Friday, March 21, 2008

Let them eat cake

Cake is good. Having some of this baked delectable readily at your disposal is an asset, as is eating it at a later time. But if you’re a member of the Spa City’s government, there’s a prevailing attitude that the aforementioned baked good should both be held and eaten at the same time.

Such is the case with the fiscal conundrum now posed by the multi-million dollar line item contributed to city and county coffers by the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway. While city officials bristle at the mere thought of ending the so-called VLT-revenue, they also haven’t made much of a justification for using this revenue stream for it’s intended purpose: to mitigate the negative impacts of the fledgling casino that set up shop on Jefferson Street.

For two consecutive years, the City Council has growled at the Governor’s office over proposed cuts to this revenue stream. Losing this funding source could cause a major budgetary shortfall for the city, they’ve argued. Former Mayor Valerie Keehn even partially based her failed re-election campaign on her deal-cutting with now deposed Gov. Eliot Spitzer to make the funding a legal mandate –even though this legislation was brushed aside less than a year later.

What city officials persistently fail to provide is evidence of the Racino’s negative impact on the community, other than its bankrupting of countless seniors. They may be making that case now after nine background check—er state police troopers were reassigned from the facility this week to fight real crime elsewhere in the state. Naturally, the two largest proponents of blasting police spending through the roof were the first to chime in.

More work for city officers, barked Chief Ed Moore, no pun intended. More overtime for the department, yapped Public Safety Commissioner Ron “This is a commission-form of government and I’ll speak when I want to” Kim. More patrols, more calls, more of everything they told the Times Union Wednesday.

“Based on the activity I know they were doing, it's going to seriously impact our department,” the chief commented.

Yet, in roughly four years of operation, the state police made a whopping 180 arrests at the Racino. That breaks down to a little less than one arrest a week. Felony arrests last year totaled 13, or about one per month, according to state police; hardly the level justifying an on-site police presence at the facility. Also, let’s face it: when the average patron is attached to a portable oxygen tank and refers to Bing Crosby as ‘that young fellow,’ the need for an augmented police force is greatly diminished.

But in the world according to Kim, the Racino is a public safety hotbed. He claims police have responded to a disproportionate 1,800 “calls for assistance” last year alone. Naturally, Kim’s figure includes hundreds if not thousands of “calls” for employee background checks, meaning he either doesn’t care about the facts or simply doesn’t know them; at the very least, he doesn’t read them. In an article published in the Daily Gazette two weeks ago –and including comments from Kim –state Lottery Division officials stressed the background checks will fall on the Racino’s staff.

Still, Kim will likely use his inflated number to argue for an on-site city police presence, which would predicate the need for either more department overtime or the hiring of more officers. And adding more officers would mean there’s more need for space at the department, such as a new multi-million-dollar police facility, as Kim’s logic suggests.

Under these precepts, expect to see either Kim or Moore make an argument for using the state’s VLT aid to staff more police, pay police overtime, build a new station, or all three. The problem comes when the VLT aid dries up, something that is only a matter of time given the state’s crashing budgetary crisis.

City officials squandered past offerings of aid as a way to keep taxes ‘low’ during a time of unprecedented economic growth in Saratoga Springs, instead of trimming government excess and using it as a one-time windfall. With the aid still in place for another year, now would be a wise time to adopt a fiscally prudent change in philosophy anticipating the revenue will dry up; perhaps even set the money aside in a capital account. But now that the economy has clearly turned the corner, it’s going to be a tough sell to wean city budgets from this needle, especially with junkies like Kim and Moore chattering on about public safety woes at the racino.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kim is missing the obvious, as usual. The Racino would be a great place for the new cop shop. Plenty of parking, good food, always open. Just put in a couple of cells and a washroom for the ladies and you're done. Probably get the Racino to build it.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 9:16 AM
What an excellant idea. You have my vote if you run against Kim.

What if you multi-tasked the police and fire departments, you could park the east side firetruck at the Racino too.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you 2 idiots should leave town if you don't like things. Maybe you idiots should condemn those half ass Democrats who want to put an incompetent such as Jeff Wait on the city court bench. They are the reason for all the problems this city has. Vote Republican!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotta get that DD franchise though.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it odd, that the Commissioner, his Chief and his previous Deputy have taken a Rodney Dangerfield stance by expressing that, “they just don’t get any respect”?

Many city employees are a bit annoyed by the recent posting in the paper of salaries and there is a worried concern by the teachers that their salaries will also become the topic of conversations. Should we be asking what is so important about a job that has an employee walk around fitted with a hipcell phone and does little except to wait for retirement? It should be no surprise that these groups and their Unions, are in fact public companies that are paid for through public taxes. Their memberships have good guaranteed benefits and job security. Compare that to a private sector job and one has to wonder why taking a close look at these salaries and benefits isn't fair?

