Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saratoga Nights

Heat waves rise off the asphalt baking in the Saturday afternoon sun. The buzz-saw sound of enough horsepower to fill the backstretch twice over revs in anticipation of the checkered flag clutched in Mary Lou Whitney’s wrinkled hand. Coors is flowing like the swollen Hudson in spring and the swell of carbon monoxide is enough to get even the most beer-gutted redneck high enough to cheer on the Spa City’s acclaimed debutant.

Whitney clears her throat and then taps her microphone to garner attention from the sell-out crowd of nearly 100,000 NASCAR fanatics waiting for the gear-grinding fender-smashing fun to begin. She manages a few futile words before the deafening sound of an air horn blasts behind her.

“Drop the goddamn flag, you old bag,” sputters a red-shouldered man sporting a semi-stained wife-beater, a half set of teeth and a full-blown Budweiser buzz, shortly before sounding his air horn several more times.

Perhaps in fear –perhaps in horror –Whitney unceremoniously drops the flag and then drops herself, the victim of a massive coronary. The ambulances scream through the paved grounds at the formerly historic Saratoga Race Course, which like the Northway, serves as the state’s largest parking lot for three months out of every year when NASCAR comes to the Spa City.

Just imagine what fun it would be; more tourists, more business, more Budweiser. Yes, it would be a rollicking good time in Saratoga Springs, were state officials to simply do what they do best, which is nothing at all. Once the city can dispatch of this meddlesome Sport of Kings, it will be free to bring in the Sport of the King of Beers. That’s when the real good times roll, pun intended.

Before the asphalt trucks start pulling up to Union Avenue, it should be noted that NASCAR or any other form of motorized racing will never come to the Spa City. Not at least during this millennium. But that didn’t stop the Post-Star –or rather a half-baked speculator they interviewed –from suggesting such a thing could be possible if New York thoroughbred racing is shut down after the New Year.

Trot through any collection of local headlines these days and you’ll get the distinct impression the sky is falling around the Saratoga Race Course and the Spa City itself. All month, local politicians have been quite vocal about the “what if’s” that could befall the city if the racing meet is cancelled.

Of course, this is about as likely as NASCAR coming to a location in the “green belt” off Northway Exit 14 or any bevy of other fantastic ideas that could be proffered as alternatives to horseracing. While we’re at it, maybe they could reopen Canfield Casino for ESPN’s Texas Hold’em tournaments. Or perhaps legalize prostitution on Caroline Street; then maybe the former Madame Jumel’s could hold down a business for more than a year.

They’re all good ideas for someone who could say “NASCAR might fit in Saratoga” with a straight face. Strangely enough, the fellow mentioning such a scenario is none other than budgetary gadfly John Kraus, who was supposed to be the fiscal voice of reason on the capital committee that proposed a $17 million public safety castle.

“There are drawbacks, but don't let them be a show-stopper,” said Kraus in the Post-Star article, which reads more like something posted on the Onion. “Find a way for it to work and get’er done.”

What is even more frightening is that the Post-Star ran with Kraus’ half-baked idea. At the risk of running bad or incomplete journalism, the reporter even took a moment to call up a NASCAR official, who confirmed the organization is searching for a metropolitan location near New York City –only “one NASCAR hour away.”

Yes, the debacle with the state’s thoroughbred racing franchise is serious. But there’s nothing to suggest for even a moment the state will shut racing down altogether. What is transpiring is the same bogus tug-of-war between Hollywood Joe Bruno and Eliot “the Steamroller” Spitzer. They’ll continue growling at each other until zero hour, when an agreement will be hammered out.

Until then, get ready for more political maneuvering and more windbagging. Yes folks, there is a lot of warm air blustering in from Albany and swirling around the already hot air offered up by the city’s local politicians. On a side note, perhaps that’s why scientists are now saying the polar icecap could melt entirely within five years.

But ask any Albany insider and they’ll tell you the track will not close; not this year, not next year, not any year. There’s too much money to be made from keeping the greenbacks flowing into and out of the Saratoga Race Course. And when the city itself is the crown jewel of upstate’s cities, there isn’t a politician foolish enough to risk tarnishing it’s luster.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, I actually could picture the scenario with Mary Lou and Larry the Cable Guy.

I couldn't believe the stupidity between the reporter and Kraus when I read that yesterday.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hicks? Check.
Beer? Check.
Darwin Award Candidates? Check.

