Saratoga Immigration Coalition Sponsors Forum With Public Safety Candidates Dalton and Hicks

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Candidates Scheduled for Immigration Forum on October 7.


 


 

 “Immigration, Public Safety and Community” will be the subject of discussion on October 7 between Robin Dalton and Kendall Hicks, candidates for the position of Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner.  The event will begin at 6:00 PM at the Presbyterian—New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular St., Saratoga Springs.  Terry Diggory of the Saratoga Immigration Coalition, the event sponsor, will moderate the discussion.

 

“Although immigration is currently debated as an issue of national security, public safety at the local level requires fostering a community where everyone, including immigrants, can feel safe and welcome,” said Diggory.

 

Dalton, who is running as a Republican, said: “Saratoga Springs has benefitted enormously from the economic contributions of our immigrant population, yet the language surrounding immigration policy is almost exclusively negative. Beyond just the challenges, the Commissioner of Public Safety should take opportunities to highlight the positive contributions and benefits an immigrant population brings to Saratoga Springs.”

 

Hicks, who is running as a Democrat, said: “The cultural quilt of ethnic diversity that is Saratoga Springs is one of our greatest assets.  It makes sense to work with existing resources, to work toward eliminating those practices that are not in the best interest of our citizens and community while strengthening the practices that keep us a safe and welcoming community of positive opportunities for all.”

At the forum, each candidate will address a series of prepared questions and then respond to questions from the audience.  The event is free and open to the public.

 

City Center Breaks Ground On Parking Facility– Hallelujah!

[JK: Ryan McMahon, the executive director of the City Center, was kind enough to write a brief history of the Center’s efforts to build a parking facility. For some of us it seems like the saga went on forever but the controversy and debate over plans for this site began in earnest five years ago.

It is a testament to both Mayor Kelly and to Ryan that they managed to bring together the players and work out a plan with strong support from the major stakeholders. Our ordeal is over.

Thank you Mayor Kelly and Ryan McMahon. Hallelujah!]

Photo Credit: Richard Snyder, Vice President, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce

From left to right: Dorothy Rogers-Bullis, Shaun Wiggins, Rosemary Ratliff, Commissioner Skip Scirocco, Commissioner Michele Madigan, Mayor Meg Kelly, Ryan McMahon, Tom Roohan, and Commissioner Peter Martin.

Ms. Rogers-Bullis, in addition to being on the Center board, along with her husband Dan Bullis runs Saratoga Co Works.

Rosemary Ratliff is on the board and works for Kaiser Permanente.

Shaun Wiggins is on the board and is a consultant focused on security and IT issues.

Tom Roohan of Roohan Realty chairs the City Center Board


 Ryan McMahon’s brief history

“The Saratoga Springs City Center Authority had been working towards the development of a parking solution almost since the facility opened.  Work in earnest began in 2014 when an RFP for a design build proposal was developed, this lead to the previous parking structure project.  Public opposition and eventual lawsuits ended the pursuit of the that design and we all took a step back to reevaluate.  Mayor Kelly, understanding the importance of the City Center continuing to be competitive in a crowded convention market, invited the Authority to participate in her Flat Rock Working Group.  The Flat Rock Working Group consisted of many local stake holders, including the owners of the Mouzon House, and was tasked with creating a concept for the entire lot.

The City Council reviewed the plans created by the Flat Rock Working Group and liked the overall idea but thought it’s 750ish parking spots was too much.  Around the same time the lightning strike at city hall also took place so many city resources were focused on that.  The City Center was asked to advance plans for the northern portion of the lot which would become phase one of development.  Mayor Kelly planned to bring the Flat Rock group back together for phase two at a later date.   The northern portion was to accommodate the Green Belt Trail, additional park space and parking for the City Center and the community.

The City Center brought this plan back to our design build team who developed the current project.  This phase brings the Green Belt Trail to Lake Avenue, contains park/green space and houses a 600 +/- parking structure.  The plans were reviewed for advisory opinions by the Planning Board and Design Review before the lease was developed and adopted by the City Council.  Construction will take ten to eleven months with the goal of opening the lower floors for August of 2020.”

