After A Run Of Forty-Two Years, Reporter Stephen Williams Retires From The Daily Gazette

Stephen Williams has covered Saratoga Springs (among other localities) for as long as I can remember. He has worked for the Daily Gazette since 1977. In a front page story in the Gazette he announced his retirement and offered recollections about his work and the communities he has covered.

Mr. Williams has done an extraordinary job of covering our community. His stories have reflected his ability to listen without prejudice to elected officials and the public and to report fairly on what he has found.

I want to publicly thank him for his service and wish him the best in his retirement.

Saratoga County Human Resources Director Marcy McNamara Out Of Her Job With County

The Times Union June 16 edition reported that Saratoga County Human Resources director Margaret (Marcy) McNamara was let go by the Board of Supervisors following the end of her six year appointment.

She will be replaced by Scott Chamberlain. Mr. Chamberlain is a resident of Halfmoon. Mr. Chamberlain appears well qualified for the position. At the time of his hire he was head of human resources for the New York State Teachers Retirement System. He was previously with the New York State Office of Mental Health as director of employee relations.

The action represented a continuation of the conflict between the supervisors from the small towns and the larger municipalities.

The readers of this blog may remember that Ms. McNamara and County Administrator Spencer Hellwig played key roles in the debacle when the county decided to pay most employees including Ms. McNamara and Mr. Spencer time and a half pay for their regular hours during the pandemic.

Ms. McNamara was reported to have told members of the Board of Supervisors as part of the COVID fiasco that the city of Saratoga Springs along with the towns of Wilton, Greenfield, and Malta were paying their employees time and a half for their regular hours. This turned out not to be true.

The newspaper reported that Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski told the Times Union that “the county is tossing aside another loyal, dedicated, hardworking employee of Saratoga County (There is) no reason, other than they can.”

In a case of unintended irony, Supervisor Kinowski read a letter from Northumberland Supervisor Willard Peck that opined that the new county leadership was hiring “friends and family.” Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett pointed out to Peck that Ms. McNamara had hired Kinowski’s son to be her deputy.

According to the TU:

“The statement (by Peck) also said the county is now being ruled by ‘fear and intimidation’ and that employee morale is suffering because some employees worry they are on a ‘hit list.'”

I expect Mr. Kinowski’s son is understandably worried about his future under Mr. Chamberlain.

A Thoughtful Document From The National Education Association on Addressing Racism in Schools

A commenter named Ron L. has posted a link to a document crafted by the National Education Association (NEA) which is one of the two major teachers’ unions in the country. I found it to be the most thoughtful discussion of how schools should address race that I have come across.

In earlier posts I have expressed my reservation about teachers challenging individual children to consider how they are racists. This issue is among the topics constructively explored.

This is a much better crafted plan for how schools should address the issue of racism in America than the regulation put out by the Saratoga Springs School Board. I hope they will become aware of this piece and reevaluate what they have adopted.

It is a long and extensive piece that deserves reading. Here are extracts I found helpful, particularly #1.

City Cuts Ribbon Celebrating Saratoga Pride (LGBQ+)

Commissioner of Public Safety, Robin Dalton, worked with Saratoga Pride to create a colorful crosswalk celebrating Saratoga Springs’ Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, And Others (LGBTQ+) community.

Saratoga Pride

According to their website:

Saratoga Pride is a welcoming community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people and our allies in the greater Saratoga Springs area. We invite you to join us for social and informational events and entertainment, and to look to us for LGBTQ resources, networking and advocacy.

Saratoga Pride is a network of LGBTQ community members and allies dedicated to:

  • Fostering connections among Saratoga area LGBTQ community members and visitors
  • Enhancing the visibility of the LGBTQ community in Saratoga and the surrounding region
  • Recognizing local businesses and organizations that welcome the LGBTQ community
  • Increasing awareness of LGBTQ-owned and inclusive businesses and services in the region.

The Project

The project was funded by private donors and the Adirondack Trust Community Fund.

Commissioner Dalton was enthusiastic about the large turn out for the ribbon cutting for the crosswalk. She stated, “I’m so pleased I was able to work with Saratoga Pride to facilitate this project, a simple yet powerful message of our warm and welcoming community and show of ongoing support for our LQBTQ+ Saratogians.”

From left to right are Trieste Cordova, Cindy Swadba, and Commissioner Dalton. These women along with Steve Rosenblum worked on the project.

