SARATOGA

Interview With Heidi West: Candidate For Mayor:

Photo provided by Heidi West

What do you hope to accomplish as Mayor of Saratoga if elected? My immediate priorities revolve around Public Safety, addressing our unhoused population, bolstering the recreation department, and creating centralized communication channels in City Hall. 

What was the biggest challenge being a downtown business owner during the COVID pandemic? The small business community faced many challenges during 2020 and different business models faced different issues. Our biggest challenge was during the time period we were shut down. I have a team of employees who depend on their salary. The shops were filled with inventory expecting a typical Spring season which is significant in the apparel industry. The bills do not stop coming when the shops are closed. I still had rent to pay, insurance to pay, payroll to meet and inventory to pay for. I had to make many tough decisions but the hardest one was how to prepare the business for the shut down while taking care of my team financially, emotionally, and physically.

What inspired you to run for public office? A difficult year for small business in 2020 prompted me to run for office. It was clear to me that the decisions affecting businesses were being made in City Hall without the voice of the small business at the table. The small business community and local government are not at odds-we have the same goals and when we collaborate, we can make great things happen! 

Ron Kim, your opponent said he would mandate vaccines for all city employees. Would you do that? First, I want to point out that the Mayor cannot mandate anything in Saratoga Springs. Our form of governance is shared and this issue would require a vote as a council. If elected I will consult with our city attorney to see if legally, we can do this. We have seven unions and most likely it would go to litigation as it has in other parts of the state. I will not over-reach nor make promises I know I cannot keep. 

Why should voters vote for you? What sets you apart from your opponents? I offer a unique perspective as a candidate. I have owned and operated businesses in our city for over three decades. I have seen the success of Saratoga Springs based on the hard work of our community members, civic organizations, and government. I also grew up here, so I have a complete vision of where we have been as a City and the ability as an entrepreneur to use that history to propel us forward with a vision that works for all Saratogian’s. I’ve spent a lifetime collaborating across different channels in the business world, creating great teams, working around obstacles and listening to customers. My skillset relates directly to what we will need to accomplish in City Hall. 

What are your favorite things about Saratoga Springs? What are your favorite shops in downtown Saratoga? I am so proud of my City and care deeply for the people who call it home. One of my favorite things about Saratoga Springs is its natural beauty. I’m a big fan of open space and spend as much time as possible outside. I utilize the State Park daily and I love the walkability and bike-ability of our city. That, combined with the architecture and all of the culture arts available in our city make it one-of-a-kind. Downtown Saratoga Springs is filled with special shops and incredible shop owners. I could never pick just one. 


You are perhaps the most successful downtown business person. You make it look easy. I know it is not. What is your secret to your success? First and foremost, I surround myself with great people. I’ve created an amazing, customer focused team that uses a collaborative approach to business. My business model is customer driven, I listen carefully to the people that we serve and focus our approach around their needs. I’m willing to work hard and have honed the ability to effectively and creatively address roadblocks that inevitably arise. And I LOVE what I do! 

What was the biggest challenge being a downtown business owner during the COVID pandemic? The small business community faced many challenges during 2020 and different business models faced different issues. Our biggest challenge was during the period we were shut down. I have a team of employees who depend on their salary. The shops were filled with inventory expecting a typical Spring season which is significant in the apparel industry. The bills do not stop coming when the shops are closed. I still had rent to pay, insurance to pay, payroll to meet and inventory to pay for. I had to make many tough decisions but the hardest one was how to prepare the business for the shut down while taking care of my team financially, emotionally, and physically.

What inspired you to run for public office? A difficult year for small business in 2020 prompted me to run for office. It was clear to me that the decisions affecting businesses were being made in City Hall without the voice of the small business at the table. The small business community and local government are not at odds-we have the same goals and when we collaborate, we can make great things happen! 

Interview with Adam Israel:

Why are you running for office?


1:“Respects the shared commitment to protect the area’s natural beauty and open spaces
while promoting thoughtful and progressive development honors the community’s past and
present successes while judiciously permitting needed change.”
as described in our charter.


2: I believe our 2-party system is causing a great divide in our country. To many people see the
issues as us versus them. I don’t know how you change that on the National level. I do believe you
can begin to change this on the local level. I believe my education and experience will allow me to
win as a true independent, and to represent all of Saratoga, regardless of political affiliation.


