Friday, November 21, 2008

Ode to Ivins

Why bother screaming at a brick wall? Because there’s an infinitesimal chance that someone on the others side might just hear what you’re saying. In this case, it’s Kenneth Ivins who is staring back through the bricks.

The city finance commissioner is hoping to get input on what he should do to abate the city’s looming budget crisis. Of course, the public is too concerned with their own personal budget crises(choose any of the following: wrecked IRA, laid off from work, valueless stock portfolio, facing foreclosure) to help ol’ Ken out in this endeavor; something that seems to bother him a bit.

So here is some advice to the powers that be, in the usual letter-form that most city officials take pride in ignoring. Time will only tell if Ivins kowtows to the two commissioners. If he does, he’ll certainly make his fair share of enemies. Then again, when the only people who can afford to live in Saratoga are the ones who work for the city, perhaps kowtowing is a good idea. Incidentally, you too can send a missive to Ken when the bank is done foreclosing on your home. Just click this link and you too can avoid going through the city Web site.

“Thinking a double-digit tax increase is plausible option to thrust upon a public fearing an eminent recession is a good way to get voted off the City Council Already, the combined municipal tax rate makes it nearly impossible for young workers to find homes in Saratoga Springs. And I’m not just talking about the working class. Even entry-level professionals would have a tough time footing the bill the council is talking about creating.

As finance commissioner, you have an obligation to plan for this city’s financial future. Clearly with the debacle over the state’s Video Lottery Terminal aid, past commissioners did not fulfill this obligation. Do the right thing and remove this aid. Then do whatever it takes to get the budget down to where there is no tax increase. Is this a herculean task? I doubt it. But it requires someone who has a vested interest in making this city livable for people outside of the uber-wealthy.

Had the city planned ahead five years ago; had the VLT aid been set aside in a separate fund; had the city harnessed the power of its almost unprecedented economic development over the past decade, we wouldn’t be in this situation. You have a choice to correct the wrongs exacted by your predecessors: Plan ahead and budget within reason.

I’m all for city services and wouldn’t advocate laying off anyone in this economy. But sacrifices have to be made. The first and foremost sacrifice is cutting the goddamn overtime budget for the city police and public works crews. Surely this isn’t popular among the workers, the union bosses or the businesses that rely on these hours, but there’s no choice at this point.

If they want the extra services for the semi-daily street festivals, then they’ll have to pony up the cash. If crews need more hours to plow the streets, then we’ll have to consider limiting the work they do when it’s not snowing. There is a way to do more with less, and you as an elected official have the task of finding a means to this end. Otherwise, you’re only helping to further a problem that threatens the very fabric of this community.

Next, ditch the recreation center once and for all. Put a stake through the heart of this beast and be done with it. Wasting $900,000 is a blow, but at least you can point to the vapid former mayor as the one who made the mistake. The bottom line is we don’t need it, the building will be too expensive to maintain and the city will eventually pay many times this amount for a service that is essentially already provided at a state-of-the-art YMCA.

Look down any city street and you’ll see a good number of empty houses. Moreover, you’ll see dozens of ‘for sale’ and ‘for rent’ signs posted. These are homes that won’t appeal to the upper-crust folks who can afford a 13 percent tax increase and the cost to maintain them is too damn expensive for the middle class workers looking for a modest residence in the Spa City. There is a gap the always increasing taxes have caused; a rift between the haves and the have-nots. Offering a double-digit tax increase will certainly widen this divide.

Sure, the cuts will hurt in the short run. You’re going to hear it from a lot of people, namely a blustering bankruptcy attorney masquerading as the public safety czar. However, it’s the only right thing to do at this point. When everyone else is cutting, so must the city. In fact, they’re the first institution that should be trimming the fat. And there’s a lot of fat to be trimmed.”

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reduce the overtime in the Police Dept.?

Gee, wasn't that what Erin Dreyer was trying to do?

She didn't have a good approach, but she had the right idea. Will the Council support reducing overtime in the P.D.? I doubt it.

9:56 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Horatio, from your statement “I’m all for city services and wouldn’t advocate laying off anyone in this economy.”
It’s apparent what group you belong in and where your sentiments lie.

Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!

