Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My way or the highway

Ron Kim must have a thing for highways. At least that’s the impression one might get after the Public Safety lapdog’s election-year display Tuesday. Kim abruptly left the City Council meeting, pouting off like a spoiled child denied a piece of candy at the checkout counter.

“I don’t need to spend any more time on this council,” he proclaimed, before storming out with his contention of supporters and all the bravado of a shunned Hollywood movie star.

Kim also scrapped the rest of his agenda and left the council one vote short for the rest of the meeting and didn’t even bother to sit through the budget presentation. Had he stayed, perhaps he would have heard a good indicator of why his pie-in-the-sky approach to the police department debacle would never work out.

Already facing a 5 percent tax increase, the city simply can’t afford any of the new police departments Kim has foisted. Spa City residents will feel pinched by this years’ increase as it is; add an additional $200 per average-priced household onto that amount and the already dwindling middle class will shrink even more. Perhaps that’s the logic: raise taxes to a point where nobody but the uber-rich can afford them and the city won’t have to worry about crime anymore.

Admittedly, Kim has long made the new Public Safety complex his sole mission in office. But in two years, he and his contingent haven’t forwarded a single proposal that would make a bit of fiscal sense. Sure they seem plenty viable to Kim. Then again, so does having three quarters of the city’s top-20 highest paid employees under his jurisdiction.

First, Kim entertained the ludicrous idea of renting a police department from a private builder. When this wasn’t received well, he suggested the $17 million Taj Mahal of buildings, of which the construction cost alone would have caused an unreasonable tax burden. After this plan was nixed, he resuscitated the private development plan from the operating table, throwing in two key elements: rent to own and purchase by VLT revenues.

At first glance, it didn't sound like a bad idea. Pay for the building’s $1.4 million annual rent with the $1.5 million the city will surely get through VLT revenues. Spending this money to bolster the police deparment also seems to fall under what uses the money was intended for: offsetting the negative costs of having a bustling casino in the city. New shinny police station, happy cops and at absolutely no cost to tax payers. Sounds great, right?

Not exactly. First of all, the already too expensive $17 million price tag would balloon to $42 million. This fails to take into consideration increased energy bills, upkeep, or even the cost to hire more city employees. Then consider that the state wasn’t too keen –no pun intended –on forking over the VLT revenues at all this year. And as any state resident or political junkie could attest, the tide in Albany can change markedly over the course of three years, much less three decades.

These points could easily be dismissed as political rhetoric or obstructionist talk, were they coming from Commissioners Tom McTygue and John Franck. Both are on the other side of the Democratic isle from Kim, who is nearly attached at the hip to Mayor Valerie Keehn. But it’s usually wise to take heed when Matt McCabe –the proverbial Switzerland of commissioners and the guy who balances the city’s check book – is raising red flags.

McCabe has balked at just about every idea except selling City Hall to finance the project. Even then, it was never clear whether he suggested the sale to make a point or to actually put the historic building on the market. McCabe was also the voice of reason who noted that most of City Hall will be empty if the police and courts move out; a point that neither Kim nor his dominatrix have properly addressed in the proposals they blindly support.

Even when given all this, Kim figured it was time to pull some theatrics; make a quick point, stir up the crowd and then take the party on the road for some beers. While his stunt likely gained some favor with his City Police minions, Kim also solidified something else: he’s unable to compromise. In politics, that can be a dangerous beast, seeing as though there’s seldom a way to please everyone all the time. More disturbing is the fact that Kim is pushing the issue so hard with a month and change to go before the general election.

Saving a decision for after the election would clear a bit of the murky water clouding this issue. Instead, Kim is using the issue as a rallying point for his campaign, one which will indelibly fare only as well as Keehn’s. Still, it’s a shame they feel the need to hover a gargantuan tax hike over the heads of city residents for their own political gain. Hopefully, voters will follow Kim’s glib advice Tuesday and prove next month that he "doesn’t need to spend any more time on this council."

19 Comments:

Blogger shotinthedark said...

Has anybody driven behind city hall recently?
Directly adjoining the rear of city hall (where the police station is now currently located) is a large vacant lot.
Sure, some of it is privately owned.
So buy it and build an addition to city hall.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio,

Your review was so -- on point. I could not have said it better (even if I dared). This one, is a perfect ten! Bravo.

