By supporting a “get out the vote rally” in Wilton featuring Scott Presler the Saratoga County Republicans have embraced the far right conspiracy theorists. Presler has a long history of involvement in extremist activities including the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. This is a link to a story about Mr. Presler. The rally was supposed to feature a joint appearance of Presler with Rep. Elise Stefanik. While Stefanik is sponsoring and promoting the rally and has heaped praise on Presler, she apparently now will not actually attend the event on Wednesday.
Make no mistake, Mr. Presler is the real thing in the “stop the steal” universe.
I was made aware of the event and of Scott Presler when I received a release from mayoral candidate, Robin Dalton.
I subsequently emailed the Republican endorsed candidates for Saratoga Springs City Council along with the city Republican chairman Chris Obstarczyk.
Neither Chairman Obstarczyk nor any of the Republican endorsed candidates for city offices are planning to attend the event. I have included their responses to my query below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 20th, 2021
‘This is not Patriotism’ – Dalton Condemns Actions of Saratoga County GOP
(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY) The Saratoga County Republican Committee has announced they are hosting a ‘Rally & Voter Registration Drive’ next week in Saratoga featuring ‘American Patriot’ Scott Presler.
Scott Presler is NOT an American patriot.
Scott Presler is an extremist political activist who promotes the most insidious forms of hatred and bigotry. He has collaborated with neo-nazis, supports eradicating Muslims as a people and denigrates our democracy by continuing to rally and promote ‘Stop the Steal’ events. He denies COVID and supports Qanon conspiracy theories.
Is this how the Saratoga County GOP defines patriotism?
“In the strongest possible terms, I reject the hatred being invited into our community. Scott Presler’s alt-right facism is not welcome here, not today, not tomorrow, not in our city, not in our America” said Dalton, calling on all Saratoga Springs political candidates to reject this event and affirm that hate has no place in our home. WWW.ONECITYONEFUTURE.COM
Commissioner Robin Dalton
Heidi Owen West
Um, no . . . I didn’t even know about the event until Ron Kim tagged me in his post. I am out of town on a combined vacation/ work trip until Travers the 28th when I’ll need to be working at the shop.
I will not be attending the event
No, I will not be attending the event with Scott Presler. I have never even heard of him until seeing all the bashing posts on social media.
I will not be attending this event. Please let me if you have any other questions.
On Tuesday, August 17, 2021, the City Council held its third UDO workshop. Part of the discussion was about the Planning Board’s advisory opinion regarding the UDO.
Commissioner Madigan, formerly a Democrat and now a member of the Working Families Party, made it clear that she felt the Planning Board’s recommendations regarding specifically allowed land uses in the Greenbelt were excessively restrictive.
Following are parts of the advisory opinion sent to the Council by the Planning Board (PB) :
PB opposes allowing a “community center” as an approved use in the greenbelt.
PB opposes a “campground” as an approved use in the greenbelt.
The PB found that the definition of “country club” was particularly vague and subject to abuse. The advisory opinion stated: “It should be noted that “Clubhouse” as a distinct use is not proposed for inclusion in the UDO and the Planning Board sees no compelling reason to establish a definition for such use.”
The PB advocated that in order to protect the greenbelt the definition for a “marina” required restrictive language in order to keep such uses compatible with its rural character.
Commissioner Madigan pushed back on all these items. She expressed concern that such policies would in effect be unnecessarily restrictive for the greenbelt.
She also told the Council that she was working with Stewarts regarding its proposals for the area around Marion Avenue and Route 50. This in spite of the fact that the proposal was opposed by many of the neighbors and rejected by the Planning Board .
At one point Commissioner Madigan and Commissioner Scirocco engaged in a congenial exchange. Counter to the assumptions often made about Democrats and Republicans in this city, it was the Republican Council member Skip Scirocco who spoke strongly about the value of having restrictive regulations in order to protect what was left of the greenbelt.
