BLM Activists’ Illusions Will Not Survive This Administration
The Saratoga Springs Black Lives Matter activists have been living an illusion that with new officeholders on the City Council, the Civilian Review Board (CRB)would be established quickly and that they would be central to its operation. The slate of Democrats who won this fall cynically exploited this fantasy in their quest for office.
BLM , having invested in the newly elected Democrats, continue to cling to this illusion. That dream is already in jeopardy.
It is likely that the Democrats will eventually adopt a CRB, and it may actually have merit, but it won’t be soon and its design will, in all likelihood, be a bitter pill for the BLM activists to swallow.
Adopt All the Police Reform Task Force’s Fifty Recommendations!
Promotion By MLK Saratoga In 2021
In the year running up to the November election, the BLM activists’ message to the City Council was simple. They wanted the Police Reform Task Force’s fifty recommendations all adopted exactly as written and fully implemented. A particular emphasis was put on adopting the plan for a Civilian Review Board contained in the document.
Mayor Kelly’s administration’s caution over elements of the Task Force’s recommendations, including concerns over the legality of some of the proposals, was dismissed as racist stonewalling.
Chandler Hickenbottom, a young Black woman who has helped organize Black Lives Matter asserted:
“They [JK: The Task Force] worked seven months to give you [JK: the City Council] a plan that was flawless! A Hail Mary! And you don’t even know how to take it gracefully. It’s disgusting, honestly.WAMC March 31, 2021
“If the city council doesn’t ratify all 50, here’s what’s gonna happen – we’re gonna get sued. The city is going to get sued…We’re going to have to hire lawyers and the taxpayers are essentially going to be on the hook for essentially not following the law. We need to follow the law here,” said [Ron] Kim. [JK: Of course, the lawsuits never materialized]WAMC March 31, 2021
From MLK Saratoga “Tell the City Council to ADOPT the task forces recommendation (sic) AS IS!
While the Counci voted to accept a majority of the Task Force’s recommendations, it singled out some provisions for further study including the Civilian Review Board proposal. Mayor Kelly subsequently established an Independent Advisory Committee to review these items and make recommendations to the Council for implementation.
Task Force Chairman Jason Golub served on the Advisory Committee and developed a proposal for a CRB with Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton. Their proposal was presented to the Council in October and was heavily criticized by BLM and their supporters. It failed to gain the support of the Council.
The Democratic slate in the November City Council election cynically played to BLM’s desire to establish a CRB in the city. On his campaign page, for instance, Ron Kim stated that he “fully supports the recommendations of the City Police Reform Task Force, including the Civilian Review Board and will implement these recommendations.”
On election night BLM members joined in the celebration of the newly elected Democratic members of the Council.
Montagnino’s Remarks: It’s Complicated
At the February 1, 2022, City Council meeting, newly elected Commissioner of Public Safety James Montagnino offered reservations about several aspects of the Police Reform Task Force’s Civilian Review Board provisions.
Commissioner Montagnino is intelligent, well-spoken, and as a retired attorney, enjoys a broad knowledge of New York State law.
He cited a serious problem with a stipulation in the Task Force’s proposal that would have required complainants to engage in mediation. He also expressed reservations about the requirement that the proceedings of the CRB would be based on “standard rules of evidence.”
These concerns were thoughtful and compelling.
This is a video of his remarks.
Of all the members of the Council, Commissioner Montagnino seems the ablest to craft an ordinance to bring the concept of a CRB into existence. His work will no doubt require, however, the assistance of a City Attorney who is familiar with how to craft local laws and is familiar with aspects of the city charter that may come into play.
The central point here, though, is that Montagnino’s reservations subvert the myth that the Police Reform Task Force’s recommendations can simply be adopted whole, as written, as BLM demanded and the candidates promised. So much for campaign promises.
A Sad Excuse For A Public Hearing
In an earlier post, I reported that Commissioner Montagnino had ignored emails inquiring about what specific CRB proposal the hearing was about. Not surprisingly, in contrast to all other Council hearings on CRB proposals, that went on for an hour or more as dozens spoke, this hearing was poorly attended and brief. A total of five people spoke. Only three of them were BLM activists, and they had little to say except that they wanted the CRB established quickly. BLM member Angela Kaufman urged the inclusion of a homeless person and a formerly incarcerated person on the board.
The BLM speakers appeared oblivious to the contradiction between their past stance that all the recommendations from the Task Force be adopted as is and the fact that changes were now under serious consideration.
It Ain’t That Easy
Now that they are in office the newly elected Council members have lost their rush to action. Montagnino is planning more hearings and has yet to present a specific proposal for the Council and the public to consider.
In fact, just as City Attorney DeLeonardis had warned, crafting an effective ordinance turns out to be very complicated. The reality of New York State Municipal Law along with union contracts, the city charter, and privacy issues may not produce a CRB that meets the expectations of BLM in the timeframe BLM is expecting.
Mayor Kim and Commissioner Montagnino actually tried to enlist Jason Gollub to write an ordinance. Gollub chaired Mayor Kelly’s Police Reform Task Force and had helped craft Commissioner Dalton’s failed proposal. He declined.
There is pressure on the Council to at least appear to be doing something. Nothing like a poorly defined public hearing to create the appearance of action.
Transparency Is About Responding To Reasonable Inquiries
In hopes of getting greater clarity on what the path ahead to a CRB and other BLM concerns looks like, I have written to Commissioner Montagnino asking the following questions:
- What is your projected timeline for creating the CRB?
- Who will write the ordinance establishing it?
- When do you anticipate releasing your report on the Darryl Mount case?
These are obvious and basic questions. Everyone from the police union to Black Lives Matter would agree that these deserve an answer.
So far, Commissioner Montagnino has not responded to my email, but he has told the print media that his report on the Mount case will be out shortly.
Commissioner Montagnino’s failure to respond to these basic questions is disappointing.