Monday, July 13, 2009

What would ya’ do here?

Let’s set the scene: It’s budget time, and the Saratoga Springs’ City Council finally realizes they must layoff a number of employees to prevent a triple-digit budget increase. In their infinite wisdom, the commissioners decide to pay a pair of efficiency experts $50,000 to figure out a way to make the city workforce more lithe and lean.

And somehow, they end up with the Bobs.

The Bobs go to work immediately, scheduling an interview with all the city’s employees. Unlike the commissioners, they realize the teaming number of redundancies filling City Hall and nearly all of its offices. When we join the action, the Bobs are sitting down with Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Eileen Finneran, who has just finished a foot-long grinder and is polishing off the last swallow of a 40 oz. double mocha Coolatta.

Bob Slydell: So what you do is you take direction from the commissioner and implement policies through you department?

Eileen: That, that's right.

Bob Porter: Well, then I gotta ask, then why can't the commissioner just take his orders directly to the department heads, huh?

Eileen: Well, uh, uh, uh, because, uh, the commissioner is not good at dealing with the department heads.

Bob Slydell: You physically take the orders from the commissioner?

Eileen: Well, no, my, my secretary does that, or, or the fax.

Bob Slydell: Ah.

Bob Porter: Then you must physically bring them to the departments.

Eileen: Yeah, I mean, sometimes.

Bob Slydell: Well, what would ya’ say… you do here?

Eileen: Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the goddamn commissioner so the departments don't have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with people!!! Can't you understand that?!? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?

Finneran, who is basically the modern-day version of Erin Dreyer, really doesn’t do anything in City Hall; or at least no official capacity that her staff couldn’t or doesn’t handle in her absence. Her position by its very nature is the ultimate in redundancy, seeing as though both of the departments she presides over have very well-paid chiefs, who should theoretically be more than capable of running their respective departments.

So what exactly does Finneran do with her 40 hours at city hall? Well, that’s the $66,000 question. Last week, the Saratogian reported a list of duties that fell to Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim’s “executive assistant,” who was the only person laid off by the council after all the bluster about cutting nearly two dozen Public Safety jobs.

The executive assistant answered phones for Kim’s office, screened and directed calls, scheduled interdepartmental meetings and compiled the agenda items prior to council meetings. These tasks now fall to other public safety workers, such as the senior account clerk or the code administrative assistant and accounts payable clerk, according to the report; “everything else” will fall to Finneran.

Now for some background: Finneran is perhaps the least-qualified employee to grace the public safety office. She replaced Frank Dudla, a retired state corrections officer who served nearly three years in the department. Finneran’s only connection to public safety was that she served two years on the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is casually related to code enforcement.

Her first brush with public safety came when Kim tried to hire her as a second deputy after first taking office in 2006. Kim realized he couldn’t dispatch Dudla, who was a popular choice for deputy, so he decided the city could use a second. He argued the move was to improve code enforcement efforts and carry out his legislative agenda. Naturally, the city council told him to screw off, and Finneran eventually landed a gig as deputy mayor; a position she was equally unqualified for.

Finneran highlighted her abject incompetence in 2007, when she led a futile push to get Mayor Valerie Keehn re-elected. Just a week before the election, she lambasted Independence Party candidate Gordon Boyd, who rightly predicted the state VLT funding would one day expire. In castigating Boyd in an op-ed piece published in the Saratogian, she noted that “the city’s financial condition is anything but dire.

The Amazing Kreskin she ain’t.

There was a gleaming hope that the 2007 election would sweep Finneran out of city hall once and for all. But instead, she found a way to burrow into the public safety department as Kim’s deputy. In making the appointment, Kim said Finneran would “focus on broader issues of legislation” and other Democratic-oriented subjects.

Translation: She’s a political operative who spends her time ensuring her clique of Democrats maintains its stranglehold on the party. Case in point: The 2008 coup she helped orchestrate with the so-called Democrats for Change. During a weekday last July, Finneran spent her morning milling about at the county Board of Elections in Ballston Spa; an area that may or may not have public safety issues, but none that involved the city of Saratoga Springs. Still, Finneran saw it fit to spend a good portion of her tax-funded shift at the board jotting down the order of candidates for the city’s Democratic Committee.

