Continuing on the current course or making slight changes to it were the two paths offered to Saratoga Springs residents by mayoral hopefuls Wednesday night in a candidate forum hosted by the Downtown Business Association.
Republican Shauna Sutton, the current deputy mayor, and Democrat Joanne Yepsen, one of the city’s two representatives on the county Board of Supervisors, didn’t disagree on many issues but instead focused on their stylistic differences and contrasting backgrounds.
Sutton promised to keep the city’s current momentum going and said she was the right candidate to push the city along because of her six years in the mayor’s office and her work as a travel agent, communications specialist and cemetery administrator.
Yepsen argued that the city could use some tweaking and that her background, which includes eight years on the Board of Supervisors, work for the Schenectady DBA, fundraising for Skidmore College and running her own small business, taught her to build coalitions and raise money, which qualifies her to be mayor.
As mayor, Yepsen said she could improve the city with appointments to local boards and organizations, by promoting the city around the state and by developing a comprehensive plan for downtown. In response to this vision, Sutton said, “I think [Yepsen] doesn’t have any idea of how our government works” and argued her opponent would have a steep learning curve that she wouldn’t have.
Neither candidate would commit to constructing a third fire station on the East Side of the city, but Yepsen offered an endorsement of a new emergency medical facility there. Sutton, who is opposed to constructing a third fire station, said more information is needed before the city can take proactive steps to ensure the safety of residents.
The impending expansion of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway — either into a full-blown casino if state voters approve casinos or with a $30 million addition of a hotel, restaurant and convention center — was viewed by the candidates as a potential threat to local businesses and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Both candidates said the city, the racino and impacted parties should come together to plan a future that is beneficial for all involved. One idea proposed by Yepsen was “dark days” at the racino during the summer, when it wouldn’t offer entertainment options that would compete with SPAC.
If casino gambling is approved in the state and the racino doesn’t become one of the sites where it is offered, Sutton was skeptical that the announced expansion plans would be acted upon.
Both candidates expressed a desire for more public parking in the future and were opposed to giving up any existing parking spots, like the Collamer parking lot, the city’s last public lot on Broadway, until alternate parking is created, such as the proposed City Center parking garage.
They both pledged to make it easier for residents and visitors to understand where public parking is available, which would include an overhaul of the signs downtown.
Regarding proposals to close the city’s bars before 4 a.m., Sutton said it was a settled issue because the county government was emphatically opposed to making it happen but Yepsen said she would always consider anything that would make the city safer and noted that the current schedule creates a lot of overtime costs for the police department.
Both candidates highlighted their racing industry bona fides, with Yepsen talking about the state legislators she brought to the area to talk about NYRA and Sutton rolling out a collection of petition signatures she collected in 2007 supporting NYRA’s control of Saratoga Race Course.