Times Union Watch Part #2: Joanne Yepsen’s Strange Recusal from Hospital Vote

While Mayor Yepsen had been in discussions with the Hospital about potential employment since October of 2015 she never mentioned this at City Council meetings on either 12/1/15 or 12/15/15 when the Hospital publicly presented their plans for a PUD that would allow them to expand.

On January 14, 2016, the Hospital advised Ms. Yepsen that they would be unable to employ her as long as she was Mayor. I have a copy of a letter from Ms. Yepsen to the city’s Ethics Board requesting an advisory opinion on whether she should recuse herself on the vote for the Hospital’s proposed Planned Unit Development application. The date of the letter is also January 14, 2016.

There are a number of theories one might put forward regarding this odd confluence of these events.

1. Ms. Yepsen had been unaware there was an issue of conflict of interest regarding her dealings with the Hospital. The Hospital’s notice to her about this issue prompted her to seek the Ethics Board’s advice.

2. Worried  that the issue of her conflict of interest could become public, she decided to demonstrate that she was concerned about the issue by seeking the advisory opinion.

I have difficulty accepting option #1. Ms. Yepsen was a seasoned politician by 2016 having served as a County Supervisor for several terms and as Mayor for a term. In fact all city employees, board members, and elected officials are required to receive a copy of the city’s ethics code. Section K 13-8 reads:

The Mayor of the City of Saratoga Springs shall cause a copy of this Code of Ethics to be distributed to every officer and employee of the city within thirty (30) days after the effective date of this Chapter. Each officer and employee elected or appointed thereafter shall be furnished a copy before entering upon the duties of his office or employment.

In fact, it shouldn’t require knowledge of the city’s written ethics code to realize that discussing employment with an entity that has business pending before the Council is problematic.

No Good Options

So Ms. Yepsen seeks the advice of the Ethics Board regarding recusal on January 14, and then on January 16 informs them that the Hospital will not be doing business with her. It is strange that the Ethics Board would advise her to recuse herself since the issue of a conflict of interest had become mute. I have not seen the Board’s decision, however, so I do not have insights into their reasoning for doing this.

Nevertheless the Ethic Board’s decision on recusal was fortunate for Ms. Yepsen who seems to have been caught between a rock and a hard place. If she voted for the PUD she could be accused of hoping to get work from the Hospital in the future. If she voted against the Hospital, she could be seen as vindictive since they had terminated discussions about employment with her.

The issue of the Hospital expansion was also highly controversial and many of her supporters opposed the Hospital’s proposal.

Recusing herself allowed her to avoid these bad choices. She used the Ethics Board’s advisory opinion as her reason even though the issue of conflict of interest was mute.

It is important to remember that the PUD required a supermajority (a majority plus one) to pass. With both John Franck and Ms. Yepsen recusing themselves, that left only three Council members who could vote. Since approval of the PUD required four affirmative votes,  passage of the resolution became impossible.

At the meeting Commissioners Madigan and Scirocco were harshly critical of Yepsen for her unwillingness to vote.

It would seem to many of us that the entire process had become a debacle, and Ms Yepsen’s poor judgement in seeking employment with the Hospital was at the root of the mess.

Times Union Watch Part #1:Wendy Liberatore’s History Of The Democratic Party As Channeled through Joanne Yepsen and Bill McTygue

This is the first part of a multi post piece addressing a recent article by Wendy Liberatore.  The Liberatore article purports to be a history of conflicts within the Saratoga Springs Democratic Party.

The most disturbing element in her story, which contains a number of factual errors, is her extraordinary retelling of the controversy involving then Mayor Joanne Yepsen  soliciting business from Saratoga Hospital while the Hospital was seeking Council approval for a Planned Unit Development to enable them to build a proposed medical  office building.

I am re-publishing an article by Arthur Gonick that appeared in the April 14, 2016, edition of Saratoga Today.  Mr. Gonick did such a good job describing the roots of the story that it seems best to share it in its entirety with readers who may not have seen it.

