Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

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

Monday, 20 November 2023 09:26

Commissioner Moran Moves To Consolidate His Control Over Outdoor Dining

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran is introducing amendments to the city's ordinance on outdoor dining at Tuesday night's City Council meeting (11/21/23). The amendments further refine Moran's effort to exercise exclusive authority over outdoor dining.

In its first venture into establishing outdoor dining regulations during the pandemic, the city established a committee that included the City Attorney, the Director of Risk and Safety, a representative of the Fire Department, and a representative of the Department of Public Works to determine all facets of outdoor dining.

When Moran became Accounts Commissioner, he amended the ordinance to reduce the role of this committee to be advisory only. They still were charged with reviewing the applications, but their authority was reduced.

Now Moran has gone further by dissolving the committee. Instead, he will simply send the applications to the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Safety, and the Building Department for their review.

There are two things worth considering here.

First, my experience with bureaucracy is that simply sending the applications to other departments, as compared to the committee, reduces the potential that there will be actual feedback.

Second, and most troubling, he has eliminated the involvement of the Director of Risk and Safety. It is no secret that Moran did not care for the last director, Marilyn Rivers, because she was a stickler on compliance issues. He knows that there is the potential that the new Mayor will fill that position.

Below are two pictures of restaurants that, during the last summer, routinely and egregiously violated both the city's regulations on sidewalk access and the American Disability Act's accessibility requirements. Moran is a fixture of the night scene downtown. He had to have observed these restaurants' violations. It was only after I submitted a complaint that these two restaurants came into compliance.

Danny Osteria


Moran's changes also remove the requirement that the City Council vote on the final approval of permits for outdoor dining and leaves that authority entirely in Moran's hands. In addition, Moran has removed the no-smoking requirement in outdoor dining areas and replaced that section with the single word "Reserved"- whatever that means.

The Dicey Issue Of Fee Schedules

I have repeatedly sought information on how Moran arrived at the fees the city charges private businesses for the use of the city's sidewalks and parking spaces for outdoor dining.

I FOILed the city for any documents that would explain the basis of the tiny fees, which, for all intents and purposes, make the use of the public's space by restaurants practically free. The FOIL officer responded that a search of the city's documents failed to find anything related to this.

Moran's amendment eliminates the annual review of these fees. In the future, they will be "established from time to time." Apparently, whenever Moran decides to change them.

The City Council Rubber Stamp

Let me be clear that I am not opposed to outdoor dining, and I believe it adds to the attractiveness of our downtown. I do believe, though, that the success of this endeavor requires appropriate and prudent controls. If past experience serves us, the current City Council will approve these changes without serious discussion.

Read 380 times


  • Saratoga County Court David T. Henderson, 47, of Fort Edward, was sentenced on Nov. 28 to 8 years’ incarceration and 3 years’ post-release supervision, following his conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third-degree. Henderson was arrested in connection with drug-dealing activities that took place March 2023 in Halfmoon, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said, in a statement. A search warrant executed on Henderson’s vehicle revealed nearly one-half kilo cocaine and numerous fentanyl pills in his possession. Henderson had at least five prior felony drug convictions, Heggen added.  Bowie T. Bouchard, 36, was sentenced Nov. 27 to…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON Eastline Holdings LLC sold property at 31 Appleton St to Nicole Kerber for $590,040 Stephen Brenon sold property at 12 Midline Rd to Paul Perrault for $940,000 Matthew O’Connor sold property at 528 Hop City Rd to Saratoga Custom Woodworking for $195,000 CORINTH Christine Callear sold property at 53 Locust Ridge Dr to Phillip Pendergast for $300,000 GALWAY Daniel Szabo sold property at 3070 Parkwood Dr to Lance Kilpatrick for $315,000 Alisa Jenney sold property at 5119 Jockey St to Eric Sebast for $115,000 Bernard Leerkes sold property at 4931 Jockey St to Felicia Segelken for $410,000 Deborah Bennett…