This latest video of Black Lives Matter leader Lexis Figuereo is from an event on Tuesday July 6, 2021. The City Council was about to meet and Mr. Figuereo was apparently being asked to wait before being allowed up the stairs of city hall to the meeting. The officer was waiting for his supervisor’s instructions to let him pass.
At one point in this video, Figuereo tells the officer repeatedly to “Suck my black d…”
When asked by the Times Union why he said this he responded that he has no respect for the police.
“I’m not going to stand there and have police laugh and smile at me while I’m trying to get into a meeting. And playing dumb. When I asked what door to go to for the City Council meeting. I have no idea. I’m not a rated -G person. At the time, I was angry and I said that. I don’t apologize.”
Lexis Figuereo, Times Union July 7, 2021
One of the disturbing aspects of this video is that Mr. Figuereo put this up on the web himself. He wasn’t caught acting this way, he apparently is proud of it. It simply demonstrates again how troubled this man is.
The irony is that the three police officers demonstrated their training and discipline by maintaining a calm and professional demeanor in spite of the abuse being heaped on them.
Imagine if the police had addressed him in a similar manner. What would the coverage of the incident been like?
In an earlier post I noted that a number of major players with interests in the city’s greenbelt could be expected to try to move projects forward that have been rejected in the past. A recent letter sent to the Planning Board by Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan regarding a Saratoga National Golf Club (SNGC) proposal seems to prove that is the case.
Commissioner Madigan sent a letter to the city’s Planning Board asking them, as part of their review of the Unified Development Ordinance, to look at the “Saratoga National Golf Course Project, including the definition of a golf course associated clubhouse” that was proposed by SNGC in 2015. The proposal, that was unsuccessful in 2015, would have allowed for an ambitious expansion of SNGC.
The only document that I have seen that reopens the expansion question is the letter from Commissioner Madigan. The city maintains a website dedicated to the UDO. It includes the records of the many public comments that the city has received. I may have missed it, but I can find no comments submitted by SNGC regarding amending the UDO.
I have also FOILed the city seeking any correspondence from SNGC regarding the UDO. Inquiries I have made suggest there is no such correspondence, but if my FOIL should result in any I will post them on this blog.
Commissioner Madigan’s letter to the Planning Board does not just ask the Planning Board to review the SNGC issue, she goes on to advocate for the proposalasserting that were the expansion approved it would result in millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city and create some two hundred and sixty jobs.
I have attempted to find out from Commissioner Madigan how she arrived at these numbers. She refers to some “notes” as the source but my inquiry of the source of these notes has so far not been addressed. I have also asked what prompted her to write to the Planning Board regarding SNGC.
While we have exchanged quite a few emails and texts I have, to date, been unable to get answers to my questions.
The Troubling Record of Saratoga National Golf Course
Saratoga National Golf Course is a beautifully designed and maintained venue. It is an asset to the city. Beyond the pleasure it provides to local golfers who can afford its fees, it draws people from outside of Saratoga Springs to our city.
Having acknowledged their benefit, their history includes some troubling moves they have made over the years.
In previous posts I have identified a number of actions taken by SNGC that I have found problematic.
In their approved site plan they committed to creating two nature trails for the public. In an earlier post I documented the difficulty I had in locating one of these trails. At the time there was a map located adjacent to Route 9P showing the locations of these trails. One of these trail maps lays out a path that does not exist. My attempt to locate the mystery trail was rather a comic episode. For the full story of my adventure/journey in search of the mystery trail here is the link. More on the magical trail.
SNGC asked for approval for a restaurant that was supposed to simply serve golfers and their friends according to my understanding. This modest project became the huge, high end steak house Prime.
They promised to limit large events to just three a year. The definition as to what was a large event had to do with exceeding the approved parking. The language in the site plan approved by the Planning Board was so poorly worded that according to correspondence I had with Mayor Joanne Yepsen ‘s office at the time it was unenforceable so SNGC routinely exceeds the parking with large weddings and other events.
