Saratoga Springs City Democratic Committee Chair Along With Other Members Of The Executive Committee Resign

In a press release dated July 17, Courtney DeLeonardis (Chair) along with Ellen Kiehl (1st Vice Chair), Jeffery Partridge (Second Vice Chair) Kathleen Wilson (3rd Vice Chair), and Joanna Zangrando (Secretary) announced that they are resigning from their offices and they are resigning from the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee.

Here is their press release:

 

 CONTACT:Kathy Gorman, Public Relations Chair

Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee

518-577-8011

mkathy@nycap.rr.com  

Saratoga Springs, NY, July 17, 2019  Five members of leadership for the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee today announced they are stepping down from their positions and resigning from the Committee. Leaving are: Courtney DeLeonardis, chair; Ellen Kiehl, 1st vice chair; Jeffrey Partridge, 2nd vice chair; Kathleen Wilson, 3rd vice chair and Joanna Zangrando, secretary.

Speaking for the Executive Committee members who are leaving, DeLeonardis said:

It is with regret that I announce my resignation and that of four additional Executive Committee members, effective immediately. We believe the time is right to give the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee a chance to have a new leadership team who will support the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Finance, in accord with the outcome of the recent primary election. It has been our honor and privilege to represent our respective election districts and to bring our best efforts to the challenge of leading the SSDC and serving all Democrats in our City. To this end, we commit to be mindful of the Committees needs going forward and leave its affairs in good order, including a substantial treasury balance.

 

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Patty Morrison: Weaponizing the City’s Ethics Board

The City of Saratoga Springs has an Ethics Code which the city’s Ethics Board is charged with “enforcing.” I put enforcing in quotes as the Board is only authorized to offer opinions and has no disciplinary or enforcement powers.

In a letter dated June 14, 2019, a little more than a week before the Democratic primary, Patty Morrison, then a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Finance  Commissioner, made the following accusation against her opponent Michele Madigan and requested the city’s Ethics Board investigate.

Your [JK: Commissioner Madigan] participation in a political fundraiser for your Commissioner of Finance campaign hosted by Saratoga Hospital attorney, Matt Jones at his home on March 8, 2019 along with his personal donation of $1,000.00, is a direct conflict of interest and can be viewed as clear violation of the City’s Code of Ethics.

Now there is an argument to be made about the problem of the influence of money in politics. How much donations like the one made by Jones might impact a legislator’s vote is a matter of legitimate discussion. I would also note, though, that in light of Ms. Morrison’s outrage over Commissioner Madigan’s campaign donations it is odd that she apparently does not have similar concerns regarding Joanne Yepsen who also received donations from Mr. Jones when she was running for Mayor and is now supporting Ms. Morrison’s quest for Commissioner of Finance.

The central issue here, however, is Ms. Morrison’s claim that Commissioner Madigan has violated the city’s Ethics Code and Ms. Morrison’s then use of this claim to seek publicity meant to damage her opponent.

While the city’s ethics code cites gifts or financial benefits to public officials as potential violations, it specifically excludes campaign contributions.  Here is the language:

GIFT and FINANCIAL BENEFIT — Includes anything of value including, but not limited to, money, services, referrals, discounts, licenses, permits, contracts, authorizations, loans, travel, entertainment, hospitality, or any other gratuity or promise thereof. A financial transaction may be a financial benefit but shall not be a gift unless it is on terms not available to the general public. “Gift” and “financial benefit” do not include campaign contributions authorized by law. [JK: Emphasis Added]

So what does this tell us about Patty Morrison’s own ethics in this matter.

First, Ms. Morrison either did not actually take the opportunity to read the city’s ethics code before making her accusation or she made the accusation knowing it was false. Bear in mind, this is a person seeking to handle the city’s finances.

Secondly,  even if the issue of the influence of campaign contributions on a legislator’s behavior were addressed in the city’s ethics code, there would have to be some actual incident that would link a vote to a contribution to make a case. There has been no such vote on the hospital which Mr. Jones represents.

But with the primary only a little over a week away Ms. Morrison’s problem was she  needed to generate publicity about her accusation before the election. She could not wait until there was an actual vote on the hospital to make her complaint to the Ethics Board.

Ms. Morrison has every right to challenge Commissioner Madigan regarding who contributes to her campaign. What she does not have a right to do is to abuse the city’s Ethics Board procedure to smear her opponent.