Are you a native Saratogian? Tell me about you.


Yes, I am a native Saratogian. My mother still lives in the house I grew up in.
I went to RPI where I graduated with a degree in Business Management and Finance. After college I
worked for a big 5 accounting firm, leaving the comfort of a corporate job to enter the family
business. In 2017 my family and I were running our family hotel on the US Virgin Island of St
Thomas, when the island was hit by 2 category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria. While we lost our
house, our business survived. I started out doing humanitarian work. Getting people evacuated
from the island, while getting much needed supplies to the island and to the people who needed
them.


I am running for public office for two reasons:
1: I was born and raised in Saratoga Springs. My parents moved here in the late 70’s when Saratoga
was a struggling city. My father spent his career restoring historic buildings in our city’s core. My
mother was an elementary school teacher in our school district for over 40 years. I have seen where
Saratoga has been, I have seen it transform to where it is now, and I would like to be part of a
council that :

Weeks after the storms, FEMA was able to get two cruise ships to the island to evacuate
people who wanted to leave. I decided to stay and go to work building a business, that worked with
the Federal Government to provide logistics for relief the workers being deployed to the US Virgin
Islands and Puerto Rico.
The success of this business has allowed me the opportunity to dedicate my time to being a full time
Commissioner of Finance.


What could Saratoga be doing to remain financially solvent?


Saratoga Springs must continue to budget properly. We must look for untapped revenue sources
that do not raise taxes. We must make sure our fund balance and assignments are strong to keep
our bond rating high. These are also the reserves used to keep the city solvent should we ever have
a financial disaster like Covid again.


What are your ideas/plans for the city of Saratoga Springs if elected?


I plan to use my years of private sector experience to maximize city services while keeping tax’s
stable. The first way I plan on doing this is creating a position that is dedicated to grant writing and
administration. Saratoga Springs currently does not have the staff to pursue state and federal
dollars that could pay for things like staffing our third fire station, improving our infrastructure,
reducing our carbon emissions while saving us money, protecting our greenbelt and connecting our
city with bike lanes and trails.


With the building back better legislation currently in front of the house of representatives, we could
be missing out on millions of dollars that could be used by Saratoga for these initiatives. I have
received state and federal dollars for my business for things like green energy and historic building
renovations, and I can do the same for Saratoga with little to no impact on the tax payer.


What are your favorite things about Saratoga?


My favorite things about Saratoga is simply how many things there are to do. From concerts at
SPAC, a vibrant downtown, the lake, the events on Broadway, our sense of community, the diversity
of our small businesses, the character and visual appeal of our historic neighbourhoods, the dog park
etc. I could go on and on, but Saratoga Springs, will always be home to me, and I am excited to use
my real-world experience to give back to this city.


Saratoga Springs City Hall often seems like it is stuck in the 19th Century, what will you do to bring
it up to speed?


The 19th Century was 1800 – 1899, so I would disagree with the premise that City Hall is stuck in the
19th century.


I do think there can be things done to bring city hall up to speed for the 21st century. I think
communication to and from City Hall need’s to be streamlined. Currently each department has its
own social media and messaging outlets. This leaves residents confused where to find time sensitive
information, as well as an antiquated emergency alert system. I would be very interested in working
to construct a plan were the messaging out of city hall was consistent, as well as a plan so citizens
can know how and when to contact their council members outside of a council meeting.


The Commissioner of Finance is also responsible for the IT department in the city. Information
technology is critical to each department in keeping a city operational. From public safety to public
works, if IT goes down, the city can not function. Malicious attacks on our city could put every
citizen’s personal and private records at risk. This is why as Commissioner of Finance, I will make
sure we have the short-term resources, and long term planning, needed to keep our IT department
safe, secure, and properly functioning.


Interview With Jim Montagnino: Candidate For Public Safety Commissioner:

If elected will you hire more police officers? We have less than 100 and that does not seem like enough especially in the summer months. 


We need more officers; more importantly, though, we need to deploy our existing officers more intelligently.

I am old enough to remember cops walking a beat. Will you have officers walking a beat downtown if elected?

 
Absolutely. Particularly in the vicinity of the bars downtown, there needs to be a visible police presence.

Your law enforcement background seems essential. What are you hearing from voters as you go door to door?