The Commissioner tragically owns all of his public statements. Having initially expressed his position as both a leader and a legislator, he never quite embraced the concept -- that as a Commissioner at the Council Table he would have to sit with the other four legislators and arrive at a consensus. His predisposed missions (thank his handlers) never permitted the reality of alternative opinions. Along side or on the lap of his mayor (or his chiefs), he will not accept or work with others (even of his own wretched party) on city matters.

I’m going to sit back and read the responses. Good work. 10

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keehn and Kim have only considered half the equation. While it does appear a new public safety building is needed, they have shown no ability to push through a fiscally responsible proposal. I wonder if either of them have ever really sat down with the finance department to understand the budget- both expenses and REVENUES. You can't just say give me my $17 million facility and not fully consider the impact on property taxes. Their ignorance in this area is unbelievable. Kim was either disingenuous or stupid when he claimed that earmarking the VLT revenue permanently to the new building expense would not result in raised taxes. Excuse me, but revenue used for the new building is simply revenue not available for other expenses. To make up the difference, you got to raise taxes if you dont have other revenue sources. The facts are simple, without new revenue streams, taxes as a result of this new building will probably increase $300 for a $250,000 house. That's a huge increase in taxes. So while Keehn and Kim claim it's irresponsible not to build this new building, I say it's irresponsible not to concisely articulate what we're asking the citizens of the city to pay in new taxes. Thank god, McCabe laid out the situation without Kim and Keehn's political rhetoric thrown-in.

It also totally amazed me that Keehn was arguing with McCabe to inflate the projected VLT revenue for future years above what the State was recommending. This is the same mayor who couldn't wait to call for an audit of the City by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). Maybe she realizes that she won't be in office after this year and after the inflated revenues fail to materialize the next administration will have to deal with the problem-- not her.

If you really analyze the budget, you start to realize that public safety expenses are choking the city. Retirement and benefits paid out annually have risen like crazy over the last ten years. Some hard questions need to be asked and answered. Does the city need 32,000 square feet for the new building to support our police force? How does Saratoga Springs stack up as to number of police officers per capita? Is it above or below the average relative to other cities with similar crime rates? What are other cities paying for new public safety buildings based on their population size?

McTygue (whether you like him or not) was also on the mark last night when he questioned whether the sole lease/buy back proposal being pushed by Kim was a result of a competitive bid process. Apparently, Kim threw in a supplement to the McCabe parking Request for Proposal at the last minute. I really wonder whether this approach and process will hold up as truly competitive. Considering this is such a large project for the city shouldn't we demand a bid process that has a better chance of getting more than one proposal back? McTygue saw through this and called Kim on it as he should have.

Get ready for more political posturing from Kim and the Police Chief. We're going to hear now about 'human rights' violations if we don't get a new building immediately. Hopefully, the citizens of this city will stand firm and demand much more creative thinking from at least two of our council members. Before we shell out an extra $300 per year, let's make sure we're truly getting the best deal. That's certainly not apparent at this point.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait until they drag the McTygue brothers in handcuffs and make them sit in the hall for everyone to see. They can interrogate them right in front of the passersby and be laughed at! He will wish he voted in favor of the proposal. Its easy for you club people who hang out and get drunk all day because you don't work for a living. Just critique anyone that tries to get something done. Its people like you that are the reason this project is so expensive. It keeps getting put off year after year because the McTygues of the world have no balls in fear of not getting re-elected.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The police officers preparing to sue the city over “human rights” violations, might consider first suing the Chief (and maybe the Commissioner) for refusing to spend any of the money ($1 million) that was provided to Public Safety two years ago specifically for these repairs. The disrepair constantly photographed (ceiling wires, locker room, worn floor under a chair, dirty toilet, etc.) for the sole purpose of generating sympathy should have been addressed, but wasn’t, for obvious reasons. Perhaps their Chief, who has experience in suing the City and their Commissioner whose legal experience could prove helpful, can mentor these officers through the lawsuit process. I would not expect that the immature and self-centered antics in the Council Chamber this past week would be valuable or part of the lesson.

