Council Mandates Masks For Staff And Visitors In City Hall

Public Works Commissioner Scirocco (R) introduced a City Council resolution requiring all employees and visitors, including those vaccinated, to wear face masks in city buildings including City Hall and the Rec Center. It passed unanimously.

Quite a contrast to the county which refused to mandate mask wearing even in county facilities and left that up to “personal choice”.

Scott Presler Appearance at Saratoga-Wilton Elks Canceled

After right wing extremist Scott Presler’s appearance sponsored by the Saratoga County GOP and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R) was canceled, the Upstate Conservative Coalition rescheduled him to appear at the end of the month at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Club. Now that appearance has also been canceled.

According to Lucas Willard ‘s report on WAMC the Elks Club issued a press release that said in part:

“Without going into specific criticisms of Mr. Presler and certain controversial beliefs espoused by him, the Saratoga-Wilton Elks hold that such beliefs advocated by Mr. Presler are contrary to one or more of the cardinal principles of our Order. Our Lodge has therefore respectfully communicated to the Upstate Conservative Coalition that Scott Presler is not welcome on our premises.”

County Republicans Cancel Scott Presler Rally

The political rally scheduled for Wednesday featuring right wing extremist Scott Presler and sponsored by the Saratoga County Republicans and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R) has been canceled.

Saratoga County Republican Chair Carl Zeilman told the Times Union that “a case of COVID in RISE PAC, of which Presler is a member, forced the cancellation.” If, dear reader, this sounds suspicious you are correct. I am told by an impeccably reliable source that the County Republicans have been in disarray over the week end over the push back to Presler’s scheduled appearance and bowed to the political pressure. It is unfortunate that rather than discuss the real reasons for the cancellation, Zeilman chose to go with the phony COVID excuse.

In spite of this cancellation the TU reports that Presler is still expected to come to Saratoga County. David Buchyn, political director of the Upstate Conservative Coalition, has scheduled Presler to speak at the Elk’s Club in Wilton at the end of the month.

Saratoga County Republican Party Goes All In On Alt Right Conspiracy Myths

By supporting a “get out the vote rally” in Wilton featuring Scott Presler the Saratoga County Republicans have embraced the far right conspiracy theorists. Presler has a long history of involvement in extremist activities including the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. This is a link to a story about Mr. Presler. The rally was supposed to feature a joint appearance of Presler with Rep. Elise Stefanik. While Stefanik is sponsoring and promoting the rally and has heaped praise on Presler, she apparently now will not actually attend the event on Wednesday.

Make no mistake, Mr. Presler is the real thing in the “stop the steal” universe.

I was made aware of the event and of Scott Presler when I received a release from mayoral candidate, Robin Dalton.

I subsequently emailed the Republican endorsed candidates for Saratoga Springs City Council along with the city Republican chairman Chris Obstarczyk.

Neither Chairman Obstarczyk nor any of the Republican endorsed candidates for city offices are planning to attend the event. I have included their responses to my query below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 20th, 2021

‘This is not Patriotism’ – Dalton Condemns Actions of Saratoga County GOP


(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY) The Saratoga County Republican Committee has announced they are hosting a ‘Rally & Voter Registration Drive’ next week in Saratoga featuring ‘American Patriot’ Scott Presler.


Scott Presler is NOT an American patriot.


Scott Presler is an extremist political activist who promotes the most insidious forms of hatred and bigotry. He has collaborated with neo-nazis, supports eradicating Muslims as a people and denigrates our democracy by continuing to rally and promote ‘Stop the Steal’ events. He denies COVID and supports Qanon conspiracy theories.


Is this how the Saratoga County GOP defines patriotism?


“In the strongest possible terms, I reject the hatred being invited into our community. Scott Presler’s alt-right facism is not welcome here, not today, not tomorrow, not in our city, not in our America” said Dalton, calling on all Saratoga Springs political candidates to reject this event and affirm that hate has no place in our home.
WWW.ONECITYONEFUTURE.COM

Commissioner Robin Dalton

Heidi Owen West

Um, no . . . I didn’t even know about the event until Ron Kim tagged me in his post. I am out of town on a combined vacation/ work trip until Travers the 28th when I’ll need to be working at the shop. 


JoAnne Kiernan

Hi John

I will not be attending the event

Regards

JoAnne Kiernan 


Samantha Guerra

No, I will not be attending the event with Scott Presler. I have never even heard of him until seeing all the bashing posts on social media. 

Samantha Guerra 


Tracey LaBelle

Hi John,

I will not be attending this event. Please let me if you have any other questions.

Happy Saturday,

Tracey


Skip Scirocco

Definitely not.


Chris Obstarczyk

Good morning John. I do not plan on attending

Commissioner Madigan Pushes Back On Planning Board’s Advice about Protecting the Greenbelt

On Tuesday, August 17, 2021, the City Council held its third UDO workshop. Part of the discussion was about the Planning Board’s advisory opinion regarding the UDO.

