in fact not cut out for this city.”

As of tonight (Sunday, May. 5th) the comment is still up there.

As the moderator, you control what appears on your page.  Can you offer some kind of explanation for why you have allowed this?

—————————————————————————————-

To: John Kaufmann

Date: May 5

Subject: Re Crude Epithet

I am uncertain why I am supposed to prevent someone from saying what they want on a public facebook post.  Mr. Viveros is free to write what he wants, as are you and all the other conservatives that come over to whine about being ‘bullied’ when they are being quoted.  Apparently, someone has somehow bullied a fifteen year old girl as well, and I am somehow a party to that.  The Fox News-style theatrics are truly over the top.

I will add you to the growing tally of people who are upset that Robin Dalton said something publicly and I noticed it.

I look forward to seeing you misquote me in your blog.

Saratoga Progressive Action: The Danger Of Mirroring Your “Enemy”

In my experience, Joe Seeman is the most dedicated person on behalf of social justice that I know.  If there is a petition to circulate, a meeting to go to, a picket line to walk on, or a demonstration to protest, Joe is there.

For all my respect to Joe, I now find myself in serious disagreement with him.

Saratoga Progressives Action(SPA) is effectively led by Joe and Ellen Egger-Aimone.  I use the word “effectively” because of the loose structure of SPA.  They maintain what is termed a listserv (Google Group).  Members post messages and Seeman and Egger-Aimone moderate.  As moderators they are able to control which emails are allowed to reach the members.

I am on this list and on April 26 I received an email from Ms. Egger-Aimone.   Referring to the current races for the Saratoga Springs School Board, she wrote, “They have become a focal point and somewhat of a referendum (my emphasis) this year.”   In light of the fact that she and several of the people she supports later attack the group supported by Saratoga Parents For Safer Schools as being single issue candidates, I expect the irony will not be lost on my readers.

The email goes on with the following:

“We are in the midst of canvassing.  We all know that the best way to get votes is to walk and talk to voters.  The 3 candidates that we are encouraging you to support are:

John Brueggemann for Saratoga Board of Education

Natalya Lakhtakia for School Board

Re-Elect Heather Reynolds for Board of Education

A casual reader may be forgiven if they assumed, as I did, that Saratoga Progressive Action had endorsed these candidates.  According to Joe Seeman, however, SPA does not endorse candidates.  This policy does not seem to have prevented them from using the list to organize on behalf of these three candidates.

So I wrote to Joe asking whether all the candidates had been invited to the meeting at which the decision “to support” particular candidates (as compared to “endorsing” them) occurred.  

He responded that SPA had a meeting in March.  He alleged that it had been “widely publicized, invited our members & any candidates.” Oddly only three candidates, who share similar platforms,attended (Brueggemann/Lakhtakia/Reynolds). According to Joe, “the consensus of everyone at the meetings” was to support them.  He finished by informing me that he would be going door to door for them and ends with the blistering “…and keep our School Board from being taken over by Big Money reactionary interests.”  This seemed like not too subtle a reference to the other candidates in the race.

I then contacted several of the candidates who had not attended and asked if they had received an invitation.  They had not.  

So I wrote back to Joe advising him that the candidates had not received an invitation.

He responded:

“I explained in my previous email, we widely publicized the meeting which invited candidates (my emphasis) to tell us about their campaigns.”

So this shows just how impoverished my understanding of social media is.  I always thought that when you invited someone that you actually contacted them personally.  I never thought to invite individuals by publicizing it on the web.  

It is important to note that Saratoga Unites, another progressive group, organized a forum for the candidates for the School Board at which most of the candidates attended and those that did not sent comments.  In the case of the Saratoga Unites Forum they chose the traditional method for invitation (they contacted the candidates individually) which explains the higher participation of the candidates..

Still even the word publicized seems an exaggeration on closer inspection.  As neither Jane nor I could recall getting an email from Joe’s group (let alone multiple emails as he alleges)  announcing a meeting where School Board races would be discussed., we did a random survey of a number of other people we know who are on the list and like us, they were sure they had not received an email advising them about a  such a meeting .  

Eventually I did find an email from the listserv.  I am attaching the full email to the bottom of this post but the title of the email was:

“Public Invited to ‘Tell us about your campaign!’  Saratoga Pizza & Progressive Meeting.”

