Another Dysfunctional City Council Meeting Coming Up

With BLM planning to disrupt yet another Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, and Mayor Ron Kim abrogating his responsibility to ensure speakers have equal access to the microphone at the public comment period (see previous post—)this coming Tuesday night’s (5/2/2023)City Council meeting sadly promises to be yet another exercise in how not to govern.

A look at the agenda for the upcoming May 2 City Council meeting seems to indicate that current Council members are more interested in appearing in newspaper stories and on television than directing their time and energy to the job of actually governing our city.

Commissioner Sanghvi’s Fake Resolution

Case in point:

Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi will be offering a resolution that seems at first glance to promise to direct assets seized by police in controlled substances arrests to “City-based programming for the treatment of addiction, homelessness, and other restorative justice initiatives within the city of Saratoga Springs.”

According to Commissioner Sanghvi, the resolution is “in response to the Saratoga Springs Police Task Force 50-point initiative” that included this item. The city’s task force, readers will recall, was set up in 2020 in response to an Executive Order by then Governor Andrew Cuomo.

But Sanghvi’s resolution includes the following qualifying language:

To the extent allowed by existing New York Statutory requirements for the dispersal of property seized in controlled substance arrests and criminal activity…”

The clue that something is wrong is her use of the phrase “to the extent allowed.” So what is the “extent allowed?”

Bizarrely, her resolution has a whereas clause that cites “New York State Civil Practice Laws and Rules (CPLR) Section 1349 – Disposal of Property” regarding the meaning of “extent allowed.”

I say bizarrely because the statute she cites specifically limits the use of these funds to only “law enforcement purposes.” In other words, it precludes using the money for the very purposes Commissioner Sanghvi cites in her resolution.

That this dispersal of funds is not allowed should come as no surprise to those of us who followed the Police Reform Task Force’s recommendations that included this promised dispersal of money as number 41 of the 50 proposals of their “Reinvention Plan” . At the time, Police Chief Shane Crooks told the Task Force that this proposal for the use of seized assets violated state law. He was seen by Task Force members as an obstructionist rather than a truth-teller.

At a minimum, Commissioner Sanghvi’s resolution is misleading. A less generous assessment would be that she is trying to fool the public in general and the Black Lives Activists in particular, into thinking that she is fulfilling the Police Task Force’s proposal when she is clearly not because the truth is that this proposal cannot legally be fulfilled.

Commissioner Moran: An Incoherent Resolution

Case #2

Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran has placed this item on the consent agenda for the May 2, 2023, Council meeting.

The heading of the item provides some clue as to its purpose: “Temporary Outdoor Dining Committee-Approved Applications” So this is probably about approving the restaurants/bars listed at the end of the document.

The consent agenda is normally reserved for items that require approval but are noncontroversial, like the authorization to fund the city’s payroll or payment authorized by a contract that had been approved by the Council.

As readers will observe, this item, though, begins with a statement that allegedly the applications for outdoor dining have been reviewed and approved by a variety of city departments. In previous posts, I documented that I had unsuccessfully asked Commissioner Moran for some kind of documentation regarding the signoff by the Fire Department on applications for outdoor dining permits. I also FOILed for such documents and was advised they do not exist. Moran may or may not have received informal approval of these applications, but consistent with his casual approach to governing, he failed to set up a procedure to document this process.

So we only have the Commissioner’s word for it that these reviews and approvals actually took place.

In addition there is no language stating what a vote on this item by the Council will accomplish. There is no wording for instance saying “Therefore, the Saratoga Springs City Council approves the applications of the following establishments.”

Then there is this statement:

“The Department of Accounts has noted any department conditions as part of the outdoor dining permit.”

Reader, I challenge you to explain the purpose of this sentence. There is no explanation as to what these conditions are nor which applications they are related to.

Finally, we get a list of five dining/drinking facilities with no explanation as to why they are listed. I guess they may be applications that Moran claims are in order and require Council approval, but there is no language that would indicate that in adopting this item, the Council is approving them.

Finally, demonstrating just how sloppily this was crafted, the title says that these applications were approved by the “Temporary Outdoor Dining Committee.” The problem is that the “committee” no longer exists. Moran previously pushed through an amendment to the code dissolving them.

I feel confident that this item was crafted by Moran himself and that he didn’t bother to consult with Tony Izzo, the City Attorney or the new Assistant City Attorney.

Montagnino’s Pointless Resolution

Case 3:

Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino also has a peculiar agenda item. This one is calling for an amendment to the city code to make the carrying of a firearm while drunk a violation.

My contacts in law enforcement have characterized this proposal as “unenforceable”. The foot patrols that try to maintain order on Caroline Street do not carry breathalyzers. It is not illegal to be drunk and an officer would not have the right to frisk an individual to see if they were carrying a gun. Penalties already exist if a gun is in the possession of someone involved in another violation such as drunk driving so this proposal adds nothing to existing law.

This is all about Montagnino’s eternal quest for media and not about seriously dealing with guns.

Why Can’t They Just Do Their Jobs?

This Council suffers from excessive drama and a lack of sound management and judgement. I fear we will be paying the price for this for years to come.

8 thoughts on “Another Dysfunctional City Council Meeting Coming Up”

  1. The performative nature of this city council is getting out of hand. They not only accomplish nothing, but I fear will gaslight their base into electing them again based on headlines with zero substance.

    Am I correct that only the Mayor and Public Safety Commissioner are even being challenged in this November’s election? How can that be?

    Another 2.5 years of this current council seems untenable for our city.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, have you written anything re the proposed item that has the City apologizing for historical discrimination etc?

    Maybe I missed it.

    Thank you

    Scott Brandi President SKI/NY 518-796-3601 scottbrandi@iskiny.com

    >

    Like

  3. I shudder to think of how the city would have fared if this crew had been at the helm when our city hall burned down and Covid struck. The previous Council, which this Council loves to vilify, did the hard work of successfully shepherding the city through these crises while also creating new programs and completing projects, all without drama and putting hard work before the quest for media coverage.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. 8:15 pm Tuesday, May 2
    If a citizen wants to speak on a topic at a City Council meeting, other than BLM, that person would probably walk away from the Council meeting. It would be too intimidating to speak on that topic because every person tonight wants to rant about BLM.

    How long is this going to continue? I do sympathize with the BLM movement, as many of us do, but is this the only way for BLM to be heard?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @henry37 Public comment went on for what, another 30 minutes? But as you said, it is hard to keep calling it public comment because the environment is not conducive for comments outside of BLM issues. And then things obviously devolved rapidly after the first agenda item… and meeting over. This just can’t keep going on.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. One of the weaknesses of many people is limited knowledge of history and a temporal focus that is far too brief. Commissioner Montagnino understands and can articulate the foundations of our legal system and even recapitulated the sacrifices of the 77th Volunteer Regiment during the American Civil War. The BLM activists are using some sort of modified tactics set from the 1960s civil disobedience movement. This was a very brief period in history that occurred at US per capita energy maxima. The year is now 2023 and tolerance only holds when there is enough to go around for everyone. As soon as the law and law enforcement fail, the activists will be at risk. For all of human history, people settled in groups based on shared ethnicity, and for the past 100 years, a great mixing has taken place that may not be stable.

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