Commissioner Madigan, formerly a Democrat and now a member of the Working Families Party, made it clear that she felt the Planning Board’s recommendations regarding specifically allowed land uses in the Greenbelt were excessively restrictive.

Following are parts of the advisory opinion sent to the Council by the Planning Board (PB) :

  1. PB opposes allowing a “community center” as an approved use in the greenbelt.
  2. PB opposes a “campground” as an approved use in the greenbelt.
  3. The PB found that the definition of “country club” was particularly vague and subject to abuse. The advisory opinion stated: “It should be noted that “Clubhouse” as a distinct use is not proposed for inclusion in the UDO and the Planning Board sees no compelling reason to establish a definition for such use.”
  4. The PB advocated that in order to protect the greenbelt the definition for a “marina” required restrictive language in order to keep such uses compatible with its rural character.

Commissioner Madigan pushed back on all these items. She expressed concern that such policies would in effect be unnecessarily restrictive for the greenbelt.

She also told the Council that she was working with Stewarts regarding its proposals for the area around Marion Avenue and Route 50. This in spite of the fact that the proposal was opposed by many of the neighbors and rejected by the Planning Board .

At one point Commissioner Madigan and Commissioner Scirocco engaged in a congenial exchange. Counter to the assumptions often made about Democrats and Republicans in this city, it was the Republican Council member Skip Scirocco who spoke strongly about the value of having restrictive regulations in order to protect what was left of the greenbelt.

Who’s Contributing to Mayoral Candidates in Saratoga Springs?

In an excellent article in the August 15, 2021, edition of the Daily Gazette, reporter, Zachary Matson wrote a summary of the campaign contributions made to the candidates running for mayor in Saratoga Springs. A complete list of contributors appears at the end of this post. [Some people using cell phones may have difficulty reading these tables.]

Heidi Owen West, a registered independent running for mayor who has been endorsed by the Saratoga Springs Republican Party, was the top fundraiser with around $40,000.00 in income. She reported having more than $33,000.00 on hand.

Ron Kim, the Democratic candidate for mayor raised some $23,000.00 but has an available balance of less than $9,000.00. Among other expenses he paid political consultant Libby Post $9,600.00,

Robin Dalton, who is running on an independent line for mayor, raised over $10,000.00 and spent $2,700 leaving her currently with a balance of just over $7,300.00.

Ron Kim Doubles Down

The Daily Gazette quoted Ron Kim as saying:

“The Republicans always raise more money,” Kim said Friday. “We are going to be competitive, but that’s just the way Republicans roll, and Heidi is a Republican, we can’t forget that…. Her base is Republicans and if she gets elected, the bill will come due.”

August 15, 2021 Daily Gazette

I find it hard to understand how it is that Ron Kim keeps issuing statements erroneously identifying Heidi Owen West as a Republican. While Ms. Owen West was endorsed by the Republican Party she is a registered independent.

One has to ask, how is it that Mr. Kim who is a lawyer, can repeatedly misstate Ms. Owen West’s party registration. Her campaign has emphasized her registration, and it is difficult to believe that Mr. Kim is unaware of it. Do he and his political consultant, Libby Post, think that misrepresenting her registration to more closely associate her with the Republican Party is a winning strategy? The voters in our city are pretty sophisticated and it is hard to believe that this strategy will not create more problems for his campaign than it will benefit it.

Heidi Owen West’s Contributions

Ms. Owen West’s husband owns Olde Saratoga Restorations. The Daily Gazette article observed she received significant contributions from the building industry.