Ms. Trieste did all the graphic design for the promotional materials and signs and was one of the spokespersons for the event.

On the left is Steve Rosenblum.

To the left of Commissioner Dalton is Congressman Paul Tonko. To her right is Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan. To Commissioner Madigan’s left is Supervisor Tara Gaston.

Julia Dunn of Channel 6 News was the emcee.

The following people were in attendance:

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner

Supervisor Matt Veitch

Town of Milton Supervisor Benny Zlotnick

Deputy Commissioner of Finance, Deidra Ladd

Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, Eileen Finneran

Nathaniel Gray (on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo)

Dr. Marc Conner, President of Skidmore College

Caroline Putnam on behalf of the Adirondack Trust Community Fund

Controversy Over Legality Of Crosswalk

There was some controversy over whether the crosswalk violated the New York State Department of Transportation requirements.

This is the story from channel 10 news.

This was the story as covered by Channel 13.

Mayor Appoints Advisory Committee To Assist In Implementing Police Reform

Another good article from the Foothills Business Review. This time it is on the appointment of the three member Police Reform Advisory Committee by Mayor Kelly. They will be charged to work with Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton and Police Chief Shane Crooks on implementing the Police Reform Plan the city adopted on March 31.

I would qualify an element of the Foothills Business Review story. Commissioner Dalton does not oppose a civilian review board. As she explained to me, she is concerned that were such a board established that potential issues of conflict with existing union contracts and the city’s charter be carefully considered. She expressed confidence in the three people appointed by Mayor Kelly and police Chief Crooks to explore the issues thoroughly and to provide good guidance to the Council as to how to proceed.

The appointments are Charles “Chuck” Caputo, Jason Golub, and Kimberly Galvin. All three served on the original task force. Jason Golub co-chaired it.

Link to story.

Saratoga Springs School District Struggles With Equity: Teachers Are Not Therapists

The death of George Floyd has prompted a rethinking of the problems of race in America. School systems have been asked to play a role in trying to address the issue, leading to conflict in school districts across the country.

In his excellent story, Reporter Zachary Matson summed up the conflict at a recent Saratoga Springs school board meeting in the May 12, 2021 edition of the Daily Gazette as follows:

A new diversity and equity policy in the Saratoga Springs City School District is either a long-needed balm to heal educational disparities in the district or a rogue attempt to indoctrinate students with radical race theories.”

Mason described the purpose of the programs being considered :

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Saratoga district officials offered a presentation that underscored the kind of inequities the new policy will aim to ameliorate.

A presentation outlining student data on assessments, graduation rates and other categories showed Black students lagging their classmates in numerous categories. The presentation also highlighted stark disparities in outcomes for students who are economically disadvantaged, who had a graduation rate of 76.6 percent compared to the overall average of over 92 percent. Economically disadvantaged students also accounted for the majority of out-of-school suspensions despite representing about 20 percent of the student population.

A Frustrating Experience Trying To Get Information Out Of The School System’s Website

It is important that our school system has identified and quantified the challenges that need to be addressed.

In a presentation to the Saratoga Springs School Board, Lisa Cutting, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment did a presentation on the administrative strategies being considered to address these problems of inequality in the school district.

Ms. Cutting’s power point presentation included a reference to the book Letting Go of Literary Whiteness by Carlin Borsheim-Black and Sophia Tatiana Sargianides. My attempts to find out just what role this book will play have been frustrated, however, by the opaque nature of the school system’s website.

First, I struggled to find the minutes of the meeting at which she did the presentation. I selected from the menu on the website “School Board.” This took me to a menu that included as its choices “Click here to view Board of Education Agendas and Minutes.”

This took me to a page that was titled “Files and Documents.” The subheading was “2020-2021 Board of Education Agenda and Minutes.” There was a list of dates of the board meetings. When I clicked on the date of the meeting I thought might include Ms. Cutting’s presentation, I got a list of PDF files that included one titled agenda but there was no file for the actual minutes. The items in the agenda were sufficiently vague and based on acronyms that I was unable to determine whether the presentation by Ms. Cutting was among them.

I called a friend for help. She directed to me to a page on the site called “NEWS.” Among the items on this page was a link to the Zoom record of several recent meetings.

Unfortunately, there was no way to determine where in the Zoom meeting any particular item was considered. As the meeting I looked at was over two hours long, finding any item would have required more time than any reasonable person would want to devote to such a search.

