An Unpleasant Item On Kendall Hicks’ Campaign Manager’s Facebook Page

Kendall Hicks is the Democratic candidate for Public Safety Commissioner this fall. His campaign manager had been Ellen Egger-Aimone but for some reason he has replaced her with Rob Millis.

Mister Millis has a Facebook page which includes this item.


For those of you unfamiliar with ANTIFA, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Antifa (/ænˈtfə, ˈæntiˌfɑː/)[1] movement is a conglomeration of left-wing autonomous, militant anti-fascist[7] groups in the United States.[11] The principal feature of antifa groups is their use of direct action,[12] with conflicts occurring both online and in real life.[13] They engage in varied protest tactics, which include digital activism, property damage, physical violence, and harassment against those whom they identify as fascist, racist, or on the far-right.[18]

Here is a terrific link to a routine by comic Trevor Noah that pretty much tells you what you need to know about Antifa.

 

Kendall Hicks Re-emerges In Campaign For Commissioner of Public Safety

I received this release from Kendall Hicks:

July 3, 2019

Limited Release: Party, Allies, Media From the Desk of Kendall Hicks

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: PHASE II BEGINS! ___________________________________________

With primary season now completed and the calendar turning to July, my team and I enter the next phase of the campaign for election to the office of Commissioner of Public Safety. I’m very excited for what’s ahead.

My election opponent is Ms Robin Dalton. While I yet to have the privilege of knowing her very well, my impression is that she is a gracious and decent person who, like me, wants to serve our community. We are well-served having citizens willing to step up to make Saratoga a better – and safer – place to live, work and play. I thank her for getting involved.

This campaign will be respectful, civil, and focused on policy. Specifically, we will offer creative ideas to preserve and enhance public safety for all the citizens, visitors and neighborhoods of Saratoga Springs. I am confident that Ms Dalton shares that same ambition and I look forward to getting to know her better in the process.

I am running because I want to serve our community, and because I have the skills and experience necessary to serve our community well. I know how to provide oversight to agencies and organizations. I know how to lead men and women. I know how to be accountable to stakeholders; in this case the people of our great city.

Our campaign is primed and ready. Whereas our startup months were devoted to organizing the people-power necessary to get on the ballot (petitioning, canvassing, filing, etc.), we are now geared toward making our case known to the voters by bringing our message to the public.

In shifting toward this part of the campaign cycle, we have added — and will continue to add — people that are well- versed in the skills every successful campaign needs, including outreach and communication. To that end, Mr. Robert Millis has accepted my charge of assisting in this transition by coordinating our resources (people and otherwise) and by developing & delivering our message to the citizenry. Please feel free to say ‘hello’ +/or get involved at his contact listed below.

This open and transparent letter serves as the first of those initiatives; stay tuned for more to come. It’s going to be a great campaign!

Kendall Hicks

Democratic Party Candidate

Commissioner of Public Safety for the City of Saratoga Springs Campaign Coordinator: Robert Millis 398Group@gmail.com

An Exchange With Gordon Boyd About Common Sense, Saratoga: They Only Talk To Themselves

The website, Common Sense, Saratoga (CSS) published two stories on the city’s contract with the company SiFi. SiFi is to construct a citywide fiber optic network to connect our residential and commercial properties to the internet. The stories focused on what the author(s) allege were the gross inadequacies of the contract. I will be writing about the substance of CSS’s two articles in more detail in a later post but in this post my focus is on my attempt to find out who had produced these stories.

For me these CSS stories were immediately problematic because of the following issues:

  • The articles had no author attribution
  • Normally with blogs of this type, there is a dialogue box below them where readers may respond. Not in the case of CSS. This omission is an indication of the site’s approach to what it considers to be a “forum.” In the universe that the individuals behind this website live, there is no need to provide a vehicle to hear from its readers regarding individual articles.
  •  The writer(s) regularly took contract items out of context or made regrettably inaccurate statements alleging, for instance, that things were not in the contract that in fact were.