In an excellent article in the August 15, 2021, edition of the Daily Gazette, reporter, Zachary Matson wrote a summary of the campaign contributions made to the candidates running for mayor in Saratoga Springs. A complete list of contributors appears at the end of this post. [Some people using cell phones may have difficulty reading these tables.]
Heidi Owen West, a registered independent running for mayor who has been endorsed by the Saratoga Springs Republican Party, was the top fundraiser with around $40,000.00 in income. She reported having more than $33,000.00 on hand.
Ron Kim, the Democratic candidate for mayor raised some $23,000.00 but has an available balance of less than $9,000.00. Among other expenses he paid political consultant Libby Post $9,600.00,
Robin Dalton, who is running on an independent line for mayor, raised over $10,000.00 and spent $2,700 leaving her currently with a balance of just over $7,300.00.
Ron Kim Doubles Down
The Daily Gazette quoted Ron Kim as saying:
“The Republicans always raise more money,” Kim said Friday. “We are going to be competitive, but that’s just the way Republicans roll, and Heidi is a Republican, we can’t forget that…. Her base is Republicans and if she gets elected, the bill will come due.”
August 15, 2021 Daily Gazette
I find it hard to understand how it is that Ron Kim keeps issuing statements erroneously identifying Heidi Owen West as a Republican. While Ms. Owen West was endorsed by the Republican Party she is a registered independent.
One has to ask, how is it that Mr. Kim who is a lawyer, can repeatedly misstate Ms. Owen West’s party registration. Her campaign has emphasized her registration, and it is difficult to believe that Mr. Kim is unaware of it. Do he and his political consultant, Libby Post, think that misrepresenting her registration to more closely associate her with the Republican Party is a winning strategy? The voters in our city are pretty sophisticated and it is hard to believe that this strategy will not create more problems for his campaign than it will benefit it.
Heidi Owen West’s Contributions
Ms. Owen West’s husband owns Olde Saratoga Restorations. The Daily Gazette article observed she received significant contributions from the building industry.
The Planning Board (PB) issued their advisory opinion regarding the Unified Development Ordinance, the UDO:
They found “…that the UDO is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and not contrary to the general purposes and intent of the Zoning Ordinance” with a number of exceptions.
The GCR District: The Southern Gateway To the City
The GCR zoning district constitutes two narrow strips along South Broadway. The GCR is identified as a gateway to the city.
The two strips of land are located between Crescent Avenue and Driscoll Road running along Route 9. They are separated by Spa State Park.
The Planning Board was concerned that the proposed “.. GCR district abuts many areas defined as Rural Residential (RR) [JK: Greenbelt] within the Comprehensive Plan’s Conservation Development District (CDD) and an unlimited residential density limit is not appropriate.”
I think this represents their concern that the development in the GCR be designed so that it transitions appropriately into the greenbelt area.
They offered the following revisions to the UDO regarding the gateway land.
Maintain residential uses only on the second floor and above
Establish a maximum residential density limit appropriate for a rural gateway
Remove residential uses as principal permitted uses
The Planning Board also took exception to the list of approved uses for the GCR. The following table includes the currently proposed uses for the GCR. Highlighted in green are the uses the Planning Board considers appropriate.
There are two parcels of land on the eastside of Marion Avenue near Loughberry Lake that are located within the conservation district. In the UDO these parcels are designated as UR-2. According to the Planning Board they are within the conservation district (Green Belt) and should be designated CDD.
“Both parcels should be changed from UR-2 (7 units/acre) to RR (0.5 units/acre).”
Expanded Protection For The Greenbelt
Without going too far into the weeds…
The Comprehensive Plan as regards the greenbelt requires that density not exceed an average of one unit per two acres. There is an important caveat. In determining this average, wetlands, slopes, buffers to protect water, etc. must be identified and excluded. So a parcel that has four acres but encompasses two acres of wetland would only be allowed one unit.
The advisory opinion includes this note which is a pretty good description of the issue.
