Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation

Mayor Valerie Keehn has appointed Lew Benton to the position of Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation, fulfilling a mandate in the current city charter that is long overdue. Here's what the charter says about this postion.

3.3. Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation.

There shall be an Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation under the direction of the Mayor. The Mayor, in accordance with Civil Service Law, shall appoint the Administrator. The Administrator shall be a qualified professional in the field of parks, open lands, or historic preservation administration, and shall be appointed on the basis of education and experience in a like jurisdiction.

The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall be responsible for the planning, management, development, and administration of a parks and open lands system within the City of Saratoga Springs and shall integrate and coordinate the activities of the Heritage Area Program, the City Historian, and all policies and programs of the City dealing with historic preservation. The City’s parks and open lands, whether used for active or passive recreation, environmental protection, or scenic enhancement, are held in trust by the City of Saratoga Springs for the public.

The parks and open lands may not be alienated from their purposes except as provided by the laws of the State of New York and the United States.

3.3.1. Policy development. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall recommend policies regulating the use of the lands and facilities in the City’s park and open lands system. Such policies regarding use shall be subject to review and approval by the Council.

3.3.2. Inventory. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands and Historic Preservation shall regularly update and maintain an inventory of City-owned land and buildings currently used as parkland, open lands, or for historic purposes and shall request formal designation of such lands and buildings by the Council.

3.3.3. Master plans. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall, in conjunction with the Commissioner of Public Wo rks and the Office of Planning and Economic Development, develop a city-wide Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation Master Plan, which shall include all designated lands and facilities extant or proposed. The Plan shall be developed and transmitted to the Council for comment and adoption.

The Council shall hold a public hearing prior to adoption of the plan. If not adopted by the Council within 90 days, the Master Plan as submitted shall be the official Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation Master Plan of the City until subsequently modified by the Council.

Such Master Plan shall be reviewed and updated periodically, but not less than once every five years.

3.3.4. Capital plan. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall develop a long-range Capital Plan in cooperation with the Office of the City Engineer for all lands and facilities under its jurisdiction. The long-range Capital Plan shall be transmitted to Chairperson of the City’s Capital Program Committee in sufficient detail on or before August 1 and in time for inclusion in the City’s six-year Capital Program. The Administrator shall transmit its capital and operation budget requests annually , including maintenance and improvements, to the Commissioner of Finance on or before August 1.

3.3.5. Acquisitions. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall be responsible for identifying, negotiating, and recommending lands for addition to the City’s parks and open land system including gifts offered to the City. The Administrator shall provide the Council with the following information for each recommended acquisition:

Description of natural and cultural resources.
Any needed improvements.
Whether the cost of such acquisition and improvements are within the limits of available monies and/or appropriations.

The Administrator shall utilize whatever acquisition techniques are appropriate, including, but not limited to, purchasing property, conservation, and/or development easements, or using private/public partnerships to achieve open land preservation and public access. No additions to the City park, open lands, or historic preservation system shall be made without approval of the Council.

3.3.6. Grants. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall, with approval of the Council, seek out and apply for private and public grants for the purposes and benefit of the system.

3.3.7. Bond and grant allocation. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall make recommendations to the Council regarding use of proceeds from bonds for park, open lands, or historic preservation purposes or from state, federal, or private grants for such purposes.

3.3.8. Concession standards. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall recommend general standards to the Council relative to concessions on City-owned property within the system, including concessions for sale of merchandise and food.

3.3.9. Coordination with the Department of Public

Works. The Administrator of Parks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall assist the Commissioner of Public Works in developing a maintenance, operation, repair, and public use policy for each site in the system.

3.3.10. Coordination with the Recreation Commission.

The Administrator of Pa rks, Open Lands, and Historic Preservation shall work closely with the Recreation Commission to ensure that the Recreation Commission has access to appropriate lands and facilities for scheduling the Recreation Commission’s programs.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mayor Keehn appoints first City Administrator of Parks, Open Lands and Historic Preservation

Mayor Keehn is the first mayor to fill the Charter-mandated position of Administrator of Parks, Open Lands and Historic Preservation. This will fulfill the long-standing need to create a formally designated system of parks and open lands, implement the City’s adopted open lands and historic preservation plans, work on historic preservation issues, and recommend land acquisition projects under the 2002 Land Preservation Bond Act. The Administrator also will develop management plans for the park and open land the City owns, and prepare and recommend for consideration by the City Council fee schedules for use of City parklands and facilities. The Administrator will also provide ongoing supervision of the Heritage Area visitor center, and will be key in making sure the City does not miss out on thousands of dollars in State and federal grants for planning, open space acquisition, and historic preservation.

This is a civil service appointment, based upon a selection from several candidates who applied and took the civil service test. Mayor Keehn's appointee to fill this position is Lew Benton, who has a remarkably extensive record of service to the city. For more information, Click Here.

This is an important step toward fully implementing the current city charter, which was enacted in 2001.