With all this in mind I wanted to find out who wrote the articles and also, if the author was not an attorney, who assisted the author in evaluating the contract. To give the reader a flavor for the challenges of understanding the contract without the assistance of an attorney and/or a technical person, I offer this excerpt:

“Substantial Completion” means the point at which, the Core and Trunk of the System has been installed such that it Passes the addresses of each of the Primary Premises and the System is capable of providing Service to each such Primary Premises (but for the lack of a Drop) or four (4) years post Construction being commenced, whichever event occurs first; provided, however in the event SiFi Networks cannot install the Core and Trunk of the System or other necessary equipment or otherwise make the System available to a particular Primary Premises because of a lack of a right to access and use the Public Way due to the City not possessing the right, title, interest or authority to permit SiFi Networks to use and occupy the Public Way or other lack of access or right to access and use property, or if there would be an incremental material cost to access property or install the System such that the cost to do so would be at least twenty percent (20%) or more higher than the average cost to provide service to other Primary Premises within the Boundary, SiFi Networks shall not be required to make the System available to such Primary Premises, and Substantial Completion shall be deemed to be achieved notwithstanding the failure to Pass and make the Service available to such Primary Premises.  SiFi Networks shall provide the City with justification for any Primary Premises to which the System will not be available.

Mr. Boyd, in his later emails to me, asserted that one did not need a law background to understand this contract. He generously attributed to me the ability to read and understand it.  In fact I had to rely heavily on lawyers to work through the document.

It has been my experience, though, that issues that involve the law are often more complex than lay people commonly assume. Things that I thought were obvious became anything but when I have attended legal proceedings. Terms that I understood as having meaning in common parlance turned out to have very different meaning as regards statutes and regulations. There is also a major area of law that deals with implied assumptions which means that there is more to a contract than just its clauses.

CSS does have a “Contact” menu option where the reader is allowed to submit a comment to the managers of the site. I wrote them a brief note simply asking who the author/authors were and if an attorney was involved, the name of the attorney.

In a casual conversation with architect Jim Martinez, I learned that he had submitted several comments to CSS regarding problems he found with their articles but that his input had neither been published nor even acknowledged. Those who follow my site know that Jim’s comments on my site are always thoughtful and constructive. They are free of the kind of ugly invective that is too common to social media. I can only speculate that the reason they ignored his offerings was that they undermined the message they wanted the public to absorb.

The readers of this blog may recall that CSS was originally totally anonymous but after quite a bit of public criticism, the site published a list of three of the “Founders” for whom I had email addresses. Having, like Jim, received no reply to nor acknowledgement of my inquiry, I wrote to the founders, Gordon Boyd, Ann Bullock, and Bob Turner. I wrote what I considered a respectful note (See below) asking again for the author or authors of the article and the name of any lawyer who might have provided assistance. I pointed out that the site presents itself as being a public forum (from their About page):

“COMMON SENSE, SARATOGA will create forums and opportunities through which all citizens will be able to express the civic values embodied in our Mission Statement.” [JK: The site does not contain a mission statement]

I promptly received a note from Gordon Boyd. I think the tone and substance of Mr. Boyd’s letter is instructive and worth the reader’s time to read it. Mr. Boyd makes absolutely clear that:

1. He takes some pride in not reading my blog.

2. CSS has no intentions of publishing anything I might write to them.

I hope the readers of this blog find this response as disturbing as I do. There was a time, not too far in the past, when people valued listening to one another and showing the tolerance and respect that is a source of learning for all parties and that to behave otherwise was to bring some shame upon themselves. How disheartening that we live in a different age.

Ann Bullock is an attorney. Bob Turner is a professor of political science. Gordon Boyd is a successful businessman who has been active in city politics for almost fifty years. I expect that were you to engage them about our President and his base, they would offer contempt for those people as being rigid and mindless in their hostility towards anyone who disagrees with them and yet here we have these three individuals openly embracing the same qualities they abhor in others.

