Mayor Kim, the City Council, and Lex Figuereo– a Co-Dependent Relationship?

Another Aborted City Council Meeting. Everyone knew that the BLM group planned to disrupt the meeting. It was openly discussed at a meeting held on the Skidmore campus on April 26.

The May 2,2023, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting was once again so disruptive that it had to be adjourned. Mayor Kim, yet again, relinquished control of the meeting to Black Lives Matter. The members of the Council sat mostly passively, with the exception of unhelpful remarks by Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran toward Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino and Montagnino taunting Mayor Ron Kim about his failure to take any action to bring order.

Interestingly, Mayor Kim began the meeting by moving the consent agenda from its normal position to have it voted on before the public comment period began. The consent agenda includes authorization to pay the city payroll. If this authorization is not taken care of, city employees cannot be paid. Mayor Kim also warned the BLM people present in the audience that he expected there would be “repercussions” (arrests) if the meeting were to be interrupted.

These actions suggest that Kim anticipated allowing the meeting to be shut down by a BLM demonstration.

The vote on the consent agenda was followed by two hours of public comment dominated almost exclusively by BLM activists and some Skidmore student allies repeating the usual litany of vituperative attacks directed primarily towards the Saratoga Springs Police Department, Commissioner Montagnino, and Saratoga Springs in general. When the meeting finally began the only item discussed and voted on was a Resolution on Restorative Justice that was on the Mayor’s agenda. This passed 4-1, with Montagnino voting no. After that, chaos broke out, with the BLM group chanting and shouting till Kim gave up and adjourned the meeting without any further city business being addressed.

It was an open secret that the BLM people planned to disrupt the Council meeting once again. Skidmore students were enlisted for the event at a meeting on the college campus on April 26.

Some media coverage, however, reported that the demonstration that precipitated the Mayor’s adjournment was prompted by remarks made by Commissioner Montagnino. The Commissioner knew that the BLM had planned to disrupt the meeting, and Montagnino was smart enough to know he was being inflammatory when he accused the BLM people of being complicit in the vandalism of the Union soldier statue in Congress Park. It was a reckless and irresponsible remark. Still, the media coverage failed their readers by supporting the narrative espoused by Lexis Figuereo that they were just responding to Montagnino when BLM had in fact planned ahead of time to disrupt the meeting.

The Council meeting has been scheduled to reconvene on May 4 at 2:30.

A Sober And Critical Look At Kim’s Restorative Justice Resolution

Kim’s resolution on restorative justice grew out of the recommendations of the Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force appointed in 2020. It is useful to review this proposal in light of how others have addressed this issue.


[JK: I wanted to put a link to the resolution for this story, but as documented below, the link to the resolution is now unavailable. I will be discussing the breakdown of effective management of IT by Finance Commissioner Sanghvi in a later post, but here is a screenshot of this latest failure.]


The most famous campaign to address past injustice is the South African “Truth and Reconciliation” Commission, set up in 1995 in the aftermath of apartheid.  Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), was key in creating this body.

The “Truth” part involved investigating and exposing and acknowledging the cruelty of a system where the opponents of apartheid were routinely tortured and murdered.  The “Reconciliation” part was to find a path forward to unite a nation where the victims of this cruelty could live with both their pain and with the white South Africans who supported these past policies.  In some cases, this involved the prosecution of those who committed serious crimes. 

Nelson Mandela, the leader of the ANC, set an example of reconciliation.  Brutalized by the police, he spent twenty-seven years in prison.  Yet upon his release, he showed no rancor.  His focus was on how to bring his nation back together and move forward.  His most important quality was his ability to inspire the people of South Africa to understand each other and to set a path to justice and compassion.

For Mandela, this process was not about apologizing.  It was instead about acknowledging the harm done and then finding ways to address those wounds. Addressing those wounds was not about worthless apologies but about identifying concretely the policies and institutions that needed change and identifying the people in authority who needed to acknowledge the problems and address them.

For sixteen years, I was the executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (now called LifeWorks).  The last thing I wanted to hear from an employee who had screwed up was an apology.  What I wanted instead was an acknowledgment of the error and a plan to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Shame Is Not A Strategy. Guilt Is Not A Strategy

Conspicuously absent from Mayor Kim’s “restorative justice” resolution is any effort to take the first necessary step of doing the work to actually identify specific actions and policies that need to be acknowledged and addressed.  

Saratoga Springs exists within the United States. The fact that black people (and Jews, and Irish, and Italians, and women and others) were discriminated against throughout this country is axiomatic. A general apology for this history, however, takes us nowhere.

