Friday, November 02, 2007

Shopping with the mayor

Valerie Keehn instinctively thumbed the platinum card in her palm as the stretch limousine came to a rolling stop on 50th Street. She gingerly extended a toe of her polished leather Prada heels to the curbside and pulled herself into the mid-afternoon sun, inhaling deeply the crisp autumn air. Perfect shopping weather, she thought, as she tucked an Armani designer handbag beneath her arm and strutted authoritatively toward the door to Saks Fifth Avenue.

For nearly nine months, she had wanted to jettison her wardrobe from last season; the frumpy frills, the aging material, the styles so woefully passé. What better time to do it than when a hot platinum card is burning between the finger tips.

“Follow me,” she said, tossing the card at a nearby department manager. “I’ve got a number of things I’ll need you to gift-wrap.”

She grabbed a gold-embroidered chemise, cashmere sweaters, and velvet evening gowns; thousands of dollars of purchases in just minutes. But every minute worth it, she thought, leafing through a collection of designer-print silk wraps. Like a pirate sifting through plunder, she loaded the man’s arms with so much finery he called for help to haul the impending purchases.

She pressed onto the home ware department and quickly noticed a striking collection of Faberge glassware shimmering in the department store fluorescence. Four martini glasses for $400, it’s for a good cause, she whispered, thinking briefly about how striking she’d look sipping a Godiva Chocolate martini in them with an extended pinky at the next Keehn for America fundraiser. She chortled slightly. And what good would such glasses be without a set of crystal flutes to complement them?

“Throw it on the card,” she said, pointing at the entire display.

“But my dear,” the manager gasped. “That’s well over $10,000 worth of merchandise.”

“And I’m prepared to buy it,” she quipped, making sure to use her most pretentious, Oxford-inspired voice.

“Well,” he replied, glancing hard at the card. “I’ll need to check your credit…”

“Then just do it,” she barked. “I’m rich, don’t you understand? Real rich. I’m so rich, in fact, I haven’t the time to concern myself with prices.”

So she shopped on, filling the arms of four more attendants with a bevy of high-name big ticket items. The dollars flew by, but it didn’t matter. Not with that platinum card. It was almost as if the items were free; just hand them to the attendant and worry about the bill later. Tiffany, Gucci, Versace, she needed it all and in copious amounts.

But then the manager returned; a look of deep concern entrenched on his face. He had dispatched of two attendants and was telling the third to leave when he found himself staring into the angry eyes of his frivolous shopper.

“You insult me by putting back my purchases,” she growled. “What is the meaning of this?”

“My dear,” he said in a pleading voice. “These are the items you can’t afford right now.”

“Nonsense,” she shouted, drawing the attention the manager had desperately tried to avoid garnering. “Pack up these things now and allow me to go back to my shopping.”

The manager shrugged.

“Even though these cards typically have no limit, you have somehow managed to reach your maximum,” he whispered. “In fact, you can hardly afford the item you’re holding in your hands right now.”

Keehn looked down at the small $150 designer key ring she plucked from the sale rack in the accessory isle and contemplated; there is a platinum card here, the card means money and money is meant to be spent, right?

“Well don’t worry about it,” she said abruptly, grabbing a stack of satin sheets. “Somebody will pay for it.”

True, this fictional narrative is rather fantastic given the mayor’s off-kilter fashion sense. What is not fictional is the Keehn Administration’s concept of spending and their utter disregard for what the city’s credit and taxpayers can burden. Finance voice-of-reason Matt McCabe tried to warn Keehn about the inhospitable condition of the budget months before she came out with her ludicrous $63 million capital projects budget, something that looks much akin to a dumpster-sized shopping spree through Saks Fifth Avenue’s wares.

Sure, it’s all stuff the city wants, maybe even needs. But with dwindling municipal revenue sources –primarily from lagging sales and mortgage tax receipts –it’s not stuff the city can afford. More specifically, it’s not stuff the few remaining lower-middle class property owners can afford. Few people among this class welcome a local tax increase that is almost to double digits before even including the full cost of the biggest ticket item on the wish list.

