Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim seems to go from one self-inflicted wound to another.
The debacle of his conflict with Judge Jeffery Wait has now been superseded by his new campaign regarding the alleged need to redo the UDO.
At the March 1, 2022, City Council meeting, Mayor Ron Kim asserted to his colleagues and the public that the city’s adoption of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) was so flawed by the actions of the previous administration that it now requires a redo of the process. Unfortunately for Mayor Kim, none of his allegations are true.
Here is a video clip that includes Mayor Kim’s allegations. I have gone through them one by one and what follows is the documentation of his folly.
Video of Mayor Kim’s Allegations
- The UDO lacks an implementation date
In the video of the Council meeting, Mayor Kim alleges that the UDO has no implementation date.
There is an implementation date as indicated from this screenshot from the first page of the UDO posted on the city’s website. There are two items in the UDO document in which the implementation date is also referenced. Clearly, Mayor Kim did not carry out due diligence in studying the document.
2. The UDO was not filed with the New York State Department of State
I have to grant Mayor Kim points for chutzpah. The UDO landed in his lap on January 1, and there it sits. It is his administration that failed to meet the deadline to file. If he is looking for someone to blame, he might consider his own culpability.
The UDO was adopted on December 21, 2021, in the final days of the previous administration. According to the city charter, it was then the responsibility of then Accounts Commissioner John Franck to see that the secretary to the City Council, Lisa Ribis, who works in his office, filed it with the Department of State. By law, the city was required to file the document with the state within twenty days (see below).
When Mayor Kim and the new Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran took office on January 1, the filing had not yet been done. The city still had ten days left to do the filing. Why didn’t the Mayor and Commissioner Moran see that the UDO was properly filed? How is it Vince DeLeonardis’ fault that they failed to fulfill the responsibility that was left to them?
Here is the relevant section from the state’s handbook published to assist municipalities.
Each local law shall be filed with the Secretary of State within 20 days after its final adoption or approval as required by Section 27 of the Municipal Home Rule Law. The cited statute provides that a local law shall not become effective before it is filed in the office of the Secretary of State.From the NYS Department of State’s handbook Adopting Local Laws in New York State
3. The UDO was adopted by a simple motion rather than a written resolution.
Mayor Kim claimed that the previous administration was required to adopt the UDO through a written resolution rather than a verbal one.
It is true that Mayor Kelly, as recorded in the minutes of the Council meeting, simply verbally moved the adoption of the UDO document as published on the city website. There was no written resolution. New York State Law, however, allows a local ordinance to be adopted by an oral motion. There is nothing in New York State statute that requires a written resolution according to the handbook the Department of State provides local municipalities.
If Mayor Kim has a legal basis for this claim, he is welcome to document that on this blog site.
4. The previous zoning was not repealed when the UDO was adopted
Mayor Kim claimed that the city was required to rescind the previous zoning when adopting the UDO and it was required to be in the resolution that adopted it.
Neither is true.
Effect of local laws on acts of legislature or prior local laws or ordinances.
1. In adopting a local law changing or superseding any provision of a state statute or of a prior local law or ordinance, the legislative body shall specify the chapter or local law or ordinance, number and year of enactment, section, subsection or subdivision, which it is intended to change or supersede, but the failure so to specify shall not affect the validity of such local law.
In fact, the city has until the implementation date (April 4, 2022) of the UDO to rescind the previous zoning.
In September of 2021, the city placed a legal advertisement in Saratoga Today announcing their plan to rescind the zoning and the scheduling of a public hearing on it which they held, setting the required groundwork for rescinding.
The actual action to rescind was put off because it was unclear until the last moment in December whether the UDO would even pass. Bear in mind that if the existing zoning were rescinded and then the UDO did not pass, the city would be without zoning regulations!
The central point is that Mayor Kim is simply wrong about the timing of rescinding the zoning. The city has until the implementation date (April 4, 2022) to rescind the zoning. It does not require voiding the UDO decision to address rescinding the zoning. The city still has a month to take this action.
It is clear based on the legal notice above and on the contents of the project management software that was used (this will be discussed further below) that Mayor Kelly’s team was fully aware that the old zoning needed to be rescinded and that it had to be done by April 4.
The Root of the Problem
A large and complex institution like the city government of Saratoga Springs has ongoing legal issues. It is routine when administrations change, for the incoming City Attorney to meet with the outgoing City Attorney to discuss current legal matters with a particular eye to items that will require prompt action by the incoming administration.
