Saratoga Springs Public Safety Calls For Community Mobilization Against Violence

Monday, June 28, 2021, Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton and Assistant Police Chief John Catone held a press conference to discuss the recent spike in violence and the city’s plan to respond to it.

Commissioner Dalton discussed the need for the city’s local bars to take more responsibility for public safety. This would include better coordination regarding problematic patrons. Currently a patron denied service due to unruly behavior simply goes to another bar. The local bar owners need to communicate among themselves bout who these people are so that they are denied service at other venues. In an age of technology, such coordination is possible.

Assistant Chief Catone gave an impassioned statement on the need for a broadly coordinated campaign to address the violence. He talked about the work the department is doing to better coordinate with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police.

Here is a story from WNYT news.

Here is a story from WTEN news.

The Times Union story emphasized Catone’s frustration over what he saw as a campaign to fracture the local police from the community.

“As a 35 year veteran of this police department and whose family has been embedded in this community for 13o plus years, you have trusted me with your safety,” said Catone, who is retiring in eight months. “I ask you to listen to my message and trust me one more time. It’s time for the silent majority, we have heard about, to stand up and be heard. … If you continue to push a narrative of lies and misinformation, if you continue to divide this police department and this community because you are trying to push a narrative from a national stage that has no bearing on the city of Saratoga Springs, you are part of the problem. And I will, on my final eight months on the job, pull out every single connection my family has made over the last 130 years and I will stop your narrative. We are not a hateful community, we are not a racist police department.”

Times Union June 28, 2021 edition

The story quoted Catone as attributing the violence as coming from Albany gangs.

Commissioner Dalton discussed the recent incidents involving local high school students in Congress Park. She talked about the need for the school system to assist the city by taking action, where possible, regarding the perpetrators of violence who attend Saratoga Springs High School.

This is a link to the video of the entire event which included questions from members of the public as well as the media.

Unendorsed Candidates Sweep Working Families Party Primary

The results of the recent primary for the Working Families Party (WFP)is yet another grim example of the decline of ethics in general and politics in particular. The Republican Party through its surrogates has swept the Working Families Party line in Saratoga Springs and in so doing denied Democratic candidates the additional line.

Readers may recall that the local WFP saw a slew of new registrants recently as the result of a statewide effort by Republicans to gain a second line for their candidates most of whom have no interest in supporting the progressive WFP platform. In Saratoga Springs, those new registrants, mostly former Republican and Independence Party members, signed petitions to place candidates for local office on the ballot on the WFP line none of whom had been endorsed by the WFP.

All but one of the candidates endorsed by the WFP, all Democrats, withdrew from the ballot rather than face what was going to be a sure loss for them given the new party registration numbers. The only WFP candidate to remain on the ballot was Democrat Tara Gaston running for Supervisor. She received two votes. The winners of the Supervisor race, the top two vote getters for the two seats, were a former Republican and a former unaffiliated voter who had just recently registered in the WFP. Neither one campaigned nor could they be reached by the media to comment on their victories. The fact that efforts by the print media (Times Union and Foothills Business Review) to solicit comments from the successful candidates went unanswered tells it all. What politician running for office declines to tout a victory?

What makes this race particularly cynical is that the architects of this maneuver didn’t actually try to run the Republican endorsed candidates for the City Council and Board of Supervisors on the WFP line. There is no way these WFP candidates who are only on that line can win in November. The goal in this case seems to be not to gain an additional line for Repubulican candidates but to deprive the Democrats of that advantage.

This strategy had other advantages for the locally endorsed Republicans. My take is that:

  1. The Republican candidates didn’t want to be tainted by being directly involved in stealing the line.
  2. It would be hard for the Republican candidates to explain the contradiction between their conservative politics and their involvement with the Working Families Party that supports, among other things, a single payer health system and bail reform.

City of Saratoga Springs Republican Committee chair Chris Chris Obstarczyk has denied any involvement.

Link to Times Union story.

Link to Foothills Business Review Story.

Incidents of Random Violence Trouble City

There have been two recent troubling violent events in Sartoga Springs.

The first involves two high school girls who are twins who assaulted another high school girl walking through Congress Park around 6PM Tuesday evening and then posted the attack on Snapchat.

Here is a link to a channel thirteen news story

There was also a stabbing and a gun fired at the corner of Caroline and Broadway. This occurred early Saturday morning:

Mayor Kelly Announces City Council Meetings Will Be Held In City Hall And The Public Can Again Attend but Safety Concerns Remain

Commissioner of Public Works Skip Scirocco has announced that City Hall will re-open to the public on Monday, June 28, 2021.

Mayor Kelly issued the following release regarding City Council and Land Use Board meetings:

According to a story in the Foothills Business Review, Mayor Meg Kelly is concerned, however, that the opening is premature because proper safety components have not been instituted.

After A Run Of Forty-Two Years, Reporter Stephen Williams Retires From The Daily Gazette

Stephen Williams has covered Saratoga Springs (among other localities) for as long as I can remember. He has worked for the Daily Gazette since 1977. In a front page story in the Gazette he announced his retirement and offered recollections about his work and the communities he has covered.

Mr. Williams has done an extraordinary job of covering our community. His stories have reflected his ability to listen without prejudice to elected officials and the public and to report fairly on what he has found.

I want to publicly thank him for his service and wish him the best in his retirement.

Saratoga County Human Resources Director Marcy McNamara Out Of Her Job With County

The Times Union June 16 edition reported that Saratoga County Human Resources director Margaret (Marcy) McNamara was let go by the Board of Supervisors following the end of her six year appointment.