These are some further links to the magic trail and to the bizarre contortions on how it is the city is unable to control special events at SNGC.
The Planning Board will be taking up the UDO beginning on Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Commissioner Madigan’s letter refers to the fact that in 2015 the City Council referred the SNGC proposal to the Planning Board for an opinion in a three to two vote. Time did not allow me to look up exactly how the Planning Board handled the request, but the fact that nothing came of the SNGC proposal suggests that the Planning Board did not look kindly on it.
Commissioner Madigan’s letter.
My Correspondence With Commissioner Madigan
From Kaufmann To Madigan June 28
I have come into possession of an undated letter from you to Mark Torpey in his capacity as chair of the planning board. It includes a request for an opinion that would allow Saratoga National to enjoy a much broader definition of a club house.
In the letter you assert that the granting of this expanded definition would result in additional revenue of $2,000,000.00 and would create 260 new jobs. How did you arrive at these figures?
From Kaufmann To Madigan July 1
Michele, I sent you the email below. Do you plan to respond?
From Madigan To Kaufmann July 2
Sorry John. I’ve been away all week. I sent this to the planning board. They are stats I had from the last time this project came forward regarding job creation and economic impact.
From Kaufmann To Madigan July 2
Where did these stats come from? Why are you soliciting an opinion on this?
From Madigan To Kaufmann July 2
Has the planning board discussed my letter as to date as I’ve heard nothing?
From Madigan To Kaufmann July 3
[JK: I receive an email from Commissioner Madigan with no content. I send her back an email “??”
From Madigan To Kaufmann July 3
Are you not getting my emails? I’m out and about today.
Kaufmann To Madigan July 3
The last email had nothing but the header to/from
Madigan To Kaufmann July 3
It’s probably because I’m on the road. I’ll be home late Monday.
Kaufmann To Madigan July 5
Michele, I don’t believe they have [JK: Responding to her question as to whether the Planning Board had addressed her letter]. Could you please answer my questions?
Could you please explain why you sent the letter to the planning board?
[JK: I include the original text question]. In the letter you assert that the granting of this expanded definition would result in additional revenue of $2,000,000.00 and would create 260 new jobs. How did you arrive at these figures?
Related Text Exchanges
July 3 Kaufmann To Madigan
Did you receive my emails are [on] Saratoga National?
July 3 Madigan To Kaufmann
John. I’m at Cape Cod. I responded this morning to an email I saw.
July 5 Kaufmann To Madigan
Status of your reply?
July 5 Kaufmann To Madigan
Your reply was non-responsive to my questions. I have emailed you again.
July 5 Madigan To Kaufmann
That’s all I’ve got right now. I’m on route home. You asked where I got the stats. I told you from notes back when they first put this forward.
Chamber may have similar. I’m asking for a definition of clubhouse.
July 5 Kaufmann To Madigan
Why are you pursuing this? It was rejected in the last comp plan.
What was the source of these notes?
[JK: I received no further communication from Commissioner Madigan]
On 06/28/21 Commissioner Robin Dalton convened a press conference and community meeting to address the recent spike in downtown violence. The panel included Assistant Police Chief John Catone and Lieutenant Robert Jillson. The event has generated a flurry of unflattering news stories including scathing editorials in the Daily Gazette and in the Times Union . The Times Union called for Commissioner Dalton and Assistant Chief Catone to resign.
Assistant Police Chief John Catone Unloads
I have a genuine sympathy for John Catone. Retiring in eight months, he has been a Saratoga Springs police officer for thirty-five years. He has dedicated his life to serving the citizens of this city.
In 2011, in fact, following trouble on Caroline Street, he was the point person for the police who worked with the local bars to better deal with problematic customers.
I also understand his frustration. His organization has been routinely denounced in the local news and social media as white supremacists bent on assaulting and humiliating people of color.