The maximum density in the CDD is an average of 0.5 Units/Acre of unconstrained land. Unconstrained lands are areas of the site that do not contain severe constraints to development, such as wetlands, very steep slopes, stream corridors, and floodplains, as well as lands with legal impediments to development. Following a “conservation analysis” by the City, constrained lands, along with at least 50 percent of the site’s developable open space, shall be set aside as permanent open space through a conservation easement.
The UDO currently only requires this analysis for subdivisions. The Planning Board would expand this to include “…all proposed development projects that require site plan and special use permit review in the SR and RR districts.“
The UDO included a list of approved uses for development in the city’s greenbelt.
The Planning Board finds that the following proposed new uses are too intense and recommends their removal from the RR zone: ‘campground’ and ‘community center’.
The Planning Board recommends revisions to the definitions and standards for ‘country club’, ‘greenhouse/nursery’ and ‘marina’ to ensure that these potentially intensive existing uses are consistent with the CDD designation going forward. The Planning Board is wiling to coordinate with other stakeholders to develop appropriate definitions for these uses and offers the following high-level guidance:
Country Club: The proposed definition in the UDO is too broad and the last portion of the sentence – “and/or similar uses” – should be removed.
Greenhouse/Nursery: The proposed definition should reflect a design standard for a small-scale plant/flower propagation center similar in character to Balet Flowers and Design.
Marina: The standard design and layout of a typical marina may need to be modified within the RR zone (CDD area) in areas that abut public land and where nature trails and protected open space is envisioned.
Strengthen the Process to Protect Open Space
The city’s Sustainability Coordinator and the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC) should be consulted on all future projects within CDD designated areas that require Planning Board review.
• It is essential to establish an appropriate definition for “rural character” that supports future development in a manner consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
• Increase the minimum required lot size in the RR zone to 5 acres. In addition, consider conducting a full build-out analysis for the remaining undeveloped lands throughout the city to inform future zoning decisions.
Emphasize Setting Aside Open Space Rather Than Fees
The Planning Board has an opportunity to improve its ability to preserve open space. Both subdivision and site plan review include provisions to protect open space by requiring applicants to set aside space for passive and/or recreational use. To date, the Planning Board has typically focused on assessing recreational fees in lieu of requiring open space as a matter of standard practice. Going forward the default position should be focused on open space protection. The recommendations provided by Tom Denny (letter dated June 3rd, 2021) to the Planning Board regarding Section 15.8 (10% Open Space Preservation and Recreation Land Requirement) should be incorporated into the final version of the adopted UDO.
• Sketch Plan should be required before Site Plan review for all large mixed-use projects exceeding 50,000 sq. ft.
Planning Board Response To Commissioner Madigan Re Saratoga National Golf Course and Land Owned By Bobby D’Andrea
Commissioner Michele Madigan asked the Planning Board to advise regarding two issues:
1) the split zoned parcels (RR and GCR) on South Broadway near Kaydeross Avenue West and
2) the definition of “Clubhouse” w/r/t a potential Saratoga National Golf Course project.
“Provide a recommendation on making these parcels whole in terms of their zoning and development use”.
Ans: The split zoned parcels are zoned GCR adjacent to South Broadway and RR to the “rear” towards Spa State Park. Making the parcels “whole” could mean one of two things, expansion of the GCR or expansion of the RR designation for the entirety of each parcel. It is assumed that the question is referring to potential expansion of the GCR.
• Provide more flexibility and encourage commercial development along the gateway.
• Reduction in open space and elimination of a conservation analysis for new development.
• Substantial increase in the number/types of uses allowed in what is now an RR zone.
The approval of the “Just Cats” project suggests this zoning change may be unnecessary to promote commercial activity along the gateway
“I would like to see a definition for a Clubhouse more clearly defined by the Planning Board and the City Council”.