The city is now facing an 8.63 percent tax hike, a number that considers a little less than half the cost of the $17 million Public Safety fortress Keehn and lapdog Ron Kim have so brutally stumped for during their conglomerate campaign. Keep in mind, this increase is also figuring in the fact that Saratoga Springs is receiving $3.8 million in VLT revenues this year, a source that is about a solid in the future.

The question is where to make the cuts so that working-class citizens can still own property in the Spa City? Well, the most obvious one can be made next week in the voting booth. Hopefully, city voters will support a Mayor who spends more time finding answers to these fiscal questions rather than using the position for political attacks while stacking the city finances like a house of cards.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why is it that you and the other blatantly anti-Keehn blogger in town stoop so low as to criticize Ms. Keehn's clothing and fashion sense? Doing so severely weakens your otherwise well-thought out arguments. It also paints a picture of you as misogynistic, and perhaps even fearful of having a woman in such a high position of power. I wonder if you would use the parable of a shopping spree at Saks were your wrath directed at a male candidate. I assert that the parable wouldn't fly if it was Tom McT, Scott Johnson, Commissioner Kim, or Gordon Boyd doing the shopping?

It would be OK if this was one of a number of isolated incidents, but this isn't the case. Nationally, many in the media focus their attention on the clothing of Hillary Clinton rather than shaky and splintered platform she stands upon. Or they belittle Kucinich because he's short and a vegan with a "hot" wife who appears half his age. What a sorry state of affairs when image reigns over character.

At a time when women are finally emerging from years of holding low-level posts or not involved in politics at all, your rant has clearly indicated just how much the "Big Boys" need to be taken on and called to tasks for their tactics of trivializing, catastrophizing, and compartmentalizing. It's time to recognize that much like the working class people you claim to champion, women are people too, and should be judged not by the color of their dress, but by the content of their character.

You are at your best when you focus on the latter, and you sound like a sad puppy when you perpetuate and build your case upon gender stereotypes. Horatio, its 2007, not 1877.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that the Valerie, while a licensed teacher, is not a great learner. She is not very curious about the details of government or governance.

Reminds us of a guy living at 1600 Penn Ave in D.C. He loves running for office, but is actually quite bored with the details of actually being President.

Valerie is dangerous to the health of the City. Voters beware.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's too bad our 'leaders' don't lead. We've got a bunch of 'business-as-usual' visionaries in office who all fail to realize tough times are ahead. It will be interesting to see how all our 'business-as-usual' plans hold up when gas hits $4 per gallon. I guess we can't expect our local politicians to get it when our state and federal politicians and the media don't get either.

Go ahead hit me with a 10% tax increase. Let's build a $17 million castle. Let's build a rec center on the edge of town where the only way to get to it is by driving.

Mark my words... next year tax revenues will be way down as the housing slump continues, tourism stalls with $4 gasoline, business downtown slows dramaticially. Maybe instead of building out new $17 million police building, we'll request the police department to cut staff to balance the budget.

Folks... we're all living in a dreamworld. No one wants to wake up cause it's going to be too painful.
The facts are, however, that high energy prices are here to stay. The economic ramifications will be longlasting, extensive, and quite negative.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy at 1600 Penn Ave. is a republican rich boy just like Johnson. Maybe should pay for the new Public Safety building himself. It would still leave him with more money than most of us will make in a life time. Mr. I will give my money to charity! Your funny commentary actually is what Scott Johnson's wife does in the stores daily.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Ben Arnold said...

"anon" said:

"Why is it that you and the other blatantly anti-Keehn blogger in town stoop so low as to criticize Ms. Keehn's clothing and fashion sense? Doing so severely weakens your otherwise well-thought out arguments."

Whats with the anonymous persona Jim?