It goes on to say that they will be meeting “to hear about local progressive campaigns.”

Later in the email it has a heading “Some campaigns, issues, & projects we may (my emphasis) hear from:

What follows is a laundry list the third item of which is “School Board election coming in May.”

Now, dear reader, I think many of us can be forgiven for missing this “invitation.”

Some may attack me for being excessively cynical but it is apparent that this was entirely set up to support the candidates that the leadership of this group wanted to support.  It simply begs credibility that somehow the three candidates advocating the disarming of monitors were able to find the “invitation” and discerned that they were being invited while most of the rest of us missed that a decision on who this group would work for would be decided at the meeting.

I find this all quite sad and disturbing.  The people who did this would be the first ones to be absolutely and appropriately outraged if any other group acted this way.

So I wrote to the listserv a letter that while strong, I thought was restrained considering what had occurred.  I have every confidence that there were many people on this listserv who would share my indignation were they to be alerted as to what had transpired but, as will become clear, my email was blocked from being disseminated.

I wrote the following:

My friend and comrade, Joe Seeman’s post to the list regarding his plans to canvas for Saratoga School Board candidates Brueggemann/Reynolds/Lakhtakia is emblematic of the sad state of a significant element of what appears to be the local left.

It is disturbingly disingenuous to pretend that the “Progressives” broadly solicited candidates running for school board to attend their March meeting.  For Joe or anyone to suggest that they seriously thought that the other four candidates were aware of the meeting would add to my profound disappointment with this group.  

The pretense that this was an open process can only be described as a grotesque caricature of the kind of charade put on every four years by the major parties to anoint their presidential candidate.  The only thing lacking was balloons.

Worse, I find it very distressing that someone like Joe Seeman would use such hyperbole and sensationalism in asserting that our local school board is threatened by the danger of “being taken over by Big Money reactionary interests.”  

These kinds of reckless accusations are so representative of the worst of our times.  It is demagoguery to be playing on the prejudices of the left regarding dark money.  The group he is referencing is called Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools with no pecuniary interests in the outcome of the school board elections.  It obviously portrays the candidates associated with SPSS as far rightist attempting to somehow subvert our schools.  It is unfortunate that Joe is unable to distinguish local people who feel passionately about this race from the kind of players like the Koch brothers or the John Birch Society.

In fact this “Progressive” group’s support of Dr. Brueggemann and Dr. Reynolds is appropriate because these candidates indulge in similar demagoguery.  

 The fact that Joe feels free to make this kind of statement is symptomatic of how insular the Progressive list has become and how little interest there apparently is in engaging with voices that do not echo back their orthodoxy.

In the opponents of Brueggemann/Reynolds/Lakhtakia they have created straw men who are cheap targets easily exploited.  Rather than the thoughtful people they actually are, they are portrayed as the boogey men of the NRA.  

This kind of behavior on the part of the “Progressive” leadership is in so many ways a mirror image of the Trump people who they see as blind ideologues.  In fact, if they would actually be willing to talk and maybe listen to the other candidates they might find out that these others are thoughtful people who care about education.  Instead, like the Trump people they don’t need to engage since they have already judged and condemned anyone outside the “tribe.”

Consider Connie Woytowich.

Connie Woytowich is a candidate for the school board, she was originally endorsed by the Saratoga Parents for Safe Schools and she is not a member of the NRA.   

She is a NYS Master Teacher, a selective designation made by the State University of New York for teachers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

She teaches biology, chemistry, and a college level course called Personal Genetics at her alma mater, Colonie Central High School. During her long career she taught at Albany High School and Corinth giving her urban, rural and suburban teaching experience.

She also is the Co-Director of Camp Invention in Saratoga, which is a nationally acclaimed one-week summer program led by local teachers where children become innovators through teamwork and immersive, hands-on creative problem-solving.

While serving as the president of the Division School PTA it became recognized  a National PTA School of Excellence.

Just as an example of how she helped achieve this recognition her group set a goal of purchasing a learning tool called an “Earth Balloon.”  Six months after taking on the presidency, she chaired a gala to raise the $25,000.00 needed to obtain the balloon.  They were able to purchase it and make it available to other schools.  Previously renting the balloon had cost $7,000.00.

