Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Out with the new

And in with the old. Ron Kim may have divorced the hackneyed “new blood in government” mantra once bandied about by his splinter of the city Democrats, but he sure hasn’t ditched the splinter itself. The rogue Public Safety commissioner again tabbed patronage sponge Lew Benton as the head of the latest capital committee to explore a new police station.

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.

24 Comments:

Anonymous Broadway Billy said...

Heck, it could have been worse.

Just think how we'd feel if he had named the Shaky Filmaker Roger Wyatt or Corporal David Bronner!

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Bernstein said...

New Saratogian city blog:
http://saratogacitydesk.blogspot.com/

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Sad Strange case of Lew Benton

Old Lew seems to really have gone off the deep end. Although Lew has never been wrapped to tight whatever small grip he maintained on his sanity and sobriety seems to be slipping away. Slurred speech bloated red face long winded bombastic incoherent speeches seem to be his trademark now.
He is starting to bear a startling resemblance to Chairman Mao in his last years. Recently I was left speechless at the SDCC meeting when Lew suddenly went into a tirade about I’m not sure what. Price of Scotch? Whatever it was he seemed to believe civilization itself hung in the balance.

The other Keehn clones hung mesmerized by every incoherent word. For the life of me I have no fucking idea what he was babbling about. The room was also filled with the new Keehn clones who plot the overthrow of the committee in the June election. Their angry humorless faces bristled with indignation when they were asked to identify themselves. “How dare you? they shouted “We are the new bold face of progressive Democrats in the city” With our bold vision we are taking over this city even if we have to destroy it.

We are the brave new NXIVM fuelled visionaries’ who will lead you peasants into the light, at this Benton went into convolutions and a euphoric look descended on the Keehn clones. “Follow us to the brave new world” they shouted get out of our way Frank MyTygue you are the past we are the future. I sat there with my mouth open wondering how this malignant strain of gutter politics was released on this city. We are in a fight for the very heart and soul of the Democratic party, This is not about long time residents and new residents, when one bitter women screamed at me “You won’t listen because I’ve only lived here for three years; I answered “I won’t listen because your fucking crazy”

So there you have it folks the battle has begun.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These assholes think they can win enough votes in the June election to take control of the Saratoga Democratic committee they are drinking Kool Aid. Back to your NIXIUM base camp and leave the city to the adults. You may consider us the great unwashed and ignorant masses but at least we can think for ourselves and our brains haven’t been washed yet, and Jesus try to make an intelligent comments and not some humorless ugly attack, get off the talking points and write something original.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can Lew be Kim's appointment when he is a city employee under the supervision of the mayor?

I'm thinking Mayor Johnson is going to have his hands full with this "Rouge" employee. (sorry, I couldn't resist)

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benton and is under investigation by Federal Authorities for violating the Hatch Act
In that he engaged in Prohibited Activities while in his capacity of Administrator of Parks, Open Land and Historic Preservation.
Prohibited Activities
Covered state and local employees may not-
• use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination
• directly or indirectly coerce contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate
• If Benton is found Guilty
The Penalties are as follows.
Penalties for Violating the Hatch Act
If the Merit Systems Protection Board finds that the violation warrants dismissal from employment, the employing agency must either remove the employee or forfeit a portion of the federal assistance equal to two years salary of the employee. If the Board finds the violation does not warrant the employee's removal, no penalty is imposed.

Now you know why he drinks heavily

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i tend to agree, Kim should have made a wiser choice - not so partisan. we will never get past the perils of the last two years if our city leaders continue to stir the pot.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Fish Creek Lunker said...

A "rouge" public safety commissioner? Are you claiming that Kim wears makeup or just that he should be red faced with embarrassment over his selection of Benton? This one is even better than your "sheik" malapropism of six months ago.

While I love "patronage sponge" and have to say that you can turn a great phrase, I still insist that you need better copy editing of this blog. Your past excuses don't wash. It wouldn't take that much time to be more precise. This blog deserves greater attention to detail.

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee whiz. This all makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

The process:

1) Appoint a gentleman to a head a committee.

2) That committee makes its recommendation to the City Council

3) The City COuncil rejects the committee's recommendation and adopts an alternative option that takes a completely different approach to the matter at hand.

4) Form a new committee to implement the new option.

5) Appoint that same gentleman -- the one whose initial recommendation was rejected as a massive waste of gov't expenditures -- to head the new committee.

Way to go, Ron.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Grandfather had a saying

“Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining”

When I see Ron Kim I now know what he was talking about.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Fish Creek,

I must confess, I was a little rouge over all this rogue talk. But what's the difference after a few belts of Wild Turkey? See, the problem isn't the copy editing; it's that more of you need to join my morning psychosis, which on some of the more inventive days, stems from an odd cluster of circumstances that includes a good quotient of sleep deprivation, a mild-to-massive hangover and a broad band of self-diagnosed and treated personality disorders. The main problem is that I talk to my shrink about the later and end up with the other two afflictions and an empty wallet. One of these days I'll get the right combination or some time to copy edit or just hire a fucking copy editor...