Technically, as you know, I'm a blatantly pro-truth, pro-logic, pro-compassion blogger. If thats anti-Keehn then so be it. You're a smart guy, why dont you defend Val's planning record, or address "well thought out arguments" in lieu of harping on some manufactured sexism claim. To the best of my knowledge, between a collective 500 some posts between here and (dis)Utopia, this would be the second fashion related post concerning the Mayor...and for my part, I do apologize for attempting to bring some levity to Vals campaign against the Dark Side. Whats next? more sock-puppetry to harp on grammar and mispellings?

By the way, having a stick up your ass for one combative commissioner, and then concentrating your term on digging dirt, and fostering rumors, in-lieu of ANY meaningful progress on ANY meaningful issue does NOT constitute character. Her motivation derives from vindictive hate...not something you typically associate with a strong character.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Could you have made the narrative metaphor any longer about binge shopping and government spending? Got it, dude! By the time I finished reading your entry I had grey hair.

P.S.- What is "gold-embroidered jewelry" exactly?

3:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be aware that the proposed 8.63 percent take hike in 2008 to address the recent pathetic public servant whining does not include overhead items like equipment and staffing requirements for the larger desired public squadron. Throw in 18 million in 2009 and 24 million in 2010, the balladeer’s no fool in cutting his concert short as he plays a version of the concession blues in three-part harmony.

Why hasn’t the Public Safety Commissioner asked, why these departments can’t be run a little more efficiently? But then again, if one’s not managing, then I guess one leaves that to his chiefs. Last year the FD handled over 1600 fire calls, only 32 with smoke – the rest simply responding to SEMS emergency calls. Do we need more equipment and staff retirements in a system that simply grows and growls?

Did the Finance Commissioner consider the retirements for next year in his fiscal plan or will that be tomorrow’s burden? The Building Inspector and the City Engineer’s curtain calls can’t be far away from the City Planner’s. And then there’s the Public Safety Department whose increased benefits umbrella to three officers on August 28, 2007 (Laws of New York, 2007 Chapter 677) will no doubt be a prelude to moore retirements to add to the residents tax burden now at what, 87% of the budget?

Will we be asked to pay another revaluation tomorrow to legitimize a substantial increase in taxes to help pay for the sins of today’s clueless financial planners? Can this scenario be real, when our assessments at 82% barely cover their actual costs as values decline? Think again to the 2009 and 2010 figures proposed for our small community. With a now certifiable housing slump that is predicted to run its course till 2009 can these telltales mean anything to the fiscally challenged minds at work in our City Hall? The 300-point drop in the stock market over the last few days, the price of home heating oil and gasoline, a 3 billion dollar a day war expense, a thoroughbred track in limbo whose effect on the local economy is crucial while its revenue is never guaranteed and yet, there seems to be little outrage. Perhaps when our city taxes begin to grow closer to our school taxes, then those few still left behind can remember what the warnings were all about. Oh, don't forget to buy local and live outside the city.

These lyrics will be voted on after the election – and those who endorse it will undoubtedly have to address its results in the next election cycle (if they can get beyond maintained city trails to sidewalkless neighborhoods, a perception that all development and traffic is bad, when some of it actually helps to pay for their self-inflicted expenses and let's not forget affordability - like they understand that given the only open space left to talk about will be between their ears). How does it go? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Father Joe said...

The spending spree started long ago. It did not start under keehn

This prosperty gravey train has left the station.
We are in for some dificult times ahead.
With a substantial retirement burden in all departments we will be facing some lean years ahead.

At last count we have over 300,000.00 dollars in lawsuit settlements in DPW alone in the last 2 years. I can only imagine how much more fines and settlements we will face with the racial discrimination, environmental spills, and employee mismanagement lawsuits ahead.

OH YEAH And I failed to mention the Dump Truck Blocking lawsuit. We are nearly 1 Million Dollars that is pissed away due to the idiot running DPW.