She will be replaced by Scott Chamberlain. Mr. Chamberlain is a resident of Halfmoon. Mr. Chamberlain appears well qualified for the position. At the time of his hire he was head of human resources for the New York State Teachers Retirement System. He was previously with the New York State Office of Mental Health as director of employee relations.

The action represented a continuation of the conflict between the supervisors from the small towns and the larger municipalities.

The readers of this blog may remember that Ms. McNamara and County Administrator Spencer Hellwig played key roles in the debacle when the county decided to pay most employees including Ms. McNamara and Mr. Spencer time and a half pay for their regular hours during the pandemic.

Ms. McNamara was reported to have told members of the Board of Supervisors as part of the COVID fiasco that the city of Saratoga Springs along with the towns of Wilton, Greenfield, and Malta were paying their employees time and a half for their regular hours. This turned out not to be true.

The newspaper reported that Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski told the Times Union that “the county is tossing aside another loyal, dedicated, hardworking employee of Saratoga County (There is) no reason, other than they can.”

In a case of unintended irony, Supervisor Kinowski read a letter from Northumberland Supervisor Willard Peck that opined that the new county leadership was hiring “friends and family.” Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett pointed out to Peck that Ms. McNamara had hired Kinowski’s son to be her deputy.

According to the TU:

“The statement (by Peck) also said the county is now being ruled by ‘fear and intimidation’ and that employee morale is suffering because some employees worry they are on a ‘hit list.'”

I expect Mr. Kinowski’s son is understandably worried about his future under Mr. Chamberlain.

A Thoughtful Document From The National Education Association on Addressing Racism in Schools

A commenter named Ron L. has posted a link to a document crafted by the National Education Association (NEA) which is one of the two major teachers’ unions in the country. I found it to be the most thoughtful discussion of how schools should address race that I have come across.

In earlier posts I have expressed my reservation about teachers challenging individual children to consider how they are racists. This issue is among the topics constructively explored.

This is a much better crafted plan for how schools should address the issue of racism in America than the regulation put out by the Saratoga Springs School Board. I hope they will become aware of this piece and reevaluate what they have adopted.

It is a long and extensive piece that deserves reading. Here are extracts I found helpful, particularly #1.

City Cuts Ribbon Celebrating Saratoga Pride (LGBQ+)

Commissioner of Public Safety, Robin Dalton, worked with Saratoga Pride to create a colorful crosswalk celebrating Saratoga Springs’ Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, And Others (LGBTQ+) community.

Saratoga Pride

According to their website:

Saratoga Pride is a welcoming community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people and our allies in the greater Saratoga Springs area. We invite you to join us for social and informational events and entertainment, and to look to us for LGBTQ resources, networking and advocacy.

Saratoga Pride is a network of LGBTQ community members and allies dedicated to:

  • Fostering connections among Saratoga area LGBTQ community members and visitors
  • Enhancing the visibility of the LGBTQ community in Saratoga and the surrounding region
  • Recognizing local businesses and organizations that welcome the LGBTQ community
  • Increasing awareness of LGBTQ-owned and inclusive businesses and services in the region.

The Project

The project was funded by private donors and the Adirondack Trust Community Fund.

Commissioner Dalton was enthusiastic about the large turn out for the ribbon cutting for the crosswalk. She stated, “I’m so pleased I was able to work with Saratoga Pride to facilitate this project, a simple yet powerful message of our warm and welcoming community and show of ongoing support for our LQBTQ+ Saratogians.”

From left to right are Trieste Cordova, Cindy Swadba, and Commissioner Dalton. These women along with Steve Rosenblum worked on the project.

Ms. Trieste did all the graphic design for the promotional materials and signs and was one of the spokespersons for the event.

On the left is Steve Rosenblum.

To the left of Commissioner Dalton is Congressman Paul Tonko. To her right is Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan. To Commissioner Madigan’s left is Supervisor Tara Gaston.

Julia Dunn of Channel 6 News was the emcee.

The following people were in attendance:

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner

Supervisor Matt Veitch

Town of Milton Supervisor Benny Zlotnick

Deputy Commissioner of Finance, Deidra Ladd

Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, Eileen Finneran

Nathaniel Gray (on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo)

Dr. Marc Conner, President of Skidmore College

Caroline Putnam on behalf of the Adirondack Trust Community Fund

Controversy Over Legality Of Crosswalk

There was some controversy over whether the crosswalk violated the New York State Department of Transportation requirements.

This is the story from channel 10 news.

This was the story as covered by Channel 13.

Mayor Appoints Advisory Committee To Assist In Implementing Police Reform

Another good article from the Foothills Business Review. This time it is on the appointment of the three member Police Reform Advisory Committee by Mayor Kelly. They will be charged to work with Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton and Police Chief Shane Crooks on implementing the Police Reform Plan the city adopted on March 31.

I would qualify an element of the Foothills Business Review story. Commissioner Dalton does not oppose a civilian review board. As she explained to me, she is concerned that were such a board established that potential issues of conflict with existing union contracts and the city’s charter be carefully considered. She expressed confidence in the three people appointed by Mayor Kelly and police Chief Crooks to explore the issues thoroughly and to provide good guidance to the Council as to how to proceed.

The appointments are Charles “Chuck” Caputo, Jason Golub, and Kimberly Galvin. All three served on the original task force. Jason Golub co-chaired it.

Link to story.