And please, would someone pick up that bench in the hallway by the vending machines and put it behind the double doors next to the investigator offices. That would provide some privacy and something less to complain about. Isn’t it odd that the one department in City Hall that has apparently been victimized by illegal and code violation issues and modifications is the very one that has its own safety inspectors? A reconstruction plan requires working within the fiscal box, something all departments have done, and something our Public Safety Department is capable of.

4:26 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

“I can't wait until they drag the McTygue brothers in handcuffs and make them sit in the hall for everyone to see.”

I would hope they’d do something to warrant such an action first. Otherwise, you suggest Saratoga Springs is in the midst of a police state; not a bad assumption given the recent political dickering by Chief Moore. Let’s also be realistic here: your beef isn’t with McTygue or his ally, John Franck. It’s with Matt McCabe. He’s the swing vote and the only one casting it without political pretenses.Also, I wouldn’t badmouth those “people who hang out and get drunk all day.” After all, they seem to be the number-one justification that we have such a large force to begin with; i.e. Caroline Street.

Look, I’ve got no problem with the police getting some better digs. But it’s got to be unde a plan the dwindling middle- and lower-middle class can afford without selling their homes. Or is it that the police no longer want people who “work for a living” residing in the city proper. They’re the unruly ones right? Besides, the country club dwellers just sit around and blow their cocaine and sip their grey goose martinis on the golf course; police work would then be babysitting the McMansions of Saratoga.

As the above poster suggests, it seems like the chief and his cronies are waging a very dubious campaign right now to fleece the tax payers because the political moons are aligned. Frankly, from a PUBLIC SAFETY perspective, I’d rather hear talk about solving the dilemma out on the lake, where EMS and fire response times are supposedly sub-par. This could mean the difference between life and death, not comfort and discomfort. And until there is an iota of sensibility injected into this public safety building debacle, I’ll fight this thing tooth and nail.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would wager that there are more than a handful of top shelf business executives in this city.

Assuming the above is correct, I would also wager that if you put that group in a room, they could quickly come up with a creative means of solving the problem that we all agree exists --- that of an inadequate public safety facilty --without bankruptng the city.

Kim and Keehn and Moore get the first part of that equation but they don't get the second part. That is not doubt due to the fact that none of them has ever had a real private sector job (correct: I dont consider law to be a REAL job)where one is required to think in these terms.

True, there has already been a citizen's committee on this matter. But that group was fixated on building the proper facility, NOT on accomplishing it in the msot fiscally resposnible manner.

This issue is obviously beyond the city's political elite (bothe Democrats and Republicans). So..


I hereby make a motion:

- Find the six sharpest business minds in the city and let them figure all of this out.

6:53 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Quaker Springs just recently built a new fire station just over the 9p bridge. It's a shame that some kind of arrangement could not be made with them for coverage of that Saratoga Springs area. Maybe we could supply the firefighters and use their equipment and building. The potential savings could be substanial. We have to start getting ahead of the curve on this massive spending.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish McCabe was staying. They should clone him and let him fill the whole council -- he's the only rational guy in all of local politics.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great, some guy wants to put the same 5 businessmen who got this city in the financial trouble it,s in more control

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a brilliant idea! And just are the 6 brightest business minds. The Roohans and some of their rich cronies? That's why we are in this mess isn't it? Waste all the city money on DPW working on the big developers infrastructure of their projects that make them wealthy. McT and company will profit off it again! Why you throw out all these bright ideas here is one for you. Maybe we can build a EMS out on McT's farm that he built on city money! That way DPW workers are already on site to do maintenance while they are taking care of his horses!

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I have never seen such a clear dichotomy between rational thinking posters and ignorant posters, as I have on this thread.

Here are my thoughts.

1) Horatio, as the earliest poster suggests, is absolutely correct on this one. A new facility would be wonderful, but until rational fiscal deliberations take place, I too, remain staunchly against rushing into Mr. Kim's plan.

2) Commisioner Kim's plan to depend on VLT revenues of 1.5 million over 30 years to pay for construction costs? You're kidding right? We will be lucky to get that money three years from now, much less thirty. That's just a sucker bet.