Ans: As previously stated, the Planning Board recognizes the need for continued/periodic review to improve the clarity of the definitions for many of the proposed uses in the RR district and is specifically concerned with the definition of the term “Clubhouse” as included in Commissioner Madigan’s letter. Introducing additional uses such as banquet facilities, business center, lodging for up to 100 rooms and up to 6 free standing golf lodges, containing up to 8 guest rooms with associated common space” presents a significant risk to preserving the rural character in the “country” part of the city. It should be noted that “Clubhouse” as a distinct use is not proposed for inclusion in the UDO and the Planning Board sees no compelling reason to establish a definition for such use.
On August 11, 2021, the Daily Gazette reported that a startling 43.4% of new Covid infections recorded in Saratoga County in the last seven days are breakthrough infections –infections afflicting fully vaccinated people.
Statewide the Covid infection rate has risen from 566 in June to 3,222 on August 9.
With great fanfare on July 29, 2021, Saratoga County issued a press release announcing the establishment of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning Task Force in light of the emerging resurgence of Covid . With an eye to branding (and spin), its acronym is SHARP.
As noted in an earlier blog this committee did not emerge from a public process involving the Board of Supervisors’ Health and Social Services Committee. In fact the Health and Social Services Committee had met the day before the announcement so it was especially noteworthy that the Task Force was not mentioned let alone discussed at that committee meeting.
SHARP was established by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Todd Kusnierz (R-Moreau). The mission of SHARP is a bit nebulous. The release states, “The SHARP Task Force will be reviewing guidance issued by other governmental entities, reviewing relevant local data, and providing recommendations and guidance to the Saratoga County community.”
When you consider the makeup of this committee this seems especially odd.
The committee is made up of Chairman Todd Kusnierz Clifton Park Supervisor Jonathan Schopf, Vice Chairman of the Board Malta Town Supervisor Darren O’Connor, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee County Administrator Steve Bulger Dr. Dan Kuhles, Commissioner of the Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services Scot Chamberlain, Saratoga County Director of Human Resources Pete Bardunias, Senior Vice President of Community Advancement with the Capital Region Chamber Anita Murphy, Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent
Dr. Kuhles is the only person on the Task Force who would have any expertise regarding the virus. It would seem this advice would be less political and more science based if it were provided through the county Health Department.
I’m not sure why a new task force is required to provide guidance to “the Saratoga County Community”.
In order to better understand what is going on with this Task Force I submitted a FOIL regarding any documents associated with SHARP. The response by the county was one document, the original press release.
I went to the County’s website to find out when the Task Force would be meeting, but there was nothing on their calendar regarding SHARP. I then wrote twice to the clerk of the County Board of Supervisors asking why a meeting of the Task Force was not on their calendar and when they would be meeting. Neither email was answered.
Most troubling to me were two quotes in the release by Supervisor John Schopf:
“Saratoga County takes the health and well-being of its residents and employees seriously. At the same time the right of individual thought, decision making, and ultimate choice cannot be overcome by government mandate.” Supervisor John Schopf
“With our high vaccine rate, we must be strategic and thoughtful in our approach when recommending any new public safety guidance to our communities, schools, businesses and non-proﬁts. We believe in individual responsibility, and we want to keep Saratoga County open for business and continue to be a safe and friendly place to live and visit.” Supervisor John Schopf
So apparently this Task Force that has not met and has not given the public an opportunity for the input it said it would seek, has somehow already decided against the use of mandates as a tool to mitigate the rise in Covid cases in the county.
The need for a healthy public debate on suppressing the virus
It will not surprise the readers of this blog that I have a strong opinion on the issue of mandates and personal responsibility.
At a press conference held at the county on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, Saratoga County Health Department director Dr. Kuhles told those present:
“Masking is known to be an effective layer of prevention in schools and other locations,” Kuhles said. “It prevents the wearer from being exposed when being worn consistently and correctly and it can also act as a type of source control if the wearer of the mask is infected and prevent exposure to others.” Dr. Dan Kuhles
So the county’s own Commissioner of Health establishes the scientific basis for the need to wear masks.