Finneran, a charter-change proponent, has also taken a shine to attending meetings about changing the city’s form of government, albeit during off-work hours. This isn’t to say she wouldn’t show up at such a meeting if one was scheduled during her shift. There was plenty of speculation the mayor’s office was leading the charge for the failed charter revision push in 2006; Finneran, of course, was the deputy of that office and was never shy about her drive to change the city’s form of government.

So the city dismissed an executive assistant so that they didn’t need to dismiss a political hack that spends her time exacting a partisan agenda instead of ensuring her department’s bloated budgets aren’t growing at an out-of-control pace. Is it any wonder why police overtime reached record levels last year and is on pace to do the same this year?

Voters should take all this to heart as the political season revs up this fall. There’s a very good chance Finneran will return as the city’s deputy mayor if Kim is successful in his campaign against incumbent Republican Scott Johnson. And if he’s not, she’ll have at least one other option in city hall.

Kevin Connolly, a programmer and auditor for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, is likely a front runner in the public safety commisioner’s race, seeing as though he’s running against Republican Richard Wirth, who Kim beat like a gong during the 2007 election. For those who are unfamiliar with Connolly, he was one the Keehn Administration’s appointees to the charter revision committee; he was also a foot soldier in her failed re-election bid. And he’s a card-carrying member of the so-called Democrats for Change. Care to give a guess who he’ll appoint as his deputy if Kim is unsucessful in his bid for Mayor?

Ideally, the city council will look at the public safety deputy’s seat the next time they’re considering employee cuts, which are virtually inevitable next fall. This year, city officials offered a stop-gap solution to raising taxes by raiding the fund balance. They won’t have this luxury by the fall, when they’ll need to find away to replace or cut $3.5 million from the 2010 budget. So it’s about time to start listening to the Bobs. Let’s start by cutting the one position that does nothing. The city council did it in 2005, and they could do it again today. Finneran’s salary won’t solve the budget woes, but it’s a goddamn good start.


Blogger A small "r" republican for fairness said...

Verily, truer words were never spoken.....

I'd say that 'her position' needs to be put out to pasture, but given her reputation for equanimity, diplomacy, and social grace (Note to the sarcastically impaired: I'm being sardonic....) SHE needs to be given the toe. As far as budget savings go though...every little bit helps!

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't someone ask to see the records over the last four years for the 'code enforcement' that the PS department has laid claim to as the basis of their responsibility and the reason for the deputy’s ‘perfect fit’? How many required building inspections were scheduled and how many ‘3–strikes-yer-outta-here’ truck inspections have we had over the last four ‘get tough’ years? Were fines issued? How many cell phone while driving violations or no seat belt or illegal truck traffic through the City violations were issued? If this $250,0000 investment was hired to help the City with ‘code enforcement’, then how effective has it been?

The problem isn’t the Charter; it’s with the commissioner who hid behind his inept ability to carry out his promises while giving his department employees anything they asked for – ironically, the very reasons he once stood shoulder to shoulder with ‘his mayor’ calling for change. The lowly administrative assistant should vent her anger and disappointment at her commissioner who threw her token butt out the window instead of trimming the fat from the inefficient use of and poorly managed bloated employment ranks of that department – all the while playing politics with public safety instead of truly building for the sound economic future of the City which he was initially entrusted with by the voters.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous mamie said...

Finneran should go but not without company. Sutton and Jarosh are worse. Get rid of them and that's a good start. Package McTygue,Bradley Birge,Paul Male,Lew Benton and that idiot Anna in the water department. Along with Mayor Johnson's sister in law answering the phones for 70 thousand a year would do plenty to ease the burden. Getting rid of all these mentioned doesn't hurt everyday operation at all.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very personal and cowardly of some one hiding behind the "Horatio Alger". Why not address the other four deputies? Or put your real name on this?