EntityNameFirstNameMiddleNameLastNameAmount
DANIELRKumlander$50.00
SandraREng-Caulfield$1,000.00
Sandra Lewis$1,000.00
JohnFBaker$250.00
RonaldFOwen$500.00
KeithJPowers$1,000.00
TomLLewis$250.00
LeePokoik$500.00
PamelaNAbrams$1,000.00
TomRoohan$500.00
MichaelGCaimano$50.00
Brian DBrumley$500.00
JosephLGullion$1,000.00
JulieChlopecki$1,000.00
CHARLESVWAIT$1,000.00
MikeSmith$60.00
JamesBDorsey$500.00
WilliamRMorehouse$1,000.00
NancyEDwyer$95.00
KathrynWest$1,000.00
KeeleyArdman Desalvo$1,000.00
GloriaMenustik$1,000.00
JudyAHarrigan$150.00
JohnCarroll$50.00
CarolVGurney$200.00
KrisEHerchenroder$1,000.00
MichaelRWoytowich$100.00
KittyTally$100.00
MartinGFerrillo Do$1,000.00
Mary LouRWait$200.00
JudithNeedham$1,000.00
NoelSmith$250.00
AnneLVan Acker$40.00
MattAmodeo$300.00
MaureenRLewi$100.00
MaryEClark$30.00
RobertLTarrant$50.00
JamesMHill$100.00
DebraCDann$100.00
BruceHBradigan$100.00
LezlieRDana$50.00
TracySchwab$500.00
SandraDuffy$250.00
RudyDeFelice$250.00
SueAllerdice$1,000.00
PatriciaJenkins$1,000.00
PeterRCopeletti$100.00
JohnRHendrickson$5,000.00
JamesLee$100.00
ChrisHebert$100.00
CateRBrizzell$25.00
AmberBriscoe$250.00
ClaudinaRAshelman$25.00
MichaelRBillok$125.00
AlessandraRHall$250.00
MelissaRZieker$100.00
NinkiRCarroll$50.00
BetsyWest$1,000.00
W. J. Morris Excavating, Inc.$500.00
Old Saratoga Restorations, Inc.$1,000.00
Teakwood Builders, Inc.$1,000.00
Walbridge Building Inc.$350.00
B & B Plumbing Inc.$500.00
9 Miles East Saratoga LLC$520.00
Old World Roofing, LLC$1,000.00
Balzer Tuck Architecture, PLLC$500.00
A.L.L. Wood Floors, LLC$1,000.00
New Colony LLC$500.00
Friends Of Kathy Marchione Committee$200.00
Morgan Construction Services LLC$1,000.00
Lance Plumbing LLC$350.00
NickWilock$80.00
Media News Group-$1,942.00
Brian Murphy-$578.19
Print Graphics-$682.66
Nick Wilock-$270.27
Nick Wilock-$60.00
Advantage Press-$686.41
Adirondack Trust Company-$15.50
USPS-$550.00
Aristotle-$232.50
Aristotle-$375.00
Aristotle-$15.00
Aristotle-$1.87
Aristotle-$20.62
Aristotle-$9.37
HeidiROwen West$5,000.00
John Hendrickson-$4,000.00
HeidiROwen West$5,000.00
GordonSachs$520.00
LeePokoik$500.00
WilliamLittlejohn$1,000.00
BrettBalzer$500.00
TomHarrinton$1,000.00
RoyLance$350.00
MikeRMorgan$1,000.00
Contributions To Heidi Owen West

Robin Dalton’s Contributions

EntityNameFirstNameLastNameAmount
RobinDalton$20.00
ZavenYarmunian$300.00
RobinDalton$10.00
RobinDalton$4.00
JaredCantanucci$1,000.00
AmyCantanucci$1,000.00
JerryRedfield$200.00
LianaDoyle$1,000.00
JoshDoyle$1,000.00
WendyTaylor$10.00
MollieKavanagh$50.00
DavidAppel$200.00
M. KathrynGorman$100.00
AndreaLarlan$100.00
$30.00
JoannaZangrando$100.00
MatthewJones$250.00
GloriaDalton$500.00
EileenFinneran$200.00
AngeloCalbone$100.00
KathleenWilson$25.00
BarbaraCapone$25.00
MarthaWeihe$100.00
ChristopherDolinsky$1,000.00
GayleLaSalle$25.00
FrankSpensieri$50.00
CaraghFahy$300.00
MarthaStrohl$250.00
JennyMirling$100.00
MeganDurckman$500.00
LianaDoyle$100.00
MeaganLyons$100.00
CharlesDonath$25.00
DavidMyers$1,000.00
Forward Ventures, LLC$150.00
MiriamScarborough$100.00
MiriamScarborough$100.00
SurveyPlanet-$20.00
SurveyPlanet-$20.00
Matthew Taylor-$500.00
Matthew Taylor-$175.00
Adirondack Trust Company – Deluxe Check-$15.50
Zazzle.com-$39.95
Zazzle.com-$97.72
Zazzle.com-$104.33
Zazzle.com-$210.88
Office Depot, Inc.-$54.08
Hattie’s-$608.00
Hattie’s-$254.00
Morrisey’s at Adelphi-$85.69
Rebel Idealist LLC-$8.00
-$15.08
-$13.50
-$0.73
-$1.82
-$0.73
-$4.37
-$0.18
-$7.27
-$50.00
-$0.77
-$0.07
-$0.36
-$0.73
FACEBOOK-$111.06
WIX.COM-$20.86
WIX.COM-$218.28
WIX.COM-$3.00
Staples -$48.14
Staples -$50.60
Staples -$32.09
PatrickPipino$150.00
Contributions To Robin Dalton