This blog has documented the verbal abuse directed at the police by the leadership of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. The fact that the police to date have maintained their discipline and professionalism and that no one in any of the demonstrations has been hurt has received little acknowledgement not only by the leaders of the protests but by the media in general.
Police Chief Shane Crooks has set an example of quiet restraint in his public profile. He has refused to be drawn into personal exchanges. Lieutenant Jillson has been the point person for the police at the demonstrations and has been a particular target of invective by the leadership of the protests. Similar to Chief Crooks he has shown the highest level of professionalism in refusing to be provoked.
Let’s also acknowledge the gravity of what the police are trying to deal with. Someone was stabbed and, even more disturbingly, someone discharged a firearm in our downtown. If you are in the leadership of the police and are concerned with the safety of our citizens, you are more than alarmed. The crowds have grown in size and the level of potential violence is there. Small wonder that Catone should feel passionate about addressing the threat.
But Assistant Police Chief Catone, as an executive in his department, is expected to show the quiet command required to effectively lead others. No matter how volatile a situation, a leader sets a standard of quiet discipline. Young inexperienced officers look to their leadership for how they themselves should act. With regret, I do not think that Catone met those very demanding standards at the press conference. Allowing himself to vent his frustrations in a rant is no message to send to the men and women under his command.
He was angry, and he felt he had the right to indulge that anger. In his own words he told those present “I am pissed off.” He had many thoughtful remarks about what his department was doing to address the increasing incidents of violence, but they were overshadowed by his undisguised anger at the unnamed people and institutions that he blamed.
He appeared unaware or possibly unconcerned as to how some of his more challenging statements would appear when published in area newspapers and on television.
He warned the public, “If you continue to push the lies I will in the final eight months of this job pull out every connection my family has made in the last one hundred and thirty years and I will stop your narrative because we are not a racist police department but somebody has got to stand up and stop the lies and disinformation.”
Referring to his “kids,” he told those present “I will not! I will not leave them high and dry! If you are going after them you are going after me and I am going to fight back.”
“If you are not for us you are against us.”
Catone may not have meant these as a threat to anyone in any physical sense, but it contributed fodder to the very narrative he was trying to change. Assistant Chief Catone is a large man and to say he came off as belligerent is an understatement.
He bitterly blamed unnamed politicians both locally running for office and statewide as having “promoted the demonizing of the police while emboldening the criminal with absolutely no consequences.” That kind of hyperbole belies the fact that serious crime still has consequences as hopefully the person who fired a gun in our city will find out.
His remarks suggested that the perpetrators of the stabbing and the gunshot were somehow encouraged and supported by the social justice advocates. With respect to Assistant Chief Catone, the people who shot and stabbed were criminals looking for trouble and to gain status among their peers. They bore no relation to those calling for social justice.
A Plague of Violence and Incivility
It seems sadly apparent that increasingly people feel they have a right to exercise their anger and that cavalier indulgence has created the perfect environment for escalations in violence.
A child is killed in California in a road rage incident.
Airline passengers assault flight attendants over having to wear masks.
Thousands assault police officers who were trying to protect our capital on January 6.
Local girls who are actually on the Saratoga Springs High School cheerleading squad assault a young girl in order to post the violence on TikTok.
These are just a few examples of the arbitrary nature of the current plague of violence.
Catone’s primary point that we as a community need to come together to work on solutions is on the mark, but it begins with a recognition that the sources of our problems are deep and complex. Denouncing Black Lives Matter fails to grasp that it is not a homogeneous movement. It includes people such as myself. I do not attend local Black Lives Matter events because I think they are poorly conceived and counter-productive, but I recognize and am concerned at the reports of excessive force against people of color nationally.