Many of the readers may be familiar with the term “Potemkin Village.” Miriam Webster defines it as “An impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition.” According to Wikipedia:

The term comes from stories of a fake portable village built solely to impress Empress Catherine II by her former lover Grigory Potemkin during her journey to Crimea in 1787. While modern historians claim accounts of this portable village are exaggerated, the original story was that Potemkin erected phony portable settlements along the banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the Russian Empress; the structures would be disassembled after she passed, and re-assembled farther along her route to be viewed again as if another example.

CSS is a “Potemkin Village.” Its purpose is a classic example of the worst aspect of social media. It is graphically well designed to impress those who go to their site. It asserts its values as openness and inclusion in the best tradition of our country.

As Mr. Boyd’s emails make clear with amazing candor, this site has no interest in such standards of fairness, however. In fact, CSS is an advocacy vehicle with a rigid and focused purpose. It is meant to attack and damage the reputations of the elected officials it sees as its opponents (enemies might be a more accurate characterization).  It consciously blocks voices that would undermine its mission.

What I find particularly distressing is that it resonates with so many people. When you attempt to point out the misrepresentations promoted by this site, there are many otherwise thoughtful people who respond very much like the Trump supporters. In the case of some of the Trump supporters, they know and acknowledge that he plays fast and easy with facts, but they embrace his goals and dismiss his behavior as incidental and unimportant. Similarly, the network of this group is either uninterested in any counter views at all or supports the narrative that the incumbents are part of an old guard that needs to be replaced and while the narrative of Gordon et al may be exaggerated, the underlying “truth” is correct.

The fact that the people behind this site refuse to participate in discussions that would provide a forum to critically assess their allegations should be a source of embarrassment. This is all about public manipulation and “winning”; whatever that means.

What a truly sad state of affairs.


My email exchange with Gordon Boyd and the founders.

A few further observations. Mr. Boyd asserts in the emails that the articles have been “peer reviewed.”

This is normally associated mostly with scientific articles. Fundamental to the concept of peer review is that those reading the papers can view who the reviewers were and decide whether those reviewing the work were both disinterested and qualified to pass judgement on it. Mr. Boyd would have strengthened his claim had he shared with the readers of his website who the reviewers were.

He goes on to refer to “the experienced business professional on our team.” Here again, the  “business professional” as well as the “team”  all remain anonymous.

In his second email he asserts: “Our CSS editorial committee is accountable for the articles we post.” The website has no masthead or other format stating that an editorial board exists let alone who is on it.


Subject: Articles On SiFi Agreement

June 16, 2019 at 1:52 PM

To: Gordon Boyd, Ann Bullock, Bob Turner

From: John Kaufmann

As my inquiries to Common Sense Saratoga have gone unanswered I thought I would contact you three directly as  you have identified yourselves as the founders of this site.  In promoting your site you have gone to great lengths to assert that it is transparent and that it invites community involvement and sets a priority of inclusion including those you may disagree with.  I would like to know:
1. Who wrote the two articles on the SiFi contract?
2. Who was the attorney who analyzed the contract and provided the critiques as published on your site?

Identifying authorship seems fundamental to transparency and accountability.  

Similarly, given the arcane nature of the language in the contract, a reader would reasonably want to know what expertise was brought to understanding and analyzing the contract.  

I think most people of good will would find my two questions both reasonable and courteous.  In fact, most people of good will would want the answers to the two questions.

Thank you in advance for answering.