As Mayor Kim had not chosen a new City Attorney, it became incumbent on him to meet with outgoing attorney Vincent DeLeonardis to go over these matters. While DeLeoanrdis was more than willing to sit down with the Mayor to bring him up to speed on ongoing issues facing the city, Kim was never interested in doing this. As has been made clear by his repeated attacks on DeLeonardis, Kim considers DeLeonardis incompetent and so apparently had no plan to engage him in a conversation about what the city’s pressing legal obligations might be.
The termination of both the City Attorney and Assistant City Attorney meant that Mayor Kim entered his first term utterly ignorant of any pressing legal matters the city may have been facing.
Two months into his new term, unburdened by any informed insights he might have gotten from a discussion with the previous administration, Mayor Kim suddenly announces that the UDO was never properly adopted.
In a better world where there was real transparency, I would write Mayor Kim and ask why he had not met with DeLeonardis prior to taking office, and he would have provided some kind of answer. Regrettably, in our brave new world here in Saratoga Springs, simple forms of transparency and courtesy are the exception rather than the rule.
A Document Exists But No One In The Mayor’s Office Cares
The management staff under Mayor Kelly utilized project management software to establish an orderly system of tasks to guide them in their work on the UDO. Their planning included a timeline and steps that would need to be taken to implement the UDO after the Council vote.
Below is the timeline they set for completing the UDO. These documents are readily available to Mayor Kim.
Tony Izzo’s Stamp of Approval?
An article in the Foothills Daily Review indicated that Interim Attorney Tony Izzo was on board with Kim’s characterization of the misdeeds of the previous Council. Steve Thurston wrote:
…when the vote took place later than planned last December, the city council did not follow the full and proper procedure, and the law was never technically implemented.
This was the claim made by Mayor Ronald Kim and verified by acting City Attorney Tony Izzo…Foothills Business Daily Review
The Foothills Business Daily Review is an excellent news source, but the public record does not support this characterization of what Tony Izzo said. Here is a link to a video of what Tony Izzo actually said when called upon by Kim.
I would say that Tony Izzo is doing a bit of equivocating here to avoid committing to anything. I expect that Mayor Kim will probably press Tony to be a team player and say something more helpful. I don’t envy Tony.
Public Hearing Gobbledygook
Mayor Kim announced that there would be some kind of hearing related to moving his redo of the UDO forward. The hearing is scheduled for the next Council meeting on March 15. The Mayor and Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran agreed to provide ten minutes for the public hearing.
Mayor Kim then announced that the “actual document that will be considered [at the public hearing] will be posted tomorrow [Wednesday, March 2, 2022] on the city’s website because someone will ask.”
I am unclear what will be in this document and have been so far unable to find it anywhere on the city website as promised.
I wrote to the Mayor on Friday asking what the name of the document is and where it can be found. To date [March 7, 2022], he has not responded.
Times Union Watch
In an example of the worst kind of journalism, in the March 2, 2022, edition of the Times Union, Wendy Liberatore not surprisingly provided Mayor Kim a platform for his latest attack regarding the UDO.
The Times Union regularly boosts Mayor Kim by uncritically publishing his often wildly false pronouncements. Such drama draws clicks for the newspaper at the expense of misinforming the public and holding elected officials accountable.
In Ms. Liberatore’s latest story that hypes Kim’s false claims, she reports that she called former Mayor Meg Kelly for a response. This is how Ms. Liberatore operates. Meg Kelly never returns her calls. Ms. Liberatore knows she will not get a callback.
Why does she bother to call Ms. Kelly? Rather than look for other sources to balance Kim’s remarks, she uses Kelly’s silence to create the appearance that she tried to write a balanced story. It is hard to know with Ms. Liberatore whether her appalling reporting is the result of the limited time allowed her by the TU or some other less flattering motivation.
Some Concluding Thoughts
What is clear is that Mayor Kim and his fellow newly elected colleagues on the Council bear a kind of fanatical hostility toward their predecessors. This is just the latest example of their propensity to blindly dismiss anything done by the past administration.
It also seems apparent that this move on the UDO is part of Kim’s intention to try to reverse the approvals for Saratoga Hospital’s expansion. As is so often the case with this Mayor, rather than just take the necessary steps to achieve his policy goal, he resorts to operatic drama wherein he adopts the role of the hero rescuing the city from the crimes of his predecessors. Unburdened by facts or law he sets himself up to be embarrassed by dramatizing his own ignorance.