A Comprehensive Plan for Using Wind Energy

The City of Saratoga Springs spends approximately $550,000 each year in utility charges to support the electric energy requirements of the Casino, City Hall, the Garage, Drink Hall (i.e., the Visitor Center), Weibel Rink, Vernon Rink, and the Water Treatment Plant. These facilities consume 4,372 MWh of electricity on an annual basis. The City currently pays an additional premium ($50,000) on top of this electric bill to support the development of wind energy in New York State. This premium does nothing to reduce long-term electric energy costs for Saratoga Springs. Basically the project to support the development of wind energy provides the city with "bragging rights" to claim involvement in wind energy.

Mayor Keehn is exploring a comprehensive long-term plan for the city to use wind energy that will save taxpayer money while reducing environmental pollution. The Saratoga Energy, Environmental, and Development (SEED) Project put in place by Mayor Keehn has developed a plan with long term implications for Saratoga Springs to actually use wind energy instead of just helping to fund wind energy development in New York.

For more information, the SEED report is available at Saratoga Wind Energy Project: Investing in Wind Energy to Reduce Long-Term Electric Energy Costs (PDF file).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Invitation

A Conversation with Mayor Valerie Keehn

Join Amejo Amyot as she hosts Val on the porch at 219 Woodlawn Avenue at 5;30 pm on June 28th.

Val is continuing her conversation with the citizens of Saratoga Springs as she renews her commitment to serve as The People's Mayor.

Please stand with Val and join in the conversation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sign petitions to get Val Keehn on the ballot

Be sure to sign a petition to get Valerie Keehn on the ballot to run in the September primary.

Sign Val's petition first!

Petition carriers will be coming to your door starting on June 12th.

Message from the Mayor

I promised to fight for you and for Saratoga Springs when I ran for election two years ago, and I have kept that. promise, Now I need your help to continue the advances we've made.

Some of the important steps forward in my first term:

* As a member of the States Committee on the Future of Thoroughbred Racing I fought to maintain the character of Saratoga's world-class summer racing scene. I remain in close contact with Governor Spitzer and the Legislature as they choose a new operator for the historic Saratoga Race Course.

* Plans for expanding our City Center are finally moving forward, thanks to a $12 million state grant.

* I led the City Council in lobbying for additional state-aid based on video lottery revenues, beginning with $4 million this year.

* My bipartisan appointees have brought new perspectives to the zoning, planning, and design boards, which no longer automatically approve the kinds of luxury condo and mega-mansion projects that were driving housing costs beyond the reach of ordinary working families. Other city boards have been re-invigorated by the appointment of citizens who were previously excluded from participation in local government,

*I commissioned a comprehensive study of downtown parking and transportation needs, projecting twenty years into the future.

* We increased funding fo recreation by requiring condo projects, like other developments, to pay additional impact lees.

* We closed a loophole in the /oninglawto keep luxury condo developers from claiming density bonuses meant only for low- or middle-income senior citizen housing.

* At my urging, CDTA listened to the concerns of senior citizens and agreed to retain dedicated bus stops at the Embury and Stonequist apartments.

For some Saratoga Springs politicians, maintaining their exclusionary, entrenched establishment has been the number one goal. My Democratic challenger represents a business-as-usual approach. I represent Democrats who want a fresh approach that brings all constituents together to make Saratoga a community where citizens' voices are heard, elected officials put the public interest before personal interests, and city government is marked by civility, professionalism, and dedication to public service. I want to continue leading the fight to make Saratoga a place where "progress" doesn't Just mean commercial real estate growth but cultural and community well-being overall.

Please support my campaign with your ideas and contributions. And don't forget to vote in the Democratic primary on September 18th. Thankyou.

Mayor Valeric Keehn

Monday, June 4, 2007

Mayor Keehn fixed loopholes in zoning laws

Zoning regulations were established under previous mayors to encourage developers to build affordable housing, and to include affordable housing units in development projects. But Mayor Keehn found that the regulations did not match the intent of the law. Mayor Keehn closed a loophole in the zoning law to keep luxury condo developers from claiming density bonuses meant only for low or middle-income senior citizen housing.

Mayor Keehn also closed another loophole in the law by requiring condo projects, like other development projects, pay additional impact fees --- fees that increase funding for recreation. Previously, developers could bundle condos to only pay one fee, based upon the development "footprint" rather than the individual condos. Major Keehn has eliminated this loophole. As a result, this will significantly increase the dedicated money for the new recreation center.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Good government for the lowest cost

One of Mayor Valerie Keehn's priorities is to make sure our city has the most effective and efficient government for the lowest possible cost. Over the past 12 years, city residents have seen nothing but tax increases. Taxes keep going up even though new development has added more than $160 million to the tax base over the past few years. City expenses (and taxes) are outpacing this growth. We must be more efficient and effective in handling taxpayers’ money. Mayor Valerie Keehn, seeing that recent significant increases in revenues to the city have been more than absorbed by the city’s ever increasing operating costs, has asked the State Comptroller’s Office to conduct an audit of city operations. This audit will serve to guide us toward greater fiscal responsibility, and will strengthen my resolve to reduce waste, inefficiency, and tighten our spending belt. This issue will be discussed further on this blog.