I suspect some readers will dismiss these criticisms as nit picking but aside from the ethical issues of misrepresenting the city’s Ethics Code, the ability to carefully analyze regulations and statutes is central to functioning effectively as the Commissioner of Finance. There is a place for moral outrage, but if one is to serve as Commissioner of Finance, outrage must be tempered by a commitment to adhere rigorously to the “details” that managing the public’s finances require.

Group Launches Campaign For Charter Change

Someone forwarded to me an email blast from Pat Kane announcing a series of meetings at his house to organize a petition drive to once again put a referendum for charter change on the November ballot. According to the email (see below), Gordon Boyd will “explain the features and the benefits of  the 2019 proposed charter” to those attending.

For those of you interested in assisting in their petition drive, the meetings will be on July 15, 17, and 18 at 7:00 PM at Pat Kane’s on 19 Marion Place.

For those of you who may be new to this blog, I have documented two very disturbing incidents involving Mr. Kane’s behavior. They can be found here and here,

Mr. Boyd has also distinguished himself in a number of unfortunate ways most recently during the previous attempt to pass a charter change in the city to adopt a city manager form of government. Most troubling was his behavior during a “debate” with John Franck which involved a number of attacks on John Franck’s character. Many of these mocking slurs regarding John Franck were later included in a mailing done on behalf of charter change.

I have to ask, does this city deserve to be subjected to yet another political battle over the city’s form of government full of acrimonious attacks and disinformation? Can’t the supporters of the change to a city manager form of government find leadership that this time embraces civility and a scrupulous commitment to accuracy and fairness? One can only hope.


From: “Patrick Kane” <pkane1@nycap.rr.com>

Date: July 13, 2019 at 11:19:41 PM EDT

To: “Holly Schwarz-Lawton”, “Michael Levy” , “‘Leona Beck'” , “‘Maureen Wendell'”, “Tom Gibbs” , “Ms. Mary-Ann Klemm” , “Margaret Prough” , “Margie Van Meter” , “Mary Kelly”, “Mike Los”, “Mike Perkins” , “Dennis Bigansky” , “Molly Corbett” , “Molly Gagne” , “Nedra Stimpfle” , “Otis Maxwell” , “Josephine Pasciullo”, “Shawn Thompson”, “Craig and Milissa Klotz”, , “Ron Kim” , “Raymond Giguere”, “‘Rita Forbush'”, “‘Rob Wright'” , “Suzanne Singer” , “Tim Holmes”, “Thomas Montelone”, “Zealie Van Raalte” , “‘Tony Oehler'” , “‘Tom Denny'” , “terry lowenthal” , “Vicki Addesso-Dodd”, <valerie_keehn, “Arliss Nygard” , “Gordon and Sharon Boyd”, “Brenda Corbett” , “Christine M. Carsky” , “Christina Brueggemann”, “Daniel De Federicis” , “Evelyn Hefner”, “James C. Helicke” , “Jeff Wendell”, “John Van der Veer” , “Michael Englert”, “Nurcan Atalan”, “Pat Design”, “sabine beisler” 

Subject: Mark Your Calendars  Citizens Charter Initiative 2019

Reply-To: <pkane1@nycap.rr.com>

 

 

Subject: Mark Your Calendars Citizens Charter Initiative

 

 

 

Hello

We have a big week ahead!!!

Please join us on this week to discuss the progress of the citizen initiative for Charter 2019.

You can pick whatever night that works for you!

 

Available nights to hear about the citizen’s petition and the and the timing of the petition drive.

Monday July 15 @ 7:00 PM

Wednesday July 17 @ 7:00 PM

Thursday July 18 @ 7:00 PM

 

Gordon Boyd will explain the features and the benefits of the 2019 proposed charter.

All areas of this effort will be discussed.

We are meeting at my house at 7:00 PM at 19 Marion Place ( behind the Lake Ave Elem. school)

 

Taking To The Streets

 

The Petition Kick-off will be held on SATURDAY JULY 20 at 9:00 AM

We will meet at 19 Marion Place to begin the petition drive. We will leave from here and hit the streets.

 

We will have a ton of fun and collects signatures

Please bring other charter enthusiasts and plan on

 

Respectfully

Patrick Kane

518-857-6129

Hospital Purchases Controversial Land: What’s Next?