She has never indulged in any name calling and has scrupulously dealt with the other candidates with respect and courtesy.

One thing she is not is a reactionary.

What is most disheartening, Joe, is that your campaign confuses the valid and important issue of gun control with the complex questions about how to properly protect our schools.  Meg Kelly led the successful effort to end the gun show at the City Centre.  She also supports Connie Woytowich.  Life is more complicated.

The Left that I was proud of was committed to educating people regarding issues to create a better world.  My old comrades would never perpetuate false myths to further short term goals.  Oh, how times have changed. 

Joe responded as follows:

Notice of our March Saratoga Progressive Action meeting was sent to this 

email list with hundreds of subscribers numerous times, also sent to the Saratoga Democrats & other lists. It was posted on our facebook group & numerous other progressive pages. It reached thousands of local progressives.

All candidates were invited.

John, your claim that our meeting or process wasn’t open is totally baseless.

“Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools” has raised over $30,000 for a school board race where candidates in the past have spent under $500. They spent $9,000 on a Trump/Putin/Republican reactionary consulting firm “Go Right Strategies” which is tied to Republicans like Dana Rohrabacher (whom another Repub says is paid by Putin) & Ted Cruz. “Go Right Strategies” auctioned off an aR-15 assault weapon for another Republican campaign. This is the same weapon used in mass shootings in Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Parkland, Pittsburgh and yesterday in Poway.  

“Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools” deletes any comments on their facebook page that differ from their more-guns party line. They are supported by Republicans and work hand-in-hand with Republican propaganda outlets like Am radio station 1300.

This is indeed an attempt by reactionary big-money Trump-Republicans to take over the Saratoga Springs School Board.

John, if you want to support Trump-Republican reactionaries, and bash our Saratoga Progressive Action group with bullshit accusations, go ahead, but not on our Saratoga Progressive list.  [JK: My emphasis]

Joe Seeman

———————————-

Now I will concede that my email was extremely strong but I submit it was within the bounds of civility.  Readers of my blog will know that I publish similarly spirited criticisms directed to me.  I am, in fact, as this post demonstrated, publishing Joe’s email which sharply takes me to task.  

I responded to his email asking for copies of the emails publicizing the meeting to the candidates and the members of the list.  I wanted to be sure I had not missed anything.  He wrote back informing me that because I had attacked him he saw no reason to provide me with the documents.  There are ethical responsibilities to moderating a list.  The moderator has access to the archives of all emails.  While it is humanly understandable that he would refuse, it violates his duties as a moderator.  It also leaves unresolved whether he sent out multiple emails advising the members of the listserv about the purpose of the March meeting.

I then received an email from Ellen Eigger-Aimonee, the other moderator that went out to the list informing the subscribers of the listserv that if anyone violated the rules of the list which included no personal attacks,  they would be banned from the list.  (See full text of her email at the end of this post).  The timing of her email strongly suggests that the threat was prompted by my email and any repeat will result in my being banned.

What I find most troubling is that not only was the decision on supporting candidates utterly opaque and undemocratic but that Joe’s reckless characterization of the other candidates running for school board as ultra-right wingers was also so reckless and irresponsible. I cringe in writing such a harsh criticism of Joe but I do not know how else to describe it.  It is the logical result of being unwilling to engage fairly with others.   

As a person who considers himself of the left, I find all of this terribly depressing.  I know Joe Seeman to be a kind and caring person.  It is indeed sad to find him infected by the tribal prejudices that make the social change he seeks all the more elusive.


Here are the two emails referenced above.

——————————————————————————————

From: Ellen Egger-Aimone <ellen@egger-aimone.com>

Date: April 30, 2019 at 6:20:10 PM EDT

To: Saratoga Progressive Action <saratogaprog@googlegroups.com>

Subject: Appropriate Discussions

Dear All, 

This email forum is for announcements of events and civil discussion of topics.  It is not a place for personal attacks on any other people.  In the future if Joe or I feel that a member is making personal attacks against someone else we will remove them from the group.  Please keep all your discussions civil and respectful.  There is too much disrespectful discourse happening in social media.  This group will not allow this.

