Boyd, Bullock, Pingel, Turner, and Common Sense Saratoga: Plumbing the Depths of Disinformation

In a previous post I wrote about a totally opaque website on local politics. The site is called Common Sense Saratoga (CSS). After quite a bit of criticism about the anonymity of those involved in the site from a variety of sources  they decided to post the names of four people they characterize as “Founders.” They listed them as follows:

Founding Members

·         Gordon Boyd – Independence Party

·         Ann Bullock – Democratic Party

·         Mark Pingel – Republican Party

·         Bob Turner – Democratic Party

As those of you who follow city politics will know, Boyd, Bullock, and Turner were all on the charter commission that promoted the city manager form of government and were active with It’s Time Saratoga which was the social media face of this group. I assume that this site will replace It’s Time Saratoga, continuing the strategy of distorting the issues facing the city to try to convince the public falsely that the city is in crisis and the only remedy is to change our form of government.

The entire project has the feel of this kind of spin. It no longer mentions the charter (yet anyway) but presents itself as interested in broader issues. The selection of the “founders” is meant to put a non-partisan face on the site to appear to represent a broad based perspective. Conspicuously absent from this list is Pat Kane who some of us suspect has a role in this but whose name was perhaps omitted because of his highly public and documented history of disturbing behavior.

Interestingly, only a short time ago, Zuzia Kwasniewski asked Bob Turner on the Saratoga Unites Facebook page if he was behind the anonymous website and he disavowed any involvement. Now, of course, we find that he was a founder. When I asked Zuzia if she could send me a screen shot of his response she returned to the website only to find that his comment had been deleted.

A Dubious Story On Unpaid City Taxes

The top story on the site is titled “Why Doesn’t Saratoga Collect It’s Back Taxes?”

The piece begins with “… a surprisingly large number of taxpayers simply will not pay their taxes and, based on past experience, they probably see no reason why they should.”

First of all to put this issue in perspective it is important to note that 95% of the property owners in the city pay their taxes on time.

Secondly, contrary to what this article implies the city charter spells out clearly the serious penalties for tax delinquency, and these regulations have been scrupulously adhered to by the city.

Penalties include:

·         Fines up to 15% per year

·         Liens placed on delinquent properties which will mean the property cannot be sold

·         Damage to personal credit rating of delinquent property owners

·         Public embarrassment as names of delinquent taxpayers are required to be published annually in local newspapers

Understanding The Timing Of Property Seizures

The folks at CSS seem particularly upset at what they see as the indifference of the city to pursue seizing properties with liens on them. As often happens, in spite of what seems to make “common sense”, the issues are far more complicated than they appear. Such is the case with property seizures.

To begin with, New York State law requires three years before the city can seize property for failure to pay taxes. The process of the city seizing private property is long, complicated, and expensive both in terms of the cost in lawyer fees and in the time required of city staff. The city does not have the expertise to deal with foreclosures in house and so must find and hire outside counsel for this procedure.  Rather than doing foreclosures one at a time and continuously finding and hiring lawyers, the economical way of dealing with seizures in a city of our size involves waiting till a number of delinquent parcels can be packaged and dealt with at the same time and only initiating foreclosure procedures as a last resort.  If the city, in most cases can expect to get its taxes and penalties eventually without resorting to seizure, why tie up staff and spend unnecessary money on large legal fees unless it has been determined that the owner will never pay? It is also important to note that some of the delinquent property owners may be experiencing hard times, and the city prefers to try to give them time to recover rather than seize their property.

Saratoga is not a declining city like Utica where property values have plummeted and people are walking away from delinquent properties. The city will in the end get the taxes and penalties owed one way or the other. The question is when and at what cost.

When the city does end up seizing property, there is still the question of what to do with the property. The City does not want to be in the business of owning and maintaining delinquent properties. In the past the city has auctioned off foreclosed properties, a process that also involves the expenditure of many city resources

 A thoughtful assessment of the situation free of malicious spin is that there is no crisis involving the city bleeding away lost revenue.

Here is a link to Finance Commissioner Madigan’s thoughtful report on how the city handles the issue of delinquent taxes presented at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting with additional comments by City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis and Commissioner of Accounts John Franck who reminisces about past properties the city has seized.

The Mysterious Uber Delinquent Taxpayer

Further on in this same piece the writer makes allegations about a particular delinquent taxpayer.

