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Election Season Begins Early In Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs City Hall
Lucas Willard
/
WAMC

Election season has begun early this year in Saratoga Springs, with a former city attorney announcing her candidacy against one council member who aims to keep his seat.

A Democratic primary in Saratoga Springs this fall is a real possibility after former city attorney Sarah Burger announced her candidacy for city council on Tuesday.

“I made my decision carefully and thoughtfully after considering the five seats on the council and what my interests are and my background, and I felt that running for Commissioner of Public Safety was most appropriate,” she said.

Appointed to the position of City Attorney by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Burger served as city attorney from January 1, 2014 until resigning in September. In her resignation letter, she cited a “fundamental disagreement” with the city in handling legal matters.

Speaking with WAMC Friday, Burger said she’s always had an interest in public service.

“I believe that as a city we can do better, and that as a council member we can move forward.”

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen told WAMC that he intends to run for another term and that he did not expect Burger’s announcement.

“This is very unusual to have a primary from someone in your own party, so I was surprised at that. I don’t understand why she would be doing that.”

Faced with a primary challenge, Mathiesen called the early arrival of campaign season “unfortunate.”

“I’m very busy between my personal life, my personal profession, and my responsibilities in city hall. So having to start another political campaign this early is disconcerting.”

With Saratoga Springs’ commission style of government, each commissioner oversees a part of the city’s day-to-day operations, as well as having a seat on the city council.

Burger said she would outline her ideas for the department as the campaign continues. She said one issue she will be playing close attention to is the lack of affordable housing in the city. 

For the past several months, Saratogians have debated a proposed parking garage for the City Center complex in a location beside a city park. Burger said she does not believe the city has worked to “strike a balance” between the needs of the City Center Authority and the public.

City government has made headlines over the last year with cases that have brought on lawsuits and state investigations. 

Burger’s resignation last year came after the city approved a deal to acquire land near Northway Exit 14 for the purposes of building a third firehouse, involving the sale of a city-owned parking lot. Soon after, a group of former city officials brought a lawsuit against the city. The State’s Attorney General’s office is investigating.

A second state investigation was launched into the city’s waiving of water connection fees.

The city is currently engaged in a lawsuit with the family of Darryl Mount Jr., a man who died in May months after sustaining injuries during a police foot-chase on Labor Day weekend 2013.

The cause of Mount’s injuries is still debated, with the family charging police brutality. The city contends he was injured after falling from a scaffold.

The city did not release video surveillance footage of the events that led to the foot chase until a month after Mount’s death.

Burger said she would have handled the situation differently.

“The Mount family, I think, was looking for some closure and answers they were not getting, and the public as well…How you respond in situations like that is very important because it can also make the police and the department look bad.”

Mathiesen defended the department’s actions, but said he had wanted to release the video sooner.

“We released an awful lot of information last June between the videos and all the affadavits that we had. There’s a large volume of information and we released it as soon as we could, based upon the advice of our attorneys.”

All five positions on the Saratoga Springs city council including the mayor are up for grabs in November.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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