In light of the threat posed by this virus, I take very strong exception to Mr. Schopf’s assertion that, “…the right of individual thought, decision making, and ultimate choice cannot be overcome by government mandate.”
In fact there are copious examples of mandates in our country regulating an individual’s choice when it may endanger other members of the public. You cannot drink alcohol in excess and drive. You cannot drive as fast as you want on our highways. Municipal noise ordinances restrict the liberty of individuals to annoy their neighbors.
The CDC has made it absolutely clear that wearing a mask is primarily meant to suppress the spread of the disease to others. In other words an individual infected with the virus, even if asymptomatic, who is not wearing a mask and interacts with others has the potential to infect them.
Besides the health affects of this disease, the more people infected the greater the risk that the virus will mutate and become even more dangerous.
Most frustrating to me is that if our government had expeditiously required vaccinations, required masks, and required quarantining for persons identified as infected, we could have crushed this disease and gone back to something approaching normality.
Below is the press release my FOIL produced. Press Release
With Kafka Logic County Announces It Will Not Require Masking At Its Facilities
The following is an email issued by the County Administrator to all county employees on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, and the memorandum attached to it.
I cannot find any record of any Board of Supervisors meeting or committee addressing whether masks should be mandated for the county’s facilities. So much for transparency and democratic procedure.
The attached memorandum contains the following:
“While CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in public during periods of substantial or high COVID transmission to reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, at this time no mandate is in place for employees in most county buildings.”
One might foolishly expect that there would be some reason given to explain why they have decided to ignore the CDC recommendation.
County Administrator’s Email And Accompanying Memorandum
From: Steve Bulger <SBulger@saratogacountyny.gov> Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 12:33:52 PM Subject: Covid-19 Employee Update County Employees: Please review the attached information regarding the current Covid-19 situation. If anything changes we will be sure to keep you informed promptly. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication on behalf of our Saratoga County residents. Steve Bulger Saratoga County Administrator 518-884-4742 email@example.com
From: Steve Bulger <SBulger@saratogacountyny.gov> Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 12:33:52 PM Subject: Covid-19 Employee Update County Employees:
Please review the attached information regarding the current Covid-19 situation. If anything changes we will be sure to keep you informed promptly. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication on behalf of our Saratoga County residents. Steve Bulger Saratoga County Administrator 518-884-4742 firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisor Tara Gaston Calls For Masking Of County Employees And Is Unceremoniously Ignored
Back on August 7, 2021, Supervisor Tara Gaston wrote to the members of the Board of Supervisors urging them to require masking. No one responded to her memorandum.
I guess you can characterize the county’s press release that rejects a mask mandate as their response.
From: Tara N Gaston <TNGaston@saratogacountyny.gov> Subject: Re: RELEASE: SARATOGA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES ISSUES COVID-19 HEALTH ADVISORY Date: August 7, 2021 at 18:00:39 EDT
Based on the continued increase, and the guidance from this advisory, is there at least an intention to require (not simply recommend) masks in county buildings? While I know a mandate county-wide is unlikely to occur and would be of dubious effectiveness for a number of reasons, a requirement in county buildings would both help protect county staff that interact with the public and serve as a model for the public more broadly (which is I assume why several county municipalities already have such a requirement in effect).
The Saratoga Springs City Council voted unanimously to request that the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors seek approval from the New York State Liquor Authority to require bars in the city to close by 2 AM rather than the current closing time of 4 AM.
The County and the NYS Liquor Authority, rather than the city, decide the hours that alcohol can be served, and the city’s two representatives to county government do not appear to be supportive of the city’s request.
Fueled by alcohol and an increasingly aggressive and volatile party culture, the late night, downtown bar scene has become difficult to police. Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton told the council, “It’s become clear to us through analytics and arrests that the hours of 2-to-4 a.m. are unquestionably posing a public safety risk to the community at large. We cannot let this public safety threat go on.”
Police Chief Shane Crooks told the council, “We have seen a large increase in calls for service and the number of people. The people we end up dealing with that late at night are highly intoxicated.”