“One taxpayer of particular interest in this group is the beneficiary of long-standing contracts for services to the City.  This individual owes to the City of Saratoga Springs and the City school district no less than $137,000 in back taxes, covering a total of nine lots throughout the city. “

The writer asserts that the parcels involved are worth over $1,300,000.00 and that “the owner operates thriving businesses on several of them.”  

This is a pretty shocking accusation so I decided to use their comment option to inquire further about this case. I wrote them asking who this person was and if they would not name the person, what was their reasoning for protecting this delinquent.

When I clicked send, I got a message that I was a bot and was not allowed to access their site. As you may recall from an earlier post I had asked the site who they were and never received an answer. Having a blog myself, I know how easy it is to block people who one doesn’t want to hear from.

My experience with this group’s history, especially Mr. Kane, is that they are quite capable of making outrageous accusations for which there is no source of verification. Maybe some other reader out there might help me by going on their site and asking the same question.

Ellen Egger-Aimone’s Regrettable Comment

One comment that did get published came from Ellen Egger-Aimone. It reads as follows:

amioneattack

The managers of this website have posted a comment by Ms. Egger-Aimone that is truly odious. Ms. Egger-Aimone basically accuses Commissioner Michele Madigan of allowing developers to avoid paying taxes. She also asserts that Commissioner Madigan is hiding from the public who the delinquents are.

If Ms. Egger-Aimone had a better understanding of how city government works or had bothered to ask before she posted her comment she would have known that in fact what she is demanding already exists. That is, it already is public knowledge who is not paying their taxes.  As noted earlier the names of those people delinquent in their taxes, including developers, are regularly posted in local newspapers as required by the city charter. Here is an image of the notice from last October.

Link To Avertisement With Properties In Default

But in an age of social media and negative campaigns, apparently Ms. Egger-Aimone doesn’t feel the need to be rigorous and accurate in making her accusations and is betting that her audience won’t care about fact checking either.

 Ellen Egger- Aimone is the campaign manager for both Patty Morrison’s campaign to unseat Michele Madigan as Finance Commissioner and Kendall Hicks’ campaign to become Commissioner of Public Safety. Where are they on all this? Should the public expect to see a similar disregard for accuracy in their campaign materials?  In a better world, both Patty Morrison and Kendall Hicks would disavow Ms. Egger-Aimone’s behavior but so far they have been silent.

And why would Gordon Boyd, Ann Bullock, Bob Turner, and Mark Pingel, the principles behind this site, tolerate and indeed promote this kind of garbage in both the articles they are publishing and the comments they decide to put up.

Ms. Egger-Aimone’s and this blog’s reckless and cruel attacks call to mind Attorney Joseph Welch’s response to similar baseless, character assassination efforts by Senator Joe McCarthy at the famous Army-McCarthy hearings.  

 

We may well ask the same question of the participants in Common Sense Saratoga.  Have they no sense of decency?  

8 thoughts on “Boyd, Bullock, Pingel, Turner, and Common Sense Saratoga: Plumbing the Depths of Disinformation”

  1. There was more than one comment. Several people, myself included with my name, responded to her claims. All have been removed, leaving only her opinion. Here is a copy of my reply (this was written prior to their decision to offer some transparency by identifying themselves as founders):

    “Rather than getting mired in character assassinations Ellen, wouldn’t it make more sense to identify those who you believe through the implied investigations to be delinquent and receiving special benefits – rather than providing innuendos regarding our Commissioner of Finance? I do believe that she has responded to these aspersions online, and her response can be made available to you and the readers of this site.

    In promoting the upcoming Democratic primary, would you not agree that the challenger should welcome the opportunity to address her supporters and those others in the larger community by meeting with the Commissioner in an open forum? I am certain that most everyone would welcome the opportunity to hear what the challenger has to specifically offer the city in seeking the position of Finance Commissioner. There have been numerous attempts at providing the voters with one public forum with little success. Surely, as a member of the League of Women Voters, who are willing to host the debate, this candidate could find time to participate?

