Under the circumstances, it was a courageous thing to do.
On Tuesday, three Saratoga County supervisors voted against a resolution putting the county on record as calling for repeal of the NY SAFE Act, the state’s tough new gun control law.
Patti Southworth of Ballston, Joanne Yepsen of Saratoga Springs and Tom Richardson of Mechanicville — an Independent and two Democrats, respectively — said “no,” even though the board had been listening for an hour to emotionally wrought pro-gun statements from a good-sized crowd.
The resolution didn’t go through the weekslong deliberation process normally used by the Board of Supervisors, which is highly unusual.
Aside from the merits of the complex gun control law pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Southworth and Yepsen made the point that the county board was acting in a rushed manner — exactly what they accused Cuomo and the state Legislature of doing in response to the Sandy Hook school massacre.
“We should have done this through our regular process, if we’re going to complain that the governor didn’t,” Southworth said.
Indeed, just the day before — on Monday — board Chairman Alan Grattidge, R-Charlton, said Saratoga would join dozens of county legislatures across rural parts of state that want the SAFE Act reversed.
But at that point, Grattidge said no formal action would be taken until March, so that an anti-SAFE Act resolution could go through the normal committee-based review and discussion process.
But by Tuesday afternoon, Grattidge had changed course and decided to bring a last-minute resolution to this month’s meeting, rather than face a peppering of criticism from gun advocates.
Grattidge announced that to the crowd. But he and other supervisors caught earful after earful for the next hour, with speakers behaving pretty much as though they hadn’t heard Grattidge.
The way the resolution was pushed through didn’t give gun control advocates a chance to be heard, said Saratogians for Gun Safety, the group formed in January to try to stop future gun shows at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
“It seems to me that limiting public comment to those who notify the board 24 hours in advance, and then turning around and adding a controversial vote to the agenda at the last minute, violates the spirit of the Open Meetings Law, undermining the right to open governance which those laws were designed to insure,” said Molly Corbett, a member of the group.
But whether it happened Tuesday or not until the next meeting on March 19, there was never any doubt the Republican majority was going to come down on the side of those who think owning a semi-automatic rifle is a God-given and inalienable right. It may play well politically with their constituents, but they’re well aware there is no chance of the law being repealed, given that Cuomo and Assembly Democrats support it.
The Saratoga County clerk’s office has now been vacant for two months, and its top deputy clerks have left to go to work for their old boss, now-state Sen. Kathy Marchione.
Loanne Sanders left county employment after the November election and now works for Marchione in Albany, and Kate Jeanson then left a couple of weeks ago to join Marchione’s staff. The current deputy county clerk — for practical purposes, the acting county clerk — is Charles Foehser, who has been the records management coordinator.
Cuomo has yet to name a temporary replacement to serve through the November election.
Southworth has said she will run in November as the Independence Party candidate, and businessman and Town Board member Craig Hayner of Halfmoon appears to be in line for the Republican party’s nomination.
County Democratic Chairman Todd Kerner said the Democratic Committee will hold a nominating meeting in April, and that’s when word of any Democratic candidates would emerge.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 885-6705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.