Friday, May 11, 2007

Knock, knock

Who’s there? Mayor. Mayor who? Mayor Keehn needs your signature because she ain’t getting an endorsement from the Spa City’s Democratic Committee.

In what is probably the savviest move she could make at this juncture in her political career, incumbent Valerie Keehn announced Thursday she will not seek her party’s endorsement for mayor. The self-professed “people’s mayor” decided against shooting for the endorsement because she felt it would “worsen divisions among the committee's members.”

“Rather than engaging in a disruptive political exercise at the committee level, I will take my campaign directly to the voters of the city by collecting petition signatures,” she wrote in a memo to acting party Chairman Lou Schneider.

So let’s get this straight. The same mayor who makes no qualms whatsoever in throwing every political wrench she can find into the works of her party is now graciously backing out of a primary race for the good of that same party? In some circles, they call this a bunch of hogwash; in others, they call it straight-out bullshit.

Keehn’s stage of events late last month –from the timed release of videos showing the three-ring circus some call City Council meetings to the “sudden” state investigation of the Department of Public Works –left a bad and lingering taste in everyone’s mouth. Just a year removed from the Erin Dreyer scandal, no one in the city wanted to see the kind of dirt that Keehn quite candidly pitched into the public eye. What was organized as a party coup has all but backfired on the Keehniacs, who hopefully now realize they are a small but very vocal minority of city Democrats.

Truth be known, there is a gigantic Grand Canyon-sized divide in the party and one that Keehn and her supporters have done everything in their power to foment. The Keehniacs argue this is a necessary evil to expose the good ol’ boy atmosphere that has ruled the party for decades. They claim the party’s true leader –DPW fixture Tom McTygue –has secured his own fiefdom by colluding with the city GOP at the expense of the public good.

While there might be a grain of truth to all these allegations, the Keehniacs have been all too fervent in their drive to throw McTygue and his supporters under the bus. In other words, the aim of Keehn and these neoliberals seems disingenuous at best. At its worst, these moves are an unbridled and malicious power grab attempt by the city’s new left.

So where did these folks come from anyway? Well look no further than Democracy for Saratoga, an off-shoot of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s Democracy for America. The organization’s brass is a who’s who of the new left in Saratoga Springs, including Roger Wyatt, the alleged documentarian who posted the two unflattering council videos. Keehn even cited the “grass roots” group this week as her original impetus to run for mayor two years ago. She apparently attended a DFA “training sessions” in Cazenovia, which somehow empowered her to seek office in the city.

“It really solidified my desire to run," she stated in a press release after accepting the endorsement of Democracy for Saratoga. “It was run by an enthusiastic group of young people who really knew how to run a campaign.”

Training, as it’s called, with the DFA prepares citizens for the new democracy in America. At the DFA Academy, you too can learn such electioneering tactics as communications, fundraising, voter targeting, online organizing, and “building a sustainable grassroots movement.” Indeed, these movements are so grass roots they actually sprout Astroturf. And all at the low, low price of $70 per session; $30 if you’re low income or a student. What a bargain for democracy.

Maybe in today’s America, such training is needed to pull the fickle and easily swayed masses away from the television screen to take action in their flailing and failing democracy. But more likely, it’s away to amass a blind movement behind candidates that are far from sincere in their aims. The DFA’s grassroots gave rise to Keehn, who came to the City Hall promising a wealth of things city residents have thirsted for over the years; affordable housing, open government, a more vibrant main street. But what she delivered in two years can be summed up in a sentence: the same old song and dance.

Now, after accomplishing none of her purported goals, she claims to have “set the stage for what we want to accomplish in the next few years.” Well, given her record over 16 months, that sounds like another 24 months of bickering on a council, which will undoubtedly sport at least one Republican, if not more, thanks to her political meddling. Perhaps this year, she’ll see the real democracy in action when she comes knocking and the voters slam their doors in her face

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