Saratoga Hospital has announced the purchase of land for its proposed medical offices from D. A. Collins. The 16 acres were purchased for $3.15 million which the hospital characterized as under-market value. They described the price as an expression by the Collins family of its support for the hospital.

After expressing support for the sale, David Collins is quoted as saying that “…for a variety of business reasons, now is the right time to close the deal.” Echoing this, Theresa Skaine, chairperson of the hospital’s board of trustees said in the release, “D.A. Collins has been more than patient, and it is unreasonable for us to expect them to delay the sale and forgo potential business opportunities any longer. At the same time, we simply could not take the risk that the last piece of land within walking distance of the hospital would be lost to us—and this community—forever.”

At the time I read this release I did’t know if I was reading into it but it seemed that the Collins family was pressing to finalize an agreement. The project has been stalled for several years while the issue of whether to make it a planned unit development and then whether to rezone the land delayed action.

Subsequently, I watched the video of the July 2nd meeting at which Angelo Calbone addressed the City Council. He was responding to allegations that the hospital, by purchasing the land, was putting pressure on the Council. He told the Council that the Collins family wanted to complete the sale this summer and that this precipitated the purchase now.

In response to the release about the land sale, the neighbors sent an email to me ripping the hospital for what they characterized as “arrogant, high handed conduct.” They asserted that the hospital is going forward with the purchase of land for its proposed medical office building “…for which they have none of the necessary approvals.” They also asserted that the hospital purchased the property to bring pressure on the City Council.

The neighbors’ comment seems to indicate that there may be some confusion as to the steps the city must go through before an actual plan for the hospital’s project is even looked at. I thought it might be helpful to review those steps that have already been taken and those that will still need to happen before the hospital can begin to build.

The first step was taken in 2015.

The Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the City Council in 2015, recommended changes for a number of areas in the city. The land the hospital has purchased is located in one of these areas.  State law requires the city to come up with zoning for these areas that would be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. To meet this requirement the city hired a  consulting firm to update all of the city ordinances including the changes recommended by the Comprehensive Plan. All of these changes together are known as the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

Both the county and the city planning boards have offered advisory opinions to the City Council regarding whether the proposed zoning changes recommended by the consultants comply with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The Saratoga County Planning Board approved the zoning category originally offered by the consultants for the parcels that include the land the hospital hopes to build on. The Saratoga Springs  Planning Board chose a zoning category that was slightly more restrictive for these parcels but that still allowed the hospital to construct a medical office building. The City Council will make the final decision.

I guess people of good faith could argue over whether the actions of these planning boards represented “approvals” but there is little question that their actions have helped move the process forward for the hospital.

So what are the remaining steps that will need to be taken for the hospital to build its medical office building? There are three additional actions the hospital must go through before it can build its proposed medical office building.

SEQR

The entire Unified Development Ordinance, which includes the parcels affected by the 2015 Comprehensive Plan, must go through the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) determinations. (For an excellent explanation of SEQR, Here is a link). An agency must be chosen to be the “lead agency” in dealing with SEQR. As the City Council acted as lead agency for the SEQR for the 2015 Comprehensive Plan, I anticipate they will take a similar role here.

The process is somewhat confusing as the SEQR process is mostly designed for dealing with actual construction projects. Many if not most of the questions in a SEQR application are more applicable to the review of an actual proposed project rather than policies.

The city had to follow the SEQR process before approving the Comprehensive Plan in 2015. In that case Brad Birge, the city planner, along with then Mayor Joanne Yepsen  walked the members of the Council through the relevant answers in the SEQR application. Birge had already put in answers and the Council simply agreed with what he had done. At the end of the meeting the Council unanimously issued a “Negative Declaration” which meant that the Comprehensive Plan would have no negative impact on the environment.

I am assuming the Council will follow a similar procedure for the UDO SEQR.

The problem that the neighbors face is that the SEQR vote is not about an actual project but the set of zoning changes that would allow for certain projects to occur in certain areas. At this stage there is no actual plan from the hospital to evaluate. It is difficult to discuss traffic, lighting, etc. without a specific proposal to critique. The neighbors can speculate about what impact a proposed project might have but it will be difficult to put that square peg into the round hole which is the set of questions actually in the SEQR application.

