Out with the new
For those with selective amnesia, Benton was chairman of the last committee delving into options for the police station. After nearly a year of work, this committee returned $17 million plan to build a combined police-court facility on a piece of city-owned property off Woodlawn just a block away from bustling Broadway.
Among the multitude of concepts not considered by the aptly dubbed “Benton Committee” were how the new station would fit that area of the city, how Saratoga residents could afford such an expensive endeavor; what would be done with the third of City Hall vacated by the police; and what would be the impact of upkeep on a facility literally four times the size of the present structure on Lake Avenue. No, the Benton Committee soared right past these questions and went straight to proselytizing for their ludicrous concept for dramatically expanding the Spa City’s governmental facilities; and by extension, the government itself.
Kim now represents the only sitting commissioner who blindly and wholeheartedly supported the Benton Committee’s findings, despite their fantastic nature. He also has the honor of being sole commissioner who voted in favor of awarding an $8 million city bid to LaBella Associates for their plan to build a more austere building on a city-owned parking lot off High Rock and Lake avenues. Now Kim is faced with building consensus among the other four commissioners to achieve a so-called “super majority” to issue the bond.
The super majority –meaning four out of five votes on the council –would require several things that don’t appear to be in Kim’s power for the time being. The first would be to make amends with fellow Democrat and Accounts Commissioner John Franck, who was a sworn political enemy of Kim’s just a few short months ago. Then there’s the prospect of winning over the three members of the opposition party, one of whom wasn’t exactly cordial with Benton back in 2003.
Let’s flash back four years ago. Benton was thought to be the mastermind behind a plot by the Democrats to malign Skip Scirocco –then working as Saratoga’s dog catcher and supervisor –by claiming he attended county business while still on the clock as a city worker. Grand jurors later found no wrongdoing in the case and Scirocco lashed out against those who appeared to be gunning for him.
“It was a blatant political ploy to smear my name in the community by Lew Benton, John Goldberg, Robert Davis and a few other political activists,” an angry Scirocco told Capital News 9 in 2003.
True, water does pass under the bridge. But if you’re Skip Scirocco, four years isn’t a long time to hold a political grudge, even if it was Benton’s faction of the Democratic Party that helped him win election. So it comes as a bit of a surprise Kim would involve Benton in anything other than collecting his thousands of city dollars from a blatant patronage position Administrator of Parks, Open Land and Historic Preservation. On a side note, what exactly has Benton done at this position lately?
As a consolation prize, Kim invited the other four members of the council to nominate their own members to the new-and-improved Benton Committee. But that’s not enough to overshadow Benton being involved a second time despite his obvious shortcomings on the first committee. Not to mention, one would think Kim in his second term as public safety commissioner could rifle through his rolodex and find someone other than an entrenched Democratic insider who was likely the driving force behind many of the divisions from his previous term.