Ron Kim’s Contributions

EntityNameFirstNameLastNameAmount
MarjorieMartin$100.00
JeffAltimari$500.00
ThomasMcTygue$250.00
SandraMcTygue$250.00
WilliamMcTygue$150.00
$50.00
PatriciaMorrison$250.00
FriedaHammond-Carmer$250.00
PatriciaTuz$500.00
CindyChu$200.00
JulieCuneo$250.00
ChungchinChen$100.00
HsinpangWang$500.00
DaisyLin$100.00
FeiHan$100.00
ShaopengLiu$200.00
BinDu$100.00
RiponRoy$100.00
JenniferZhao$150.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$25.00
KerryConley$200.00
MichelleOstrelich$250.00
JianzhongTang$150.00
GangWong$100.00
AliyaSaeed$200.00
QunLin$750.00
MichaelFondacaro$100.00
LiZhang$100.00
LiliKuo$250.00
MinfengXu$100.00
InbongKang$100.00
CongLi$100.00
MarthaMacGregor$250.00
LillianMoy$250.00
GordonBoyd$500.00
SusanCohen$200.00
ValerieKeehn$250.00
AndrewMcAdoo$100.00
MatthewCohen$100.00
BarbaraRivera$100.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$50.00
$75.00
$50.00
$60.00
$75.00
$30.00
PatriciaMorrison$100.00
EleanoraKim$500.00
WarrenDart$250.00
JosephSeeman$25.00
$50.00
$25.00
DillonMoran$100.00
BahramKeramati$200.00
OtisMaxwell$100.00
AlOrmsby$500.00
JosephSeeman$100.00
WilliamMcTygue$100.00
PatrickDiggins$500.00
GuyRoemer$100.00
ValerieCottrell$100.00
MaryFlaherty$500.00
DavidMastrianni$100.00
JeffDaly$200.00
HelenSchwarz-Lawton$100.00
JillKolbe$500.00
EllenEgger-Aimone$100.00
JanetSt. Clair$250.00
HollydayHammond$100.00
ShaunWiggins$100.00
JoachimBergmann$100.00
GeorgeCarlson Jr.$100.00
SarahBurger$250.00
JaimeButler$250.00
FRIENDS OF KENDALL HICKS$314.92
SCH PAC$500.00
FRIENDS OF JIM MONTAGNINO$250.00
$50.00
JXC Enterprises LLC$100.00
FRIENDS OF PETER MARTIN$500.00
Citizens For Franck$500.00
Binglin Real Estate, LLC$100.00
Law Offices of Ronald J. Kim, P.C.$312.00
Law Offices of Ronald J. Kim, P.C.$118.08
Law Offices of Ronald J. Kim, P.C.$515.00
Law Offices of Ronald J. Kim, P.C.$220.00
Law Offices of Ronald J. Kim, P.C.$52.41
Law Offices of Ronald J. Kim, P.C.$74.82
JoanneYepsen$250.00
Jonah Cohen-$312.50
Jonah Cohen-$312.50
Jonah Cohen-$650.00
Jonah Cohen-$650.00
SARATOGA CASINO HOTEL-$879.54
Progressive Elections, LlcSheilaHealy-$4,580.00
Progressive Elections, LlcSheilaHealy-$3,500.00
Progressive Elections, LlcSheilaHealy-$1,587.32
Advantage Press-$492.20
RonaldKim$4,500.00
RonaldKim$4,500.00
BinglinLi$100.00
JaneChen$100.00
Contributions To Ron Kim

Planning Board’s Advisory Opinion Suggests Changes In UDO

The Planning Board (PB) issued their advisory opinion regarding the Unified Development Ordinance, the UDO:

They found “…that the UDO is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and not contrary to the general purposes and intent of the Zoning Ordinance” with a number of exceptions.

The GCR District: The Southern Gateway To the City

The GCR zoning district constitutes two narrow strips along South Broadway. The GCR is identified as a gateway to the city.

The two strips of land are located between Crescent Avenue and Driscoll Road running along Route 9. They are separated by Spa State Park.

The Planning Board was concerned that the proposed “.. GCR district abuts many areas defined as Rural Residential (RR) [JK: Greenbelt] within the Comprehensive Plan’s Conservation Development District (CDD) and an unlimited residential density limit is not appropriate.”

I think this represents their concern that the development in the GCR be designed so that it transitions appropriately into the greenbelt area.

They offered the following revisions to the UDO regarding the gateway land.

  • Maintain residential uses only on the second floor and above
  • Establish a maximum residential density limit appropriate for a rural gateway
  • Remove residential uses as principal permitted uses

The Planning Board also took exception to the list of approved uses for the GCR. The following table includes the currently proposed uses for the GCR. Highlighted in green are the uses the Planning Board considers appropriate.

Marion Avenue

There are two parcels of land on the eastside of Marion Avenue near Loughberry Lake that are located within the conservation district. In the UDO these parcels are designated as UR-2. According to the Planning Board they are within the conservation district (Green Belt) and should be designated CDD.

“Both parcels should be changed from UR-2 (7 units/acre) to RR (0.5 units/acre).”