Saratoga... you're clear for NASCAR takeoff.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a casino and a bordello on Caroline street; the city tavern could host a classy ganbling joint without the stupid slots or "VLT's" we have on Crescent Ave. Maybe a couple of roulette wheels, craps tables and a poker room. Even better have a shuttle to a few high class casinos out by the lake like the old Riley's with dinner, music, girls,a cigar room, etc. Wilma probably wouldn't like it though.

5:13 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Man, oh man, would we be rolling then. Add in a hash bar or three and you'd have a city to rival the likes of the Dutch paradise on the otherside of the Atlantic.

Some of the more puritanical thinkers among today's city society often forget: that was exactly what Saratoga was back in the good ol' days. This joint was all about imbibing, gambling and committing acts of physical lust that would give the Kama Sutra a few more pages. We're not above all that today; we're just repressing it.

If you think about it, today's American bets, fucks and drugs just as much as they did before; just it's done under the guise of illicit-but-condoned activity. Play the football pools, grab some beers and head on down to your buddy's place for some late-night poker. No date? Call up an escort or radio in some full-service strippers for the game. Wander back to the bathrooms in Gaffney's and blast a few rails off the toilet cistern; it's all legal until you get caught. Don't have any "doctor-lawyer" drugs? Well, you can always pick some up between the dealers in Clancy's and Trotters. Otherwise head on down to the poker game. They'll have some for sure. They'll need it to get the strippers kinky.

I say blow the lid off the whole fucking thing. Let's get this city rolling again and screw the state, NYRA and all their headline fodder.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are going over the high side... do it in style! Lines of coke off a Stewart's chili dog while getting serviced at The Alley. Now that's the American Dream!

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Ken Ivins the man who said he would not let politics interfere with running his office has hired his deputy, Kate Jarosh. Guess what, she and her husband are both Republican Committee members and she managed Vietch's campaign for supervisor.

If you want to be really impressed by her, check out this url*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*

Make me fabulous is an event managing organization and Kate Jarosh specializes in weddings. According to the site she can draw on her experience:
"Kate Jarosh knows well the stress of planning a wedding; she is a new bride herself! Along with planning her own big day, Kate has worked in the field of event planning for seven years, creating memorable events for heads-of-state, agriculture commissioners, independent business owners and sports enthusiasts. Her attention to every detail will make Kate and Make Me Fabulous your valuable partner through your wedding beauty experience!"

So those of us who have been involved in government know what this woman really did when she worked for the state. She was a gopher who made sure that the room was set up properly with coffee, danish, and that any video equipment was available, etc.

She obviously lost her job when Spitzer came in so she paid her dues working for Vietch in the campaign and the Republican machine rewarded her with this job.

This is as compared to the existing deputy, Lynn Bachner, who has a law degree, was highly respected throughout city hall, and thoroughly knew the job.

This does not speak very well for Ken Ivins.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s very easy to create misperception and distort the truth by looking at some of the facts and portraying them in the worse possible light. (kudos to the National Enquirer!!) Here are a few points to consider before you completely bash Kate Jarosh and criticize Ken Ivins for his decision to appoint her.

1. Lynn is Matt McCabe’s friend and yet he was quoted in the Saratogian regarding Ivins decision as saying, “It’s paramount that every commissioner appoints a deputy they are comfortable with. Every commissioner needs to bring their own deputy in, and that’s pretty much understood. They are political appointments”
2. Lynn was Matt’s campaign Treasurer. So you could argue his appointment of her was not without some bias to start with.
3. Do some homework at City Hall and you will find that Lynn is not highly respected. In fact, even her friends will tell you she’s hard to work with.
4. If you do that same homework, you will find that Christine Gillmett-Brown is the fulltime Finance Director at the City (highly respected) reporting to Jarosh which makes leadership skills and experience in the public Sector more important credentials. Kate has those skills.
5. Kate’s ability to run a positive election campaign and successfully unseat an incumbent is impressive and something to be proud of as well.
6. Kate has demonstrated through her community service that she is passionate about this City and is a good caring individual.
7. If you look at Kate’s entire resume, and not just pull bits and pieces, you will see that she is well qualified to do the job.

