Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fair weather citizens

People today seem like a pawns of the weather. They roll out of bed and cock an ear to the clock radio when the meteorologist chimes in. Later at the breakfast nook, they’ll trudge over to the television set and tune into the morning forecast. On the commute, they’ll flip over to the AM dial and try to catch a quick meteorological synopsis before heading into the office.

Sadly, these folks seldom experience the weather, unless it’s for a handful of seconds while moving to and from their homes. For the most part, they’ll remain enclosed and isolated from the weather they arduously study; inside their homes, underneath heater-warmed awnings or in a vehicle moving from place to place.

Most people stay similarly isolated from the transgressions of their own local government. The main difference is that they don’t bother to painstakingly follow City Hall happenings, even though they may exert drastic and lasting repercussions on daily life. While most people are more than willing to spend more than an hour a day studying weather, they’re generally unwilling to lend even a few moments to review matters that may have a “quality of life” altering affect on their lives.

Take for instance the recent uproar over Mayor Scott Johnson’s plan to develop a 42,000-square-foot recreation center on a grassy lot near the public housing development at Jefferson Terrace. In what was quite literally his first move in office five months ago, Johnson publicly advocated moving the project from a site by the Wiebel Avenue ice rinks to Vanderbilt Avenue.

At the time, the proposed move was broadly applauded by the few residents who were listening. And it seemed to make a lot of sense: Bring the recreation center within walking distance of a housing project where underprivileged kids can walk to it. The test balloon floated into the air and hovered unscathed throughout January.

Johnson publicly broached the idea several other times throughout the winter and into spring. Most notably, Johnson raised the concept again at the state of the city address in February, even though few residents attended the broadly publicized speech. To put it mildly, one would’ve needed to avoid newspapers, public meetings and local gossip to not hear news of Johnson’s plan.

Still, there are those who say they simply didn’t know. Ray Giguere, who lives adjacent to the proposed site, told the Post Star he and his neighbors were never contacted about the idea.

“The neighbors are all kind of shocked by this,” he told the paper.

Now there’s a growing outcry against the project, more than five months after Johnson first brought up the idea. Neighbors of the project are genuinely concerned over the plan because it will quite literally transform nearly an acre of green space into something unknown. But why are they raising this issue now, more than five months after the mayor first announced the plan?

Perhaps it’s because they simply don’t care enough to pick up a newspaper and read. True, there is much to be said about the quality of coverage in the Spa City. However, all four area newspapers have lent their ink to Johnson’s proposal. And the idea has been kicked around at just about every city meeting since the mayor took office.

So it’s a bit perplexing to learn someone simply didn’t know what was going on until surveyors start measuring up the property. Had they bothered to allocate 10 minutes a day to read a newspaper –or the much more ambitious hour at bi-monthly city council meetings –they would have known about the project long in advance of architectural plans being concocted.

But maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the most recent 3 percent dip in newspaper circulation across the board. These days, the public seems largely reliant on fickle local news coverage on television; the same sound-bite reports they get while waiting for the weather to come on. And that’s if they bother listening to anything local at all.

While it’s easy to fault the sorry state of the media on shoestring budgets and corporate greed, some of the blame must be heaped on the shoulders of the public, which seems increasingly more apathetic to events shaping their immediate surroundings. The newspapers carrying the life-blood of American Democracy are failing, public meetings are sparsely attended, and yet people seem more concerned about the weather.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard that Senator Bruno may be resigning?

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What blame needs to be placed? Nothing has been built. Little money has been spent. Maybe the project can be redesigned to better meet the needs of everyone? It seems to me that a basic function of any elected official is to learn about the needs and concerns of citizens that elected him or her. The mayor can't expect all information to flow to those who don't seek it out.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The facility was to go on Wiebel Avenue. The previous Mayor took control of the project and moved it to South Side, even though the YMCA property was a better all round choice. The argument that people can walk to the facility is only commendable if one ignores the fact that most will drive their children there, after all, it is an enclosed City facility. The open field, a place where one resident at the ‘public hearing’ quipped was utilized by track workers playing “their music” is non-institutional space. Think of that concept for a moment. Another resident neighbor in support of this facility stated that, “Our teenagers have no place to go!” Have these elderly people forgotten the importance of those youthful days with -- nothing to do -- and going to a place that the Rec Commission hasn't "institutionalized"?

The problem with public notification in the print paper is that the author is quoted without regard to the questions that could have been asked by a reporter. Take for instance today’s quotation, “It’s unfortunate that some people are against a facility that is long overdue for our city,” he (Johnson) said.

But unfortunately, one can’t simply deflect and discredit neighbor's concerns by suggesting that “it is long overdo for our City” because the legal justification must be transparent and fair.

See how it can work:
 “It’s unfortunate that some people are against affordable housing that is long overdue for our city!”
 “It’s unfortunate that some people are against a public safety facility that is long overdue for our city!”
 “It’s unfortunate that some people are against a Hudson River water source that is long overdue for our city!”
 “It’s unfortunate that some people are against a dedicated fishing and boating park that is long overdue for our city!”
 “It’s unfortunate that some people are against improved traffic flow that is long overdue for our city!”
 “It’s unfortunate that some people are against the humane euthanasia of City Park ducks that is long overdue for our city!”