 


Mayor/Hospital Communication Submitted to Board of Ethics

Introduction: This is a story about transparency in government, overlaid on a timeline. 

The supporting documents that will be discussed have been placed online –HERE

– for the reader’s consideration. After discussing this with management, before press time, I contacted Mayor Yepsen and invited her to respond to this story, and we pledged to print her response verbatim, in next week’s issue. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — According to correspondence (emails and letters) and documents obtained by Saratoga TODAY, between officials at Saratoga Hospital and Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Mayor Yepsen opened discussions with the Hospital about fundraising work for her private company in October 2015, after the Hospital’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) amendment application was presented on the Mayor’s agenda earlier, at the August 18 City Council meeting.

After about three months of sporadic discussions between the two parties, Saratoga Hospital wrote to the Mayor, declining to “pursue a working relationship” while she was in office, citing concerns expressed about “… a position that could imply or suggest a conflict of interest in any way” and other concerns, on two occasions: January 14 and 15, 2016. Four days after the Hospital’s second email, on January 19, Mayor Yepsen, at the City Council meeting, announced that she was recusing herself from discussions and votes about Saratoga Hospital’s expansion, citing that she “discussed a possible private contract between me and the Saratoga Hospital Foundation,” after that possibility had been terminated by the Hospital a few days earlier.

The documents detailing these events, is a portion of documents submitted, and currently under review by the Saratoga Springs Board of Ethics.

This correspondence has been verified by an official from Saratoga Hospital, who stated, “…we are aware that these documents might someday reach the media.” The packet was originally sent by Amy V. Raimo, Vice President for Community Engagement and Executive Director of The Saratoga Hospital on March 1, in a response to a January 30 request for information letter from Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan to President and CEO of Saratoga Hospital, Angelo Calbone.

This entire packet of correspondence has been placed online (see the set labeled Document 1), and is one of six packets of documents related to the timeline of events that was submitted to the Saratoga Springs Board of Ethics by Commissioner of Public Works, Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, on March 7.

The Board of Ethics held a meeting on Tuesday, April 12. During the public portion of the meeting, the Board Chair, Justin Hogan, acknowledged to Commissioner Scirocco that his inquiry had been received and was in the process of review. The Board of Ethics proceedings, due to the nature of the subject matters they entertain, are frequently confidential and are held under executive session. This was the case on April 12, and so there is no knowledge about any findings from that Board at this time.

This is an abridged summary of the timetable of events surrounding the discussions between Ms. Raimo and Mayor Yepsen, with key surrounding reference dates added. The timeline summary and correspondence submitted by Ms. Raimo to Commissioner Madigan covers events for the time frame beginning October 6, 2015 through January 15, 2016:

 Tuesday, August 18, 2015: At the City Council meeting, an item on the Mayor’s agenda -“Merit for Review – Saratoga Hospital Planned Unit Development Amendment Referral to Planning Board for Advisory Opinion”- passed unanimously. Subsequently, Saratoga Hospital would develop and deliver multiple presentations before the land use boards and at City Council public hearings about proposed expansion plans.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015: Ms. Raimo accepts an invitation from the Mayor for a lunch/meeting at noon on Wednesday, October 14 to discuss grant writing / fundraising opportunities for the Hospital Foundation that might be appropriate for her private firm, Critical Needs Now. The Mayor is a partner in this firm.

Tuesday, October 14, 2015: At the lunch/meeting, various possibilities and requirements are discussed, as well as the Hospital’s approval process.

 Tuesday, October 20, 2015: A follow up email from the Mayor to Ms. Raimo included a copy of the Mayor’s resume and client list, two required items noted earlier by Ms. Raimo, but did not include writing samples, which were also requested.

 Monday, December 7, 2015: Ms. Raimo receives an email from the Mayor with a second copy of the client list, and a note that said writing samples would be forthcoming. Ms. Raimo acknowledged this email the next day.