Expanded Protection For The Greenbelt

Without going too far into the weeds…

The Comprehensive Plan as regards the greenbelt requires that density not exceed an average of one unit per two acres. There is an important caveat. In determining this average, wetlands, slopes, buffers to protect water, etc. must be identified and excluded. So a parcel that has four acres but encompasses two acres of wetland would only be allowed one unit.

The advisory opinion includes this note which is a pretty good description of the issue.

The maximum density in the CDD is an average of 0.5 Units/Acre of unconstrained land. Unconstrained lands are areas of the site that do not contain severe constraints to development, such as wetlands, very steep slopes, stream corridors, and floodplains, as well as lands with legal impediments to development. Following a “conservation analysis” by the City, constrained lands, along with at least 50 percent of the site’s developable open space, shall be set aside as permanent open space through a conservation easement.

Advisory Opinion

The UDO currently only requires this analysis for subdivisions. The Planning Board would expand this to include “…all proposed development projects that require site plan and special use permit review in the SR and RR districts.

The UDO included a list of approved uses for development in the city’s greenbelt.

The Planning Board finds that the following proposed new uses are too intense and recommends their removal from the RR zone: ‘campground’ and ‘community center’.

The Planning Board recommends revisions to the definitions and standards for ‘country club’, ‘greenhouse/nursery’ and ‘marina’ to ensure that these potentially intensive existing uses are consistent with the CDD designation going forward. The Planning Board is wiling to coordinate with other stakeholders to develop appropriate definitions for these uses and offers the following high-level guidance:

Country Club: The proposed definition in the UDO is too broad and the last portion of the sentence – “and/or similar uses” – should be removed.

Greenhouse/Nursery: The proposed definition should reflect a design standard for a small-scale plant/flower propagation center similar in character to Balet Flowers and Design.

Marina: The standard design and layout of a typical marina may need to be modified within the RR zone (CDD area) in areas that abut public land and where nature trails and protected open space is envisioned.

Advisory Opinion

Strengthen the Process to Protect Open Space

The city’s Sustainability Coordinator and the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC) should be consulted on all future projects within CDD designated areas that require Planning Board review.

• It is essential to establish an appropriate definition for “rural character” that supports future development in a manner consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

• Increase the minimum required lot size in the RR zone to 5 acres. In addition, consider conducting a full build-out analysis for the remaining undeveloped lands throughout the city to inform future zoning decisions.

Advisory Opinion

Emphasize Setting Aside Open Space Rather Than Fees

The Planning Board has an opportunity to improve its ability to preserve open space. Both subdivision and site plan review include provisions to protect open space by requiring applicants to set aside space for passive and/or recreational use. To date, the Planning Board has typically focused on assessing recreational fees in lieu of requiring open space as a matter of standard practice. Going forward the default position should be focused on open space protection. The recommendations provided by Tom Denny (letter dated June 3rd, 2021) to the Planning Board regarding Section 15.8 (10% Open Space Preservation and Recreation Land Requirement) should be incorporated into the final version of the adopted UDO.

• Sketch Plan should be required before Site Plan review for all large mixed-use projects exceeding 50,000 sq. ft.

Advisory Opinion

Planning Board Response To Commissioner Madigan Re Saratoga National Golf Course and Land Owned By Bobby D’Andrea

Commissioner Michele Madigan asked the Planning Board to advise regarding two issues:

1) the split zoned parcels (RR and GCR) on South Broadway near Kaydeross Avenue West and

2) the definition of “Clubhouse” w/r/t a potential Saratoga National Golf Course project.

Question 1

“Provide a recommendation on making these parcels whole in terms of their zoning and development use”.

Ans: The split zoned parcels are zoned GCR adjacent to South Broadway and RR to the “rear” towards Spa State Park. Making the parcels “whole” could mean one of two things, expansion of the GCR or expansion of the RR designation for the entirety of each parcel. It is assumed that the question is referring to potential expansion of the GCR.

Pros

• Provide more flexibility and encourage commercial development along the gateway.

Cons

• Reduction in open space and elimination of a conservation analysis for new development.

• Substantial increase in the number/types of uses allowed in what is now an RR zone.

The approval of the “Just Cats” project suggests this zoning change may be unnecessary to promote commercial activity along the gateway

Question 2

“I would like to see a definition for a Clubhouse more clearly defined by the Planning Board and the City Council”.

Ans: As previously stated, the Planning Board recognizes the need for continued/periodic review to improve the clarity of the definitions for many of the proposed uses in the RR district and is specifically concerned with the definition of the term “Clubhouse” as included in Commissioner Madigan’s letter. Introducing additional uses such as banquet facilities, business center, lodging for up to 100 rooms and up to 6 free standing golf lodges, containing up to 8 guest rooms with associated common space” presents a significant risk to preserving the rural character in the “country” part of the city. It should be noted that “Clubhouse” as a distinct use is not proposed for inclusion in the UDO and the Planning Board sees no compelling reason to establish a definition for such use.