There are basically two types of individuals in this world.
Anyone who has run a successful private business knows that there is an essential boundary that cannot be crossed between employers and employees.
When that line is crossed the business model becomes skewered and if left unchecked the business will fail.
This is now happening with the Big 3 automakers. Don’t get me wrong, this is not the only reason that these businesses are going to fail but it is one of the major ones.

If you give an employee an inch they will invariable take a mile and it is not long before the product that you are trying to sell is no longer competitive.
The cliché of “made in the USA” which was suppose to pull on our patriotic strings to buy only American products soon gave way to consumer reality. We have found out the world is a very small place. The great American pastime of shopping till you drop to get the best product at the lowest cost have led many of us to Japanese carmakers and Wal-Mart’s where we can buy cheap Chinese imports.

American car workers are now in the process of learning are hard lesson.
What’s the point of having a strong union if you’re working for a company that manufactures an inferior expensive product?

It’s just a matter of time before government employees discover this same thing.
The public is quickly tiring of the shoddy expensive services that the Government is selling.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Linda T. said...

Get rid of the REC Center and make everyone happy. After that fire that do nothing Bill McTygue at $100,000 per year. Then Ray Pierce and Tony Fischette can hit the road. That right there will save $250,000 a year. Get rid of one code enforcer and 2 fire inspectors and that will save another $200,000. Hey, this is easy. Getting rid of a mere 5 people will save that much? Wow! How about a city hall Receptionist who makes over $50,000 when we already have a build in system that answers the phone already. There are also another 4 or 5 people that float from dept. to dept. because they don't do their work and piss off all the other employees. $150,000 more off the books! These are minimal cuts! Cut back on the Police overtime that we pay so the officiers that are close to retirement that pad their salaries by sitting behind a desk can't rape us. This is over $1 million in savings yearly. We don't have McTygue anymore costing us yearly on law suits so that problem is gone. Let's do this, Kenny Boy!

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

H-

No finer recipe for relief than your rules for responsibility-- End the OT, work smarter not longer. I like the Rec Center and blowing off 900G hurts. But the NIMBY legal beagles are foaming at their rabid mouths so the brawl is gonna' bite us in the butt. Best quit while we’re behind.

Volunteer events will need more folks to don a safety vest, man barricades at closed streets, and help the flow of traffic as much as the law allows. Call me crazy, but I've yet to attend a Saratoga event that teetered at the very brink of the Rodney King riots.

I'll go further. Yes, I worked part-time with DPW for three seasons of digging dirt, hauling compost and planting our flowers. I earned my money and came to know first-hand some world-class goldbrickers who take up space. As usual, they'll plead some kinda' foul play and run up the legal bills. But yes Virginia, there is a Cretin or five who'd never be missed.

Only a fool would challenge our officers on the street. But do we need THREE marked cars on Caroline? ONE black & white makes an impressive deterrent, radios bring support. I've always been a lifelong fan of officers walking a beat, and Broadway is the perfect place for our brave men and women to be seen. Horse-tippers might think twice when they recall how swiftly and silently an officer’s bike blew past them.

What Kommisar Kim doesn't know about management could fill a city budget shortfall. So I guess I'm toast, a marked man, and a guy who has sweat and spoken for the good of this great town. But I can live with the cuts and the guts to lay out the specifics as I seen ‘em.

Well-done Horatio.

-Kyle York
Saratoga Springs

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ho - I doubt that anyone can say it any better. But I will say "knowing what I know today I would have voted differently in the finance election last year. We don't need a fourth of july cheerleader in that job. We need a businessperson who can manage costs.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HO:

You're right on target pointing out the city's failure to plan "five years ago" and calling Mike Lenz "the vapid former mayor," but you forgot to mention that before that he was "the vapid former finance commissioner" who started us down the road we're on now by using up all the city's reserve funds.

During the good times he blew the city's savings account on overtime pay for Tom Curley's police department and overblown construction costs for Tom McTygue's parking deck conveniently located right next to Charlie Wait's bank building a block away from Lenz's own drug store.

Now that times are getting tough, there's nothing left in reserve for Ken Ivins. Who's responsible for that? Mike Lenz - Finance Commissioner, Mayor, Failure.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

I think I've discovered a solution to the budget crisis. What is profitable, ubiquitous and highly addictive? No... not marijuana.

Stewart's tuna noodle! I say we propose a new tax on the steam trays of tuna noodle, beef stew and other hot gelatinous goodies from Stewart's.