According to the Daily Gazette story, Saratoga Springs’ representatives to the County Board of Supervisors, Tara Gaston(D) and Matthew Veitch(R) were less than enthusiastic about the county acting to address this problem. They cautioned that the process would be protracted. The Gazette reported that “…they [Gaston and Veitch] wanted to hear from bar owners and other stakeholders in what could be a lengthy committee process before forming an opinion of whether the county should approve the city’s request.”
Veitch noted that both the county and state Liquor Authority would have to hold public hearings on a potential change – if the proposal gets that far.
“You are talking several months at a minimum, if it even passes the county,” he said. “We have bars downtown that serve patrons and police and sheriff; there are multiple factors at issue. I’ll keep an open mind and let the process run its course.”
Daily Gazette August 3
The Caroline Street scene has long been problematic, and there have been other appeals from the city to the county over the years to restrict bar hours. All have been rejected by the County Board of Supervisors.
It is troubling that our two Supervisors are apparently unwilling to be advocates on behalf of the city regarding a solution to this ongoing problem.
Gazette Article Gives Excellent Brief History Of Efforts To Change City’s Closing Time For Bars
Democratic mayoral candidate Ron Kim has sent out a fundraising email (see full text below) that contains some disturbing inaccuracies delivered in a problematic tone.
The email bases its appeal for donations on the alleged threat to Saratoga Springs that his opponent, Heidi Owen West, supposedly poses to the city.
It begins with this ominous warning:
“The January 6 insurrection was 410 miles away in Washington DC but the danger it presented exists right here in Saratoga Springs.”
“Did you know that members of the Saratoga County GOP organized buses of rioters to travel to the January 6 insurrection?“
“Did you know that tonight the same group is holding a fundraiser for my opponent, the GOP candidate for mayor Heidi [Owen] West?”
This was simply not true.
First of all, let’s put aside the question of whether the travelers went to Washington with the intent of rioting in the capital. While there were buses that went to Washington in January from this area, they were organized by a group called the Upstate Conservative Coalition (UCC).
I am sure that there were registered Republicans among the travelers, but the group that organized the trip was not the city or county GOP.
Most importantly the UCC had nothing to do with Ms. Owen West’s fundraiser. In fact, while the county Republican Party promoted the event on their Facebook page, Ms. Owen West organized the fundraiser herself, independent of any group. While she is the Republican endorsed candidate for mayor, she is a registered independent voter.
Mr. Kim’s letter then claims the following:
“The GOP is spreading its anti-democracy misinformation and lies -all to the detriment of our city and our way of life here in Saratoga Springs.“
Without indicating exactly what misinformation and lies he thinks the GOP is spreading here, he is clearly trying to have the reader associate Ms. Owen West with this alleged threat to “our way of life here in Saratoga Springs”.
While I understand that Mr. Kim’s email is meant to motivate people to send him money, I find his intemperate appeal to fear quite disturbing. In fact, this appeal for money seems to me to mirror the very tactics of spreading misinformation that he attributes to the GOP.
This approach also seems seems politically foolish. The number of enrolled Democrats now exceeds the number of enrolled Republicans in this city. That means Mr. Kim is not the underdog in this race. Why send out a message so clearly based on inaccuracies? It not only damages his credibility but also provides fodder to his opponents.
This city is fortunate to have a highly involved citizenry that I suspect will not react favorably to this kind of over the top campaign tactic.
I reached out to Ms. Owen West. Here is her response:
I am not being funded by any political party. I’m a political independent who is solely being funded by a groundswell of people of all political persuasions.
I’m incredibly humbled by the Saratogians who joined me at my kickoff fundraiser earlier this week because they believe in my ability to deliver on the issues that matter the most to our community.
Heidi Owen West
This is the full text of Mr. Kim’s fundraising appeal.
The January 6 insurrection was 410 miles away in Washington DC but the danger it presented exists right here in Saratoga Springs.