Remove your fangs from the Mayor and sink them into the big blowhard call Tomm McTygue.

Time will show that his last 15 years will have been filled with graft, corrution and deception.

58 nights and 57 days until this moron is sent packing.

All the shredding in the world will not hide the truth.

Stop by City Hall on Tuesday Night and watch all of the rats leaving the DPW office.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Father Joe:

Can you clarify the $300,000 number by breaking it down? I can’t seem to pinpoint this figure, much less one more astounding like $1 million.

And there are only two things that would remove my incisors from chewing on the mayor’s record. The first and most preferential thing would be that she actually does something with her office that somewhat resembles the bullshit lines she fed and continues to feed ignorant voters. The second would be that she’s voted out of office. Choose one or the other. Simply put, she’s the worst thing that has happened to this city in recent years and has created a mess that is now starting rival the one left by Tom Curley’s political dickering.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

"It also paints a picture of you as misogynistic, and perhaps even fearful of having a woman in such a high position of power."

Are you for real? Humor me and answer that one question.

First things first, the mayor’s position in Saratoga Springs is no more or less powerful than any of the other four seats in government. If she used an ounce of the power she does have to benefit the city instead of eliminate her political enemies, then maybe I wouldn’t be so dogged in my criticism of her.

Not to steal the mayor’s thunder or anything, but I call a spade a spade. And what I see in the mayor’s seat is a phlegmatic politician who doesn’t care about her office enough to take a public speaking class to at least appear like a city official and not some unintelligent soccer mom plucked from dregs of suburbia. I’ve met a lot of mayors from a lot of cities around the state and she takes the cake for the one I’d never pick out of a lineup to head anything other than the menu for her kid’s bag lunches.

This post has nothing to do with WOMEN in power. This has to do with ONE WOMAN who is the figurehead of a hostile takeover of both the city Democratic Party and government. This is about a woman who leads the city like it’s a special education class. This is about a woman who IS the stereotypical bored housewife. This is about a woman who gives REAL female leaders a dreadfully bad name and real misogynists a reason to keep them in the kitchen, so to speak.

Even disregarding her dearth of persona and leadership skills, the analogy presented here stands as a very accurate –albeit wordy –representation of how she regards finances in this city. Because she seems to have all the money in the world to toss around, she automatically thinks all residents are in her boat. That’s why she so cavalierly thinks a $17 million public safety facility is no big deal.

Well, it is a big deal. It’s a huge fucking deal, especially seeing as though it’s difficult for some to pay school, county and local taxes as it is. I’m sure the mayor and her six-figure salaried hubby have no problem paying $5,000 and more a year in taxes and a few hundred dollars more won’t likely break their bank account. But there are plenty of other people around these parts who can’t afford this. And when there’s a nearly 10 percent hike in local taxes because Valerie needs police union votes, that’s when I stomp my foot down.

This isn’t even considering the fact Keehn lists building a goddamn recreation center as one of her accomplishments. Well, that center ain’t free. And if it’s between the kids having fewer indoor basketball courts or lower middle class residents finding a highway overpass to live under, I’d be a bit more concerned about the residents first.

Among other things, Keehn pledged she’d create affordable housing and she’d look out for those who no one looks out for. What she delivered was a big middle finger to those people she so falsely claims to represent as the “people’s mayor.”

I’m frankly amazed the Republicans haven’t lambasted her on the tax issue, seeing as though that’s pretty much the mantra of the party. But perhaps that’s because Keehn in office will mean more votes for them over the next few years, as this neofasict limousine liberal and her cult of followers continue to deconstruct the city's Democratic party.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dem roc said: start with the $75,000 for spring run.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever compared Scott Johnson to George Bush is ridiculous. I don't believe George Bush grew up in a housing project. He was not one of 5 kids raised by a single Mom. He never lived on the West side of Saratoga. Until a few years ago he did not live in a modest ranch house on Steele Street. He did not work at Mr.Jacks to get money for school. He did not go to college on a Hawley Home scholarship. Neither did Keene. This is Scott's biography. He is the real deal.