 Thursday, January 14, 2016: {Note: There appears to be some emails that crossed on this day} Ms. Raimo receives an email at 1:59 p.m. from Mayor Yepsen asking if anything additional was needed; Ms. Raimo responded at 2:38 p.m. with a reminder about the writing samples.

Later that day, the Hospital discussed and determined that it would not pursue a working relationship with the Mayor while she was in office due to potential conflict of interest concerns. Ms. Raimo communicated that determination, referencing a discussion with Mr. Calbone, to Mayor Yepsen at 3:56 p.m.

That evening, at 6:59 p.m., the Mayor sent a response to Ms. Raimo that she was sending writing samples that evening.

 Friday, January 15, 2016: The Mayor responded to the January 14, 3:56 p.m. email stating she had “…gone through the proper channels to ensure the highest integrity and transparency.” Later that afternoon, Ms. Raimo responded to the Mayor, reiterating the Hospital’s decision not to engage the Mayor’s services while she was in office for reasons previously stated.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016: The Mayor announces her recusal from the matters regarding Saratoga Hospital’s expansion.

In fact, the “proper channels” the Mayor refers to would be the city’s Board of Ethics, whom she did appear before, to ask for guidance on this matter. On January 19, the Board of Ethics issued an opinion (see document 2 online), citing section 13-3 subsection I of the Code of Ethics, found on the question that the Mayor, “…in discussing particulars of future work with the Saratoga Hospital Cares Foundation…had become involved with an entity that is ‘doing business with the City’…” and therefore would be in violation of that subsection. “On the facts presented, the Board finds that to be the case,” the opinion stated.

However, it would appear that the point was rendered moot, based on the Hospital’s earlier communications to the Mayor on January 14 and 15. Further, an elected official provided a copy of a memo that the Mayor provided to all the Commissioners, that she had sent to the Board of Ethics, as an update, dated January 16. In that note, she stated that she “had no plans to work for Saratoga Hospital Foundation at this time.” Note that this item (Document 3a and 3b) is unsigned and contains no specific sender address, but it appears to have been sent to all the other Commissioners. Subsequently, several have verified receiving it independently.

So, in fact, did the reason to recuse disappear before the announcement to do so? That appears to be an essential question. But the upshot of the Mayor’s recusal is that the Hospital will not be able to get a vote on their expansion application, as detailed in Norra Reyes’ story in Saratoga TODAY on April 8.

The timetable, as provided and independently verified, can suggest a broad range of possible motivations. It remains for the Mayor to respond, for the Board of Ethics to conclude its examinations and for you to draw your own independent conclusions.

Postscript:

A story about transparency and timing should have my own transparency included. While the reader has no inherent “right to know,” I believe it is important  for you to know this: With regards to the elected officials who provided the documentation herein: I have voted for some, not all of them, and not every time they ran in most cases – but I always voted for Joanne Yepsen. For her two elections as Mayor, and as County Supervisor before that. She even hired me to write a speech, for which I was paid $25, during one of my many sabbaticals here at Saratoga TODAY. 

 

 

Tim Holmes Issues Release Announcing His Candidacy for Mayor

[JK: I received this release from the Tim Holmes campaign]

ALL FOR SARATOGA

Tim Holmes Announces Candidacy

for Mayor of Saratoga Springs

For Immediate Release

September 20, 2019

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Timothy Holmes, a business executive, philanthropist, historian and author, has announced his candidacy for Mayor of Saratoga Springs. His name will appear on the Republican line in the general election on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

Mr. Holmes is an entrepreneur in both traditional and 21st century industries. He currently works in restoring real estate properties and in developing technologies for the 21st century workforce. He has been a leader in the non-profit sector. Applying ‘the Saratoga model’ of community revitalization, Mr. Holmes has worked for 20

years with Hudson River communities on economic revival. He believes that a full life includes community engagement with governance, business and charitable activities.