They also face the problem that the city has already determined that the use of this property for a medical office building will not have a negative environmental impact when they approved the Comprehensive Plan back in June of 2015. The vote of the Council at that time was unanimous.

Chris Mathiesen, who was Commissioner of Public Safety at the time, later expressed regret for his vote noting that protecting the neighborhood near the hospital should have been a priority and that he was unaware of the potential impact of the proposed change to that area when he voted to accept the Comprehensive Plan and supported the negative declaration for the SEQR. Still, his effort to reverse the decision received no support from his fellow Council members at the time.

It should be noted that reopening the Comprehensive Plan to reconsider the area around the hospital could lead to a whole series of other challenges to decisions that were made about preserving the greenbelt for instance. There were many contentious battles over what permitted uses there would be in that area that could be revisited if the neighbors were to be successful in getting the Council to reopen any part of the Comprehensive Plan.

Adoption of UDO (Zoning Changes)

The next step after the SEQR review is for the Council to adopt the UDO. This would include adopting the revised zoning map for the city. This will require a majority vote by the Council.

Site Plan Review By The Planning Board

Assuming the zoning changes are approved the hospital would now be able to bring forth a specific plan for a medical office building. The plan would then be subject to site plan review by the Planning Board. The Planning Board must review the proposed construction and either approve the hospital’s plans or require changes in the plan to address any adverse effects they determine it might have on the area. It is at this point that the specifics of traffic, lighting, setbacks, etc. will be addressed.

It Still Comes Down To The Comprehensive Plan

While the attorney for the neighbors asserts that the rezoning for the UDO deserves a “positive declaration (It will have a major environmental impact),” it is unlikely that that will happen.  Were the neighbors then to sue it would seem it would be difficult for them to prevail given the history of all the unanimous actions by the previous Councils and planning boards.

I am not a lawyer but it appears to me that the only way forward for the neighbors is to get the City Council to amend the Comprehensive Plan, a process as noted earlier that could have some unanticipated consequences. As I find it unlikely that the Council will complete the process of adopting the UDO before November, this issue could play a role in the upcoming November election. All the candidates will be under pressure by the protagonists in this conflict to come out for or against revising the Comprehensive Plan. Judging by the signs opposing the hospital in the adjacent neighborhoods, there is a constituency that feels passionately about the issue and will vote accordingly. My own sense is that outside of those neighborhoods there is less interest in the outcome and probably considerable support for the hospital in light of its role of providing healthcare to the community. We may find out how the public feels in November.


Below are the press release from the hosptial and the email from Dave Evans


 

N E W S   R E L E A S E

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 27, 2019

 

 

Saratoga Hospital Buys Land on Morgan Street for Future Growth

Seller cites healthcare services as ‘best use’ for the property

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, June 27, 2019—Saratoga Hospital has bought land on Morgan Street from D.A. Collins Companies to ensure that the last undeveloped parcel bordering hospital-owned property can be used to expand healthcare services.

 

The sale of the 16 acres was completed Wednesday. The under-market purchase price of $3.15 million reflects the Collins family’s support of the hospital.

 

“Ever since we decided to sell the property, we hoped it would go to Saratoga Hospital,” David Collins said. “We believe in the work of the hospital and its essential, unique role in ensuring the health of Saratoga. Given the location of the property, healthcare is clearly the best use, and for a variety of business reasons, now is the right time to close the deal.”

 

Saratoga Hospital has long been interested in the parcel as a natural, strategic option for much-needed expansion to keep pace with one of the fastest-growing counties in New York State. A proposed zoning change—part of a multiyear effort to align the city’s zoning map and comprehensive plan as required by state law—would enable medical office use on the property.

 

“D.A. Collins has been more than patient, and it is unreasonable for us to expect them to delay the sale and forgo potential business opportunities any longer,” said Theresa Skaine, chairperson, Saratoga Hospital Board of Trustees. “At the same time, we simply could not take the risk that the last piece of land within walking distance of the hospital would be lost to us—and this community—forever.”

 

She described the purchase as “another smart, targeted investment in the future of healthcare in the Saratoga region. Whether we’re talking about technology, facilities or programs, patient care is the determining factor behind every dollar we spend and every decision we make,” Skaine said.