Advisory Opinion

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Defends The Right To Infect Others With COVID

On August 11, 2021, the Daily Gazette reported that a startling 43.4% of new Covid infections recorded in Saratoga County in the last seven days are breakthrough infections –infections afflicting fully vaccinated people.

Statewide the Covid infection rate has risen from 566 in June to 3,222 on August 9.

With great fanfare on July 29, 2021, Saratoga County issued a press release announcing the establishment of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning Task Force in light of the emerging resurgence of Covid . With an eye to branding (and spin), its acronym is SHARP.

As noted in an earlier blog this committee did not emerge from a public process involving the Board of Supervisors’ Health and Social Services Committee. In fact the Health and Social Services Committee had met the day before the announcement so it was especially noteworthy that the Task Force was not mentioned let alone discussed at that committee meeting.

SHARP was established by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Todd Kusnierz (R-Moreau). The mission of SHARP is a bit nebulous. The release states, “The SHARP Task Force will be reviewing guidance issued by other governmental entities, reviewing relevant local data, and providing recommendations and guidance to the Saratoga County community.”

When you consider the makeup of this committee this seems especially odd.

The committee is made up of
Chairman Todd Kusnierz Clifton Park
Supervisor Jonathan Schopf, Vice Chairman of the Board
Malta Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee
County Administrator Steve Bulger
Dr. Dan Kuhles, Commissioner of the Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services
Scot Chamberlain, Saratoga County Director of Human Resources
Pete Bardunias, Senior Vice President of Community Advancement with the Capital Region Chamber
Anita Murphy, Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent

Dr. Kuhles is the only person on the Task Force who would have any expertise regarding the virus. It would seem this advice would be less political and more science based if it were provided through the county Health Department.

I’m not sure why a new task force is required to provide guidance to “the Saratoga County Community”.

In order to better understand what is going on with this Task Force I submitted a FOIL regarding any documents associated with SHARP. The response by the county was one document, the original press release.

I went to the County’s website to find out when the Task Force would be meeting, but there was nothing on their calendar regarding SHARP. I then wrote twice to the clerk of the County Board of Supervisors asking why a meeting of the Task Force was not on their calendar and when they would be meeting. Neither email was answered.

Most troubling to me were two quotes in the release by Supervisor John Schopf:

Saratoga County takes the health and well-being of its residents and employees seriously. At the same time the right of individual thought, decision making, and ultimate choice cannot be overcome by government mandate.”
Supervisor John Schopf

“With our high vaccine rate, we must be strategic and thoughtful in our approach when recommending any new public safety guidance to our communities, schools, businesses and non-profits. We believe in individual responsibility, and we want to keep Saratoga County open for business and continue to be a safe and friendly place to live and visit.
Supervisor John Schopf

So apparently this Task Force that has not met and has not given the public an opportunity for the input it said it would seek, has somehow already decided against the use of mandates as a tool to mitigate the rise in Covid cases in the county.

The need for a healthy public debate on suppressing the virus

It will not surprise the readers of this blog that I have a strong opinion on the issue of mandates and personal responsibility.

At a press conference held at the county on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, Saratoga County Health Department director Dr. Kuhles told those present:

“Masking is known to be an effective layer of prevention in schools and other locations,” Kuhles said. “It prevents the wearer from being exposed when being worn consistently and correctly and it can also act as a type of source control if the wearer of the mask is infected and prevent exposure to others.”
Dr. Dan Kuhles

So the county’s own Commissioner of Health establishes the scientific basis for the need to wear masks.

In light of the threat posed by this virus, I take very strong exception to Mr. Schopf’s assertion that, “…the right of individual thought, decision making, and ultimate choice cannot be overcome by government mandate.”

In fact there are copious examples of mandates in our country regulating an individual’s choice when it may endanger other members of the public. You cannot drink alcohol in excess and drive. You cannot drive as fast as you want on our highways. Municipal noise ordinances restrict the liberty of individuals to annoy their neighbors.

The CDC has made it absolutely clear that wearing a mask is primarily meant to suppress the spread of the disease to others. In other words an individual infected with the virus, even if asymptomatic, who is not wearing a mask and interacts with others has the potential to infect them.

Besides the health affects of this disease, the more people infected the greater the risk that the virus will mutate and become even more dangerous.

Most frustrating to me is that if our government had expeditiously required vaccinations, required masks, and required quarantining for persons identified as infected, we could have crushed this disease and gone back to something approaching normality.

Below is the press release my FOIL produced. Press Release

With Kafka Logic County Announces It Will Not Require Masking At Its Facilities

The following is an email issued by the County Administrator to all county employees on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, and the memorandum attached to it.

I cannot find any record of any Board of Supervisors meeting or committee addressing whether masks should be mandated for the county’s facilities. So much for transparency and democratic procedure.

The attached memorandum contains the following:

While CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in public during periods of substantial or high COVID transmission to reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, at this time no mandate is in place for employees in most county buildings.”