Respectfully,

Ellen

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From: “‘joe.seeman@yahoo.com‘ via Saratoga Progressive Action” <saratogaprog@googlegroups.com>

Date: March 14, 2019 at 2:19:15 PM EDT

To: Saratoga Progressives <saratogaprog@googlegroups.com>

Cc: Joe Seeman’ via NY21Votes <ny21votes@googlegroups.com>,  Coalition of NY21 Progressives <coalition-of-ny21-progressives@googlegroups.com>

Subject: Sunday: “Tell us about your campaign!” Saratoga Pizza & Progressive Politics meeting,showing “Line in the Street” gerrymandering documentary

Reply-To: “joe.seeman@yahoo.com” <joe.seeman@yahoo.com>

Please join us Sunday, starting 2pm, in the Susman room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St. We will have Pizza & snacks, hear from local progressive campaigns that need our help, & view “Line in the Street” a documentary on fighting gerrymandering. 

Please RSVP & invite friends: https://www.facebook.com/events/357478854848229/  https://act.indivisible.org/event/local-actions/137511  

Agenda:

2 – 2:30pm: Pizza, soda, potluck (we’ll provide Pizza & Soda, bring a potluck snack if you like)

2:30 – 4pm: Local progressive candidates & issue campaign leaders are invited to talk about their campaigns.

4 – 4:30pm: Filmmaker Bob Millman will show “Line in the Street” a documentary about fighting 

Please let us know if you have a campaign to tell us about! (My emphasis)

Advisory sent to the media below.

Hope to see you then!

Joe Seeman joe.seeman@yahoo.com 518-583-4326 https://www.facebook.com/seeman.joe@joe_seeman

MEDIA ADVISORY

March 17, 2019

Contact: Ellen Egger-Aimone  518-573-6122

Public Invited to “Tell us about your campaign!”

Saratoga Pizza & Progressive Politics meeting

Local campaigns to be discussed 

followed by showing “Line In The Street” gerrymandering documentary

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY—  On Sunday March 17, Saratoga Progressive Action & Saratoga Unites are co-sponsoring a meeting in the Susman room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library to hear about local progressive campaigns.

2 – 2:30pm: Pizza & soda and informal discussion.

2:30 – 4pm: Local progressive candidates & issue campaign leaders are invited to talk about their campaigns.

4 – 4:30pm: Filmmaker Bob Millman will show “Line in the Street” a documentary about fighting gerrymandering in Pennsylvania (http://lineinthestreet.com)

Some campaigns, issues & projects we may hear from: (My emphasis)

– Village elections this month

– Petitioning for upcoming elections happening now.

– School Board election coming up in May (My emphasis)

– Statewide issue campaigns while the legislature is in session, including NY Health Act, campaign/election reform.

– Action needed on issues such as climate change & immigration.

– April 15 “Tax Day” action calling on repeal of the Tax Scam

– April 6 Skidmore Sustainability Fair, also proposed street fair

WHAT: “Tell us about your campaign!” Saratoga Progressive Pizza/Politics meeting 

WHO:  Open to the public, co-sponsored by Saratoga Progressive Action & Saratoga Unites

WHERE: Saratoga Springs Public Library Susman Rm, 49 Henry St Saratoga Springs NY 12866

WHEN: Sunday March 17, 2pm

Public invited, asked to RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/357478854848229/ & https://act.indivisible.org/event/local-actions/137511 

City of Saratoga Springs Reports $1.2 Million Operating Surplus for 2018

MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT

City of Saratoga Springs Reports $1.2 Million Operating Surplus for 2018

For Immediate Release: May 1, 2019
From the Office of Commissioner of Finance, City of Saratoga Springs, Michele Madigan
Contact: Michele.Madigan@Saratoga-Springs.org or 518-587-3550 ext 2577


Full presentation will take place on Tuesday May 7th at the top of the 7:00 pm City Council Meeting

Saratoga Springs, NY — Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan reports that for the seventh consecutive year, The City of Saratoga Springs closed the prior fiscal year in excellent financial position. Unaudited year-end figures reveal a 2018 annual operating surplus of $1.2 million, driven by a combination of increased revenue and lower-than-forecasted expenses. Commissioner Madigan stated, “I’m exceptionally proud of the City’s financial performance in 2018, as it reflects the collaborative, hard-working spirit currently imbuing City Hall. Despite increased personnel costs, a handful of underperforming revenue lines, and the costs associated with the lightning strike to City Hall this past August, the 2018 budget realized a surplus thanks to the strong performance of several departmental revenue lines and the continuing City-wide effort to keep expenses under-budget to the benefit of taxpayers. Additionally, the City benefitted from a strong local economy, which includes a record year for sales tax revenue. This surplus will roll into the City’s Fund Balance, and will ensure that City residents and businesses will continue to receive the exceptional and affordable services they have come to know, while the City remains fiscally well-positioned for the future.”