Most unfair though is the constant complaining that the ranks are not taken seriously or that as one Chief stated, “we just keep putting more rocks in their backpacks”. The last time we looked, the patrolman didn’t have a backpack but a squad car, and it’s the very Chief that looks for the rocks to point at to complain that its contents are too heavy or the tent too small for all its campers. And as long as we’re on the topic of rocks, why do these (well-paid) City employees keep throwing them at the public who pays for their employ? If efficient and effective management of personnel and resources is a problem than maybe, we should start there. No one ever stated those city departments run smoothly by themselves. Its time to organize those rocks.

The X-Deputy stated that these unselfish public servants are asked to work on Holidays and as we’ve seen, sometimes are lucky to receive catered food from local restaurants to get them through their moment of sacrifice. I want to cry. Most of these city workers enjoy this benefit and its pay and it's no secret that this template permits many to often have two careers at the same time. Many private sector people work 24-7 on Holidays and do not ask for the sympathies of the public. These City employees seek these secure jobs – they were not drafted into service, so please save the sympathies for low paid resident worker with no job security that has pay taxes.

That would be another interesting posting. Examine how many of the PS membership live in the City taxing district? Could they be expected to help with the load of tax burdening rocks that keep getting proposed and added to our backpacks?

So, why are we now in the Racino? Why couldn’t this Casino Royal moment been filled with private security forces? Why are we going to be asked (you know we will) to pay for additional staff with benefits to do a job that NYRA should be responsible for.

I think that PS needs only one more employee, an efficiency expert that is willing to reward the taxpayer by finding ways to effect their work without boondoggling every opportunity throwing more stones through the taxpayer's window. Does anyone realize how many "supervisors" versus personnel we have in PS? One would think our Racino was the Belle Époque casino in Monaco. It's time to cut the fat, not chew it.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

4:36,

Great post. And on the morning after I watched two cop cruisers idle in the Woodlawn parking garage for the better part of an hour, while another just sat off Route 50 on the city line seemingly doing nothing(he or she was pointed in a direction and a location and at a time when no speeders would be caught).

True, a cop's job can be tough. I for one would never want to go up against a half-crazed adolescent wildly swinging around a box cutter. But it seems these times are far and few in between for the the SSPD, which might be a testament to the job they do, the number of cops on the street or the fact that the criminal element simply can't afford to live here anymore; perhaps it's a combination of all three.

The point that Kim and his jerk-off deputy don't understand is that running the public safety department's budget is like a game of good cop-bad cop. Chief Moore is the good cop -no pun intended -and should fight tooth and nail for his budget. Kim, on the other hand, should be the bad cop and look for avenues to reduce spending(ie. overtime, a leaner station proposal); THIS IS HOW THIS GOVERNMENT IS SUPPOSED TO OPERATE.

Instead, you have Kim on the sidelines cheering on Moore's spending levels and even giving him bogus committees to support his assertions; he also empowers a deputy who's closest interaction with policing and firematics is overseeing the failed administration of what will eventually go down as one of the city's worst mayors. These two boobs are supposed to be the efficiency experts, but instead play the role of political hacks.

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BULLSHIT! PURE BULLSHIT! You clowns were so used to the McTygue ass lickers running the show that no one else in your minds stands up! These people are not trying to rob the taxpayer like your ex-leader did on a daily basis. There was so much neglect for so long with McTygue that anyone else to come is left holding the bag! The city is in a bad way but put the blame where it belongs!
Changing the government form is the first step in the right direction.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

6:13,

As powerful and almighty as some might have considered McTygue, I don't buy for one minute that he had anything to do with police overtime. Don't divert from the subject at hand, which is the police here. And no one said they're trying to 'rob the taxpayer.'

Instead, here's the scene: The boss goes on vacation for months out of the year, leaving the department to those who aren't qualified to or interested in running it efficiently. They see a need to fill shifts(whether they need to be filled or not) and then allot overtime to whoever wants it. If that person happens to be someone on the higher end of the pay scale, they make a boat load of money for doing a job that probably would have not been there had the boss been doing his(or her) homework.

The guy making the overtime isn't robbing the taxpayer; in fact, he (or she) is spending more hours on the clock than considered normal. That means less time with the family, less time for personal endeavors, et cetera. Were it necessary, this sort of sacrifice would be quite altruistic. But last I checked, there's no shortage of prospective Saratoga cops. And the fact that there IS police overtime(and a lot of it) is something most folks in the private sector marvel at.