I decided to telephone Ms. Cutting directly to ask her what role the book would play in their plan. I believe the person who answered the phone was her secretary. She asked me for the purpose of my call and after I explained my interest she said she “would pass my request on to Ms. Cutting.” I specifically asked will someone get back to me “one way or the other?” I was told yes. I never heard anything further.

The purpose of this history is not to attack the district. In reviewing the list of meeting dates I noted that up until last January, the minutes for meetings were available. I have had very positive meetings in the past with Superintendent Michael Patton on other issues facing the district. I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and his obvious concern for the students. I expect that our school system has had its hands full during this pandemic. Hopefully the situation will be corrected in the future.

My Problems With The Book

[Let me preface my review of this book by noting that I am sympathetic to people trying to address the pernicious plague of racism in our country. I am quite concerned that my disagreements with this book will be exploited by using my critical review as a weapon in the culture wars rather than as a contribution to the dialogue we, as Americans, need to have about how to heal our country.]

The book “Letting Go of Literary Whiteness” is directed at secondary White English teachers working in predominantly White schools. As the authors explain, “…this book proposes antiracist literature instruction as a framework English teachers can use to carry out literature-based units that make teaching about race and racism a deliberate and systematic part of the curriculum in White-dominant schools. ” (p.3 )

The assumption in the book is that due to privileges that white people in America have over people of color, the role of a teacher is to help White students understand their inherent racism as a way of overcoming it.

They state: “We wrote this book …to expose the institutional, societal, epistemological, and interpersonal racism that undergirds our Whiteness, our White privilege.” (p. 4) Later in the book they argue that “White students must engage in identity work to understand the ways they are constructed racially and the ways race and racial privilege influence their experiences, identities, and worldviews.” (p.107)

The following is a telling observation from the book:

The deliberate efforts to develop racial consciousness, which often include reflecting on one’s own beliefs, assumptions, and privileges, can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or sense of being overwhelmed.


It is important to note that many students have even more dramatic emotional responses than Miranda to antiracism work. Although these are expected reactions to developing racial consciousness, it is also important that White students not remain in a state of guilt or shame, but stay engaged despite discomfort to develop a healthier, more productive identity as an ally or accomplice.

While a certain level of discomfort is necessary–and we do not want to completely eliminate the cognitive dissonance [JK: ??] needed for racial identity growth–those of us committed to anti-racist pedagogy are always working to develop more effective approaches for engaging White students in this work.

Page 108 – 109

I have a variety of criticisms of this book but this extract illustrates my most central concern.

Therapy is at the heart of this approach rather than teaching.

This is taken from the Wikipedia article on psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy or talking therapy) is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction with adults, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to improve an individual’s well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social skills


Even assuming that the approach advocated in this book is a good idea, teachers have neither the training nor the skill set to carry out this kind of work. It is even more troubling to me that the authors think that this kind of highly emotional work could be done in middle and high school classes that could include twenty to thirty students and may meet for as little as 40 minutes.

Teachers simply cannot be expected to act as therapists.

Shame Is A Poor Tool

According to the authors:

Whites are always becoming , continually struggling to recognize and understand the implications of Whiteness and White privilege. In other words, White racial identity work is never “done.” A commitment to antiracism constitutes a lifelong journey, one without guarantees of achieving the status of a “good White” once and for all.”

Page 110

I have a basic problem with the construct that dealing with racial injustice is fundamentally a case of individual character evolution. I may address this more in the future; but for this post, my concern is the implications of this kind of approach.

As “Whiteness”, according to the authors, is an unearned privilege and by definition can only exist if there is another group (people of color) to contrast it with that has less, the privileged White person is compelled to experience guilt and shame.

Vulnerable teenagers trying to find their place in the world will be particularly susceptible to this kind of guilt and shame.

I have a good friend who is a psychologist who observed that shame is never an effective tool to bring about change and development. Much of the work of psychologists in fact is to help their patients overcome the debilitating impact of shame.

Anyone promoting this “teaching” approach has to also consider what impact this could have on the family of a student. I know that the proponents are going to argue that this will lead to constructive discussions at home; but I suspect most parents will not look kindly on teachers who, even with the best of intentions, foster anxiety and pain in their children. To me this is a politically untenable strategy. I think this shows how untethered college academics can be to the real world.