The voters I canvass seem eager to elect a Public Safety Commissioner with some experience and training in the law.

The BLM protests in downtown Saratoga seem to be a distraction in a city with a rather low crime rate. What are your thoughts on the protests and what would you have done differently if you were in office? 


Excellent question! First, I would have insisted on a thorough investigation into the Darryl Mount case, along with a full, written report open to the public for review. Second, I firmly believe in the rights of free speech and petition for redress of grievances. Lawbreaking, however, is not to be tolerated. That said, when protesters commit petty offenses, they should be given summonses or appearance tickets and not be arrested on warrants.

What needs to change in terms of policing? Are you for defunding or refunding the police?


I am opposed to defunding the police in any way. I would prefer additional funding for more training; I would also want additional funding so that police can be paid at a level that will attract the best candidates.


What are your thoughts on Voter I.D.?


A sensible voter ID law is a good idea. There needs to be a balance, though: the ID requirements cannot be so onerous that they discourage voter registration.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by onerous regarding Voter I.D.?

Thanks for your question. By “onerous” I mean a requirement that was intended to disenfranchise a voter, e.g. a requirement of multiple forms of photo ID or an original social security card. The goal should be for the election inspectors to be reasonably confident that the person standing before them is the voter, nothing more and nothing less. And so any one of a variety of easily obtainable forms of ID would be sufficient: a public assistance card; a drivers license or non-driver ID; a campus ID card; or anything of the sort would be sufficient.

What are your thoughts on bail reform? 


The current bail reform statute was passed as part of a budget bill and was written with no input from the District Attorneys’ Association, the NY State Bar Association, or the Legal Aid Societies, to name a few of the major stakeholders who were blindsided by the bill. It must be amended to allow Judges the discretion to detain defendants who pose a clear threat to society.

What are your thoughts on early voting?


Early voting is an important tool to allow busy working people the opportunity to cast their ballots.

You may add anything here that you would liker voters to know about you. 


I would like to thank you for your intelligent and relevant questions. I would like to add that I was motivated to run for this office by the Darryl Mount case, particularly because the people in power who could have done something over the last eight years have instead buried their heads in the sand. I have taken the time to review the nearly 2,000 pages of documents, exhibits and photographs that are available for public inspection.

That record, if reviewed thoroughly, provides overwhelming evidence of what really happened in that alley on August 31, 2013. I intend to bring that information to light so that there can finally be closure to this unfortunate chapter in our City’s history. Much of the work I did for the New York State Court System over the past 26 years involved the drafting of judicial decisions in non-jury trials and proceedings. My skills are particularly adapted to the task of marshaling the voluminous evidence available in the Mount case and providing a cogent and coherent report for the public to read.

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Interview With Ron Kim: Candidate For Mayor:

by Nancy Muldoon

You are no stranger to Saratoga Springs politics. You have previously been the Public Safety Commissioner, what makes you want to run for Mayor?  

I’m running for Mayor because I believe this is a crucial point in our city’s history.  Locally, we have a City Council that shuts down instead of listening and looks for excuses instead of solutions.  Nationally, we see democracy under attack and increasing distrust in our institutions.  I believe that our city needs a more responsive, transparent, and accountable government in order to rebuild trust between Saratogians and their city leaders.  I believe that my experience and steadiness make me the best person to lead that effort.  

In your opinion what are the most important issues that Saratoga Springs is faced with?  

I believe the most important issue currently facing our city is the breakdown of trust and communication between city officials and the people they represent.  Hiring expensive outside mediators to communicate with residents, as one City Council member has suggested, is clear and convincing evidence that this Council has failed to do its job as public officials.  As Mayor, I’ll work to rebuild that trust.  I have already begun to do this by holding “Saratoga Listens” sessions with residents, a practice I will continue when I am elected Mayor.  

How has Saratoga Springs changed since you held public office?   

Our city has grown significantly both physically and economically since I held public office, and we have many challenges.  That is why we need experienced, tested leadership in the coming years to avoid the current dysfunction and distrust on display every first and third Tuesday during City Council meetings.  We need experienced leadership at the helm, not someone tarnished by the current City Council or someone who has never held public office.  

Do you believe that the office of Mayor is easier than the Public Safety Commish?  