Trust me, Saratoga will be fiscally solvent in one month. (Plus all the public servants will be helping themselves with each purchase)

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cutting back the police OT and getting rid of those 10 or so people who take up space(goldbrickers)like Kyle said makes a lot of sense. At least it would show the community we are trying to resolve the issue. Why should us taxpayers pay for these people sucking the city dry?

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blaming Mike Lenz for the cities'finicial woes is like blaming chicken little for the collapse of wall street,get real Val....all the negatives started with you and that it shawn.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 8:26:

When Lenz took office there were millions of $$$ in the city's reserve accounts. When voters turned him out, there were 000's. You can look it up. Maybe Val Keehn didn't concentrate enough on telling the public what a mess Lenz had left behind, but it's a good thing HO is finally pointing it out.

BTW, what's Scott Johnson doing to try to cut spending and raise revenues? This week, Li'l Scooter went to Albany to lobby the Governor (a Manhattan resident), the incoming Senate Majority Leader (from Queens), the outgoing Majority Leader (from Nassau), and the Assembly Speaker (another Manhattanite) and proceeded to whine that he thought Saratoga Springs would be a victim of an upstate/downstate rivalry.

Is the man a complete idiot? How does he expect to persuade people to help our city if the first thing he does is accuse them of being unfair? And doesn't he know that New York City always, always, always sends more money to Albany than it gets back? Or that a huge chunk of State spending always goes to rich school districts on Long Island, steered there by his fellow Republicans?

Maybe it shouldn't be surprising that Scooter doesn't know how to talk to Democrats, but it seems like he doesn't know how to talk (or listen) to anybody at all. Didn't his mother teach him anything? His approach is not only to bite the hand that feeds him but also to rap it on the knuckles while he's at it!

With Scooter as mayor, things are only going to get worse in the next year.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Val's Stalker(John Ty) said...

The problem lies with this bullshit government form that we have. Commissioners are a thing of the past. Get rid of commissioners and their deputies along with those DPW supervisors such as Fisher and others. This gives us more money to pay bills yearly. Also Bill MAc makes $120,000 per. There are guys more qualified for $60,000. Let's cut the fat the right way.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The government model is the culprit!!

Toss out the Commission form and a get a real government

Then you will have a good managerial system

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This city needs to operate as a business. Much like Obama may operate this country. This form of governing has got to go! We already have directors in all the departments so there is no need to bring in Deputies as political favors. Between that and these deadbeats like Raymond Pierce, Tony Fischette,Bill McTygue and Al Flick to name a few the money will be saved.

5:36 AM  
Anonymous Real Deal said...

4:51,

Yeah, right.

Just ask all citizens of the thousands of loal govt's that use a non-commission form just how well it's working out for them.

Idiot...

6:46 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Although it would be a damn good start, it’s not only about getting rid of the deadbeats, of which there are many, it's also about correcting the structural problems that now exist in the labor relations between the city and it's workers.

While the federal government has already risen the retirement age of everyone who has been born after 1939 to 67 years of age, is it morally right for the city to be retiring its employees who are in their forties and fifties?


From the net...

"The normal retirement age had been 65. However, to cope with the demographics of an aging population and the longer lifespan of the individual worker, the normal retirement age was increased gradually beginning in 1999. When the change is fully phased in 2022, the normal retirement age will be 67, as is evidenced by the following table.

Year of Birth Full Retirement Age
Before 1938 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-54 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and After 67"

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Val's Stalker(John Tyg) said...

It is a Real Deal for sure. You can not compare Saratoga to other cities. The form of government is terrible. Let's put some smart people like Bob Cleary and Dennis Mulholland on the task force to change the government. They will get it done. We are tired of nonsense from Real deal and others. Narrow minded people need not apply.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

I apologize to all who endeavored to read and answer this redundant post in the previous thread. But when folks like 3:08 chime in to the conversation, I want to make sure to get their input, if they have one beyond myopically screaming 'change...change...CHANGE!!!'

"This is a discussion I'd like to entertain, because I've never had anyone successfully explain to me WHY a new government would behoove this city. Now before you start typing, let me give you the advantage of knowing my perspective.

First of all, politicians by their very nature are a corruptible and contemptible breed. They sometimes vary in their degrees of being corrupt and contemptible, but there's always a bit there for guys like me to sit back and say 'I told you so' when they fuck up royally.