I do not claim to have a simple strategy for addressing racism but not only is their approach doomed to fail with the students, it is guaranteed to generate a public outcry that will be a losing nightmare for the administrators who are trying to manage their school systems.

I applaud our Superintendent and our school board for acknowledging that the statistics of students of color and those who are economically disadvantaged indicate problems that urgently need to be addressed. I applaud their efforts to find ways for the school to better serve these students. I am simply concerned that the approach offered by this book will not serve this cause well and that the administrative staff and board should seek other options.

For better or for worse, the old paradigms that guided this country have been breaking down and the culture wars that have superseded them serve only to drown out efforts to learn from each other as we seek solutions to our pressing problems. My hope is that as the debate continues over how best to serve students that the conversation remains civil and tethered to reason and substance.

Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation Rescues 65 Phila Street

Samantha Bosshart and Nicole Babie Celebrate The Purchase of 65 Phila Street

[JK: Correction. Mark Haworth is a member of the Saratoga Springs Preservation and is not a member of it’s board]

Congratulations and kudos to Samantha Bosshart, her board, and her staff for their successful protection of the two derelict houses on Phila Street that the owners wanted to demolish.

In a press release, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation (SSPF) announced that they have purchased the threatened building at 65 Phila Street. The other house had been purchased by a private buyer. SSPF assisted the private buyer in their purchase of the other house.

Thanks as well to Mark Haworth, a member of the SSPF Foundation, who provided the loan to SSPF for the purchase which made all of this possible.

The current plan is to raise the $250,000.00 it is estimated will be needed for rehabbing the structure.

“Our goal is to make it safe for future owners and the neighborhood, something that is long overdue,” continued Bosshart.  The Foundation plans to start with environmental remediation, necessary structural repairs, and a new roof.  Construction costs have risen significantly in the last 18 months so the Foundation will lean on the community for financial and in-kind support in addition to utilizing funds they have raised over the past few years to undertake a special project such as this.  “Our friends and members rallied when the houses were proposed to be demolished.  We hope that our community will rally to revive 65,” said Favro.

From the SSPF release

The existence of SSPF is a testament to the grassroots support this city enjoys for preserving Saratoga Springs’ special architectural heritage.

Further Information On The May 16 Black Lives Matter Protest And Some Thoughts On Lexis Figuereo

The Foothills Business Daily (FBD) published an excellent story on the May 16, 2021, Black Lives Matter demonstration. FBD is an excellent resource and very much worth supporting.

The article offers accounts of the event from the police and from Lexis Figuereo, one of the organizers of the event.

According to the article as Mr. Figuereo had told the police not to telephone him, Police Lieutenant Robert Jillson texted Mr. Figuereo prior to the event. In the text he observed that Figuereo had been on social media promoting an event. Lieutenant Jillson asked what the event would entail. The purpose of the text was to determine whether the event would require police support such as protecting participants if they decided to march on the city streets.

Mr. Figuereo declined to provide any information beyond the fact that his group was going to have a rally.

According to FBD:

“Where the police chief said he saw the texts that Jillson sent to Figuereo as a way to reach out and communicate, Figuereo saw them as an irritant from a police officer whom he particularly does not like.

When the BLM group occupied Broadway in front of City Hall, SSPD Chief Crooks briefly rerouted traffic and had Lieutenant Jillson (one of only two uniformed police who approached the demonstration) direct the demonstrators to relinquish the street and return to the sidewalk.

According to FBD, Figuereo saw this “…as an intended distraction from the speech he was giving on the steps of city hall. Since traffic was shut down, the threat posed either by people in the street or by motorists was minimal so there was no need for the confrontation…”

Characterizing this as a confrontation at this point seems excessively dramatic. As there was plenty of room on the sidewalk, a request to relinquish the street so that traffic could flow seems reasonable.

In the meantime, the local police, along with elements of the New York State Police, and the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department were marshalling in the Collamer Parking Lot. Chief Crooks was prepared to make arrests should the demonstrators insist on continuing to occupy the city’s main intersection.

According to the FBD, “Figuereo said dozens of police in riot gear and on horseback, with a van ready to make mass arrests was intimidating and a threat to free speech.

In fact, the police had no problem with Mr. Figuereo addressing the participants but did want to keep participants on the sidewalk and traffic flowing in order to minimize disruption downtown.

