Saturday, August 11, 2007

Strange bedfellows

It’s mighty ironic that Skip Scirocco is going to bat for The Saratogian, a paper that was doggedly gunning for him not more than four years ago. The Republican candidate for Public Works commissioner defended the newspaper Friday by publically lashing out at incumbent Democratic fixture Tom McTygue for his threat to repossess The Saratogian.

“His proposal to seize the Saratogian's land and parking lot is more reminiscent of Nixon's ‘enemies list’ than the kind of conduct we’d expect from a city official,” he stated in a press release Friday.

Clearly, this is an opportunistic attack on McTygue and one that was going to come from somewhere. Scirocco picked the right moment to strike out at McTygue –eminent domain is a very anti-conservative precept that local Republicans can rally against. With his release, he gains quick-hit political mileage with land-use conservatives, McTygue enemies and most of all, the paper itself.

The strange part of the equation is that The Saratogian was the very paper to raise Cain over Scirocco’s timecards back in 2003, a story that was vastly blown out of proportion. As some may recall, Scirocco was simply writing his hours down to equate 40 per week, even though he wasn’t actually working at some of those times. Though a grand jury never found him at fault for “time card-gate,” he took a mighty beating in the press; especially in The Saratogian.

At the heart of the matter was Editor Barbara Lombardo, who seemed quite candid about her disregard for Scirocco at the time. In an editorial about the debacle, she even alluded to the fact that the affair “seemed like a political witch hunt” before chastising Scirocco for something that is commonplace in many salaried areas of the workforce. The whole affair itself was ironic, seeing as the paper was very closely aligned with the city Republicans at the time and was doing the dirty work of Democratic leaders; some chalked it up to the fact that Lombardo just didn't like the dog catcher for whatever reason.

So it is indeed a bizarre lash-out by the candidate for Public Works commissioner; not an unforeseen one, but a peculiar one to say the least. But who ever said politics don’t make strange bedfellows. However, his gushing over The Saratogian, a corporate-owned rag even most subscribers don’t view as the hometown paper, is almost comical.

“City residents count on The Saratogian for fair and accurate reporting that captures the local flavor of our community, without partiality or concerns for partisanship,” Scirocco stated in the releases.

Fair and accurate? Capturing the local flavor of the community? He must be referring to some other paper because these are not characteristics of the daily disappointment that dribbles out of Lake Avenue each morning. And the bit about Nixon’s Enemies List is definitley over the top, even for a politcially charged attack.

But Scirocco is right with one regard: a newspaper’s quality is directly correlated to its connection to the community. There’s no better way to establish a connection than to have offices and reporters at the very heart of a community; somthing that is not the case with either the Times Union in Albany or the Daily Gazette in Schenectady. Moving The Saratogian to an office complex in another town would be the death knell for the paper. The one strand of hope that keeps the paper remotely competitive with the others is that they have a greater presence of reporters in the city. Move them out of the city and this strand snaps.

The whole issue is probably moot for the most part unless the Journal Register Company gets involved, as they are the owners and not Publisher Frank McGivern. For some reason, neither the city nor the reporters following this story seem to understand this. They’re the ones that could pull the plug on Lake Avenue and probably give it earnest consideration if they had knew how much they would save in taxes each or had an inkling of how much that property is worth. Here’s a hint: it’s worth a hell of a lot more than the assessed value


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spa City in huff over domain
Our View: McTygue's hostile pursuit of 'The Saratogian' property is not the most reponsible way to get things done.

Friday, August 10, 2007 12:44 AM EDT, The Post Star

If there’s something you want badly, and the person who has it won’t give it to you, take it by force.

In school, that’s called “bullying.” In government, it’s called “eminent domain.”

The Saratoga Springs city government is seeking more parking downtown, as well as more office space near City Hall for administrative workers.

Coincidentally, The Saratogian newspaper has a big parking lot and a nice old office building a block from City Hall.

Some members of city government, specifically Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue, think the newspaper’s parking lot is plenty big enough to share, and that it would be a nice community gesture if the paper would let motorists park there without the threat of being towed.

The Saratogian, to the city’s frustration, hasn’t responded positively to the council’s overtures.

In fact, it hasn’t responded at all, even when the city sent it a letter seeking a meeting to discuss public use of the newspaper’s property.

That doesn’t sit well with Mr. McTygue, who likes getting his own way.

He wants The Saratogian’s parking spaces badly. And now he wants the newspaper’s office space badly.

And like any good bully, if you want something bad enough and the owner won’t give it to you, you take it by force.

So he’s proposing a preposterous scheme to have the city forcefully obtain the entire Saratogian property by eminent domain.

Let’s make this clear.

He wants the city to take an operating, tax-paying, longtime city business

and force it to sell its property to the government for a bunch of parking spaces and a couple of offices.

“They could work in an office in Wilton or the town of Greenfield as well as they could here,” McTygue helpfully suggested to Saratogian owners as an option after the city kicks them out.

This is not why eminent domain was established. And it’s not how any government should treat a member of its business community.

Under eminent domain, the government has a very limited right to seize property for the public good — traditionally, easements for public utilities and highways.

Even the more liberal definition supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 allowing eminent domain for economic development was intended to obtain underused land for a large project that would create jobs and boost the tax


The simple creation of public parking spaces hardly meets that standard.