So what does this have to do with McTygue? Absolutely nothing. Make a mental note of it.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What this has to do with McTygue is his department did this overtime scam long before any other department. His cronies sat around all day during snow storms and once the overtime hour kicked in they would start plowing. Sure these guys now are certainly padding their hours to raise their retirement pension. But' this started long before the current crew was around. McTygue created this mess. He also put his brother into a 100,000 dollar plus job that he wasn't qualified for just to watch his back! His brother is awful! Anyone have to sit through that hour and a half presentation this guy did for the council? AWWWWWWH!

3:38 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Might I remind you we're not talking about DPW overtime. Last I checked, the DPW workers weren't topping out at the highest-paid city employees list. And I highly doubt "the overtime scam" is something invented by or unique to DPW. You're simply trying to change the subject.

If you need any further proof of Moore's mismanagement, look no further than in today's Post Star, where he admits the force has been 10 cops short for more than a year, and could face 17 more "that can walk out the door" at any time. See, a good manager would say 'hey guys, I've got to get my budget under control, so could you give me an idea when you're thinking about hanging it up?' instead of 'I'll plan for it when it happens.' See, cops generally need to hire and train new recruits, meaning it could be more than six months before a new hire joins the force. That means six more months of overtime and a police force (if Moore's ideal number of 71-strong is accurate) that's overworked. The reason we have a 40-hour work week is largely because workers become inefficient each hour they work over that time period.

But wait, don't respond yet. I'll save you some typing time: Oh well, McTygue was worse. McTygue held keggers at the city garage, McTygue brought down the Hindenburg, McTygue was the man on the grassy knoll, McTygue, McTygue, McTygue. And in other McTygues, McTygue's McTygue McTygue'd over to the McTygue on McTygue Day. For McTygue's sake.

Look. Come back with some numbers to prove your point or go back to your fanciful ideas about FBI investigations and whatnot. Maybe give the Metroland a call. They'll probably lend an ear.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

demroc: this is such a stupid argument. firstly, i have no problem with paying police officers. i have no problem making sure things run efficiently but i feel some have gone way overboard. idiots like you guys would never volunteer to keep the city safe, so we need to pay someone. i don't remeber but a few names that made a lot more then what the avg salary is for this country. paying a cop 60,000 to maybe some day get their throat slashed seems fair.
now you can dream about mctygue and pretend he was great, but what bull shit. the fact that you don't beleive that he was crooked is as laughable as some jack ass from kansas telling me evolution doesn't exists. here are a few stories. anyone remember dicky bendon. mctygue let that clown rob the city blind, from using city property for his own use to fixing the time clock down at the casino. he actually worked a 25 hour day once. how one might ask how? because he claimed to work through lunch/...you think this was an abberation, cue tony fisher cutting down the trees over by his house with city equipment and personnel.
here's another story. one of mctygues supporters wanted a new well. mctygue orders one crew to go over and dig a hole. they don't think much about it, they leave another group comes and builds the walls. another comes and finishes it. you see, buy keeping the employees in the dark and unable to see the whole project he's able to hide things like that.
how about his rushing to get the city to build the recreation center out behind nimo. remember before the city council had even voted to put it anywhere, he jumped the gun and cleared the land out there, ranted and raved at the council meetings about how it needs to go there, we've already cleared the land etc... i wonder why he was so pushy about that, eventhough most agreed it belonged in a more accessible area of the city. hmmm i wonder.... maybe it was because sonny bonacio owns the parcel of land near there and by putting the new rec center next to his land he gets free sewer and waterlines next to his property. that might get you a nice parking lot on bway next to lillians on the cheap.
and if this is all about making sure things run well, then there will be no need for the shwagatogian to go to the school salaries since the comptrollers office gave it a good review and that things were running real well there. but given the recent success at sensationalism wit the last list i'm sure another list will be coming.
also it might be fair to mention that in the worforce anyone working extra hours is entitled to overtime. maybe more people ought to be in unions in this country, instead of complaing about the benfits that people get when they're able to collective bargian.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio said-
But last I checked, there's no shortage of prospective Saratoga cops. And the fact that there IS police overtime(and a lot of it) is something most folks in the private sector marvel at.

Certainly in some ways, more efficient budgeting is necessary. But when it comes to overtime, it would seem obvious that a majority of the overtime is accumulated during the summer months. When our city grows exponetially, the police force must grow as well. Yet you cannot justify hiring additional cops for those other 7 months out of the year when nothing is happening. From October to June, ~70 cops are needed, from July to September ~115-120 are needed. Those hours have to be covered by someone.