I do not believe the office is easier, but it does carry different responsibilities.  As the face of city government and the chair at City Council meetings, the Mayor must set a tone of accountability and respect for differing viewpoints for all of City Hall.  I believe I am well prepared to take on that responsibility.   

I know there has been some controversy regarding the issue of city residency. Can you briefly explain why this is?  

I have lived continuously in Saratoga Springs since moving here with my family in 1993.  I built my legal practice here and raised my children here, all of whom graduated from Saratoga Springs public schools.  In 2018, I briefly changed my voter eligibility so I could advocate and vote against Elise Stefanik, who I believed then and now is a systemic threat to our nation, state, and region.  I have voted more than 20 times in Saratoga Springs, and 3 times in the 21st Congressional District.  I have continuously lived and worked in Saratoga Springs since the 1990s.  

If elected what will be the first thing you will do as Mayor?   

As Mayor, my first priority will be restoring trust between city government and the people it represents.  To that end, I will be ready on day one to announce a series of open “office hours” throughout the city to hear directly from residents in every neighborhood about their views and concerns.  I will also immediately get to work ensuring that the City follows through on its commitments, like the construction of the East Side Public Safety Station.   

You are for mandating vaccines for city employees. Why?   

Many municipalities nationwide, as well as the federal government, have adopted vaccine mandates for their employees in order to increase vaccination rates and better protect citizens against the COVID-19 virus.  As Mayor, I intend to do everything in my power to make sure Saratoga Springs is part of the solution to ending this pandemic that threatens both our physical and economic well-being.  

Saratoga is an important city in the State of New York and is the envy of a lot of other municipalities. Can Saratoga sustain the growth we have had?   

I will continue to encourage and support smart development in our city’s inner core, particularly development that provides affordable housing for residents.  At the same time, I will work hard to protect our Greenbelt according to the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.  My experience as a member and Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals makes me uniquely qualified to accomplish these twin goals.  With intelligent planning, our city can continue to grow economically while preserving the aspects of our city that make it the envy of many surrounding municipalities.  

  What are the best things about Saratoga Springs? What are the worst?

The best thing about Saratoga Springs is its people, whose dedication, resilience, and kindness never fail to impress.  It has always amazed me how willing Saratogians are to volunteer for the many time-consuming boards and commissions that form the core of our local government.  The worst thing is the current City Council, which has broken trust with the great citizens it represents by shutting down and refusing to engage in open dialogue.  Their solution to use taxpayer dollars to hire a mediator so they can talk to residents who are being arrested for asserting their First Amendment rights is an insult to us all.  Saratogians deserve better, and we will do better.

  I have sometimes thought of Saratoga Springs as being a classist city but there is a lot of chatter regarding racism. Do you perceive Saratoga Springs to be a racist city?

The vast majority of Saratogians are tolerant and respectful of differences in background and opinion.  However, Saratoga Springs is part of a larger nation, and there are racist elements in our city, as there are across our nation, that we must do our best to eliminate.  This task will not be easy.  It requires that we first recognize the problem—and right now there are many in America and Saratoga Springs that deny there is even a problem.  As Mayor, I want to begin the dialogue with both those who believe there is no problem and those who know there is.  My hope is to begin the discussion.  We won’t solve it overnight, but we must begin the discussion.  As someone who has experienced bias myself, I believe I can bridge this chasm.  Once we start to talk, we have the chance to build trust.  Once we build trust, we may see each other’s viewpoint.  Once we see each other’s viewpoint, we can begin to resolve our differences and bring our community together.  As Mayor I will start this process.   


Interview With Robin Dalton: Candidate For Mayor of Saratoga Springs

Why are you running for Mayor? I am running for Mayor because I believe we need someone who knows firsthand thechallenges the city is facing now and to use my experience leading the pandemicresponse and work on fire EMS station No. 3 to lead the council through the end of thepandemic and ensure the completion … Continue reading Interview With Robin Dalton: Candidate For Mayor of Saratoga Springs

Interview With Samantha Guerra:

Candidate for Accounts Commissioner: by Nancy Muldoon What inspired you to run for public office?  “My children and our community inspired me to run for office. I want to bring the community together and give back to the community that did so much for myself and my children”  Did you grow up in Saratoga Springs? … Continue reading Interview With Samantha Guerra:


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