7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ho, in case folks read your blog, I implore them to make sure that there are no democrats elected to any position in city, county, state or national office in the next election. It's a matter of survival.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


First of all, allow me to warn you: I've never been good with hypocrites, so pardon me if I become a little fresh. There's something about them that gets my dander up. Why don't you put a name to your comments... or should I? Don't worry, I won't, because I respect your right to speak your mind. But I will say I've grown tired with this stale argument, and I'm sure you can find plenty of places where I've opined on it at length. I offer solutions and criticism to what ails this city. If you can't take it, read the society page.

Next, there's nothing personal here about Finneran. This is politics, and if she can't take a hit, then she should go back to teaching...or her space under the anonymous wing of the state Assembly, where those in the political fray don't seem too concern with the minute machinations of the individual. She is a politician, and as much, I will rail out against her until her political dickering is done in City Hall.

As for criticizing her contemporaries, I have spoken against them. Please read more often and more carefully. You will notice I suggested abolishing all the deputy positions, as they're all political hacks. Some, such as 'mamie' above, have argued the deputies and the directors should be cut. I'm not agreeing with this statement, but I don't think she (or he) is too off base.


And vote for who? The Republicans? Com'mon. These are two heads of the same beast. I'm not an advocate of the political ping-pong that has wrought destruction on this fine democracy our forefathers left us. And I'm certainly not going to speak in favor of one party over the other. Ever. They have their arguing points, as do the smaller third parties, but they fail -each of them -every time they step up to the plate. And until there's a wholesale change in the attitude of the public, we'll continue to find ourselves in a mire with these ineffectual politicians, who rape the system, steal our money and treat us like inferiors while they gallivant around like bloated Hollywood movie stars.

Sigh. I need a drink.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Claire Voyant said...

Yeah! As if George Bush,Joe Bruno,Jim Tedisco,Scott Johnson or Ken Ivins haven't screwed up things beyond repair.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

FYI to all posters: I realize we in the blogosphere are all immensely curious about the fate of (dis)utopia, which was unceremoniously transformed into to a twitter dumping ground, and then dropped altogether several weeks later. Some have speculated on the cause of this demise and linked it to the identity of the blog's author(s). In my relatively abbreviated correspondence with various stakeholders, these rumors have been neither confirmed or denied. Inasmuch, I will not be publishing any posts containing such speculation for the time being, as it would breach my overarching policy to protect the anonymity of my readers and posters alike. If someone has a compelling reason reason to change this policy, please feel free to contact me via iSaragoa's bustling mail server. I'll certainly reconsider, but don't get your hopes up.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


If you really want to get down to brass tacks, it's the American public that really screwed things up by continually voting sub-par politicians into office; we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Furthermore, nothing is ever screwed up beyond repair. But the complacency of the voting citizenry has created a system that has basically destroyed our representative democracy. Or at least I hope that's the case. My other theory is that our representative democracy is alive and well, and we as an American society are simply royal assholes with a propensity for shooting ourselves and each other in the foot.

Also, I wanted to touch on some of the names you've tossed out there. First, there's Bruno, who is about as crooked as they come. But he brought home the pork to this region for many years. Have you notice that the all-you-can-eat buffet has suddenly been wheeled away? Now, don't take this as a thumbs up for Bruno. It's simply a fact.

Onto Disco Jim. How has he screwed anything up? He hasn't done anything! Again, not to advocate for the chap, but it's hard to call out all his bluster as a minority leader when his entire time in office has been spent lobbing spitballs at the Democratic majority.

And on our fearless city leaders...I don't think either has done much of anything to speak of in office. Although I will say they both showed a lack of courage when they raided the fund balance instead of demanding budget --and consequently job --cuts to stave off a double-digit tax increase. I'd like to think it was because they didn't want to put people out of work, but I have a feeling it's more a result of being in an election year.

