Thursday, 10 February 2022 12:47

Political Theater

By Chad Beatty | Editorials

Last week I had the pleasure of watching the Tuesday, February 1 Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. While I was not in attendance, I did view it online. To save you the time and frustration, I will provide you with a quick recap of the first few topics.

First let’s paint a picture: The meeting is held in a large hall with the public speakers separated from city council by about 8 feet and a large piece of plexiglass; the microphone is wiped down between speakers; the city council members are separate from each other by approximately 6 feet and have plexiglass barriers shielding each of them from the others. The only things missing were biohazard suits and respirators.

After an introductory public comment period, Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino began a discussion on the Civilian Review Board, or CRB. Mr. Montagnino’s comments were very well thought-out and cogent and easily understandable for the average viewer. The floor was then opened for public comment.

First up was Samira Sangare, from Halfmoon. I am not sure why a Halfmoon resident was at a Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. Do we send our residents to their meetings? Mrs. Sangare suggested that the age range for the youngest members be changed from 18 to 24 vs. 18 to 30. Apparently those extra 5 years of maturity and real-life experience wouldn’t be beneficial. She then requested that the CRB committee include formerly incarcerated individuals. Yes, convicts. They can’t buy guns or serve on a jury, but they should oversee police investigations?

Mrs. Sangare was followed by Angela Kaufman, who encouraged the council to consider adding school children and unhoused citizens to the CRB. No, that’s not a typo. She wants people who can’t vote or drink yet, to be members of our Civilian Review Board. And no offense to the homeless population, but I think their time would be better served addressing their personal issues rather than sitting in meetings of police oversight. She ended with a comment about the ‘fake police union.’ I not quite sure if she had a point to make or was just throwing out a disparaging remark.

Adding to Kaufman’s sentiment, next up were a few ‘pro-protester’ and ‘anti-police’ speakers who used their time as you would expect.

Local resident John Schroeder took to the microphone and recommended the CRB must have adequate funding and subpoena power. I agree that if a board is being created it should have adequate funding, although ‘adequate’ is a VERY subjective term. The board should have the minimum funding needed to effectively carry out their duties.

Regarding subpoena power: absolutely not. Subpoena power grants committees’ legal authority to require individuals to appear and testify and/or produce documents. Does any sensible person really think this authority should be placed in the hands of potential activists, many of whom could be children, homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals? The legal costs alone would be substantial, ongoing and extremely burdensome to the taxpayers.

 At this point the meeting took a slight turn away from the CRB and into mask issues.

 As the rest of the country slowly unmasks, and mandates continue to be struck down in court, our beloved ‘City in the Country’ is still in full big-brother mode. A few residents felt their public comment period was best used to draw attention to fellow residents whose masks had fallen below their noses. It was a wonderful show of virtue signaling…but I digress.

 Next up was an animated, leather jacket wearing local known as “Bubbles.” Bubbles used his time to express his displeasure with non-Saratoga residents showing up at meetings and directing what is happening in the city. As he stated “If you don’t live in this city, and you don’t pay taxes, you have zero, zero, input on it. You have no right to dictate what goes on in this city.” He continued “They don’t spend money here. Is all they do is come here and cause chaos. They block the city streets.” Bubbles, I couldn’t agree more!

 He went on to share a story in which he and his wife were harassed by protestors while driving downtown. I will add that he was not wearing a mask while at the microphone.

Immediately following Bubbles was Chandler Hickenbottom. She made an observation that it was Bubble’s white privilege that allowed him to only receive ‘warnings’ about his mask wearing. She added “I know that if I ever did this, I would be dead in 2 seconds.” Seriously? Does she really believe fatal physical violence would befall her, in a city council meeting, in Saratoga Springs, if she didn’t have her mask over her face? I am not sure if people really believe what they say anymore, or it is simply done for political theater, but whatever the case it cheapens all the dialogue. She followed up with “It must be nice to be white, and to be a man, and to go through life knowing you don’t have anything to worry about.” Well as a white man, I can assure you I go through life worried about an awful lot of things and have many sleepless nights because of it.

Mayor Ron Kim then began to close public comment period on the CRB before Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner, Minita Sanghvi, chimed in. “As a woman of color, I too wake up in the morning and don’t have the same white privilege.” She then requested that a police officer be present so any future mask issues can be handled right away.

 Just to set the record straight regarding privilege, Mrs. Singhvi is a Saratoga Springs City Council member; she is a published author; and she is an assistant professor at Skidmore College, an elite and VERY expensive institution of higher education. She may have worries unique to her circumstances, as we all do, but she seems pretty darned privileged to me.

 Well, that’s about all for now. The meeting did continue onto other topics, but weekend responsibilities and a long “to-do” list beckoned for my time.

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