3) What the *Hell* was the poster talking about regarding the McTygues being handcuffed and dragged through city hall? Without doubt, the *DUMBEST, MOST RETARDED* post I have ever read on this blog (or any for that matter)-and not just because it had NOTHING to do with this thread. I am constantly amazed that no matter what the topic on iSaratoga, or who it involves, the Keeniacs will *ALWAYS* find a a way to make it about McTygue. Horatio: As a gag, do an article on a COMPLETELY random subject-Like Kosovo for instance. I will bet you $50 that one of these posters will SOMEHOW blame McTygue. How pathetically sad that the only thing that the mayor can claim as "hers" for the past two years is bashing and fighting with a fellow council member.

4) Putting together five or six of the finest business minds to possibly come up with ideas to finance or reduce the cost of a new public safety facility is a great idea in theory, but a poor one in terms of practicality. The froth at the mouth Keehn supporters would never go for it, and would sabotage it from the get go. Remember, these business minds actually went out and *made money* using that same intellect, probably building something in the process. This would automatically tag them as "Good Ol' Boys," who favor overdevelopment. I would say that they could also be tagged as "Republican Fatcats," except that the Keehn faithful make no differentiation in skewering ANYONE who has done well in business. Witness their castigation of primary challenger Mr. Boyd if you want proof of that. Of course, they look at him as a Republican anyway.

Why utilize the talents and ideas of others who don't agree with you? Especially, if they, *gulp* actually have some first hand knowledge about how to build things. If you did that you could actually BE "the people's mayor" and a true champion of inclusive government, instead of just giving it lip service as a campaign slogan.

5) I will give Madam Mayor points for being politically astute regarding the vote for the new Public Safety building. She MUST have known that the vote would lose three to two, and by voting yes, she gave herself political cover-scoring points with the police, her faithful supporters, and Commissioner Kim. When the motion failed, she knew that she wouldn't have to deal with mobs of angry, overtaxed residents calling for her head.

6) I will take points AWAY from Madam Mayor however for her lack of financial acumen. Didn't she support building a rec center because average families (like hers) couldn't affort a YMCA membership? So an equivalent (or greater) tax increase for a public safety building COULD be afforded by famiilies like hers? Sounds like two bites of the same apple to me

7) Kudos to the poster who suggested cloning McCabe. He is TRULY the only SANE voice on that council, which is undoubtedly why he is leaving....and why local politics are failing in this city. I say this, because the very act of running for the council, to say nothing of how much worse it gets for you if you win, is starting to "dumb down" the pool of qualified candidates. It has gotten so downright dirty, mean and abusive that anyone considering it CAN'T be in their right mind. Who would want to subject themselves, and more importantly their families to the daily vitriol of council politics? And for what? A $14,000 per year salary? Are you shitting me!? It is truly a no win situation. If you are an unknown, they paint you as inexperienced, or worse, a carpetbagger. If you have actually done something, you are labeled a good ol' boy. This goes for either party!

Although I will say this as a neutral observer...the Republicans are actually the ones showing more class regarding local politics these days. That, my friends is saying something..........It's the ultimate "Man Bites Dog" story.

Of course, we will see if this holds true as we get closer to election day. Mr. Johnson has had a pretty easy go of it thus far, with Mayor Keehn and Challenger Boyd slugging it out in the primary.

8) Up until Mr. Kim walked out of the council meeting (even though I disagreed with his new PS building proposal) I had planned on voting for him because he I percieved him as a principled administrator. I could respect that he staked out a position and stuck to his guns (no pun intended).

He has since lost my vote. I voted for him the first time in the hopes that he could conduct himself, win or lose, in a statesmanlike manner. If he is going to play the role of a schoolchild who just leaves when he doesn't get his way, then I can't give him my support.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of these bloggers have little understanding of the interrelationships of this City's successful story and those efforts of its many individuals -- some we might agree with and some we might not.

The DPW slander is sadly representative of some bloggers ignorant misconception or how the city works, with little responsibility other than to promote chaos. Responsible for the city’s infrastructure is only one part of this Department’s charge. The hate filled responses by small minded individuals and from those whose intelligence belie their potential ability to understand an assessment of the issues is a problem.

