Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pink slip

Don’t worry political gadflies. Planning Board Chairman Lew Benton’s hire to the newly resucitated administrator of parks, open lands and historic preservation was not a political appointment. Just ask the self-proclaimed “peoples’ mayor,” Valerie Keehn. She’ll tell you the straight dope; no political maneuvering, no backroom deals, and certainly no underhanded moves.

Not unless you consider it underhanded to give a pink slip to Denise McDonald, the director of the Heritage Area Program and Visitor Center, in order to get a political crony into a cushy retirement job.

Who cares that Benton, a now-semi retired county planner and former Public Safety Commissioner, has long been a proponent of the incumbent mayor. What difference does it make that his wife works in Keehn’s office? And does it really matter that Benton was on the commission that created the $48,000 position in the first place? It’s all conjecture and conspiracy theory anyway, right?

Well, that’s only if you’ve slept through the bulk of Keehn’s tenure as mayor. Benton, as some may recall, was Keehn’s selection to head the planning board after she came to office. At the time, he replaced Bob Bristol, one-term Republican Mayor Michael Lenz’s choice to oust Benton himself from the chairmanship.

Benton was also a leading member of Saratoga Forward, Keehn’s charter revisionists, who suffered a crushing defeat during November’s referendum. He’s also one of two members of the group that received a dead fish on his doorstep at the apex of the vote last fall.

With Benton in place, Keehn appointed one of her original two picks for the board to the chairmanship. Amy Durland, who has less than two years’ experience on the board and was the mayor’s pick to replace DPW Director William McTygue, was elevated to head the planners. The mayor will also get her third appointment to the board as the formerly retired Benton vacates for his paying job in the Keehn administration.

Benton’s seat carries another two years, which likely means Keehn will get to appoint yet another spot. Most likely, her appointment will only finish out Benton’s term and not the full seven years that most board members serve. In the unlikely chance this isn't the case, it’s more fuel to add to the fire as this being a strictly political move.

Keehn lauded the move as a political feather to place in her cap, boasting that no one had even bothered to fill the position until she came along. Of course, that’s probably because McDonald was more or less filling the bulk of the position. The fact that she was reported on a leave of medical absence for the past four months cast even a further shadow over the move. Can somebody say lawsuit?

In the end, Benton’s candidacy for the job is deserved, but the measures Keehn took to get him appointed look very suspect. Mayoral challenger Gordon Boyd has been and will continue to use Benton’s new job as a rallying point to refute Keehn’s claims of open government and government for the people.

On a trivial side note, Keehn’s cadre of online supporters will have a bit of explaining to do with Benton’s favored appointment. This roving group of ardent supporters is quick to call into question the political contributions of Boyd to Republican candidates. Benton, as some recall, was a member of the GOP during the 90s, when he served on the council.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Tommy McTygue creating a new position earmarked for his latest girlfriend Stephanie? Why bother to call for job applications from potentially qualified people? Why bother to go through the civil service process? Why bother to pay any attention to the existing charter? It's all cronyism in the DPW, most recently a new job for Tommy's lastest love interest. Where's the outcry about that?

The Commissioner of DPW needs to work for the taxpayers, not just for his own self-interest. Tommy's been around way too long.

Skippy's got a good line: "I'll listen with my ears and not my mouth." (And not while twiddling his laser pointer and pointing it at people like an idiot.)

5:53 AM  
Blogger Scoop said...

Boy good thing it is not political, that wouldn't look good.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame on previous mayors not Keehn
I do not think this is a bad move. The City Charter passed in 2001 required this position to be filled.
Benton took the test like everyone else and got the job. Hell we pay the receptionist in City hall over $65,000.00 with 4 weeks vacation and free benefits for life!!!!

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though she seems like a nice enough person, Mrs. Mayor TRULY does not have a clue.

It's bad enough that she has no real governing vision --- a set of core beliefs on which she can then build specific policy initiatives --- but she does not undertand the art of 'politics' either.

Her attempt at charter reform (the basic concept of which I actually agree with her on) without lining up allies within her own party beforehand is the most obvious example. But certainly not the only one.

Now we have this Mr Benton situation. With all due respect to that gentleman, the points made on here certainly do tend to send her supposed political platform (open and unbiased gov't) shooting down in a ball of flames.

My inclination is that she is just simply totally unqualified in every way, shape of form for this job -- what in her background makes us think otherwise? So she attempts to make up for it by seeking cousel from what are apparently true "kitchen table" amateurs that have no more intellecutal depth than she does.

The result has been apparent from Day One; is there anything more painful than watching her stuggle with parliamentary procedures at the Council meetings? It;s like watching someone scratch a chakboard.

While I am certainly no great fan of either of her two opponents, I think I have to pull the lever for Mr Boyd, in a case of choosing the "least-bad" option.

Anyone have a reason they can give me otherwise.

(Note: please, this is not an invitation to the Mayor's dummy-squad to levy their inane propaganda and logic - forsaken press campaign on me--save that for those exciting porch talks she is scheduling. I encourage some REAL intellectual debate on this--of such a thing is possible form her supporters)

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This used to be a completely one party town: Republican. To serve in public office, only Republicans could get elected. So Benton chose that route, even though at heart he has always been Democrat-leaning. Lew Benton has probably served the city more tirelessly and effectively for a longer time than anyone else in the city. He's amazing in his knowledge and dedication.

Boyd by contrast has always supported Republican (and now Conservative) values and candidates. He's really just a member of the McTygue Party, helping McTygue look out for his interests --- helping McTygue keep his power and money base, and helping McTygue promote overdevelopment that does nothing to help the city or downtown businesses.

Hypocritically, both Boyd and McTygue enthusiastically support Bruno (now under federal investigation) the leading supporter of the county water plan. Boyd and McTygue claim to support the Saratoga Lake Plan, but it's all a scam. MyTygue should present an actual budget for the Saratoga Lake plan for the Mayor's capital budget if he really believes in the lake plan --- let's see a real financial plan, not just hot air.

Boyd can't even bother to attend many meetings of the Comprehensive Plan Committee that he serves on --- a bad sign for how he would serve as mayor --- absentee, except for conferring with MyTygue and developers to serve their interests.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Toga Booster said...

thanks for the input Hilary M.

now; how about you open up the Mayor's blog for comments?

or do you know what will be incoming?

of course, you would keep them from being posted anyways....

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cracks me up. Nobody has pointed out the fact that this may cut TM out of the rec business. What happens if he loses control of the rink and the rec fields?

5:20 PM  

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