Where Figuereo saw the marchers moving peacefully from the steps of City Hall back to Congress Park and dispersal at the end of the rally, Crooks said police did not know what the intention was, that the group could have changed direction at any point. The mounted police following the group stayed a reasonable distance back the chief said, but Figuereo said it felt as though the group was being ushered quickly out of town. 

Foothills Business Daily

Significantly, Mr. Figuereo’s fortunate decision to lead the demonstrators back to Congress Park relieved Chief Crooks from initiating arrests.

I think an argument can be made that the inconvenience of people obstructing traffic is worthwhile and should be tolerated in the interest of alerting the public to the need for addressing racism. Similarly, there is a valid argument that obstructing the main thoroughfare of the city is illegal and that the police have an obligation to enforce the law.

The central problem in all of this is the gratuitously provocative nature of Mr. Figuereos’s leadership and methods.

If Mr. Figuereo had simply cooperated with the police and told them that his group was going to march to city hall along the east lane of Broadway, speak briefly, and return to Congress Park via Maple Avenue, there would have been no issue. There would have been no “distraction” from his speech.

Instead, Mr. Figuereo insisted on drama and provocation. His security people carry bats and wear bulletproof vests. They routinely taunt the police. With respect, this does not seem to me to be the most thoughtful or effective way to educate the community in the quest for social justice.

Following the death of George Floyd a huge crowd filled Congress Park to protest this horrific example of police violence. The group Mr. Figuereo led on Sunday’s march was down to about sixty people.

Some Thoughts About The Leadership Of Our Local Black Lives Matter Group

According To Lexis Figuereo’s biography as shared with the Daily Gazette, he was designated a Person In Need Of Supervision (PINS) when he was eleven years old. The New York State Court’s website has a page defining PINS.

A person in need of supervision (PINS) is an individual under the age of 18 who:

Does not attend school

Behaves in a way that is incorrigible, ungovernable, or habitually disobedient

Is beyond the control of a parent, guardian or lawful authority

Is suspected of drug abuse

And requires supervision or treatment

New York State Courts

According to Mr. Figuereo he spent five years in juvenile detention. My experience working with the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Troy and the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council educated me regarding the New York State’s youth detention centers. The facilities did little to rehabilitate their residents. New York State basically warehoused problem youth relying on force rather than social programs to enforce control. Mr. Figuereo shares some of the unpleasantness he endured in these places (he was incarcerated in three different facilities) in the Gazette article.

With that in mind I have a real sympathy for Mr. Figuereo. His anger and hatred for the police is humanly understandable. It is regrettable that he seems unable to distinguish between police who conscientiously and fairly perform their duties and those who do not.

But understanding and sympathy does not mean being uncritical.

Mr. Figuereo appears to believe that all members of the police are dedicated to brutalizing people in general and people of color in particular. As a matter of principle he refuses to cooperate with our local police department in the planning of the street actions he leads. His actions are so provocative that it appears that he is seeking conflict, hoping the police will be drawn into a confrontation that he will use to argue how bad they are.

He came within a hare’s breath of a confrontation with the police at his last street action. Had he and his supporters not abandoned the intersection in front of city hall the police would have cleared the street and made arrests.

One can criticize him, as I regularly do, for his lack of judgement but one has to acknowledge that he has the courage of his convictions.

I feel badly for this troubled person. It is only a matter of time before an error in judgement results in another arrest. Worse, given his history of intemperate behavior I fear he may end up being hurt in an altercation. He is treading the razors edge.

Where I am sharply critical of Mr. Figuereo is in his decision to involve young people in these actions. I believe that many of the well meaning kids in these demonstrations are not aware of how badly things can go should the police take action. In the chaos of a confrontation in which immature kids may resist the police, people are very likely to be hurt.

MLK Saratoga Breaks Its Silence…Sort Of

As people who follow my blog know, I have been quite concerned about the apparent indifference of the group MLK Saratoga regarding the provocative and undisciplined demonstrations led by Mr. Figuereo. They seem oblivious to Mr. Figuereo’s excesses and to the potential danger this puts people who participate in his street actions in.

Weeks ago in an email to me they wrote that they intended to address my concerns, but to date I have not received any communication from them.

On the other hand, one of MLK Saratoga’s leaders, Hollyday Hammond, posted the following comment on Mr. Figuereo’s Facebook page just prior to the last May 16 street action. I will take this as their answer.