Now my main criticism of Johnson is that he foolishly continued a mistake propagated under the previous administration. He should have abandoned the rec center project during his first day in office; lost tax dollars and all. But again, I can't be too overly critical of the decision he made, because he's going to get banged politically either way. He ditches the bond, and the Dems would call him a wastrel. He builds the rec center, they argue the same thing.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...


It seems like the choices in the voting booth for many of the past elections we are forced to choose the lesser of the evils. Sometimes it's clearcut, but too many times the dark side doesn't show up until after the oath of office is taken.

In Saratoga for example, all the candidates toss out the same buzz words. Words like truck traffic, affordable housing, recreation, VLT funds, parking and taxes. What is never heard about is managing costs.

Unfortunately if a candidate did talk about manageing costs, they probably wouldn't get elected. Maybe tar and feathered and run out of town.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

"We have met the enemy and they is us." Even if the last two generations have NO IDEA who POGO was, it's a truism that Host Horatio has Hit on the Head.

Our Democracy only works if we participate. And that means, at a minimum, you've gotta' VOTE as if your LIFE depended on it.

And for extra credit, I'd say the honored dead, the roll-call of veterans in so many plots of hallowed ground... I believe they would like to hear more Public Comment at City Hall from "We the living."

This blog is a veritable library of of expertise and outrage and visionary solutions... ALL of it not worth SPIT if NOT DELIVERED to the Politicians and the People in the Public Forum of City Council meetings. Or the many Public Hearings.

Case in point-
The Glorious Victory for the Union.
They showed up in force, they made more noise than a Tweet, and they put on one Helluva' clinic on heavy-handed intimidation.

Arguing against them were We, the Foolish Five. Since speaking out, no terrible things have happened to me. No ticketing blitz, no DPW dumptruck squashing me like a cockroach.

WHERE were all the articulate voices using this space to DEMAND reasonable Union concessions?

WHERE were the myriad Matt McCabe wannabees, the budget-savvy Sirens wailing that NOW is NOT the time to RAID the SURPLUS? Hell, there's NEVER a time for such foolishness.

Free Speech did not come free.
We get the Government we deserve.
And BOY, are we gonna' get it.

-Kyle York

10:28 AM  
Anonymous 1 + 1 = 2 said...

Today's Times Union...

"A state janitor and his boss built a secret “man cave” at a downtown garage near the Empire State Plaza that they used to sell drugs, smoke pot and sleep during work hours, according to the state Inspector General."

I don't have many regrets now that I'm getting on in years. However, I only wish I had gotten me one of those government jobs when I was first started out.

The private sector sucks.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

This is an outside question, but who pays for the Chamber of Commerce? I have lived in a few "tourist" towns but Saratoga is the first one I have lived in that has so much to offer, but does not advertise itself.
As the original Spa City, why doesn't the Chamber of Commerce advertise anything other than the 6 weeks of track season? Almost every event that is held during the year is directed by the DBA (which is a topic all on its own) so just what does this Chamber do?
I think this town is living in the past. They need to step up and get with the program. I don't even see that the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce OR the DBA does any viral marketing - which is virtually free advertising!
Now I am a woman in my 40s and even I know about viral marketing. Hotels use it and have seen huge results. Are you telling me that these asses from the Chamber don't have one person there that can think outside of the Chamber breakfast or every social mixer they put together. (p.s. a chamber mixer is a lot like marrying your brother. you are marketing to each other... )
The city needs revenue. Our biggest opportunity for revenue is the city itself. Market it as a year long area for spa packages, tours, shopping events, etc. Get inventive. Or you can just sit around and drink together and talk about how bad things are.

7:16 AM  
Blogger A small "r" republican for fairness said...

Hey Laura:

The depth of your ignorance regarding the Chamber, it's mission, and financing parameters is disturbing. Why don't you, in your infinite wisdom and all, pick up the phone and ask them..584-3255. Or is it just easier to call their staff "asses"?

Contrary to your opinion, they are excellent at sharing information, and their financial "books", which are open to the public are very easily accessed.

FYI-the mixers and the breakfasts are a very small part of the overall efforts of the Chamber. You don't get to be one of the biggest Chambers in the state by having such a narrow focus.