 

The hospital wants to develop the land on Morgan Street for a medical office center where physicians could more easily collaborate on patient care and, in an emergency, could get to the hospital within minutes. Aside from that project, currently there are no other plans for the site.

 

A small group of residents in the mixed-use neighborhood surrounding the hospital opposes the medical office plans and is fighting the rezoning proposal. In recent months, both the Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs planning boards have issued positive advisory opinions related to the zoning change, which was recommended by the city’s Comprehensive Plan Committee. In all three deliberations, there were no dissenting votes. The proposal now rests with the Saratoga Springs City Council.

 

“We realize that the final decision on the zoning has not been made, but we could not pass on this opportunity,” Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone said. “It’s not unusual for organizations to buy land in anticipation of future needs, especially if the property is strategically located.

 

“Our hope is that, ultimately, we will have a medical office center on this land,” he added. “We are absolutely convinced that providing healthcare services at this location is the best way to serve our community now and for the long term.”

 

***

 

About Saratoga Hospital: Saratoga Hospital is the Saratoga region’s leading healthcare provider and the only acute-care facility in Saratoga County. The hospital’s multispecialty practice, Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, provides care at more than 20 locations, ensuring easy access to programs and services that can have the greatest impact on individual and community health. Saratoga Hospital has maintained Magnet designation for nursing excellence since 2004. Through its affiliation with Columbia Memorial Health and Albany Med, Saratoga Hospital is part of the largest locally governed health system in the region. For more information: www.saratogahospital.org or www.facebook.com/SaratogaHospital.

 

# # #

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Peter Hopper

Director, Marketing and Communications

518.583.8679

phopper@saratogahospital.org

 


Statement From Dave Evans On Behalf Of Hospital Neighbors

Displaying complete disrespect for the city review and approval process and the concerns of its neighbors, Saratoga Hospital has completed the purchase of 15 acres of residential land on which it plans to build a massive medical office building for which it has none of the necessary approvals.

The timing is notable. The Saratoga Springs City Council has not approved the controversial zoning change that is required for the project to go forward. No permits or approvals have been issued for the building itself. Yet Saratoga Hospital has chosen to move ahead in what appears to be an attempt to pressure the City into approving both the zoning change and the project despite strenuous neighborhood objections and significant negative impacts to a historic residential neighborhood.

Throughout this process, the hospital has sought to dismiss the legitimate objections of its neighbors and economic harm they will suffer (reduced property values and reduced resale values), not to mention the loss of privacy, if their longstanding residential neighborhood is converted to an office park with a 75,000- to 85,000-square foot building and a parking lot for 300-400 cars.

Now, by buying the land – and issuing a news release to announce it — the hospital is maximizing its pressure on the City Council to approve the project.  This raises the of whether the City Council and other agencies can and will act independently and conduct the thorough review that the law requires and every Saratogian expects. This arrogant, high-handed conduct is not what one would expect from an institution that serves our community.

Saratoga Hospital is a vital community asset, but it is not entitled to a zoning change that would allow it to build on the last undeveloped green space in our neighborhood. Saratoga Springs’ beautiful neighborhoods are precious. The legacy of this City Council should not be the destruction of a historic neighborhood – especially when it can be avoided by the hospital expanding on its own property, an option it has but refuses to pursue.

Rob Millis Doubles Down On Antifa

As Readers may recall, I published a post regarding Robert Millis who is now the campaign manager for Kendall Hicks, the Democratic candidate for Commissioner of Public Safety. Mr. Millis had put up on his website a poster that promoted Antifa. As noted in that post, Antifa is a loose association of predominantly young men who advocate tactics that promote violent confrontations with their alt right enemies and that commonly also involves vandalism.

People on the left who I know refer to them as infantile provocateurs.

In response to that post someone calling themselves “King Rat” submitted the following comment:

Bob is one of the more interesting, smart and funny individuals in this town. He s not going to reply here because he’s probably having more fun just lurking over these comments.

Shortly later Robert Millis did reply posting the following comment:

Right up there with watching compilation videos of WalMart fights!

Mr. Millis does not seem to grasp that the candidate whose campaign he is now managing is running for Commissioner of Public Safety, a position that  oversees the city’s Police and Fire Departments and that what he says and publishes now reflects  on that candidate, Kendall Hicks

Humor in a political campaign is a risky business. One would hope that Mr. Hicks is not amused, but we haven’t heard from him yet on this.