Saratoga Springs mayoral candidates face off in the Candidates Forum
Saratoga Springs’ top three mayoral candidates said Monday night they would support a civilian review board empowered to investigate complaints against the city’s police.
Robin Dalton, an independent mayoral candidate and the city’s current public safety commissioner, said she plans to present a proposal at Tuesday’s city council meeting that would officially put the city on the path to forming the review committee – one of the most publicized recommendations of a task force tasked with developing proposals for police reform.
“[We are] don’t rush it, but make sure it’s fair to our community, that it’s good for our police and good for those concerned, that it creates another level of accountability and trust, ”said Dalton, noting that she has changed her mind about a civilian review board since taking office last year.
Ron Kim, the Democratic candidate and former public safety commissioner, and Heidi Owen West, an independent candidate backed by the Republican Party, have also expressed their support for a civilian review board. However, it is still unclear what form a civilian review board would take under the leadership of one of the mayoral candidates or the candidates for the post of public safety commissioner.
“No matter [the City Council] votes on and I’m off, I’m going to work really hard to make sure it’s the right Saratoga Springs Civil Review Board, ”said West, who is a business owner.
Kim also used the question on the Civilian Review Board to criticize city officials for not speeding up police reform initiatives and to fight criticism that he supports police funding, which he said. he repeatedly denied.
“I’m glad that there seems to be movement for this and we will definitely go further,” Kim said of the proposed police reforms. “If you implement these reforms, you will actually spend more money on the police service. There is no police funding that I will support.
The trio of candidates have sought to present themselves as best positioned to take over the mayor’s office as the city continues to recover economically and socially from the pandemic and grapples with nighttime safety concerns on Caroline Street, affordable housing issues and ongoing calls from activists that people of color face unfair treatment in the city.
West highlighted her decades of experience as a business owner in Broadway retail stores, noting that she understands the challenges other business owners face when grappling with government bureaucracy. from the city.
“I’m going to try to bring a private sector mindset to city hall,” West said.
Kim pointed to her own experience in city administration, serving on the local zoning board and working as an attorney in Saratoga Springs for over 30 years.
“I am running because I am the best qualified candidate, and I will bring this experience to a critical time of division and mistrust in our city,” Kim said. “Saratoga needs a leader who will listen to Saratogians, restore confidence, protect our local democracy and ensure that we have a safe and vibrant city that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. ”
Dalton argued that her current service in city government best qualified her for the job, sometimes noting during the forum that she had experienced the day-to-day realities of governance during the pandemic and other current issues facing the city. is facing.
“My experience is fresh, real and relevant,” said Dalton. “My only goal is to make Saratoga Springs the best possible place for you and your family.”
(Maxwell Rosenbaum, who will be on the Working Families Party’s voting line, did not respond to a request to appear at the forum, according to organizers.)
Dalton and Kim both criticized West for suggesting that people need to be made more aware of affordable housing options in the city, rather than focusing on plans to attract developers who specialize in affordable housing developments to the city. .
“What I’m hearing is it’s an absolute need,” Kim said of her conversations with residents.
For her part, West said she recognized there was a need for more affordable housing, but wanted to highlight the existing stock and noted that the city had twice as much affordable housing as required by the ministry. Federal Housing and Urban Development.
Dalton also hinted at West’s financial support from local developers.
“We have one candidate, the Republican candidate, who represents development interests and who could potentially benefit financially from development,” Dalton said of West.
West rejected the attack and said she received broad support within the community.
“I was supported by all [kind of] citizen in this city, regardless of their origin, regardless of their party, ”West said. “I am not sitting in nobody’s pocket, I am my own person, I will not be defined by anyone else and I will not be defined by someone else’s voice.”
Candidates made proposals on a range of issues: West said she would consider negotiating with NYRA and SPAC “to get more involved and help with crowds and security”; Kim suggested a fee to offset the costs of policing downtown crowds at night; and Dalton called a contact person at City Hall to help new and existing businesses adjust to city requirements.
Kim also highlighted Democrats’ pressure at the federal level for new infrastructure funding and called for the reestablishment of a traffic division in the city police department as well as the development of a truck bypass to minimize traffic in the city center.
West and Kim both highlighted an apparent dysfunction among city officials, with city council meetings resulting in controversial disputes between citizens and officials in recent months. Kim said a proposal to hire a mediator to facilitate discussions with activists was a symbol of this dysfunction.
“Having to hire a mediator in order to talk to your residents is not a good idea, it is an admission of failure,” said Kim.
West said: “It’s time to end the drama.”
A fight over senders
The campaign has continued to escalate in recent weeks, with candidates and their supporters starting a blitz of direct mail, signage and other campaign efforts.
Pat Tuz, chairman of the town’s Democratic Party, this week filed an ethics complaint with the State Elections Council against West and the state Republican Party, alleging violations of election law related to direct mail in in favor of West and the separate shippers attacking Kim.
Tuz in his complaint argued that the required “paid by” mark on recent mailings was printed in a misleading and intentionally small font size and that an attack on Kim contained false and misleading claims.
The senders, who were paid by the New York State Republican Committee, have been sent to residents across town to support West in recent weeks. While one group of shippers brand West a “calming” presence that can unite the city, another group of shippers attack Kim for alleged financial problems.
Mail from the attack highlighted a handful of instances where Kim has paid his personal or business taxes late – issues he explained by noting a period of financial hardship following an unexpected fuel leak. that caused him and his family to leave their home for a while. period of time. The sender also claims that the “court forced Ron to pay unpaid five-figure rent.” Kim was sued by a previous owner, and the parties eventually reached a settlement with Kim by paying $ 16,000.
Tuz said the attacks were inaccurate and misleading and criticized West for associating with the Republican Party while claiming political independence.
“One week she sends a mail saying I’m going to be the calming influence, I’m going to work with everyone. How is she going to work with people if they send things that are clearly wrong, ”Tuz said in an interview. “It’s dirtier politics from those people who think it’s winning at all costs. They keep promoting the same big lies these Republicans seem to be telling and they don’t care.
West, in a statement Monday, said she supported the shippers, including the attacks on Kim, and said she was not registered as a Republican or Democrat, adding that Democratic leaders in the city l ‘had also recruited to run as a Democratic candidate. for mayor.
“Regarding the claim that I am not independent, I was independent enough for the Democratic Committee just a few months ago after weeks of party leadership begging me to take their approval before choosing Ron Kim “West said.
Kim accused West of “enlightening” voters by emphasizing his independence while benefiting from the Republicans’ campaign apparatus, fundraising and attacks.
“She claims to be independent but takes advantage of the fact that Republicans spend a lot of money,” Kim said.
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