    Finally, and in the spirit of transparency that you write, it would be honest for those individuals who have created this forum to step out from behind their masthead and respectfully identify themselves. It gives their journalistic words and political opinions more meaning and may prevent others from jumping to conclusions based on aspersions.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Finance Department under Commissioner Madigan has done a good job in dealing with property tax delinquencies. Complicated issues such as this unfortunately often get distorted by political opponents.
    Chris Mathiesen

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The illegitimate distortion of the Commissioner’s record (and that of our city council as well) by members of the perennial dissenters club is no less egregious than the gaslighting that one witnesses today in national politics that seek to sow the seeds of dissatisfaction and unrest.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Again, as we have seen across this country, a group of people want to tell us all what is in our best interest. Is it because they are ever so much smarter than we are? If the people in the community don’t agree with their end goal then they believe they can do anything they think best to reshape thinking. After all, the ends justify the means…RIGHT? Does it matter that they began this and other campaigns to destroy anyone in their way? Does it matter that they tried to do this “undercover” until they were called on it? Does it matter that they have been working for years to get what they want by just changing words and come back as a “new” form of attack? Geeze, don’t I want to have Common Sense? Well of course I do, it makes me feel better in the moment. I, however, prefer to use critical thinking…it’s better in the long term. It’s better to think about all the information that is REAL and know what the consequences of my decisions might be. After watching all of this play out for years, my critical thinking has lead me to the conclusion that I wouldn’t go near any of these people. Not now…NOT EVER!!.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats, John!
    Being labeled a bot by these tactical geniuses is truly a badge of honor. Although I am extremely jealous, I salute you, sir!

    In the hope that one day I might be deserving of such a designation, I offer this fresh meat:

    Ms. Egger-Aimone has certainly acquired quite a stable of “candidates” – I put the word in quotes as neither Ms. Morrison nor Mr. Hicks is actually campaigning. The former is doing her best to duck any debate with our incumbent Commissioner of Finance, while the latter appears to have suspended his campaign for reasons that are, as you put it in a previous post, my bot friend, “disturbing.”

    Such revolutionary campaign tactics! Compete for votes by not competing. Who woulda thunk it?

    Obviously, such progressive manuvers are a reflection of Ms. Egger-Aimone’s decades -er- years -er- minutes of campaign management experience. Bravo! And so efficient – using all that freed-up time to formulate a fake issue or two about tax collection. How can it get any better?

    Gee, after the election, can you imagine the tons of offers she is going to receive to manage campaigns? Why, it’s going to be positively staggering!

    Just a jealous Bot-wannabe checking in – poolside.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Founding Members found another disagreeable comment post to delete this morning, you be the judge.

    – James P. Martinez
    Rain or Shine, a debate between Commissioner Michele Madigan and Patty Morrison is scheduled for June 14 at 7 pm at the Saratoga Casino Hotel. Doors open at 6:30.

    To assure a fair and informative debate, Chad Beatty, Editor of Saratoga Today, will be the moderator.

    – Nancy Muldoon

    Chad should not be the moderator because he printed an ad that was paid for by someone associated with madigan. That’s a conflict of interest.

    – James P. Martinez

    I think anyone in this community will have something that someone may find offensive Nancy. The Independence Party that was unacceptable as a venue has an individual who was at its helm and now is one of the stewards of this site. Beatty or whomever, will act as moderator and will be very careful to follow the guidelines and be accountable. The LWV has its own skeletons from two years ago, involving themselves into the public referendum by questionable outside financing and disenfranchising residents who expected a ‘review’ of the charter. All sides have individuals whose previous affiliations could be challenge for a myriad of petty issues. A simple debate between only two people should not be so difficult to arrange. The Commissioner, aside from her work and extensive involvement in this community has made a great attempt at trying to get this forum underway. I get the idea that her challenger doesn’t care to debate regardless of who moderates. Nitpicking is easy but being willing to debate the person whom one is challenging is more difficult, but a necessary ingredient for a contest.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Ellen Egger-Aimone is the moderator for Saratoga Progressive and does the same thing. Disagree with them or send a comment in support of a candidate they oppose and you don’t get published. This and the kind of stuff Common Sense Saratoga is doing is what is resorted to when you can’t make a case based on good arguments and sound information. I have yet to see anything from Patty Morrison but vague generalities like doing “what is best for our city.” Who wouldn’t? What is sad is that people tolerate and fall for this stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Could many of these candidates be recruited and supported out of desperation without vetting their experience and simply providing them with a rhetorical platform to enter the race? This refusal to a public debate should forewarn city residents of this novice challenger’s inability to represent the office that she seeks.

      Liked by 1 person

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