With this said, a strengthened mayoral government would essentially take all the power now vested in five councilmembers and hand it over to one mayor. If the mayor happens to be a natural leader, he or she will then select the most qualified candidates as department heads, thereby replacing what we now commonly know as the "deputies." I put deputies in quoatations, because these are the folks who are really running each department's day-to-day operation.

So basically, we elect a commissioner not based on the job they will do for their department, but on the deputy they will hire to run their department. These positions are almost always handed to political hacks like Eileen Finneran and Erin Dreyer to name a few. But at least now, you have five different people that can choose to select a competent deputy instead of one for patronage reasons. Under a strengthened mayoral form, this power goes to one individual, who can stock the city with all kinds of crazies running departments that have no business running.

Of course, there is also the council vote that comes with each commissioner seat, but that is something no where near as weighty as the deputies themselves. In a mayoral administration, this power would be divested to a ward-elected council. The council then typically becomes a rubber stamp for the mayor's initiatives, provided there's not an insurrection(i.e. political coup) from the ranks.

The problem in the mayor-form of government is that you basically give the keys to a city to one individual. Those keys are now divvied up among five popularly elected council seats. Given the likelihood and predilections of the standard American voter, I'd much rather five chances and usually at least 10 candidates to find one amongst the mix that is worth his or her salt. Going to the mayoral system, you'll have a choice of two, maybe three if a third party gets involved(not).

Either way, you can't honestly think changing the form of government in the city would actually improve or change anything for voters. And if you do, please explain exactly what it would change and how. I am deeply skeptical of this notion, but do your best to convince me. From where I stand, the only advantage to ditching the commissioner system of government is that we would no longer have to deal with Ron Kim's fat mouth."

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screw Ron Kim for his Police building and screw Linda Terricola and Scott Johnson for their REC Center. We don't need either one. Getting rid of those deadbeats mentioned by anon 5:36 is a good idea. I don't know a couple of those guys but the one's I do know surely fit the description. We can't carry these guys anymore. Cut them loose. Next election we can vote to cut loose Kim and Johnson who do nothing proactive. More fighting in house.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Val's Stalker(John Tyg)


Get a life the only one who ever stalked Val was debt collectors and toadies like corporal B. I bet Val is lonely though, on the outside looking into city hall. At least she’s got hubby to cling on to.


Oh My!!! I forgot even he deserted her. Probably the smartest thing he ever did next to his trips to rehab that is.


You really want to change something. Dump your old leaders like Kim and Val. Just think what shape we’d be in if she had a four year term.


Democrats for Johnson 09

Because City Hall is too important to leave to children.

3:58 PM  
Blogger BlueDog said...

What's up? Didn't we have 2 referendums in recent years and didn't the citizens of Saratoga Springs roundly defeat attempts to change our form of government in each of these votes?

Can you imagine someone like Val being in charge in a strong mayor form of government?

It seems to me that the commission form of government includes a series of checks and balances that protect us from mistakes like the south side rec center and the Kim police palace.

For instance, little Scotty gets elected because of the Keehn/Mctygue feud. Now 2 years later (before any real damage can be done) we get a new chance to respond to the economic downturn and the loss of revenue.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

H-

I've been thinking about this damnable system and the abundance of Bad Apples that fall from the blue or Fruitcakes that rise up like muffins. And I have a slight twist that I hope you and your readers will weigh in on.

Your 3:25 re-post was worth every re-word...if I re-read you right. The CURRENT Commissioners are basically figureheads and their full-time DEPUTIES do the real work so we save money with a STRONG MAYOR who appoints non-nonsense full-time Commissioners. The great LIABILITY is a Mayor gone Mad.

So how about providing a CHECK with a 25-member City Council of elected representatives, one from each of the city's 25 Election Districts? There's no salary, only two dozen people who earn the trust/respect of their neighbors.

The first job of the 25 members is to approve or reject the Mayor's "Big Four"-- Finance, Accounts, Public Works, and Public Safety-- by a simple majority vote with a quorum.

With the Commissioners all seated, the FULL body, including the Mayor, decides on all matters by a simple majority of the 30 members...or the quorum.