Did you know that members of the Saratoga County GOP organized buses of rioters to travel to the January 6insurrection?
Did you know that tonight the same group is holding a fundraiser for my opponent, the GOP candidate for mayor Heidi West?
The GOP is spreading its anti-democracy misinformation and lies -all to the detriment of our city and our way of life here in Saratoga Springs.
Before midnight tomorrow, we must raise $15,000 because we cannot allow the GOP to out-raise us and out-spend us.
I am Ron Kim, an experienced and proven leader with the ability to tackle the tough issues facing our City. As the mayor of Saratoga Springs, on day one, I will work to bring transparency, accountability, and accessibility back to City Hall.
According to the July 31, 2021, edition of the Daily Gazette, Saratoga County has the unfortunate position of having the highest positivity rate for COVID in New York State.
In the face of this, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has continued their practice of opacity. On Thursday, they announced the formation of the Saratoga Health and Readiness Planning (SHARP) Task Force which is charged with addressing ongoing developments regarding COVID. I use the word opacity because the county Health and Social Services Committee met the day before the announcement of the task force and there was no discussion whatsoever of the establishment of such a body let alone who would be appointed to it. All of this was done then outside of the public process of the county’s committees.
According to the Gazette:
“The announcement specifically cast doubt on directives and mandates as a public health strategy, however, and said the task force would focus on educating the public so it could make its own decisions.”
In other words, they have predetermined that there will be no mandates. Who decided this and why? The public has no idea.
There are arguments to be made both for and against mandates but clearly the decisions were made with a complete indifference to transparency or public input.
There appears to be no serious analysis behind the decision to reject mandates.
For a start it would seem important to try to answer a basic question in order to come up with an effective plan: Why is our county number one?
It would also be good to know why the idea of mandated mask wearing in indoor situations has been summarily dismissed.
According to the CDC the viral load of this current variant is staggering. The viral load is the number of viruses being expelled by infected individuals. Apparently the amount of viruses expelled by a person infected with the Delta variant is 1260 times greater than that of the original virus. This is one possible explanation for the sharp increase in cases and the fact that even vaccinated persons have been subject to infection in surprising numbers although those cases have almost always been less severe. Worse, even though the impact of the disease is greatly reduced for the vaccinated, they are still able to spread the disease even if they have no symptoms.
It may very well be that local businesses might be negatively impacted by a mask mandate and there may be other reasons to avoid this. Still, there are arguments to be made for mandating masks. A mandate could help protect employees in shops and restaurants particularly in Saratoga which has an influx of tourists from all over the country including from states with very high Covid rates. Aside from the well being of those workers, businesses, already struggling to hire enough staff, might find themselves having to reduce the hours they are open if staff members fall ill. Responsible policy makers need to be willing to discuss all options and their ramifications.
My concern is that it is ideology, not science driving this decision.
People’s rights need to be respected but we have an encyclopedia of examples where individual rights are limited in the interest of the public good. As just a couple of examples, we have drunk driving laws and shirts and shoes are often required in public venues.
The fact is that if you are a carrier of the disease and you are not wearing a mask, you are spreading the disease wherever you go. You are putting other people’s lives at risk.
One might also ask, is the county really going to come up with an education strategy as an alternative that is going to convince people to voluntarily wear masks?
Unfortunately, having such thoughtful discussions in front of the public is simply not the way this county operates.
I contacted the three major candidates running for Mayor to ask about their plans for charter change if elected (I did not contact the Working Families Party candidate promoted by the Republican Party).
Heidi Owens-West (Republican)
I asked her, if elected, do you have any plans to initiate a new charter change proposal?
No, Charter Change has already been defeated 3x.
Robin Dalton (Saratoga Stronger Together)
I asked her, if elected, do you have any plans to initiate a new charter change proposal?
I have no plans to address charter change in any way, shape, or form in my current term or over the next two years if elected in November.