Despite Mr. McTygue’s blustering, it doesn’t matter that The Saratogian doesn’t need all those parking spaces. Since when can a city dictate to a business how it uses its own property?

If a business wants to let its property sit idle, or to tow cars that park there, it’s the business’s right.

If someone parked in Mr. McTygue’s driveway, he’d sure have them towed.

Using the city’s justification for taking private property, there’s probably a hotel downtown that’s not fully booked up. Start the eminent domain proceedings.

The city needs the office space.

There are a lot of wide open grassy areas at the race track where cars could park.

Can’t the horses eat their hay in a barn?

And have you ever seen the racino parking lot full?

Maybe Mr. McTygue could gamble on an eminent domain fight with the state.

As for not responding to the city’s gestures, the newspaper is not under any obligation to negotiate the sale of its property, or even return the city’s phone calls.

Rude? Maybe.

But the government has no power to compel a landowner to do anything but pay its taxes and obey the law.

There is the possibility that the city and the newspaper, many years ago during urban renewal, had signed some kind of agreement allowing the public to use a portion of the paper’s parking lot during off-hours.

The city is vigorously seeking the documentation for that, and that could give it legitimate access to the parking lot.

But even then, such a finding wouldn’t justify the city’s hostile pursuit of the paper’s entire property — parking lot and building.

Said Mr. McTygue of the city’s actions toward this business, “This is the right way to go. It’s the smart way to go. And it’s the beginning of getting done what we need to get done.”

Maybe that’s the way to go for him and his supporters.

But for city residents and businesses, this is the wrong way to go. It’s the dumb way to go.

And it is certainly not how a responsible government of the people begins to get done what it needs to get done.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Saratogian has been a longstanding supporter of McTygue's. So has Bob Israel, whose family McTygue put down very publically at the last city council meeting. McTygue has become such a megalomaniac he is turning on supporters. In the meantime, he is not taking care of maintenance on city property. Is he even capable of doing more than planting flowers? There is going to be a terrible, expensive legagy for McTygue's successor, due to Tommy and Billy's incompetence? In the Eminent Domain piece on YouTube, was Tommy taking a call from the track about a winning bet, or was it his girlfriend Stephanie. McTygue doesn't really care about the city. Skippy does.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

In my immediate impression, you’re a bit misguided in your thinking. Israel’s son wasn’t lambasted by McTygue or the council majority. They just considered him too inexperienced to replace a man who has operated a business on Broadway for decades. And rightly so; while I’m all for seeing new fresh faces in public office, the last person I’d want to see there is the 20-something son of a ridiculously wealthy developer who can’t even seem to take care of his own properties. That’s called just prudence.

You're right about The Saratogian's support. In 2005, they ironically endorsed both McTygue and Scirocco. The paper also supported McTygue’s reelection in 2001. I wouldn’t bank on it this year.

If McTygue is seriously thinking eminent domain, he’s way off base. But after watching the latest Wyatt video, it seems he’s more interested in bringing the company to the table to talk than he is about actually filing an actual proceeding. With exception to the mayor, the entire council seems on board with his thinking. On a side note, take notice that McTygue never once mentions the words “eminent domain” in the Wyatt video; in fact, it is Keehn who is the one to first use the term.

The ridiculous part of this still baffling me is that the city keeps trying to talk to The Saratogian about the property. The Saratogian doesn’t OWN the property; JRC does. What they’re doing is equivalent to knocking on the door of an apartment complex and asking one of the tenants if they’d mind selling the building. I’m sure JRC would give them a response, especially if they knew the gold mine they’re sitting on.

As for the job McTygue has done as DPW commish, I’m not seeing your point. Frankly, the city looks pretty darn nice. I’m not sure how much of it’s his doing or the fact that there’s more money rolling through here than the U.S. Treasury Department.

If you want to take issue with McTygue, then bring up the Lillian’s parking lot, and I'm not talking about the maintainence there of. This property could have been utilized by the city for a number of uses, but was more or less given to Sonny Bonacio. I’m sure Sonny will build an attractive building there, but it seems short sighted of the city –primarily under the auspices of McTygue –to deal the property without a quid-pro-quo in place.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I guess today's Saratogian says it all. Tom McTygue and his "mini me" John Franck are once again grandstanding during election season. I guess they forgot to mentioned that they dropped the ball and did not get back to the Saratogian when they were running their mouths at the recent City Council meeting.
You are absolutly right on the Lillian's lot. Oh well, it could have been a terrific pocket park for the PUBLIC to enjoy. And maybe we could have some restrooms there too.
I have to disagree with you regarding the beauty of the city. We have lost a step or two over the last few years. We are doing less with more. We will be in for a big shocker when we get a look at the infrastructure of the city.
I have supported Tom in the past despite his childish and disruptive behavior, but not anymore... It is time for a change

6:27 AM  
Blogger Trapped in History said...

actually your assessment of the time card incedent was totally inaccurate. he was not marking time worked when he was not there, false. the only bone of contention a grand jury found throughout the whole thing was that he marked himself out of work for a thursday when the meeting was on a wednesday. so idiot lou benton tried to get people to look at all of his time cards to try to find something. "hey this guy was at a meeting on wednesday but accidentally wrote that he was off on thursday". lame. i believe the grand jury dismissed it as political

1:03 PM  

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