It also seems unlikely that the criminal underground is absent from Saratoga because it's too expensive to live here. All the more reason to live outside of the city/county and commute to a rich wealthy area to deal drugs etc. If only there wasn't a strong police showing...

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

. i like whenever someone comes up with examples of how mcjerk ran his dept like shit or examples of his shadyness, they seem to go unposted...and then ho says awe just come up with some numbers. like mcjerks past actions haven't cost the city money. enjoy your sewer and water rate increase..thanks tommy for another job well done

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually billy mac tops off pretty hight and so does the city engineer. which i can understand. the best part is tommy was lining up bother pete for that job. both brothers making over 6 figures not too bad..

5:26 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

5:23,

You've got to be kidding. Tres drole. Tres drole.

10:42,

The city used to (and still might) hire part time cops for the summer season. Like I intimated, there's no shortage of close-cropped bill-club wielders who would revel in beating some drunk asses, especially over the summer. Not to mention, there are plenty of jobs in this city that are summer only; some of them pay very decently. If private industry can do it, why can't the cops? It's called PART-TIME WORKERS.

demroc,

This is (or was) a discussion about Public Safety, not the fucking DPW. And besides, McTygue is gone...ding dong the witch is dead...right? Let its rest. Sure, I've heard plenty of your aforementioned rumors; even seen some of them jump to press. There's a reason they call the shit news: because it brings something NEW to the table. In the end, McTygue is gone, there is no federal probe and the department is now largely under the control of his former deputy, who McTygue opponents raved about during the election. McTygue is old history going on ancient. If you want to dig back in city annals, you'll find just as many twisted figures in politics.

But again, the bottom line ain't DPW. It's overtime and the fact that police sergeants are earning close to what the chief is making. I suppose I'd cock an eye if a DPW supervisor's name was up toward the top of the list. Either way, cut the OT, there's no excuse for it.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part-time summer traffic cops, the idea that the Racino hire part-time officers like the Race Course is the anathema to our very own Public Safety Administrator whose ‘collective’ approach to saving the taxpayer some money always moves towards more men.

Our recent PS retiree (and two who had already retired) benefited last year by a member’s item deal in Albany to have the City (taxpayer) pay the added bonuses and increased retirement benefits (a program they had not participated in) because they felt it was “owed” them.

The desire to have a city ambulance corp is another perennial department bloating, benefit rich, taxpayer burden that the Administrators demand is necessary.

Can’t we manage better here? Stones in the backpacks? Pathetic.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

demroc said:
horatio, if you look, i'm not the one who started the dpw run, i'm merely responding to the comments above, thank you.
we haven't had part time cops since the early 90's. and paying overtime is cheaper then hiring more cops because you need some extra in the summer. do we really need 4 police cruisers in the woodlawn lot instead of 2 during the slower months?
also i'll mention that val kheen is gone, yet you still bring her up. so why do you get to talk about past officials, but when someone takes to task your golden boy you brush off the claims. he's as gone as val keehn. or should i say, he's as far gone as the pipe he let rot under the geyser road over pass, or as far gone as the new sewer and water rates hike.
and as far as the part time cops they diced them because it didn't work. could we make it work today, i'm not sure.
as far as the overtime is concerned, we need to know how many hours of overtime the whole police force worked, i wonder if anyone has a number. it is a fair argument to reign in the costs, but i must admitt i'm not big on part time cops, who have no idea what they're doing or private entities that answer to nobody.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They did away with part time cops, because the idiots were warning all the restaurants of when a underage drinking sting was coming. They ruined it for everybody. Oh wait, that was the skips kid. LOL

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its Real Simple;

VOTE REPUBLICAN

in saratoga springs

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have noticed, since this blog started the SS PD has more traffic pullovers taking place around the city. It's good to goose our department heads once in awhile.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like a rash that just won't go away, the latest request by our PSC to increase funding for "overtime" at the Racino is questionable, illogical and the watermark of a public official who blatantly turns his back on his constituency. Seniority is expensive; this is not about security or even whether this function is something, our public should be forking the bill for. Let retirees whose added income above their already 75% benefit package bloated by selective overtime for those with “seniority” is not benefiting the public he so openly promised to serve. Rent a cops!


From City Desk April 1, 2008 http://saratogacitydesk.blogspot.com/, "...I also wanted to mention that at tonight's City Council meeting, Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim pulled from his agenda a vote on $64,012 in overtime funding for police officers working at the Racino in the absence of state troopers. Instead, Kim discussed how overtime is assigned based on seniority, and that the dollar figure was calculated after discussions with the state police, and with in the SSPD's investigative unit. Kim said the discussion would be ongoing, and that the Council could be asked to vote on the funding at a later day."

6:00 AM  

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