Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Tuesday, 04 July 2023 09:21

Another Flawed and Pointless Resolution Comes Before the City Council

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
Another Flawed and Pointless Resolution Comes Before the City Council

For months, the Saratoga Springs City Council has been trying to pass a resolution that would implement item 41 from the list of reforms proposed by the 2021 Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force. The item reads:

“Divert all seized proven drug profits from convicted drug charges to Community Based Restorative Groups for conflict resolution.

Reinvention Plan: Toward a Community Centered Justice Initiative, February 26, 2021

The several bumbling attempts to address this Task Force recommendation illustrate the original magical thinking that produced the flawed item in the first place and the general disarray of the Council itself.

Recently retired Police Chief Shane Crooks, was on the Police Reform Task Force. At the time, he attempted to explain to his colleagues on the task force that the language for item 41 conflicted with state and federal law. The previous City Council and former City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis expressed similar objections when they were presented with this Task Force’s recommendation.

Task Force members simply dismissed Chief Crook’s concerns without doing any due diligence to determine whether he might be correct. Some Task Force members and Black Lives Matter activists responded to the Council’s reservations with angry demonstrations insisting on the adoption of all of the 50 recommendations.

In May of this year, Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi introduced a resolution to adopt task force recommendation #41. She, like the task force, ignored the need for due diligence. When, on the day of the meeting, someone informed her about the potential conflict with state and federal law, she withdrew it.

At the June 20, 2023, Council meeting, Mayor Kim again placed another problematic resolution on the city agenda to adopt this recommendation identified as “Resolution re:Forfeiture”

Public Safety Commissioner Candidate Tim Coll Addresses Forfeiture Issue

In the following video from that meeting, Tim Coll tried to explain to the Council why the resolution was flawed:

Withdrawn Again

Yet again, the resolution was then withdrawn, this time by Kim.

Kim Submits Meaningless Resolution For July 6, 2023, Council Meeting

Kim has now tweaked the resolution yet again in an attempt to put together something that will be both legal and that can pass. His new resolution reads, in part:

Whereas, to the the extent allowed under the Federal requirements for the dispersal of assets seized in controlled substance arrests and criminal activity, the Saratoga Springs Police Department, as the Administrator of the Federal Equitable Sharing Program is required to work cooperatively with the City Council to disburse these funds under Section B.1 (i) and (k) of the published guidelines for prevention, awareness and support of community based organizations to help fund community-based programs for community policing, treatment of addiction, homelessness and other restorative justice initiatives within the administrative requirements of these programs.

-Kim Resolution

This resolution could have been written for a Monte Python comedy skit on lawyers. What is the point of memorializing in a resolution that the police department is required to work cooperatively with the City Council? Maybe they should have a resolution that requires the police to protect the public from crime or that the fire department should put out burning homes as quickly as possible?

This resolution is a bone thrown to the Black Lives Matter group that has no meaning.

A Disservice To The Public

While it may have happened occasionally during past administrations, the withdrawal of resolutions during Council meetings has become a frequent event with this Council. We went through the same dance with this Council’s repeated tortured attempts to adopt the equally flawed Task Force proposal to ban no-knock warrants. And the result was a similarly meaningless resolution that BLM oddly then took a victory lap for.

It is grossly unfair to the public to allow an agenda item to be published on the city’s website only to be withdrawn at the Council table without a vote sometimes never to appear again. People concerned about a piece of legislation may go through the effort to attend a Council meeting and address the Council during the public comment period only to subsequently discover that it has been withdrawn and the effort to show up and address the Council was pointless.

A Breakdown In The Deliberation Process

During the Meg Kelly administration, resolutions were rarely withdrawn.

The reason for this was the effective way that legislation was vetted before Council meetings.

Agendas were posted on the Friday before the Tuesday Council meetings.

This provided the Council members the weekend to study what actions would be considered.

The Council then had a “pre-agenda” meeting on Monday morning where any questions or issues regarding proposed resolutions would be raised to address problems before the regular meeting.

During the administrations of both Meg Kelly and Joanne Yepsen, the city attorney, Vincent DeLeonardis, was allowed to truly act as counsel to all the city’s elected officials.

He would assist the Council members in crafting their resolutions to ensure ahead of time that these resolutions would not conflict with the city charter and state and federal statutes.

DeLeonardis built up trust among the Council members as a fair broker in doing his work.

This sound approach to crafting legislation has basically collapsed.

The two City Attorneys hired by Kim and subject to being fired by him now act as his personal attorneys rather than the Council’s.

The Monday agenda meetings are now brief affairs during which each member simply reads their agenda items. Unlike in the past, there are few if any questions and there is no discussion.

No Wonder There Is Chaos

So basically, there is virtually no review of agenda items, and any problems with resolutions are left to the night of the formal Council meetings. This contributes to the marathon Council meetings that go on for hours and often result in poorly considered legislation such as the three versions of the forfeiture resolution referenced above.

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