Ron Kim (Democrat)
Ron Kim was the co-chair of and spokesperson for the group advocating for charter change last fall. I emailed him to inquire what his plans would be for charter change should he be elected mayor. What follows is our email exchange.
From:john.kaufmann Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2021 7:30:58 PM To: Ronald Kim Subject: Charter
If you are elected mayor, what do you plan to do about the city’s charter?
Yes. However, it is my understanding that the Charter requires the Mayor and City Council to appoint a Charter Commission at a certain point in time (I do not recall when that is.) If that occurs while I am Mayor, I will abide by the Charter and appoint a Commission, if it does not occur while I am Mayor, I have no intentions of taking this action, because the voters have spoken and we have more important matters to deal with at this point in time.
From:john.kaufmann Sent: Friday, June 25, 2021 9:56 AM To: Ronald Kim Subject: Charter
I did some research and found this under the mayor’s duties in the charter (Title 4 Section F).
“The City Charter shall be reviewed at least every 10 years commencing with the effective date of this Charter.”
As Mayor Kelly established a charter review commission in 2018, I would interpret the section to indicate that the city has until 2028 to carry out another charter review. What are your thoughts?
From: Ronald Kim Sent: Tuesday, June 25, 2021 10:51 AM To:john.kaufmann Subject: Re: Charter
As I said, voters spoke in 2020—as a Democrat who believes in democracy I will abide by that decision and focus on other more important matters if elected Mayor in 2021. If I happen to be in office at the time the Charter requires a review, I will abide by the Charter and appoint a commission. I take no position on your interpretation at this point in time. As an attorney I recognize that “textual interpretations” are not the last word on what is required by a foundational document like our City Charter.
Ron Kim Fundraiser Invitation Paints Picture of His Support
I thought the readers of this blog would find it helpful to get a sense of who is supporting Ron Kim’s candidacy. Supporters of charter change figure heavily on this list of donors.
At the July 20, 2021 City Council meeting I suggested that the city and the local Black Lives Matter organization enter into professional mediation, in hopes that this would lower the temperature, allow us all to make some progress, reduce the level of stress and distress in our community, and help us all reach some level of understanding. We simply cannot continue to have this level of distress and dissatisfaction tearing apart our community. I still believe that discussion and mediation can help and I am taking this very seriously. Since that meeting I have taken on the task of organizing a mediation process, including speaking to Elz Figuereo and beginning the process of finding professional assistance.
My youngest son was arrested and arraigned on Thursday July 22, 2021 due to his presence at the scene of an alleged robbery. My understanding is that my son was present but not an active participant in the alleged robbery. This involved an alleged dispute over cannabis. There were others present and involved in the dispute who have not been arrested. It is my understanding that further arrests are possible. Those who assaulted the victim are still being sought. As far as I know, everyone involved in this incident is a Saratoga Springs resident. The investigation is ongoing and further arrests are possible.
Since my son’s arrest, local activists – including Mr. Figuereo – have been loudly equating my son’s legal issues (which are wholly and completely about a dispute between local teens) with the recent influx of violence in Saratoga Springs. This is unconscionable. These matters are completely unrelated, have no bearing on one another, and do nothing to address the issues raised by local activists. These actions are counterproductive as well as being hurtful. Despite this ongoing situation, it is my hope that Mr. Figuereo and his associates will be good faith participants in mediation.
Conflating two completely separate and painful issues and using my family’s current private difficulties to address a public problem is unacceptable. It would be best for this legal matter to play out through the justice system. I also humbly suggest that it would be more effective for our local activists and politicians – those currently in office as well as those currently standing for election – to focus on the important public matters at hand and not add to my son’s and my family’s pain. I feel the same way any parent would feel. I love my son very much and I want to help him all I can.
Please allow me in my capacity as an elected official to follow through on my commitment to begin mediation and please allow my family to deal with our struggles with an appropriate level of privacy and compassion. Michele MadiganCommissioner of FinanceCity of Saratoga Springs474 BroadwaySaratoga Springs, NY 12866518-587-3550