The media coverage of the conflict between the local Black Lives Matter group and the Saratoga Springs City Council and Police Department has portrayed the city as arrogant and intransigent. An innocent observer would believe that the City Council and Police Department have been unwilling to engage thoughtfully with a group seeking racial justice. In fact, for roughly two years BLM has had ample opportunity to sit down and meet with the members of the City Council and the Police, and has chosen not to.
While it is not easy to write about a highly charged story such as this, the public has in general been ill served by recent reporting.
The September 24 edition of the Foothills Business Daily (FBD) represents a clear example of this problem. The reporter writes:
The fallout from the arrests that began on Sept. 7 has meant that BLM Saratoga will not enter into a mediated discussion with Saratoga Springs city officials.Foothills Business Review (FHBR)
So the article states, as if fact, that the recent arrests of members of the local Black Lives Matter group is the reason they will not participate in mediation. This narrative implies that had there been no arrests, mediation would have gone forward. As we shall see there is plenty of evidence that BLM never intended to engage in mediation regardless of what events unfolded.
A more accurate story would have avoided inserting assumptions made by the writer and simply stated that Samira Sangere, a leader of the BLM group, speaking at the September City Council meeting, had declared that there would be no mediation unless the charges against the members of her group were dropped.
How Can One Negotiate With Evil?
Members of the City Council and the leadership of the Police Department have repeatedly reached out to BLM, and BLM has never demonstrated a serious interest in engaging. The reality is that BLM has only “engaged” with the Council and the Police through the news media, during the public comment period at City Council meetings, and during their demonstrations. For roughly two years they have had ample opportunities to sit down and meet with the members of the City Council and the Police in situations that would have been more conducive to productive conversations, and they have chosen not to.
The BLM leadership has made crystal clear that they think Council members and the Police are unredeemable, hard core racists. Their message has been repeated over and over again in chants in the streets calling the Police murderers and in repeated condemnations of City Council members in the media and in person at City Council meetings.
So there is a certain logic to their refusal to sit down to talk with city officials. If the Council and the Police are hardened racists, what point is there to meet with them outside of the public spotlight because nothing can come of it.
This explains to some extent their actions at Council meetings. The statements made to the Council are really meant to tell the public what a bankrupt institution our city government is and not to move a conversation about reform forward.
Attempts to Reach Out: Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton
In June of 2020, Commissioner Dalton began reaching out to the BLM leadership about meeting. Things looked promising as the Facebook page from this period reflects. There seemed to be some real interest in meeting. Unfortunately, BLM withdrew. Based on the thread it appears that for some reason Dillon Moran worked to undermine engagement. In fact, Mr. Moran is wrong in saying that the Commissioner and the Chief were required specifically to set up a meeting. The Governor’s executive order simply required the City Council to seek input which was accomplished by the establishment of the Police Reform Task Force.
In July, the following month, Commissioner Dalton and Police Chief Shane Crooks set up a Zoom event which they described as Community Conversation/Active Listening. The event devolved into a medium for the BLM participants to shout invectives at Commissioner Dalton and Chief Crooks. It ended with the image below where some of the BLM people can be seen giving the middle finger.
Subsequently Commissioner Dalton gave Mr. Figuereo her cell phone number hoping to establish an effective dialogue. Consider these texts from May and July of this year from Commissioner Dalton’s cell phone. Mr. Figuereo’s text is the first one in black and white, the rest come from Commissioner Dalton. What follows are messages from May and July where Commissioner Dalton reaches out to Figuereo, and he is unresponsive.
Finance Commissioner Madigan’s Failed Quest
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan made a valiant attempt to set up a mediated meeting with the leadership of BLM. For weeks she continually called and texted Lexis Figuereo in a vain attempt to set up a mediated meeting.
Given the acrimonious and heated events that marked BLM’s participation at City Council meetings, Commissioner Madigan understandably felt it was important to involve a professional mediator. An unstructured meeting, it was feared, would have been just another event full of rage and invective.
The following is a thread of texts and unanswered calls in which she chases Lexis Figuereo trying to make the mediation happen. Somehow, Mr. Figuereo can never get back to her to commit to a meeting.
More Attempts to Reach Out: Police Chief Shane Crooks
Chief Crooks had Lieutenant Robert Jillson reached out to Mr. Figuereo offering to meet with him on multiple occasions. Mr. Figuereo acknowledged this publicly at one point saying he would meet when he was ready. Mr. Figuereo ended up responding to their repeated attempts by telling them to stop calling him.
Lieutenant Thomas Mitchell extended the offer on Chief Crooks’ behalf at a City Council meeting to meet with Mr. Figuereo to no avail.
Chief Crooks told me that he approached Mr. Figuereo at a meeting of the Police Reform Task Force and Mr. Figuereo simply turned and walked away.
Mayor Meg Kelly
Mayor Kelly told me that Mr. Figuereo has never reached out to meet with her.