The PS Commissioner has not managed the DPS as required. He should not be working for, his Chiefs. The recent Police and Fire proposals were never reined in. Why wouldn’t mutual aid responses be one option for emergency services for those located next to an adjacent community’s facility? 911 calls are responded to by a dispatcher who notifies the first responders. And our Eastside community could have a closer ambulance service by simply buying that "for sale" service station on Union Avenue, renovating it and leasing it back to SEMS, who would provide the equipment and the manpower with little overall impact to the neighborhood – providing the Lake community with a response equal to or less than that already received by other neighborhoods. A police car or two, parked in the lot right across the entrance to the Racecourse at East and Union, could establish that desired presence for the homeland security. A 16 man round the clock expense with a $900,000 estimated operating budget could be, just one substantial saving.

And, that proposed new fire station on the ridge would be opening its doors and sirens for every Lake Avenue and West Avenue call – something this neighborhood may not be aware of or willing to endure.

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dipshits # 1 and 1A,

Noooo, I'm not talking about "the same businessmen" nor am I referring specifically to Mr Roohan. Quite the contrary.

There is, I am sure, a large contingent of indivuduals in this city who have made a successful 'go' in the busienss world, on a larger scale than what we define as success loclly (i.e., a Broadway retailer, a builder of shitty houses, a lawyer, a realtor, etc).

At the same time, I am not referring to any local developer whose definition of success is using political connections, favorable zoning & design policies and easy bank financing to strip this city of its soul with homely new structures and neighborhood-killing initiatives.

I suggest people like you two clowns (or are you one and the same?)get your head(s) out of the sand ---meaning realize there is a larger world out there than one bounded by the Exit 13 and 15 signs.

IF you expand your mental landscape in such a way, you'll find intelligent people participating in a more global business game than selling tee shirts and parking cards for Jersey tourists.

With it, comes a certain knowledge base and business acumen that the usual supsects in this city (which includes the so-called Deperate Housewives of the Keehn group) do not have.

The problem is, these business people are too sickened by the childish and idiotic behavior of the city's leadership that they typcially don't have they stomach for it. Seriouslt now: how long do you think Mrs Keehn would last as the chair of a corporate board?

I suggest we would be well served by figuring out a way to reel these people into those leadership roles.

There you go, morons: does that help a bit? Jeeeezzzz.....wake up.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey here's an idea. how bout we get a cpa, teacher, horsefarm owner, lawyer and downtown businessman, all have been successful. is that something that might work for you. and the head of the corporate entity wouldn't give a rats ass about any of us which is why we don't elect ceo's into office, cause they don't care about you or me, but the mayor seems to. therefore your analogy falls useless.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think this mayor gives a RATS ASS about you, or me, then you are delusional. She cares about one thing, and that is increasing her personal power.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a freaking idiot. The points I am TRYING to make are:

a) The private sector's cream of the crop would be more likely to solve this issue than the minor leaguers we have in public service in this city; and

b) This city's business community is NOT what I would consider to be that aforementioned cream of the crop. Instead, the narrow economic climate of Saratoga has us holding up those that succeed in that vacuum (i.e. realtors, lawyers, barkeeps, tee shirt retailers) as being the best & brightest--but they are not.

And my hunch is that anyone tapped for solving this single, specific challene would accept in the name of public service.

Again, it likely wouldnt take them more than a two-hour meeting to do what the usual band of idiots will never figure out.

You got it now?

I didn't think so.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take exception to the disparaging reference to barkeeps. Saratoga Springs has a long history of common sense folk, like our local businessmen – many with the intelligence and business savvy that made them financial survivors relying on their own skills and acumen – not on what many today might consider, an often-expected government secured public dole.

So don’t spend my money and expect me to guarantee your financial expectations based on the idea that what we buy today will be paid for tomorrow by my children (or yours). This City suffers from too many people with too little to do but to experiment with a success story that they themselves have had either little to do with or have spent little time comprehending just what they are promoting.

The Mayor Keehn and the Commissioner Kim appear driven to bankrupt the taxpayers.

I’d take Commissioner McTygue and his pimples over those two any year. He has a community passion that they will never understand.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keehn,Kim,Franck,Ivens and Scirroco! Deal with it! This is in the bag!

7:25 PM  

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