In one of the most unconsciously revealing statements I've ever read from a politician, Mayor Yepsen stated her true priorities in her May 14 press release:
“As Mayor, my utmost priority remains the horse racing industry . . . and I continue to take great pride in having an excellent working relationship with Saratoga Casino and Raceway.” She repeated that exact phrasing in the Council meeting on May 20th.
Her “utmost priority” is the racing industry? Really? That's incredible, and alarming. Her “utmost priority” should always be the health, safety, and well being of the citizens of Saratoga Springs! And she should be responsive primarily to the overwhelming majority who opposed casino expansions, not a particular industry.
Her statement was in response to a letter from the NYS Gaming Commission claiming lead status in the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process about the proposed Racino expansion, and noting the City's status would be "interested" (demoted from “involved,” by Racino maneuvering), reducing the City's say in the process.
Mayor Yepsen has not publicly released the consent form that came with that letter that asks us to agree or disagree, and why. The Mayor said one attorney told her that we couldn't win a lawsuit to gain control over the process or lead agency status. There are good arguments why we should have both, but she's not making them.
Even worse, she and the Planning Board (which is part of the Mayor's Department) have refused to discuss a legal opinion by Young/Sommer, a law firm specializing in land use issues, that states that the City and Planning and Zoning Boards can have jurisdiction over the Racino expansion - and therefore can not only have lead status in the SEQR process, but can approve or deny the Racino plans if they are not consistent with our zoning or comprehensive plan. The Mayor and Planning Board have abdicated our right to control what is built in our city.
She said she has an “excellent working relationship” with the Racino, a corporation that is working with the Gaming Commission to “cram down” our throats an expansion that we don't want; one that would hurt our Downtown, City Center, and SPAC? (That's what this type of State imposition is nicknamed -- a “cram down!”)
Considering that the March 4th City Council Resolution objected to the Racino expansion, and stated that the City should have the right to control any construction within its borders, the Mayor's position and statements are contrary to that Resolution.
Maybe the over $10,000 in political contributions she's received from casino and racing interests has affected her priorities. But it doesn't matter why she puts the racing industry as her “utmost priority,” and that she's helping a gambling corporation prey on the City she's supposed to protect and serve. It's just wrong. Her priorities are seriously out of whack.
The Mayor is not fighting for us. So we have to pressure her, and the Council to fight for our right to control our City.
Robert W. Davis