John Kaufmann

 


Subject: Re:Articles On SiFi Agreement

June 16, 2019 at 2:46 PM

Dear John,
I think, in the interests of integrity and accountability, you should decide whether you are a practicing journalist, independent of political activism, or a political activist, masquerading as a journalist.  I don’t read your blog, but I suggest that rather than pretend to be a journalist asking questions of us, you do you own home work, and if you find that our conclusions are incorrect about the SiFi contract, publish that on your blog.  That is your First Amendment right.  At CSS, we do our homework and subject all articles to peer review.  It doesn’t take a practicing attorney to find the faults in the SiFi contract, but we had one look at it to confirm the views of the experienced business professionals on our team.
Good luck,
Gordon Boyd

To: Gordon Boyd

From John Kaufmann

Subject: Re:Articles on SiFi Agreement

June 16, 2019 3:45 PM

The issue is not whether I am a journalist.  Your promotion of your blog admirably seeks to be an inclusive community forum that encourages all in our city to participate as part of a democratic dialogue.  Like you, I am a citizen of this city and as such I do not understand why I should be excluded from participating.

More centrally, I do not know why you would feel the need to withhold who wrote the piece and who the attorney was that you used as a resource regarding the accuracy of your analysis of the contract.
With respect I hope that you will reconsider answering my questions which I think were offered both courteously and reasonably.
Thank you in advance, for

John Kaufmann


To: John Kaufmann
From: Gordon Boyd
Subject: Re:Articles On SiFi Agreement
Date: June 17, 2019 10:15 AM
Hi John,
Repeating your previous argument does not make it more persuasive. Over the many years I have known you, it is one of your least endearing qualities. Again (and repeating my own previous argument), I encourage you to read the SiFi agreement yourself and come to your own conclusions. You were in business and government for decades, and I am sure you dealt with more complex agreements yourself. You should have no trouble understanding it, or finding the areas that we think put the city at undue risk.
Our CSS editorial committee is accountable for the articles we post. Sometimes, these days, people focus too much on who is the messenger of the criticism, rather than dealing with the substance of the criticism.  The latter is more difficult, but more civilized IMHO.
Good luck with your blog (which, again, I don’t read) 😊

 

 

Morrison Wins Democratic Primary

101 absentee and 5 affidavit ballots were counted at the Saratoga County Board of Elections this morning (Tuesday, July2).  With all votes now counted Ms. Morrison will be the candidate for Commissioner of Finance on the Democratic line in the November 5 general election.

Of the 106 ballots counted this morning 59 were for Patty Morrison and 47 for Michele Madigan.  1392 Democrats had voted on primary day, June 25, with 706 voting for Patty Morrison and 686 for Madigan.  Totals then are 733 votes for Madigan, 765 for Morrison, a difference of 32 votes. There are 6,731 registered Democrats in Saratoga Springs.

Final results will not be certified by the Board of Elections until next week but numbers are not expected to change.

Ms. Madigan will still appear on the November ballot on the Working Families Party and the  Independence Party lines as a candidate for Commissioner of Finance.

I reached out to Ms. Morrison and offered to post a statement from her but so far she has not responded.  If I receive a response I will be happy to post it.

Below is a statement I received from Michele Madigan:

I am saddened and disappointed to have lost the Democratic primary for Commissioner of Finance, due to low voter turn-out.  I wish to thank my many friends and supporters for their hard work in the face of a very difficult and at times an ugly primary campaign.

I am still on the general ballot in November on the Independence Party and Working Families Party lines, and while I would very much like to continue to serve all city voters – of all political parties – for another term, at this time the budget needs of the city are my priority. 

 must present the 2020 budget by the end of the summer, and get it adopted in November. Additionally, the city has several multi-million dollar matters I must continue to plan for: repairing and reopening city hall, the Loughberry Dam upgrade mandates, Fire/EMS needs of the Eastern Plateau, finding a permanent solution to code-blue and our homeless issues, and cybersecurity threats that plague cities daily – for starters.  I owe it to the taxpayers to focus on this city business. 

 I hope to serve another term and would be grateful for the support of all city voters, regardless of political persuasion, come November 5th. This election is not about partisan politics or any particular issue; it is about prudently managing our city’s finances through challenging times.