And if you don't think that we all advertise as a community, then you, dear girl, are on copious amounts of crack. How we do this can be asked of the Chamber, the Convention Bureau, or a host of other organizations that are promoting Saratoga 24/7/365.

After serving with these organizations, and the DBA, which you have also maligned in your post, I can personally attest to their efforts at marketing Saratoga as a year round destination-it is FAR from, as you say, a six week effort.

BTW-if you are so passionate about 'viral marketing' and how it can benefit our community, then why don't you volunteer your time and ideas and serve on their boards, or committees so that you can be heard?

You should also be advised that the Chamber leadership, as well as many, many member businesses are actually thankful that we haven't been as severely impacted by the recession as other destinations. We are not "sitting around drinking and talking about how bad things are."

Well, maybe we are sitting around drinking....

If you post a reply, please try to be a little more mature about it huh?

Small 'r'

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Small "r" for rant, rave and rabid-

While you offer a wealth of rah-rah support for our cornucopia of Community Outreach, as a "Welcome Wagon Ambassador" you're a few fleas short of the Bubonic plague. You need to lighten up on Laura.

Make no mistake, Dave Zunker's Convention Crew are absolutely Top-Flight pros, none finer in all the world. Our DBA is the textbook example of how civic cooperation beats savage competition... the rising tide that lifts all boats. And Laura won't find a better Chamber anywhere on earth.

But there's one target that Laura has struck dead center like a deer in the headlights. Our leaders continue to cripple our future by living Victorian lives in their Mall-Fearing All-Consuming Past.

The Communal Crusade against Paid Parking was born in the dark days when the survival of Spa City was seriously in doubt. Those days are gone and now Spa City is seriously in debt.

Even our political leadership eschews outside expertise, no desire to even consider a case study... not while our merchants march in their monotonous lock-step.

Small "r", you've enjoyed your reserved parking spot for far too long. It's likely that Laura is new in town and she texted her nasty note while waiting at a traffic light at the start of her third hour of searching for a parking space.

Don't get too riled about Laura's lack of maturity, small "r". Goodness knows your longevity in this town is at a point where you should pass the torch of leadership to someone who didn't have to start their car with a handcrank.

-Kyle York
Parking. Prohibited.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey 1+1=2
maybe the inspector general ought to be more concerned with 62 senators stealing 4 million dollars of taxpayer money by sitting on the sidelines for a month. Or maybe you share their attributes.

7:12 AM  
Blogger A small "r" republican for fairness said...


Fine rebuttal, but for the record, you are older than me by a fair amount mister..... I just started early when it came to trying to serve in this here town.

And I remember eschewing her tone in my salad eatin' days.....

I hope she does assume a leadership position within' the city. Perhaps then she'll realize that things aren't as easy as they seem to the lay citizen. It's very easy to throw pefect spirals into the end zone from the barcolounger...

Small 'r'

And as far as parking is concerned, I honestly believe the issue is overblown. Anyone who is willing to walk a block or two will ALWAYS find parking in this town. I know it. As a downtowner for over twenty years, this has NEVER been an issue. Now, if you are talking about paid parking for plum spots as a luxury for those willing to pay the price and in so doing, help to alleviate our current debt crisis, then that is a different zebra altogether.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Small "r" @ 1:24 PM-

I respect your youth,
where foolishness is respected as a Rite of Passage.

If Parking is "NEVER" an issue,
you've never read the many "Letters to the Editor" or "Blog Comments" from neighbors-too-numerous to cut-and-paste. Don't make me reach for this Command-P!!!

And alas, in this dysfunctional zoo of "Different Zebras"--

The black & white world of yours is where Truth ends, and Tails begin.

-Mister Kyle York
Lowly Lay Citizen

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Dear Small 'r' -
Sorry it has taken so long for me to reply, but I have been traveling. Thank you for calling me immature. It makes me feel like a girl again.