One might foolishly expect that there would be some reason given to explain why they have decided to ignore the CDC recommendation.

County Administrator’s Email And Accompanying Memorandum

From: Steve Bulger <SBulger@saratogacountyny.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 12:33:52 PM
Subject: Covid-19 Employee Update County Employees: Please review the attached information regarding the current Covid-19 situation.   If anything changes we will be sure to keep you informed promptly. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication on behalf of our Saratoga County residents. Steve Bulger Saratoga County Administrator 518-884-4742 sbulger@saratogacountyny.gov

From: Steve Bulger <SBulger@saratogacountyny.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 12:33:52 PM
Subject: Covid-19 Employee Update County Employees:

Please review the attached information regarding the current Covid-19 situation.   If anything changes we will be sure to keep you informed promptly. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication on behalf of our Saratoga County residents.
Steve Bulger Saratoga County Administrator 518-884-4742 sbulger@saratogacountyny.gov

Supervisor Tara Gaston Calls For Masking Of County Employees And Is Unceremoniously Ignored

Back on August 7, 2021, Supervisor Tara Gaston wrote to the members of the Board of Supervisors urging them to require masking. No one responded to her memorandum.

I guess you can characterize the county’s press release that rejects a mask mandate as their response.

From: Tara N Gaston <TNGaston@saratogacountyny.gov>
Subject: Re: RELEASE: SARATOGA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES ISSUES COVID-19 HEALTH ADVISORY
Date: August 7, 2021 at 18:00:39 EDT

To: Therese Connolly <TConnolly@saratogacountyny.gov>, “supervisorwright@townofhadley.org” <supervisorwright@townofhadley.org>, “twood71098@aol.com” <twood71098@aol.com>, Matthew Veitch <mveitch@saratogacountyny.gov>, “ktollisen@townofhalfmoon.org” <ktollisen@townofhalfmoon.org>, “tjr51550@gmail.com” <tjr51550@gmail.com>, “edinburg@roadrunner.com” <edinburg@roadrunner.com>, “billpeckwelcomestockfarm@outlook.com” <billpeckwelcomestockfarm@outlook.com>, “rlucia@townofcorinthny.com” <rlucia@townofcorinthny.com>, “lawlerj@town.waterford.ny.us” <lawlerj@town.waterford.ny.us>, “ekinowski@stillwaterny.org” <ekinowski@stillwaterny.org>, “supervisor@townofcharlton.org” <supervisor@townofcharlton.org>, Jonathan Schopf <jschopf@saratogacountyny.gov>, “providencesupervisor@nycap.rr.com” <providencesupervisor@nycap.rr.com>, Phil Barrett <pbarrett@cliftonpark.org>, “dpemrick@greenfieldny.org” <dpemrick@greenfieldny.org>, “tbrown@stillwaterny.org” <tbrown@stillwaterny.org>, “trussell@townofhalfmoon.org” <trussell@townofhalfmoon.org>, “Theodore T. Kusnierz” <TKusnierz@saratogacountyny.gov>, Thomas Wood <TWood@saratogacountyny.gov>, Darren O’Connor <doconnor@malta-town.org>, Benny Zlotnick <BZlotnick@saratogacountyny.gov>, “Econnolly@townofballstonny.org” <Econnolly@townofballstonny.org>, “jlant@townofwilton.com” <jlant@townofwilton.com>, Dan Pemrick <dpemrick60@gmail.com>, Preston Allen <daysupervisor@townofday.com>, Mike Smith <msmith@townofgalwayny.org>, Robin Renaud <ssec@townofmoreau.org> Cc: Bridget Rider <BRider@saratogacountyny.gov>

Based on the continued increase, and the guidance from this advisory, is there at least an intention to require (not simply recommend) masks in county buildings?  While I know a mandate county-wide is unlikely to occur and would be of dubious effectiveness for a number of reasons, a requirement in county buildings would both help protect county staff that interact with the public and serve as a model for the public more broadly (which is I assume why several county municipalities already have such a requirement in effect). 

Tara N. Gaston | she/her
Supervisor, City of Saratoga Springs
tngaston@saratogacountyny.gov

Tepid Response To Closing City Bars Early from Supervisors Tara Gaston and Matthew Veitch

The Saratoga Springs City Council voted unanimously to request that the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors seek approval from the New York State Liquor Authority to require bars in the city to close by 2 AM rather than the current closing time of 4 AM.

The County and the NYS Liquor Authority, rather than the city, decide the hours that alcohol can be served, and the city’s two representatives to county government do not appear to be supportive of the city’s request.

Fueled by alcohol and an increasingly aggressive and volatile party culture, the late night, downtown bar scene has become difficult to police. Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton told the council, “It’s become clear to us through analytics and arrests that the hours of 2-to-4 a.m. are unquestionably posing a public safety risk to the community at large. We cannot let this public safety threat go on.”