Let’s Not Demonize John Catone
All of us, if we are human and self-aware, have said and done things we later come to regret. I would like to believe that John Catone, who has served this city with distinction for thirty-five years, will in retrospect realize that he should have shown greater care in his remarks. Officer Catone has the opportunity to set an example by acknowledging his excess and in so doing bring out the best in all of us so that we can work as a community to find solutions.
[JK: I received this comment from Chris Mathiesen who was elected as the city’s Public Safety Commissioner for three terms beginning in 2011.]
I did not see the press conference on Monday but I have read a number of news accounts about it, including the story that appeared in the Times Union on Tuesday, June 29 which quoted candidates for City government offices and a local activist. I have also read the Times Union editorial in the Friday, July 2 edition which called for the resignations of both Asst. Chief Catone and Commissioner Dalton.
I am a fan of both Commissioner Dalton and Asst. Chief Catone. Both were trying to be transparent about the recent acts of violence in our City when they held the press briefing on Monday. Asst. Chief Catone’s frustrations should be understood and shared by the community as a whole. The success that our City has achieved over the past 40 years can easily be undermined if our citizens and our visitors don’t feel safe and secure in Saratoga Springs.
The criticism of John Catone by some of the candidates for office as quoted in the June 29 Times Union story was unfair. Gang activity in our nightclub district has always been a concern. The violence and drug peddling associated with these groups can negatively impact our City in many ways. The SSPD has monitored this threat continuously for reasons that should be very obvious to all given what happened last weekend. This has nothing to do with race or ‘dog whistles’. This is reality.
Another issue raised was the increased violence among youth in our City. Again, it is important to bring up these very real problems so that our community can start to deal with them. I don’t have first-hand knowledge of these incidents but I was stunned to learn that my sister witnessed a knife fight that took place in front of the Casino in Congress Park. For the sake of the teens as well as the community as a whole, we have to deal with drugs and violence as they relate to this age group.
One of the activists quoted in the Times Union described John Catone’s comments as ‘insane’. This is the same activist who continually states that the police ‘murdered Daryl Mount’. For the record, the police did not murder Daryl Mount. To continually state otherwise is very irresponsible. It also can have a detrimental effect on respect for authority.
One of the candidates was quoted as saying that he heard too much ‘blaming going on’. He said that ‘you are not going to solve a problem by pointing fingers’ and that ‘you are going to do it by calmly sitting down with the businesses in the Caroline Street area and working out better security plans’. I couldn’t agree more. Asst. Chief Catone has been doing exactly that for years.
Another candidate stated that the police ‘are blaming people who just want to be treated fairly’. I am not sure what that means. The police are blaming gangs for gang activity and irresponsible rhetoric for undermining authority. Saratoga Springs is not a City of racists. Neither is the SSPD a department of racists. Individuals of all races and cultures are welcome in our City as long as they act responsibly and with respect for others. It is the goal of Asst. Chief Catone, Commissioner Dalton and the community as a whole that everyone be treated fairly at all times.
The July 2 Times Union editorial was unfair. Somehow, it is OK for the TU that Albany Mayor Sheehan to talk about the up-town and down-town gangs in Albany but not for John Catone or Robin Dalton to speak about gang activities in Saratoga Springs. The editorial accused Asst. Chief Catone of ‘delivering a rant filled with racist dog whistles, punctuated by what came off as a threat to summon the collective forces of the City’s historically white power establishment’ to put an end to “a narrative of lies and misinformation”. Strong words! The terms ‘racist dog whistles’ and ‘the City’s historically white power establishment’ make me wonder whether the writer was looking a little too hard for evidence of prejudice in Saratoga Springs. In my opinion, the narrative of lies and misinformation is most definitely a problem in our City and needs to be dealt with directly. Anyone making irresponsible or unfounded statements needs to be corrected; otherwise such falsehoods take on a life of their own and become accepted by some to the detriment of all.
