Saratoga Springs

Communication on Saratoga City Council lacking

Commissioners look forward to 2 new additions
Saratoga Springs residents vote at the City Center on Election Day earlier this month.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Saratoga Springs residents vote at the City Center on Election Day earlier this month.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — As the City Council prepares to welcome two new faces in January, current members are hopeful that communication will improve.

Communication has been lacking on the council for years, with some meetings devolving into shouting matches.

The most recent example is a Nov. 13 special City Council meeting called by Commissioner of Accounts John Franck to discuss hiring an attorney to observe the absentee ballot count at the Saratoga County Board of Elections. The ballot count was tense, as the question over whether to change the city’s form of government came down to just a few dozen votes.

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Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen and Mayor Joanne Yepsen did not attend the Nov. 13 meeting, and Yepsen initially said the commissioners decided not to include her or Mathiesen in the scheduling process. On Nov. 17, Yepsen told The Daily Gazette that she did, in fact, know about the Nov. 13 meeting.

Democrat Meg Kelly replaces Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Democrat Peter Martin takes over for Mathiesen in January.

Franck, the longest-serving council member — he has been the commissioner of accounts since 2006 — said he’s hopeful Kelly will keep the lines of communication open.

“Mayors who are the most successful in the city are the ones who work with the two people to the right of them and the two people to the left of them,” he said. “It also has to be about consensus among the board, rather than who can get the most items passed.”

Franck added that there is friction between Yepsen and Mathiesen and him.

“I think [Kelly and Martin] will work with each other and the rest of the City Council members, which we haven’t had for the last four years,” he said. “Going forward, I don’t think there will be the intensity we’ve had.”

Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, like Franck, is also optimistic about Kelly and Martin joining the council.

“I know them both well, and I look forward to working with them,” he said. “The City Council has always been behind me because they realize the importance of infrastructure projects, so I’m hoping that, going into 2018, these two new members will have the same mindset, and I think they will.”

Scirocco added that he and the other commissioners have already begun meeting with Kelly to talk about issues that pertain to their departments.

“It’s nice for us to know where they’re coming from and for them to know where we’re coming from,” he said. “It opens up the lines of communication and lets us know what to expect.”

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said she’s anticipating new energy joining the board in January.

“I’m feeling excited about it, particularly with the new mayor, because she’s got great ideas,” Madigan said. “I’m feeling very hopeful.”

Madigan added that, while she is in favor of adding a parking garage to the city to solve parking issues, and Kelly is not, she is open to hearing Kelly’s solutions.

“I do believe that the solution to the parking problem is a parking structure, but I want to be supportive of her and see what she might come up with,” Madigan said. “We all need to be conscious of each other’s domains but work together to make each other successful in those domains.”

Madigan added, “We’re not always going to agree, but we’re a board, and our priorities need to be to each other.”

Kelly, who now serves as deputy mayor, agreed that communication is important for those in City Hall.

“Working together is critical in this form of government, and it’s critical that we communicate with each other,” she said. “I’ll be meeting with the commissioners often individually to keep communication open.”

Come January, Kelly said she hopes the council can move forward as a cohesive unit.

“My agenda isn’t for Meg Kelly; it’s for the city of Saratoga Springs, and I feel the other commissioners have that same agenda,” she said. “I want us all to move together in the same direction, and it’s all about communication and respect.”

Martin, who is a former Saratoga County clerk and current Saratoga County supervisor representing Saratoga Springs, said he’s worked on several projects with the commissioners.

“It’s not as if I’m coming into a situation that I’m not aware of, but I do have a lot to learn,” he said. “I want to have a really good system of communication with all of the commissioners.”

Martin added that he’s eager to join the council.

“We have some smart and active people on the City Council who have brought really good initiatives to the city, and I’m looking forward to helping them with their initiatives,” he said. “Meg knows how to get things done and turn problems into solutions, so I’m looking forward to making some really good changes for Saratoga Springs.”

Martin added, “We’re an old city with new and growing population with new challenges, and I’m anxious to get at it.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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