Police Chief Shane Crooks told the council, “We have seen a large increase in calls for service and the number of people. The people we end up dealing with that late at night are highly intoxicated.”

According to the Daily Gazette story, Saratoga Springs’ representatives to the County Board of Supervisors, Tara Gaston(D) and Matthew Veitch(R) were less than enthusiastic about the county acting to address this problem. They cautioned that the process would be protracted. The Gazette reported that “…they [Gaston and Veitch] wanted to hear from bar owners and other stakeholders in what could be a lengthy committee process before forming an opinion of whether the county should approve the city’s request.”

Veitch noted that both the county and state Liquor Authority would have to hold public hearings on a potential change – if the proposal gets that far.

“You are talking several months at a minimum, if it even passes the county,” he said. “We have bars downtown that serve patrons and police and sheriff; there are multiple factors at issue. I’ll keep an open mind and let the process run its course.”

Daily Gazette August 3

The Caroline Street scene has long been problematic, and there have been other appeals from the city to the county over the years to restrict bar hours. All have been rejected by the County Board of Supervisors.

It is troubling that our two Supervisors are apparently unwilling to be advocates on behalf of the city regarding a solution to this ongoing problem.


Gazette Article Gives Excellent Brief History Of Efforts To Change City’s Closing Time For Bars

An Unfortunate Fund Raising Appeal From Ron Kim

Democratic mayoral candidate Ron Kim has sent out a fundraising email (see full text below) that contains some disturbing inaccuracies delivered in a problematic tone.

The email bases its appeal for donations on the alleged threat to Saratoga Springs that his opponent, Heidi Owen West, supposedly poses to the city.

It begins with this ominous warning:

“The January 6 insurrection was 410 miles away in Washington DC but the danger it presented exists right here in Saratoga Springs.”

It continues:

Did you know that members of the Saratoga County GOP organized buses of rioters to travel to the January 6 insurrection?

Did you know that tonight the same group is holding a fundraiser for my opponent, the GOP candidate for mayor Heidi [Owen] West?”

This was simply not true.

First of all, let’s put aside the question of whether the travelers went to Washington with the intent of rioting in the capital. While there were buses that went to Washington in January from this area, they were organized by a group called the Upstate Conservative Coalition (UCC).

I am sure that there were registered Republicans among the travelers, but the group that organized the trip was not the city or county GOP.

Most importantly the UCC had nothing to do with Ms. Owen West’s fundraiser. In fact, while the county Republican Party promoted the event on their Facebook page, Ms. Owen West organized the fundraiser herself, independent of any group. While she is the Republican endorsed candidate for mayor, she is a registered independent voter.

Mr. Kim’s letter then claims the following:

“The GOP is spreading its anti-democracy misinformation and lies -all to the detriment of our city and our way of life here in Saratoga Springs.

Without indicating exactly what misinformation and lies he thinks the GOP is spreading here, he is clearly trying to have the reader associate Ms. Owen West with this alleged threat to “our way of life here in Saratoga Springs”.

While I understand that Mr. Kim’s email is meant to motivate people to send him money, I find his intemperate appeal to fear quite disturbing. In fact, this appeal for money seems to me to mirror the very tactics of spreading misinformation that he attributes to the GOP.

This approach also seems seems politically foolish. The number of enrolled Democrats now exceeds the number of enrolled Republicans in this city. That means Mr. Kim is not the underdog in this race. Why send out a message so clearly based on inaccuracies? It not only damages his credibility but also provides fodder to his opponents.

This city is fortunate to have a highly involved citizenry that I suspect will not react favorably to this kind of over the top campaign tactic.

I reached out to Ms. Owen West. Here is her response:

I am not being funded by any political party. I’m a political independent who is solely being funded by a groundswell of people of all political persuasions.

I’m incredibly humbled by the Saratogians who joined me at my kickoff fundraiser earlier this week because they believe in my ability to deliver on the issues that matter the most to our community.

Heidi Owen West

This is the full text of Mr. Kim’s fundraising appeal.

The January 6 insurrection was 410 miles away in Washington DC but the danger it presented exists right here in Saratoga Springs.

Did you know that members of the Saratoga County GOP organized buses of rioters to travel to the January 6insurrection?

Did you know that tonight the same group is holding a fundraiser for my opponent, the GOP candidate for mayor Heidi West?

The GOP is spreading its anti-democracy misinformation and lies -all to the detriment of our city and our way of life here in Saratoga Springs.

Before midnight tomorrow, we must raise $15,000 because we cannot allow the GOP to out-raise us and out-spend us.

Click here to help me MATCH THE OPPOSITION (to democracy)

I am Ron Kim, an experienced and proven leader with the ability to tackle the tough issues facing our City. As the mayor of Saratoga Springs, on day one, I will work to bring transparency, accountability, and accessibility back to City Hall.