Saratoga Springs 2007 Election Overview

Here is my overview of the 2007 election as of September. It is intended to give you a sense of the differing points of view on the candidates and the political issues facing the city.  Hopefully you should be able to link to the original story by clicking on the hyperlink. You should also check out the candidates' webpages at http://www.skidmore.edu/~bturner/NYpolitics.htm.  

 

 

Mayor Val Keehn vs. Energy Executive Gordon Boyd

The Democratic nominee for mayor will be decided in a primary on September 18.  The endorsement of Gordon Boyd by the city party was very controversial and featured a walk-out by Keehn supporters.  (make sure to check out the discussion of whether Val’s difficulties are because of her shortcoming, the commission form of government, or McTygue by various emailers at the bottom of the page.  See also the YouTube videos of McTygue taunting the mayor and shining the laser.).  As I mentioned in class, there is a fierce competition for party endorsements from minor parties including the Working Families party, the Independence Party and the Conservative Party. 

 

Mayor Keehn says she is the progressive candidate in the race, and that Gordon Boyd is “too conservative”, citing his willingness to accept the endorsement of the Conservative party.  Their tag phrase is “You can tell a lot about a candidate by the company they keep” and then citing the Conservative Party state platform. The progressive/liberal charge against Gordon Boyd is embodied by this UpstateBlue post which states that Gordon Boyd is part of a long-entrenched Saratoga good old boy network. Thilo Ullman in a letter to the Saratogian, wrote, "Saratoga Springs, like many small cities, is run by a cozy group of men, related to each other not by party affiliation, or even profession, but by business interests and opportunistic aspirations. They pay lip service to the principles and values they claim to represent, but sweep aside any existing restrictions or regulations if they maintain their short term desires, or challenge their power base. ...It would seem obvious that the city Democratic Party would stand by their incumbent elected officials. Not so. Mayor Keehn faces within her own party an entrenched old guard, that has put forward a candidate to challenge her in a primary."

 

 

The pro-Boyd contingent cites Keehn’s inability to lead.  (dis)Utopia of Saratoga Springs says,

“Mayor Keehn simply does not have what it takes to be a leader.......she can campaign and win on fuzzy, softie-feely issues......but she does not have the charisma, political-savvy or smarts to navigate complicated issues......and actually "lead" the City.”  I-Saratoga, an independent blog, is even more withering, “Not since the Erin Dreyer scandal played out two years ago has Saratoga witnessed such utter dysfunction in City Hall, largely as a result of Kamp Keehn’s political missteps and misgivings.”  There is also a blow by blow account of her missteps. 

 

 

Gordon Boyd, on the other hand, touts his multiple endorsements as evidence of his ability to be a unifier, not a divider. “I believe our city’s civic culture has, regrettably, gotten much more coarse and confrontational over the past two decades. There are many citizens who no longer vote, having been turned off because of unchecked negativity and nastiness. Our city needs to make a conscious effort to break with the politics of the past and move beyond the behavior that has made our City Council a circus sideshow.”  He is hoping to capitalize on voters’ dissatisfaction with the ongoing Keehn-McTygue feud by claiming his ability to be a peacemaker. 

 

Keehn contributed to her image problem in a recent speech to her supporters at a Dean supported group, in which she declared, “I will continue to endure the wrath of the wretched on behalf of your families and for your health.  And I have looked into the eyes of these people one too many times –and they are wretched.” 

 

The Democratic county chair, Larry Bulman, has asked both sides to tone down the rhetoric, but it seems unlikely.

 

The Difference between Keehn, Boyd, and Scott Johnson  (the GOP candidate)

The Times Union has attempted to identify the major differences between the 3 mayoral candidates by asking them to responding to various questions.

1.  What do you view as the three most important issues in the upcoming primary campaign? 

2.  ““Has Saratoga Springs changed for the better or worse in the last 20 years? How? Why?” in the Times-Union.  All 3 candidates touch upon whether the middle class is effectively being priced-out of Saratoga Springs.  Affordable housing is a semi-important issue as growth and increasing home prices price out many working class voters from Saratoga Springs. 

3.  the Water Issue -A lot has been said about the estimated $67 million Saratoga County water project. Do you support or oppose it? What do you view is the best backup water supply for the city?”  The difference between Rs and Ds on the water system is one of the major differences between the parties.  This is the consequence of increased growth and development in the region. 

 

The Big Issues in the Campaign- Development and Taxes.

 

The current City Council (5-0, all Ds) has put forth plans for building a new very large police station and a new fire station (Coach Bill Parcells thinks it a swell idea).  The plans are very expensive and have fostered all sorts of creative thinking from our elected officials including selling city hall and seizing the Saratogian’s office (see Who Says City Hall Isn’t for Sale). 

 

As (dis)Utopia of Saratoga Springs notes, “The City is planning on bonding $65 million over the next four years. Included are funds for a new police station, a new water supply and a new East Side EMS facility......in addition to funds already bonded for an East Side rec center. To put this in perspective: Last year, the city received an additional $3.8 million dollars and then raised your taxes. That's right, the City received a free influx of cash representing 10% of their budget.......and still found it necessary to raise taxes. City officials, and the Mayor in particular, claim to be concerned about the tax burden on residents. Now, they are embarking upon spending spree akin to MaryLou at Saks.”  The conservative view is that development= low taxes.

 

The Democratic sweep in the 2005 election was due in large part to voters concerns about the pace of development and rising taxes.  Many citizens can’t understand why if more money is coming in, why our taxes keep increasing, in effect pricing the middle class out of the city. 

 

There are also a number of competing accounts about why city taxes are high ranging from the salaries of city officials, particularly fire and police officials, to the city’s inability to collect property taxes on the huge homes that are being built, such as the new Breyo home which is bigger than a Wal-Mart and the White House. 

 

There also differing views on development from the local Green Party and their critique of Saratoga Springs development plan as well as a progressive argument for more urban density and expensive downtown condos, most notably by  Saratoga’s own Jim Kunstler, a national critic of poor design and planning in downtown development, in his evaluation of Mayor Keehn and her views on development.  He also has a scathing assessment of the new Skidmore dorms (a train wreck).  Some believe there is too close a link between the city and county Republican party and developers (see Exposing the Saratoga County GOP Machine.

 

The McTygue Factor

Controversy continues to swirl around the long time Commissioner of Public Works, Thomas McTygue, ranging from the “need to keep track of city cash  (Saratogian -- People dumping trash at the transfer station on Weibel Avenue brought in $148,450 to the city last year), his long-time deputy Pat Design resigning and then promising to work for the GOP candidate, his threats to seize the local newspaper building using eminent domain, his personal feuds with developers and his behavior in City Council meetings including taunting the mayor and shining the laser (click to see youtube videos).

 

 As I mentioned in class, city voters soundly rejected plans for scrapping our commission form of government for a strong mayor form.  However, some reformers are still advocating for changing the city charter. Reformers tend to really dislike McTygue, and ending the commission form of government would remove all his power. 

 

Campaign Strategy

Candidates differ in their campaign strategy.  Commissioner of Accounts, John Franc, has perhaps the most personalized strategy of mailing every registered voter a personal card on their birthday.  Sounds silly, but then again he is the only unopposed candidate this election cycle.