And then there is the PS Commissioner’s quotation. “Kim announced that plans for the proposed Public Safety facility are nearing completion, and will be released to the City Council at the June 3 meeting.” Why a $30 million building that is the result of a flawed process and doesn’t address the existing facility and the reality that the cost of a building represents only 30 percent of the cost of the building (the rest is personnel costs) over it’s 30 year life. Do the math.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again McTygue was right


He was the only politician who understood that although Weibel Avenue wasn’t perfect it was the best viable option. This along with his award winning methane to power program made it the most cost efficient option both in the short and long term.

Then the politician screwed it up. First Keehn who if McTygue was for it she was against it along with her lap dog Kim. Then after her ignoble defeat she cooked up this scheme with Johnson to ram it down the people’s throat. Going as far as shouting down her fellow citizens comments at Johnson’s first community meeting.

Now the public is awakened to this asinine scheme and will quickly put an end to this ridiculous idea. To replace green space with concrete, next there want to put a tennis court in Congress Park.

Hopefully Johnson will learn a valuable lesson from this debacle.

1. Stay as far away from Keehn as humanly possible she is the kiss of death in this city
2. Don’t under estimate the public reaction to bad ideas;
3. Admit quickly when you have made a mistake and correct it.


I do find it amusing that once again McTygue was right and is no doubt smiling at the ineptitude of this new administration.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE FACT OF THE MATTER is Mctygue is right.West AVE IS a better spot for the rec center......no question about....johnson thinks he personally owes Jefferson terrace something because as a child he lived for a short period of time..the place is to conjested for what the mayor wants....the solution is so simple.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? This "simple" project has been in the works for more than 10 years. My kids will be out of high school by the time it's completed. Tommy M tried to build it on the West Side playground. Lentz moved it to Weibel (where you would get more building for the money and not have to fight design freaks). Now egos want to throw it in the projects on the Southside. Great. Saratoga recreation is a joke and has been throughout my 30 years here. The rec director makes more than any of the area high school athletic directors and she has no clue. The zamboni drivers make more than most teachers (according to the Saratogian) and the rink was closed more than four weeks last winter (at $150 an hour) because they couldn't figure out why the ice was melting. You might wonder why the rec numbers have dropped more than 50 percent over the past three years, or you can just look at Wilton. Of course the people in the condos don't have kids, so who cares.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recreation on the southside of town. Excellent! Who cares about those cry baby neighbors who could care less about the handful of residents who are against it.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott Johnson could not have wrote this better himself. Maybe that's your true identity.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

7:55,

You've found me out. Good job, Sherlock. You're a genius.

For the record, I regard the Recreation Center as perhaps the most ludicrous idea that's been pitched in this city in a long time. We have a school district, two ice rinks, a boxing ring, a college, state park and a YMCA within the city limits. I'm frankly amazed we need MORE recreational facilities. There's more to do in this city than some entire regions of the state...BUT...because it's 'already paid for' we have to go forward with the project right?

5:33,

So true about the ice rinks. Most cities shut down the rinks for a few weeks every year. Not Saratoga Spring. Despite the fact that one of them is solely powered by a garbage dump, they shut it down for more than three months EVERY YEAR. I know ice skating isn't at the top most peoples lists in the summer, but if you're not paying for the rink's power, any dime made is profit. The city rec department should reach out to ALL the surrounding counties, which keep their respective ice rinks open year-round, save for a few weeks.

11:11,

Bruno resigning? Here's a litmus test: Look out your window. If you see pigs flying, chances are pretty good Hollywood Joe has resigned.

There was rather humorous footage of him acting...well...very un-dude with Jim Odato of the Times Union. Check CBS 6 Albany for raw footage.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new council needs to be very careful when making a decision regarding the location of the proposed new rec site. The first mistake was made by former Finance Comm. McCabe who borrowed close to six million for a sports palace without having a solid plan for its construction. Then Mayor Val, the political impaler, wasted two years at the council table waging a political and very personal vendetta against Comm. Mctygue. His suggestion to construct a smaller and more manageable facility adjacent to the new YMCA made a lot of sense. Of course it did not receive support because it was "his" idea. The new council ought to revisit this idea. The location would meet the needs not only of the Jefferson St. Children but also those from Geyser Crest and the entire southwest section of our city as well as all city residents. The Y has a paid professional staff in place and a facility whose programs would no doubt compliment the city's. While the Mayor is trying to get the rec "ball" moving the social and economic consequences of constructing one mega rec center next to the Jefferson St. project must be carefully considered. Containing these children withintheir neighborhood would continue to stigmatize and ghettoize them. Will other Saratoga children be willing to use the facility which will be dominated by the project residents? We have yet to hear what the cost of operation will be. Given the cost of the current rec budget two million plus tax payers are entitled to know the full picture. When was the last inventory of all recreation facilities in our city taken by qualified and objective auditors which would determine what our real need is ? The nice little Rec Commission empire is becoming the tail that wagged the dog!