After attending schools on Long Island, NY, in Ethiopia and Japan, he graduated from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. He worked in construction in Rockefeller Center and with several foundations in New York City. While living in New Jersey in the 1980s, Holmes served as a commissioner and president of the municipal council of Rutherford, New Jersey, and in positions on its planning and zoning boards. He was trained in IBM systems administration and holds certification as a paralegal. Although his family ties to Saratoga Springs date to the city’s founding years, his residency dates to 1996.

A strong supporter of regional cooperation, Holmes has worked in social and business organizations, regional chambers of commerce and planning cooperatives such as the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership. “This is a time when regional interests are converging. Through mutual planning we can realize best results,” said Mr. Holmes.

“Saratoga Springs is a world-class community and truly a gift to every person who lives here or visits. I would like to work on behalf of our people to protect it, preserve it and strengthen it for our children and grandchildren,” said Mr. Holmes. “At the same time, Saratoga Springs has set the example of a city able to reinvent itself in adapting to change over the years. We have now the opportunity to work with the County of Saratoga in shaping how the future develops around us.” Mr. Holmes said he seeks the support of every concerned citizen of Saratoga Springs regardless of political affiliation. “I will be a mayor for everyone who loves Saratoga Springs. The theme of my campaign will be ‘All for Saratoga,’” he said. “Years of service have confirmed it’s best to listen and learn from all residents.”

As Mayor, Mr. Holmes said he will focus first on:

• Protecting taxpayers through careful use of taxpayer dollars and realistic fiscal

management and investment;

• Preserving the community’s quality of life and ensuring its resilience; protecting its

neighborhoods, historic character, and open space;

• Planning for the continued growth the community is likely to experience over

the next 30 years;

• Supporting its business, arts, higher education and racing communities;

• Ensuring that city government responds respectfully to residents and is

customer-oriented and responsive to the community’s changing needs;

• Conducting the public’s business with transparency and high standards of

ethical conduct and accountability.

“I regard public service as a privilege, and I intend to be a mayor who never forgets that he serves at the will of the people,” said Mr. Holmes.

The rate of the city’s growth is a concern to residents. “Our city’s population doubled since 1950 and will substantially increase in coming years. We need to plan for the next 30 years anticipating levels of change we’ve not seen. To ensure that our community and our people have a say in future development, we need to maintain visibility and accountability on the part of the City. We can balance creation of good jobs with a healthy environment and community resilience,” he said. “Provision of efficient, high-quality public services is essential.”

Mr. Holmes said that during his administration a new fire and emergency services facility, properly staffed and equipped, will be built to serve the large and growing population on the east side of the city. “The East Side must be able to rely on the same high level of professional fire and emergency services 24/7 as is the rest of our community,” he said.

Another priority, he said, will be to support Saratoga Springs’ vibrant business community, “the beating heart of our city. These are the people who create jobs, generate millions in sales tax and property tax revenue, serve our visitors and residents, and re-invest their own money to makeSaratoga Springs one of the most attractive small cities in America.

“As mayor, I will be a stalwart friend and supporter to our partners and friends in the higher education and arts communities. They are the wellspring of creativity, economic growth and cultural renewal that makes our community so extraordinary.”

Mr. Holmes said he would restore a close working relationship with the racing community. “We recognize the unique cultural and economic gift we have in thoroughbred racing. I will do all I can to keep racing healthy, competitive, successful and beautiful, in a relationship based on mutual respect and consideration.”

Mr. Holmes has been an active full-time Saratoga Springs resident and volunteer for the last 20 years, supporting local businesses and arts enterprises, Chamber of Commerce initiatives, and serving presently on the city’s Open Space Advisory Committee and the Smart City Broadband Commission.

He and his wife Libby Smith-Holmes, are the authors of three books of local history: “Saratoga Springs: A Historical Portrait” (2000), “Saratoga Springs: A Brief History” (2008), and “Saratoga: America’s Battlefield” (2012).

Holmes has also been a leader of the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield’s effort to establish a memorial to honor America’s first veterans on the site where British General Burgoyne surrendered to American General Gates on October 17, 1777, the turning point of the American Revolution.