As with the South African example, identifying and acknowledging specific examples of racism, either individual cases or institutional cases, and providing proposals for addressing how these can be reformed is where the hope lies.  Blanket condemnations and vague apologies, as contained in Kim’s resolution, may bring enjoyment to some but do little to produce real change.

Our Local BLM

The reality is that Lex Figuereo and his allies are the polar opposite of Mandela.  Any reasonable observer of their tactics at City Council meetings can see that their goal is to humiliate and indulge in unrestrained rage.  Insulting elected officials is self-indulgent nonsense.  This picture of BLM people in front of Montagnino’s office is a testament to the infantile nature of so much of what they do.

BLM events are not really about politics; they are about psychodrama.  Michele Madigan, who served in the previous administration, put aside money for a mediator and offered to meet with Figuereo.  In the standard operating procedure for Figuereo, he strung her along only to refuse to participate.  Figuereo is not really interested in sitting down, identifying specific problems (truth), and seeking solutions.  Figuereo’s identity is invested in drama and media.

The narrative that if elected officials will just sit down with Figuereo and his allies that an accommodation can be achieved is a myth. 

The Missing Factor: Truth

BLM makes wild accusations about the city’s police.  If you listen to them, you would think that we were living in Alabama in the 1950s, that Bull Connor is the chief of police, and that any moment a phalanx of police armed with guns and dogs and tear gas are about to brutalize them.

Missing from their rants is substance-truth. If the police need further reform, it begins with BLM doing the hard work of actually documenting incidents of real abuse.  Without identifying examples of failure in police procedures with details of who, what, and where, there can be no corrective action.

Restorative Justice

Mayor Kim’s resolution calls for restorative justice. Let’s get beyond the culture wars and consider what restorative justice is.

“Restorative justice seeks to examine the harmful impact of a crime and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions. Accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done.”

University of Wisconsin, Madison, Law School

In this definition, the process begins with identifying real events that are documented for the purpose of change.

Kim’s poorly crafted resolution misses the point about what restorative justice is. Instead, his nebulous resolution fits right into Figuereo et. al.’s playbook.  It calls for “…a community-wide dialogue with residents and institutions on defining what restorative justice means to Saratoga Springs in the 21st century.”  This amorphous charge can only lead to more confusion and conflict.

 The vague language in Mayor Kim’s restorative justice committee resolution is an exercise in noise and will result in little or no constructive findings.

An Odd Date For His Final Report

I find it particularly suspect, that Kim’s resolution would have his committee report its findings on December 19, 2023.  That date is conveniently after the city’s next election.

Kim, the other Council members and Figuereo are, as they say in popular culture, co-dependent.  With the exception of Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub, they all crave media coverage without substance.  They feed off each other.

Kim got his story into the Times Union about his plan to establish a “restorative justice committee” (no great feat), but that is all he has achieved.  This new committee (one of too many) will produce nothing.

11 thoughts on “Mayor Kim, the City Council, and Lex Figuereo– a Co-Dependent Relationship?”

  1. I’m sad and embarrassed for the city I still call my hometown. Not only is it apparent that Ron Kim cannot run a meeting, but the vitriol and unprofessional behavior of several Council members at the table also does not set an example of appropriate behavior. It is hard to expect those in attendance to act with decorum when those representing the city cannot do so.
    It seems clear this room is simply not large enough for the overblown though highly aggrandized egos. The grandiloquent behavior is unacceptable for any elected official whose main goal should be city business.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for your differentiation between apology and acknowledgment. We do not need to apologize for what others have done yet to acknowledge it and work to be sure it doesn’t continue is so much more powerful. And, apologizing for something one has done yet not working to change is pointless and unproductive.

    As an example, Mandela is excellent of someone who had an honorable goal that was not rooted in self-aggrandizing and publicity-seeking. More recently, we saw another great example in Tennessee when two young, black men were removed from their elected positions for standing up. They were clearly and rightfully angry at the injustice. Yet they presented themselves in a coherent manner that required no foul language, no name-calling, and had a clear goal. They took the high road and did what needed to be done to at least temporarily ameliorate the consequences. While there is clearly more work to be done the chance it will happen has been increased in the exceptional support they have received throughout the country. People heard them! In contrast, those who perpetrated the injustice have received little publicity and what they did receive was not positive.

    Both the members of the City Council who act with malevolence and the members of BLM could learn a lesson there. A question I used to ask my clients when counseling and coaching: What is your goal? Is what you are doing getting you there? I suppose, if as you suggested that if the goal is simply to disrupt and get media attention, they are doing what gets them there. In that case, it is simply sad as there will be no growth and no productive change.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Perhaps these folks need some serious anger management classes, I can’t, for the life of me, understand why one has to be so angry and come to every meeting that way, instant gratification runs rampant in our society but unfortunately doesn’t always produce the results we want, best solution, agree to disagree.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Are you suggesting that the discrimination that Jews, Irish, Italians experienced in the United States is equivalent to the Black experience in America (and Saratoga Springs) over the last 300+ years?