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to beat that dead horse, but any project going forward with plans from a decade ago needs serious review. Ten years ago only a handful of people were thinking "green". Using solar panels or garbage gas for power is a huge plus (regardless of who thought of it first) and plays a big part on the location of the field.
As stolen from Saratoga Today Scirocco said. “Then we thought with the new trend being to go green we would make it an environmentally friendly project by placing heated coils in the steps and a portion of the sidewalk so we could avoid using salt that led to the deterioration of the current steps.” Well, that's not green. The use of electric coils to replace salt is not environmentally friendly. But it was good for a laugh.

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The nice little Rec Commission empire is becoming the tail that wagged the dog!"

Good observation anon 6:06. What was it that Ms. Terricola said to the West Side?

"When I started I had a budget of around $500 thousand -- today, with twice the work, over $2 million!"

Do we now need to preserve our non-institutional space too, before it's all gone and organized? Maybe someplace like the Dog Park -- fenced in with a sign "Free-Play-Space - Do what you want here".

The seeds of one's spirit are born out of knowing who we are, not who society wants us to be at all times. A little boredom and unstructured environments sometimes help us create our own existence. The Rec. Commission does a fine job but maybe, there's already enough scheduled playtime and whistles?

Yeah, the YMCA site makes the most sense. Always did. The politicians continually play this ball without looking up at the clock or that the stands are becoming empty from a cynical user base.

Do a matrix and see which site serves the WHOLE community best.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet! That weather woman in the picture is hot. I don't care about no rec center. I'm spending the day looking at her.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:04

Tom McTygue was right????? No matter whether you're for or against Johnson's site choice, Weibel Ave as a location is as ludicrous as it gets. I have an idea, let's place a rec center targeting kids under the driving age in a location where literally every SS kid would have to be driven to it.

I'm not sure whether I'm for or against the project as a whole, but Weibel Ave is a moronic option.

--Fish Creek Lunker

8:33 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

does Giguere mean oblivious in French, or is it some other language?

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!!

Hope nobody leaves a comment from a city computer, b/c they are acting like paranoid little bitches now in city hall:-)

10:22 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

I have to agree with Horatio, it is a bad idea to be spending money on a rec center in these uncertain times. It would seem that this money could be put to better use.


From The Chattanoogan.com: State Cutting Over 2,000 Jobs Due To Tax Shortfall (hat tip JKB)
Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that state tax collections have been "deteriorating dramatically" in recent months...

... he said April tax collections showed the largest drop since records began to be kept in 1961.

He said the first quarter was the third worst on record, and the second quarter "is certainly shaping up to be worse than that."



I

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Gerard Hawthorne said...

The YMCA location was never a viable option for the REC center. Tom McTygue made a last ditch effort to steal votes right before the election with this half baked plan. He had no plans done,no approvals and no backing. That location was not even owned by the city. To put this there the city would have to buy the land which the YMCA owns. Who even knows if they would sell. I highly doubt that since they are planning on expansion of their own in the future.
Southside is the most under used field in the city because of the ungulating grounds throughout the fields. The majority of the use there is the playground and water spray park area which both will still be there. This building will be a big savings to the city taxpayer just in the money it will save in fees we now pay to other locations to house our programs.
We pay $35 an hr. to the schools for use of their gyms.
We pay $45 an hr. to Ballston Spa to use their REC center
We pay $55 an hr. to Wilton for use of their facilities
The big NUT is $1.2 million of the Recreation Budget goes directly to DPW.

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't those two kids in that picture be in school? Maybe they are on Dave Jelenek's payroll and they are taking a lunch break from building the Mansions he wants to put there on southside field.

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:54 "Why a $30 million building that is the result of a flawed process and doesn’t address the existing facility and the reality that the cost of a building represents only 30 percent of the cost of the building (the rest is personnel costs) over it’s 30 year life. Do the math.

Personnel costs do respresent the most significant portion of total life cycle costs of a new building, but the figure is actually 85% -92%, whereas construction, maintenance and operational costs only represent 8-15% over 30 years. Now do the math, especially when its promoter comes out with a cavalier statement like "We'll fill the building up!"

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter where the Recreation center goes people will drive kids there. At the southside location there appears to be more accessibility for a bigger majority of kids. There are more kids in that neighborhood than any other in the city. The location is already owned by the city which will save the city taxpayer from forking out anymore money for land and infrastructure. This site is the right place, at the right time.

7:17 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

7:17 AM said...
"This site is the right place, at the right time."

How about the right priority?
We've got water lines in neighborhoods that don't have enough pressure to put out a fire.

Regarding the transportation issue, the South Side vs. Weibel Ave:
It’s a no-brainer.
There are probably quite a few kids and adults who will walk or ride their bikes to get to the South side location.
On the other hand, everyone going to Weibel Avenue will be sending American dollars to the Middle East.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about not bowing down to Wilton like in the past. Time to let our kids play in their own town. Paying taxes so the kids in Wilton can play in our REC Center. That's just great!

2:12 PM  

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