4:17,

While I'm no Benton fan and could even believe his ability to conduct malfeasance in public office, I think such thoughts fall in the same category of the yet-to-be substantiated McTygue-FBI investigation claims. In either case, there's always a chance of an investigation. But I'm skeptical until there are charges in a case. As for the Hatch Act, it's a law that mainly applies to federal employees, but does extend to local workers who disburse federal aid. I suppose that is in the purview of Benton's job, just that I'm not sure how much federal aid he has or can disbursed. In fact, I'm really not sure how much or what he's done in six months to warrant his $48,000 salary.

6:29,

That is my point: A new administration has come in and at first blush(dare I say rouge?), seems to be laying the foundation for a new -or at least different -era in city politics. The time now is to build consensus and move the city forward, not stack the deck with political allies and hunker in for battle. Kim had a bevy of choices to choose from, but he plucked perhaps the most political one off the scrap heap. It's bad enough Benton makes a salary(in addition the the thousands he's already bilking in retirement from the county). And now he gets to oversee the city's most important construction this century?

Andrew,

Welcome to the blogosphere! From your inaugural post, it sounds like you certainly have a better grasp on the concept of blogging than your boss does(I tried to coax her in the right direction, but the bitch doesn't get it). Good luck. Keep it creative and interesting; just watch out for your rouges and rogues.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Kommissioner is desperately trying to publicize his Keehnland appointment, but he knows if he’s ever read the Charter, that the Mayor has historically been the “Point Person” acting as CEO with Capital Program Projects. Prematurely announcing the formation of another Kommission following his handpicked blue man group to suggest transparency is not lost on anyone who has followed this farce. Rushing to affect public opinion prior to discussing this with his Council colleagues, he made certain that our Pravda newspaper ran a story before the pre-Council agenda meeting – a ploy that didn’t fool anyone.

The Mayor’s department is the official representative of the City, both by Charter and Law. The Mayor's Department has direct access to the City Attorney's Office, the City Planning Department and has direct access to building code enforcement and inspection support staff.

The RFP that the Kommissioner references naming him as point person, is in conflict with the program, the project budget, doesn't consider the potential use of City Hall as a part of the project and removes all oversight, code review and construction administration from the Contract. Amassing over 100 violations in his own department that is self regulated and reviews itself with its own code administration officers, would at the very least, bring into question the abilities of the Kommissioner to address an 8 million or 12 million or 14 million dollar project (does anyone know?) that omits construction administration. Carelessly, “Building for the Future” keeps looking more like a “Rush to Build – We’ll Worry about the Costs and Details later 10-4”.

If we do require another committee, perhaps it should be a “Blue Ribbon” committee formed by the Mayor and called the City Council.

4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good research Horatio. I forgot that Benton was the ringmaster trying to screw Skippy out of his job by claiming double-dipping. Today, LB gets paid as an employee in the Mayor's department and works overtime running political campaigns and public safety agenda items. When does the politics end and the work begin? Before the election, he had so much time to attack PW since that was his Mayor’s mission. Now he goes after anyone that doesn't agree with his PS commission. It’s time for Johnson to audit his time card.

2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skip is not the type to hold grudges against people. Even Lou Benton. You are stirring an empty pot! McTygue, on the other hand, has you brain washed to try to keep disrupting things to make him look good. The years of McTygue are thakfully over and Skip will prove that in time. He ought to plop Billy McTygue's ass out at the dump where he can't fuck anything up again!

2:55 PM  
Anonymous trout21 said...

There is a certain unfortunate approach by many politicians that if they create a committee that draws on various factions to address some problem, that the group will not only come up with a sound solution but that the people who appointed them from these different factions will be invested in the outcome and support it.

This usually grows out of the fact that the politician either has no driving vision or does not really care about the outcome or simply does not have the skills to come up with an effective idea. This is hardly a problem unique to any political party.

The problem here is that coming up with an effective solution for our public safety needs requires both considerable knowledge about the workings of a public safety facility but it also requires the social skills to work with others to come up with something coherent. In other words, in order come up with a real solution an individual would need to do this. In general, given our form of government, this would probably be the deputy.

In general, committees have a habit of working on the basis of consensus. Too often this leads to a decision that everyone agrees to and no one likes, in other words, a very bad product.

So the real issue for Ron Kim should be to first come up with a good design. To do this he does not need a committee. In fact, a committee would be counter productive. What he needs is someone good to come up with a design. In the course of coming up with this design, they need to solict ideas from a variety of constituents in the city. In addition to the police, the judges, etc. this person would need to talk to people like the people at the domestic violence agency.

In the end, the best way to achieve something like this is for a skilled professional to come up with a thoroughly researched and rigorous plan that really makes sense. Next, one solicits responses from the interested parties to address criticisms and suggestions that the design will prompt.

Only after the design has been shaped and vetted based on this feed back and the design appropriatly modified, is it offered up for public dialogue.

Once designed one would have to launch a community education campaign meeting going to as many groups as possible from the Black Elks to the Chamber of Commerce. Given the poverty of coverage one would expect from the print media and the usual demogogic rantings of other politicians, the only hope of getting community support would be a direct campaign to provide them with information directly.