For the Times Union to call for the resignation of Commissioner Dalton and Asst. Chief Catone because of what the editorial writer apparently inferred from their comments on Monday morning is illogical and disturbing. While I agree with that person’s statement that ‘it is not the job of law enforcement to shut down speech they don’t like’, it is the job of government to correct those statements that are not factual and that undermine the public safety of a community.
Monday, June 28, 2021, Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton and Assistant Police Chief John Catone held a press conference to discuss the recent spike in violence and the city’s plan to respond to it.
Commissioner Dalton discussed the need for the city’s local bars to take more responsibility for public safety. This would include better coordination regarding problematic patrons. Currently a patron denied service due to unruly behavior simply goes to another bar. The local bar owners need to communicate among themselves bout who these people are so that they are denied service at other venues. In an age of technology, such coordination is possible.
Assistant Chief Catone gave an impassioned statement on the need for a broadly coordinated campaign to address the violence. He talked about the work the department is doing to better coordinate with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police.
The Times Union story emphasized Catone’s frustration over what he saw as a campaign to fracture the local police from the community.
“As a 35 year veteran of this police department and whose family has been embedded in this community for 13o plus years, you have trusted me with your safety,” said Catone, who is retiring in eight months. “I ask you to listen to my message and trust me one more time. It’s time for the silent majority, we have heard about, to stand up and be heard. … If you continue to push a narrative of lies and misinformation, if you continue to divide this police department and this community because you are trying to push a narrative from a national stage that has no bearing on the city of Saratoga Springs, you are part of the problem. And I will, on my final eight months on the job, pull out every single connection my family has made over the last 130 years and I will stop your narrative. We are not a hateful community, we are not a racist police department.”
Times Union June 28, 2021 edition
The story quoted Catone as attributing the violence as coming from Albany gangs.
Commissioner Dalton discussed the recent incidents involving local high school students in Congress Park. She talked about the need for the school system to assist the city by taking action, where possible, regarding the perpetrators of violence who attend Saratoga Springs High School.
This is a link to the video of the entire event which included questions from members of the public as well as the media.
The results of the recent primary for the Working Families Party (WFP)is yet another grim example of the decline of ethics in general and politics in particular. The Republican Party through its surrogates has swept the Working Families Party line in Saratoga Springs and in so doing denied Democratic candidates the additional line.
Readers may recall that the local WFP saw a slew of new registrants recently as the result of a statewide effort by Republicans to gain a second line for their candidates most of whom have no interest in supporting the progressive WFP platform. In Saratoga Springs, those new registrants, mostly former Republican and Independence Party members, signed petitions to place candidates for local office on the ballot on the WFP line none of whom had been endorsed by the WFP.
All but one of the candidates endorsed by the WFP, all Democrats, withdrew from the ballot rather than face what was going to be a sure loss for them given the new party registration numbers. The only WFP candidate to remain on the ballot was Democrat Tara Gaston running for Supervisor. She received two votes. The winners of the Supervisor race, the top two vote getters for the two seats, were a former Republican and a former unaffiliated voter who had just recently registered in the WFP. Neither one campaigned nor could they be reached by the media to comment on their victories. The fact that efforts by the print media (Times Union and Foothills Business Review) to solicit comments from the successful candidates went unanswered tells it all. What politician running for office declines to tout a victory?
What makes this race particularly cynical is that the architects of this maneuver didn’t actually try to run the Republican endorsed candidates for the City Council and Board of Supervisors on the WFP line. There is no way these WFP candidates who are only on that line can win in November. The goal in this case seems to be not to gain an additional line for Repubulican candidates but to deprive the Democrats of that advantage.
This strategy had other advantages for the locally endorsed Republicans. My take is that:
The Republican candidates didn’t want to be tainted by being directly involved in stealing the line.
It would be hard for the Republican candidates to explain the contradiction between their conservative politics and their involvement with the Working Families Party that supports, among other things, a single payer health system and bail reform.
City of Saratoga Springs Republican Committee chair Chris Chris Obstarczyk has denied any involvement.
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.
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.