Actual 2018 revenue collected totaled $46.5 million, while actual 2018 expenditures totaled $45.3 million. “Each and every department did an exceptional job accomplishing goals on behalf of the community while managing their respective budgets. I commend each City Council member on their contribution to this achievement, and hope to see similar results in 2019,” the Commissioner stated.

For 2019, the City is required to have a General Fund unassigned, unappropriated Fund Balance between $4.7 million and $11.8 million. Unaudited figures indicate the City’s unassigned, unappropriated general Fund Balance as of year-end 2018 was $9.6 million, well within the required range. The City also has $3.2 million in restricted (also known as “assigned”) Fund Balance in the form of a retirement reserve, insurance reserve, capital reserves, and other miscellaneous reserves.

The Water Fund ended 2018 with an assigned, unappropriated Fund Balance of $3.1 million, which includes a 2018 operating surplus of $231,000. The Water Fund has reported an operating surplus in six of the prior seven years, meaning it is well-positioned to fund future projects or emergencies without sacrificing any resources or performance. The Sewer Fund reported an assigned unappropriated fund balance for 2018 of $2.0 million, which includes a planned 2018 operating deficit of $89,000 due to the increased costs driven by the County. Prior to 2018, the Sewer Fund reported a surplus in eight consecutive periods, allowing the fund flexibility to absorb the County-imposed increase without immediately passing the costs on to City’s sewer users. 

Similar to years past, Madigan states that she will continue to evaluate ways to maintain the stable tax rates while allowing the City to prosper. “Through the months-long budget process, the Finance Department aims to accurately predict the City’s revenues and expenses as effectively as possible while still providing flexibility to manage priorities or emergencies that can occur post-budget approval. I must admit, a lightning strike to City Hall wasn’t an emergency I had specifically planned for, but I do think it is illustrative of how prudent financial planning, along with the combined efforts of every department and employee, allowed the City to respond to that event by not only being operational within three days’ time, but maintain a budget surplus for the year. During my time in office I have kept the property tax rate stable while carefully managing the City’s various reserves, strategically utilizing the capital market to support  infrastructure needs at a low cost to taxpayers, and set aside funds in preparation of future expenses both planned and unforeseen.”

The City’s continued focus on its reserves over the last several years has contributed to its high bond rating of AA+ by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services and Aa2 by Moody’s Investor Services, and helped the City obtain low interest rates on bonds for capital projects.  

A full presentation will be given by Commissioner Madigan on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at the regularly schedule City Council meeting, starting at 7:00pm at the Saratoga Springs Recreation Center located at 15 Vanderbilt Ave.

Michele Madigan
Commissioner of Finance
City of Saratoga Springs
TEMPORARY LOCATION

Rob Arrigo On Go Right Strategies, Consultants To Saratoga Parents For Safer Schools

[JK: Rob Arrigo, who is an active volunteer with  Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, and I hold polar opposite opinions regarding most national issues.  He proudly identifies himself as a person of the right while I similarly proudly identify myself as a person of the left.

I came to know Rob when he emailed me about a major inaccuracy in a blog I wrote regarding the on-going campaigns for the Saratoga Springs School Board.  His note to me was courteous, and at the time I had no idea of his political persuasion.  I called him to ask that he document his assertion which he did quickly and quite thoroughly.  Subsequent to that Rob became something of an archivist for me.  He has the most thorough knowledge of the relevant events, legislative history, and many of the persons who occupy the history of this controversy.  The fact is that he has been spot on regarding everything I have asked him about.

While he has been an absolute gentleman to me, he admits to a history of being an in-your-face person.  He warned me that he came out of a rough and tumble life and that his manner at times reflected that.