Magical Barn To House Conversion On Murphy Lane: Latest Developments

People who have followed this blog will remember the debacle of the city’s handling of the “conversion” of the “barn” [Some would say large shed] to a house on Murphy Lane in 2016. The real estate agent who bought the barn applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a host of variances stating in their application that they were going to save the barn and convert it to a home. To do this they needed variances for everything from set backs to required parking spaces as it would face a narrow alley. In violation of the assurances they put in their application for variances, they tore the existing structure down anyway. In a particularly controversial action the structure is much higher than the original. This was a poster child case for the abdication of responsibility by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The city halted construction, but due to gross mishandling by the ZBA, its staff person, Susan Barden, and the Building Inspector at the time, Steve Shaw, the city ended up in court and in the end had to allow the project to go forward. For details do a search on this site for Murphy Lane.

Recently, the property was listed for sale for a whopping $722,000, and among the specifications in the ad was that the property has two parking spaces. The seller successfully received a variance to allow for only one parking space. The allotted space off the ally barely accommodates one car. There is nowhere on the property for a second parking space. Here are some pictures of the property. Note how narrow the alley is if a car is parked in front of the house making it difficult for the neighbor with the red vehicle to get out of their driveway, and these pictures do not show how narrow the ally becomes when snow piles up.

So it appears that the seller is misrepresenting the property. A neighbor who has been the victim in this project complained to the city about what appears to be an improper representation. The neighbor noted that the seller has laid pea gravel in front of the house which appears to be in the city right of way.

The Mayor’s office referred the complaint to Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin. The Public Safety office includes the office of code enforcement. I emailed Peter Martin on June 21 asking about the right of the owner to advertise the property as having two parking spaces and to lay stone in front of the property. I did not receive a response so on June 26 I wrote Commissioner Martin again asking if he would respond.


The Commissioner promptly responded to my second email with the following indicating that his department was going to put “No Parking” signs up:

Re: Murphy Lane

John,
I have traveled Murphy Lane to look at the issues that you discuss and I have sent our police chief and fire battalion chief as well.  We will be posting fire lane – no parking signs on Murphy Lane. These signs are created by an outside firm and it can take several weeks to have them created.  The issue concerning compliance with building plans (height, etc.) should be reviewed by the city building department before issuing a Certificate of Occupancy.  We do not have enforcement powers with respect to the veracity of realtor advertisements.  Let me know if there is anything that I missed.
Regards,

Peter R. Martin


The CO has already been issued so this still left the issue of the apparent misrepresentation regarding the parking spaces. I should allow that maybe I am missing something that explains all of this. I called a local realtor whose opinion I respect and asked what recourse there was about this kind of thing. He suggested that I contact the manager of the local realtor office that issued the listing.
I called that office and spoke to its manager. Understandably she appeared rather stunned and confused. She probably rarely hears from bloggers regarding her office’s listings. First she offered to connect me with the agent/seller. I declined. She then said she would look into it and get back to me.
I will advise the readers of this blog if and when she gets back to me.

Local March For Immigration Justice

Saturday, June 29, 11:00 AM: MARCH FOR IMMIGRANT JUSTICE
Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, proceeding to SPAC entrance (Jazz Festival weekend!).
This is the Capital Region event for a nation-wide day of action called by Immigrant Justice Now.  Goals:
–End Child Separation.
— End family detention.
— Provide mental health support for the children and people the US has traumatized.
Contact Chloe Blanch: chloeblanch@gmail.com  Facebook.
Co-sponsored by Saratoga Immigration Coalition.
 

Democratic Primary for Commissioner of Finance To Be Determined by Absentee Ballots

An unofficial tally appears to have Patty Morrison ahead of Michele Madigan by 19 votes in the Democratic Primary to determine who will be the Democratic candidate for Commissioner of Finance in the general election in November. According to the Saratoga County Board of Elections there are 96 absentee ballots that will be counted on Tuesday, July 2. Should Madigan lose the Democratic primary she will still be on the November ballot on  the Working Families and the Independence Party lines.