Only then would the proposal go before the council. If the idea is sound and if the community is supportive, then there is a reasonable chance of getting the city to adopt it.

If Kim simply sets up a committee with who ever the other council members decide to appoint it is extremely hard to believe that they will succeed.

With regret, I am afraid that Commissioner Kim appears to have neither the patience nor the skill to take this path so he punts by using the standard "committee" solution.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:24"I am afraid that Commissioner Kim appears to have neither the patience nor the skill to take this path so he punts by using the standard "committee" solution."

An unfortunately, Kim is trying all too late, to involve a public and a Council into the project that his self-serving department demands be built.

The purpose behind putting the horse before the cart is always to involve the taxpayers and their Council representatives for transparency in order to agree by consensus to the scope and size of any proposed project. That was not done and unfortunately, too many things were not considered. Rather than moving a bench and making repairs, it was more beneficial to this team to publicly complain and sue the City. This proposed committee is now supposed to legitimize their process.

All Capitol Projects are authorized and managed from the Mayor’s office with oversight by the elected Council. Kim’s “point man” appointment has all the earmarks of a frantic attempt by the previous Mayor and the original project planners to maintain control over all information and direction. It can be undone with a simple statement of correction. The proposed work of this proclaimed “new” committee is no doubt already predetermined, and their impact on the project questionable, since their role is undefined in the Contract. Their "oversight" will only be acceptable if it is in line with the already affirmed assumptions.

For all of the reason that 4:45 stated, Mayor Johnson should thank Kim, Benton and Goldberg for their collective time and begin to make those responsible decisions that won’t force this so far unbridled project to stray any further from reason.

Punting “using the standard "committee" solution" will not work to keep this already questionable process in play. This calls for a time-out.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

2:55,

This isn't a grudge match, it's politics. And maybe -just maybe -Benton brought himself into the better graces of Scirocco by playing a small role in the DPW commissioner's victory. But let me tell you this, it would take a compassionate soul to overlook any accomplice to Timecard Gate, which was a strikingly similar brand of politics that recently got flushed out of the mayor's office.

No friend, the pot is not empty. In fact, it's pretty damn full. And if you honestly believe McTygue has me so damned "brain washed to try to keep disrupting things to make him look good," you're someone of a bizarre ilk I won't try to psychoanalyze. The 2007 election is over and I feel no need to belittle bash or bring up the two biggest losers out of that affair.

In fact, I'd say the next time I do will be in the highly unlikely event that the bluster of a federal investigation materialize; or more likely, on the one year anniversary of Dave King's first libelous article proffered such bunk as truth. Conversely, with the departed madame mayor, the only need to drag her into the mix again is if she makes a run at state or (grimace) federal election.

So keep fighting the good fight; you deserve it. But for myself, I think I'll let bygones be bygones and allow both Mr. McTygue and Mrs. Keehn to retain their place in life as residents of this city unless they do something outrageous(See: Tom Curley). Even then, it would be a judgment call.

5:26,

Great post. If that is indeed true, then it should be interesting to see how Johnson reacts. It almost sounds like he's picking his battle; the committee won't have very much power, seeing as though they need a super majority on the board before a cent gets allocated. So perhaps he's allowing Kim to have his little committee without much bother at this point.

7:15 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

"So perhaps he's allowing Kim to have his little committee without much bother at this point."

If you needed an attorney and your only choice was between Kim and Johnson. Who would you select?

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HA: "...he's allowing Kim to have his little committee without much bother..."

It may not be a toothless committee that is a bother, but the hired consultants that are running down the tracks, that is. Might be time for the Mayor to get on board and talk with the Engineer and Brakeman to avoid going into the roundhouse retracing costly steps.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shotinthe Dark" said if you had a choice in attorneys:

It would depend on if I were suing Big Tobacco or if I were claiming bankrupcy I guess. One thing for sure is I can't afford to pay any lawyers. They would suck you dry anyway possible!

9:18 AM  
Anonymous demroc said...

well kudos, you actually got the gist of the time cards story correct this time. i will say that it was without a doubt LB who foiled the timecards, and it was the grand jury itself that found the charges stemmed from a politically motivated stunt.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous demroc said...

also i'm not sure what is being implied between benton and scirocco here. scirocco has a pattern of working with people. i think he can put his distaste for benton on the back burner to get things done, unlike the last dpw commish.
and the comment about the roger wyatt video footage: how do you get somone to stop making embarrassing videos of your sophomoric behavior. is it A: stop the behavior, or B: continue the behavior and then blame the guy taking the videos.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"scirocco has a pattern of working with people"

Yea right Jasper says do this Skippy. Skippy says yes Jasper.

So I quess thats working with people?

4:04 PM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

"how do you get somone to stop making embarrassing videos of your sophomoric behavior."

I dunno know.
If somebody was annoying me by sticking an unwanted camera in my face I'd probably take the fuck'n camera and stick it up their ass.

5:14 PM  

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