I have asked him to be a guest writer on this blog not only because of his extensive knowledge of some key issues but also because one of my goals in my blog is to break down the kind of culture war myths that undermine our ability as a community to speak to each other and to listen to each other.  Neither Rob nor I are labels. We are people.  

I particularly wanted him to discuss the selection of the consulting firm that is assisting SPSS in their campaign.  The firm which primarily works with candidates who are on the right of the Republican Party was the subject of a story in the Sunday, April 28 Gazette. 

Where possible we all need to temper our manner in addressing each other to seek ways in which we can work together and to create an atmosphere where we can disagree in a manner that maintains the spirit of the democracy which we all cherish.]

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From Rob:

Full disclosure: I consider myself a person of the right.  In fact, I am a registered Libertarian, or will be once the BOE changes kick in around November. I have grave reservations about many of the policies put forward regarding gun control.  I strongly opposed the SAFE Act and I am no fan of gun control in general.  

 

I know it may be hard for some to understand but my involvement in the group Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools was motivated by my friendship with Kara Rosettie and our joint concern regarding the safety of our schools.  People who know me know that I would have no reservations talking about guns, but the issue in Saratoga Springs is not about guns, it’s not about gun control, it’s about keeping our kids safe in the schools.

The people involved in our group are highly diverse.  We do not all share the same views on each and every important policy of the day.  In fact one of our endorsed candidates is a Democrat.  It shouldn’t be impossible to imagine that he and I disagree on a lot.  So in order to hold our group together we are extremely careful to keep our focus narrow.  We agree on one core issue, bringing back the armed security that Saratoga Schools maintained for the past 30 years.

This is what local politics is supposed to be about.  People with diverse opinions coming together to work on a common goal, despite opposing political affiliations.

Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools has been repeatedly criticized for  helping to fund the campaigns of our endorsed candidates because it is alleged that they will be somehow controlled by our group.  This criticism reflects how little people understand who makes up this group.  Aside from the fact that our candidates accepted our support based on the single issue of rearming the grounds monitors and have made clear that they jealously insist on their independence, our group is so diverse it would be hard pressed to agree on anything to actually demand of them.  This idea that our group is some kind of powerful cabal really illustrates how easily people’s fears can coalesce into inaccurate suppositions.

Another concern people have about us is more understandable.  It involves the fact that the consultants we employed, Go Right Strategies, definitely represents candidates on the right of the Republican Party. 

The reason, however, that we employed this firm is not because of its politics but because its principal, Spence Rodgers, is actually a friend of mine.  As a favor to me he agreed to help us with the logistics of our campaign and forego his own fee.  It is important to understand that in this modern age of social media there are tools that a small group like ours on our own cannot access ($33,000.00 while a lot of money is considered minuscule in the age of social media campaigns).

Spence has played no role in the substance of our campaign.  It is also important for people to know that none of the three candidates had any hand in selecting Spence’s firm.  This was an operational decision made by the folks who are managing the logistics of the campaign for Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools. 

Here is a brief review of what he helped us with:

Go Right Strategies assists us with graphic design for digital and print advertising as well as providing us access to online advertising tools that would be difficult to access for small organizations like Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools.

When it comes to substance, it is the candidates who call the shots.  Our working agreement with them requires that they approve all paid materials.  This important understanding allows us to comply with NYS Education Law which specifically prohibits outside expenditures on behalf of school board candidates.

 I find it ironic that while our critics attack us for being a PAC (we are not), they ignore the fact that Saratoga Unites is a PAC and according to social media is actively supporting Heather Reynolds’, John Brueggeman’s and Nataklya Lakhtakia’s campaign for School Board.

Now I have no problem with  Saratoga Unites  helping Heather, John and Nataklya.  Like us, they are made up of a diverse local group that cares deeply about our schools.  They have united (pardon the pun) to help them.  I have every confidence that they no more tell these candidates what to say and do than our own organization does our candidates.

I urge the readers of John Kaufmann’s blog to focus on the issues put forward by the respective candidates rather than on the noise that extraneous accusations produce.  The best place to begin is to actually take the time to go through their answers to his questionnaire which is available on this site.

There are certain times when particular issues transcend partisan politics.  It is my sincere belief that school safety is one of those issues.  When deciding whom to support in the School Board race, ask yourself, how long should a child have to wait for help to arrive?  That, my friends, is the only question that matters here.