The MAYOR gets the power and the mandate... but the 25 members of the "House of Commons" keeps 'em all HONEST. Just a simple majority thumbs up. No filibusters. No SuperMajorities.

It's a cross between the Vermont Town Meetings and the Citizen-Statesman system originally intended by our Founding Fathers. They weren't envisioning career politicians so much as a rotating membership of common folk. But then again, the Founding Dudes didn't envision lobbyists and PACs.

Finally but mayhaps most important, here's one additional idea to further your vision of something better than 2-party domination. In any Election District, a candidate could earn a spot on the ballot with a petition of 30 names. Or 20 or 50.

The POINT is there were a lot of independent thinkers out there among the 12,000 November 4 voters. While the Mayor would almost always be Red or Blue, the 25 "Commoners" would be more like me and you. Or Shot and Faulkner. Or Real and Ben.

Or Anon and Anon.

-Kyle York
Student of Democracy

7:50 PM  
Blogger paul said...

re: Faulkner

Stewart's hasn't offered Tuna Noodle in years.

Get with the times.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said HO!Any form of goverment comes down to one thing and one thing only.....it's only as good as the people we vote in there,can't CHANGE that.I can only hope these progressives and these short lived anarchist take a few coures in political science.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since we no longer are part of the county sales tax, i wonder how much sales tax income Home Depot would have generated at the site where Witt built those hugely successful condos near exit 15? But bad Home Depot would have ruined our downtown and paved over green space...morons

4:52 AM  
Anonymous First Public Safety; then Mayor; then the World! said...

...unless Ron Kim became the mayor.

Praise Vanguard

5:37 AM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

re: Paul

Pity... because that tuna noodle was some good shit. Maybe Stewart's can bring it back in the interest of economic stimulus?

TNT: Tuna Noodle Tax


(keep hope alive Paul)

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Real Deal said...

With the new year almsot upon us; would anyone like to conjecture who might oppose Scott Johnson in the November election?

I nominate Cpl. Bronner.

Because it couldn't get any more entertaining than that, now could it?

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle:

You have it right on the representation from each voting district. Only problem those trying to change the charter didn't agree with us. Then they didn't get the charter revision passed either.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

425:

In a good economy during the spring gardening season HD would have been worth $10000 per week in sales tax to the city. Thats one of the reasons those living in Wilton don't pay town taxes. Oh yeah, the land still got paved over.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Milhouse said...

It's hard enough finding five decent sane people willing to be part of this dysfunctional city government. Now we're going to try and find 25 more? Without paying them anything other than grief? I like our chances much better if we cut back to one strong mayor. Department heads should not be patronage jobs. Let's get a city manager to actually run the city and manage the departments, and leave the politics to the hacks we seem to get in droves.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any of these ideas will work better than what we have now. Change wil do us good!

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:25
Great post. Hard to imagine we would be facing the same fiscal difficulties had the frog licking, tree huggers not thrown their typical hissy fit when HD was proposed.

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Real Deal said...

Ya wanna get a glimpse nto the future to see what a 25-pserson city legislature would look like?

Just go take a glance at the current membership of the city Dem's Committee; ak the Keehn Kool Aid crowwd.

Now isn't that pleasant thought?

Would Vangaurd be eligible? He does have the 4th-highest IQ in the world, after all!

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Real 7:19

That's why I put my faith in a ballot with realistic places our newly-empowered "independents."

They are out there, they care not for Nolans or NXIUM. They just want an end to this 5-card-monte of municipal madness.

-Kyle York
Yes We Candor

12:27 PM  
Anonymous mamie said...

What newly impowered independents would that be ,Kyle? You and McTygue? Independents? Try communists!

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it me or is it odd that everytime the PSD comes up with an idea to increase revenue, they look to charge the public for the work that they are required to do. Today, its accident reporting. The reporting and filing is a part of their jobs. An accident report should not take hours and hours or something is wrong.

Last month mandatory building inspections took on a “pay as we do mentality”. Problem with that is thinking is that these inspections are not designed to be infrequent but required by law in a scheduled manner, the purpose of which is to save lives. Driven by insurance lobbies, these multifamily and commercial inspections should certainly be paid by those property owners who own these buildings (and benefit by the lower insurance and should be initiated by the PSD not by those owners who would ignore the process – circumventing the reasons for this public safety required inspection in the first place.

3:12 AM  

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