For starters let me say that I did call the Chamber to offer not only my years of experience, but also to volunteer a class on proven viral marketing skills for whomever handles your marketing. I was transferred around, left messages, and told that you "had no openings at this time" after explaining several times that I was not looking for a job - just getting ready to retire from one. I was also told by one person to "enjoy my time here in Saratoga instead of working so much". That is when I came up with the description of "asses".

FYI - I have worked for over 20 years for a major marketing firm in NYC - I am originally from Saratoga and have watched it grow over the years. My husband's family has a small business here. My husband and I are taking a second home here and I plan to spend the majority of my time in Saratoga, so I thought I could be of assistance. But you and the staff at the Chamber have certainly put me in my place. Thank goodness I have all those awards for marketing to remind me of my worth.

I also have traveled extensively, worked with some of the world's most renowned spas and resorts - none of which had any more to offer than Saratoga could! Just ambition and the desire to grow.

Also, I mentioned the DBA but did not put them down. Don't forget that the DBA grew from a grass roots group that felt more could and should be done to market this great, unique, town.

And I DID NOT mention the Convention Center because I have met Mr. Zunker and he is one smart cookie.

Again - thank you for all your comments. But you didn't address my questions. I will try to check in more often but until our residence is ready, I am at the mercy of free wi-fi connections in town. STEALING if you will - because I am that immature...

9:27 AM  
Anonymous 1 + 1 = 2 said...

Small r,
How does it feel to have this knowledgeable lady give you a public spanking with her keyboard?

We are patiently awaiting your response

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kyle york, what is so different about your relentless attacks on the city council acting like the world is going to come to an end if the hard working men and women of this city get what they deserve. did this city need a 250,000 dollar front step at city hall, did the city employees beg mctyge to cause an environmental mess that cost over 200,000 dollars, are the city employees the reason why the city pays over 180,000 a year in bond payments, did the city employees ask the city council to opt out of the county sales tax, did the city employees beg the mayor to build an indoor rec center when he knew we could not afford it, did the city employees ask ivins to totaly disregard the reccomendations of the auditors who told him not to rely on state aid during tough financial times, did the city employees ask the city council to pass a 0% tax increase for at least two years in a row when they knew other sources of revenue were going to decrease, did the city employees ask ivins to project an increase in sales tax revenue durring a recesion, did the city employees ask the state not to pay there property tax,did the city employees ask the commisioner of finance to just throw the money away that they didn't have to pay into the retirement fund for the last 15 years, did the city empoyees do everything they could to avoid raising revenue through paid parking and increased hotel surcharges, and spac surcharges, did the city employees cause the city to have to pay over 100,000 dollars to national grid, its amazing how in your mind the only problem is the many hard working men and women who show everyday the true pride that they have in our city. men and women who risk their lives,sacrifice their time,and work tirelessly in a city that most cant even afford to live in but do anyway, because they know something that you dont seem to grasp, THE SKY IS NOT FALLING, ARMEGEDON IS NOT ON THE HORIZON, PEOPLE ARE NOT NOT ALL GREEDY ANGRY CARELESS LAZY LEECHES. I would love to see just one time you at a city council meeting with out the soap opera theatrics and sarcastic remarks about how everyone but you does everthing wrong. how about becoming part of the sollution instead of part of the fear mongering problem.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:47 PM

We all know the city has SOME decent hard working competent employees. The problem starts when you suggest that ALL city employees are of the same caliber.
And this is is where the horror story really begins because there is no way to get rid of the bad or mediocre leeches, as you call them.

Of course, there is also the pure problem of simple economics. Why should city taxpayers have to pay more when it is clearly understood that the private sector could preform the same services much cheaper.

Drive by any government work site and the inefficiency is more than obvious. There are generally 10 to 12 people doing nothing. You won't see that in the private sector.

Cops and firemen are always rubbing their bravery and sacrifice in the public's noses. But when an event like Columbine arises all of those high paid servants stood by for hours while innocent kids were slaughtered. Or how about Katrina? Half the police force abandon their post.

8:40 AM  
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