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    1. Bruce is making an important point. My Irish ancestors came to America in the 19th century and were probably treated very poorly. However, our family stayed in tact and eventually assimilated. Jewish people were not only discriminated against but many lost their property and their lives in the 1930’s and 40’s due only to their Jewish identity. To this day, some people, mostly white, deny that the holocost ever happened. Native Americans lost nearly everything due to the European invasion of their land. We continue to learn more about the terrible ways that Native Americans have been treated.

      While different ethnic groups have suffered to various extents, nothing can compare with the treatment of black people. They were brutally taken from their homeland, forced into slavery and owned mostly by white landowners. After centuries of supression and domination, they were suddenly emanicpated with little or no help in socialization and assimilation into American society. Their skin tone conflicted with their world of mostly white Americans. Negative stereotypes and characterizations persisted long after unfair treatment of other ethnic groups had subsided.

      In my opinion, Jewish people, Native Americans and especially Black Americans deserve an apology from American society as a whole. No human beings should have been treated as badly as they were. Apologies are definitely in order.

      Unfortunatley, the Mayor’s Restorative Justice Resolution gives the impression that the City of Saratoga Springs is one where stark racism and hate prevail. I had suggested to the Council that they change the terms ‘racism and hate’ to ‘prejudice and ignorance’. I think my terms are less inflammatory and more accurate. I also suggested replacing the term ‘law enforcement’ with ‘criminal justice system’ since I am sure during our history that people of color and others were at times treated less fairly in the courts and by the poloice than WASP’s.

      I also suggested including a sentence to point out that much progress has been made over the past decades. From my childhood through today, I can honestly say that I encountered very few people that I would consider to be racists and even fewer people that I would consider full of hate in Saratoga Springs. The Civil Right movement of the 1960’s changed our world forever for the better. Yes, there is more to do and yes, white Americans do not fully understand the subtle ways that discrimination continues to persist. We should all continue to listen to each other so that we will continue to make progress. Hopefully each generation will get us closer to true social justice.

      Mayor Kim’s resolution paints a picture of racism and hate that is a very unfair description of the Saratoga Springs community in 2023.

      Chris Mathiesen

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks, Chris. What about the “urban renewal” destruction of the black neighborhoods around High Rock and the West Side? Wasn’t Saratoga Springs once a 10% black city until the forced removal of black families?

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      2. So the FEDERAL programs by Progressive Democrats/Liberal Republicans hurt “Negro families” back in the 60’s/70’s as they used a broad brush to “HELP” was unique to Saratoga Springs? Look at the EMPIRE Plaza that “Rocky” built and displaced countless families and cut neighborhoods off from the Riverfront (that they have been trying to fix with more government programs and investment) …I am sure it was all due to Racism and not the ego of someone that didn’t consider or care about the collateral damage that his mega project had on people (black or white didn’t matter – poor vs elite is a better measure).
        Downtown Saratoga Springs was not the Economic Engine of today back then (Shopping Malls were killing downtowns across the country), so they may have done a few things right along the way…not perfectly, but it is the the government after all.

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  4. I wonder how many taxpayers took time from their work, or other plans, to attend today’s 2:30 pm City Council meeting? It must have been a slow day at Mayor Kim’s law office. Does he even have a practice?

    Our city is the laughing stock in all forms of media. Paul VandenBurg rants about it on the radio. The TV stations all have the videos. The local newspapers. Where are we headed?

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  5. Who would invest in a city that is routinely publicly embarrassed by the clown show of city council meetings – the most boring format in American politics but one of the most important to get right? And we just can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lex Figuereo for Mayor – (he claimed to have gotten the current crew elected)… its so easy to promote chaos versus being constructive.

    Love to see him on the other side of the table facing his reflection as the next disruptor fills the void.

    write in campaign for the democrat primary – Go Skidmore leftist – you can do it.

    Like

  7. Regarding Bruce’s comments about the 1960’s and early 1970’s urban Federal urban renewal program, it is true that the impact on the black business and cultural district was devastating. It would have been much better to try to rehabilitate those buildings rather than bulldoze them. Even those who responsible for the local program must have realized that the City lost a great asset when that the vibrant Congress Street community was replaced with a vast wasteland that sat empty for years.

    The reasons why certain areas of the City were selected for demolition is complicated. It would be a good topic for the Saratoga Springs History Museum to tackle.

    Chris Mathiesen

    Like

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