As Matt McCabe says, Ken needs to bring in someone he can trust. It needs to be someone he knows well and trusts implicitly. Working next to someone for 8 months you get to see their skills and see things that do not show up on a resume or in an interview. Ken had that opportunity with Kate. Let’s give him a chance and see what the next two years bring.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So "beinformed," in spite of the fact that this woman spent seven years as a gopher working for Pataki, on leaving there took up the challenging task of being a wedding planner(for which I am sure she actually is qualified) and has no real background either in law or in finance, the fact that she gets along with Ken Ivins is her real qualification. While getting along with your boss is important, having real credentials for the job is probably just as important. I did not make this stuff up. It is demonstrably true.

In the mean time, I will not argue anonymous sources as to whether Lynn Bachner is well liked or not, the fact is that she has a batchlors degree from University of Michigan and a law degree from University of Wisconsin. Matt was an independent and the decision to select her was not done on the fact that she was a member of the right party (not only is she on the Republcan committee but so is her husband).
Matt put out the usual pap about the right of a commissioner to choose his deputy. Did you really expect he was going to say that Ms. Janosh was utterly lacking in the qualifications for the job and should stick to wedding planning? Talk about playing with the truth, using McCabe's comments as an endorsement of this woman is a little bit on the far side.

A wedding planner to oversee the city's budgets? After she left the state (she relied upon her job based on her party and with the Republicans out...) she chose as her new career being a wedding planner. Puleeez.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that any stranger than a school teacher running the Police and Fire dept or how about a dog catcher running DPW. To the winner goes the spoils chief. Everything else is just sour grapes.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Anonymous, I am amused that we agree. Quite an effective defense for Ms. Jarosh agreeing that this is all about spoils and aceding to the fact that she has been chosen on the basis of her politics because she is wholey unqualified for the job.

In fact I am in agreement regarding your assessments of Eilleen Finneran and Skip Sciroco. They are both utterly unqualified and are appropriate match pieces for Ms. Jarosh.

I guess where we may differ is that in some cases the selections made in the past have been based upon competence. Dudla, the out going deputy for public safety had the credentials for his job. Bachner, the deputy for Finance, had the credentials for her job. Christine Gillmette who was the previous deputy was qualified for her job and in fact was a Republican originally selected by Ken Klotz who was a Democrat. Regretably, these kinds of appointments are the exception rather than the rule.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we should change the form of government, since we have all these unqualified Commissioners and Deputies?

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, a new form of government (strong mayor) would simply centralize the process of patronage. One hack would potentially get to appoint unqualified people rather than five. As long as people elect dufuses we are condemned to the real and present danger of incompetence.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without totally jumping on the bandwagon here, I agree that trout21 is not taking ALL of the facts into account before making up his mind.

Kate Jarosh worked as special assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Governor's Office. That's not a secretary job. It was not an 'event planning' job. It's not something you apply for and get by accident.

Number two, she was the Special Assistant for Communications to the New York State Commissioner of Agriculture. Could trout21 get that job?

She, too, has a bachelor's degree in Political Science and I believe she's working on her masters. And to be running your own business at her age is more than impressive. So before you make up your mind and post blanket bashings on a blog, know your facts.

(PS, V-E-I-T-C-H)

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this thread!

So, i_am_informed, I am going to make the extraordinary assumption that the fact that she bit the dust when the Pataki people were out that she was not civil service. Now what does that mean about how she got this job? Let's see, did she have to take an exam? I don't think so. Did she have to compete based on a set of carefully documented credentials to get on a list and then be selected from the top three as in most civil service type jobs... I guess not.
Is it possible that some god father got Jasper Nolan, the chair of the County Republican Party, to advocate to the governor's appointments secretary to get her the job... I guess it is.
If you have been around state government and you see the title for a political appointment "Special Assistant" what does it suggest to you about what the job entailed? Anything that the person she is special assistant to wants her to do and in the case of the "communications director" it might be... make sure there is coffee for a function he/she is putting on.

As for the job she held at the state not being a event planning type job, check out the web site "" which promotes her as a great wedding planner based on the fact that her job at the state was to organize events. Hey, i_am_informed, I cannot make this stuff up. I am not that good.

As for "running her own business at her age", anyone can set up a business, even small children. The real issue is whether the business was a successful business and apparently what ever business she attempted to run was was not strong enough to be the focus of her professional life since she took the deputy job although, according to the newspaper, she still hopes to organize weddings in her spare time while she organizes the city's $54,000,000.00 budget. Kind of a wonder woman, don't you think, i_am_informed?

3:18 PM  

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