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a democrat, I believe Scott has the potential to be a great mayor.
I am excited about his impeding victory. I am sure we will no longer be embarrassed as a city. I look forward to priorities, such as affordable housing, being pushed forward.
I am thrilled that this nightmare we are presently living through will soon over.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Just an Observer said...

This is most likely a nitpicking issue but a previous writer said..

"Last year the FD handled over 1600 fire calls, only 32 with smoke – the rest simply responding to SEMS emergency calls."

I think that quote is based on a Saratogian article - please correct me if I am wrong. But the 32 with smoke are most likely structure fires. But there are a whole host of rescue and hazardous conditions calls that the fire department are the only trained first responders who have the equipment to address the issue. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of calls that Saratoga Springs Bravest answer are medical assists with SEMS. I am sure each caller to 911 does not care what agency the responder is from but that they are treated with great care. But to say that over 1550 of the calls last year were medical assists is most likely not accurate and it discounts the efforts and need for these public servants.

Now if I am wrong about my statement (please correct me) it must be that I discounted the effective nature of the fire prevention effort of the FD - the community should be proud of the efforts to prevent fires - it is much more efficient.

Just an observer,

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnson lived in public housing 40 years ago and that was only for 1 year. That doesn't make him anything close to the people who live there now or the people that spent their whole chidhood there. 40 years ago it was just a regular housing complex where many of todays police and fire men grew up! If he is so concerned about these people why has he not done anything for them? A week better election he is spending many thousands of dollars to lie about helping out charity cases such as the low income. What a Crock!

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your blog is seriously cutting into my free time.

As I become more and more dissuaded with our fair Mayor, I took it upon myself to do some web digging about her campaign and major supporters-not out of hatred mind you, but as sort of a "gut check" to why I am so against their positions.

I did this because I can't ever remember being so vehemently against a candidate(s) as I am now, and I have crossed the aisle many times in terms of my voting record. I actually think Ken Klotz was a good mayor, though I pulled the lever for Lenz during his re-election bid.

You REALLY need to see the accomplishments section of the Mayor's web page. They are at:

I went through them line by line, and I would have to say that 3/4 of them are outright fabrications. I can not believe the gall of this woman-to take credit for things that she had either limited or no involvement in. Clearly her campaign is more full of shit than a port-a-potty at Lollapalooza.

I would also like to aim my "dumb-ass meter" at Rick Thompson. I love his blog "Citizens for Good Government" which should more appropriately be labeled "Why we hate Tom McTygue." At first I wondered why few, if any, people left comments. Then I realized that the blog lacked any substance to the advertised topic, and that it contained such empty headed drivel that anyone with half a brain wouldn't waste their time leaving remarks.

Thompson, Bronner, Hawthorne....... These are the face of the "new" democrats in this city. God help us all if they win on Tuesday.

A small "r" republican for fairness

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the observer: This is not about the fireman(woman) or policeman(woman) whose valued jobs in any community are recognized and respected. This is about management or lack thereof. The idea that a department is only going forward if it can spend more money than it did the previous year only works during a robust economy with a growing tax paying public. Otherwise, the efficient use personnel and facility is imperative. It’s similar to the same way most individuals and families position themselves through leaner times.

It seems that a PS Department that is now also trying to get into the ambulance service business, when it is far more cost effective for this City to continue with the effective expertise of SEMS (who by the way do their often ‘second’ job with extreme dedication) should recognize that adding dozens of more staff to an already exploding pie slice of the City budget is not in the best interests of those left to pay for it.

And, you are absolutely correct in assuming that fire protection is very important to a community. In addition to public awareness, a community should expect that those inspections of public buildings required by law are indeed carried out by our Public Safety Inspectors. Once again, management or lack thereof.

5:26 AM  

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