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Saratoga Springs mayor backs earlier closing time, perimeter at nightlife area after Sunday shootings

Caroline Street, Saratoga Springs, NY
WAMC/Aaron Shellow-Lavine
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WAMC News
Caroline Street's busy bar area in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The mayor of Saratoga Springs, New York says while he expects the city’s active nightlife scene to be safe during this busy holiday week, changes are coming soon. It comes after city police shot an off-duty Rutland, Vermont sheriff’s deputy early Sunday after the deputy allegedly exchanged gunfire with another man following an altercation. The deputy was reportedly shot after repeated commands to drop his gun by city police. Three people were injured in a harrowing scene city officials shared via body camera footage Sunday. Democratic Mayor Ron Kim, a former city public safety commissioner, says the downtown shootout was a stunning development in an area with years of late-night drama. Kim spoke with WAMC’s Ian Pickus:

I'm confident that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Jim Montagnino and his staff are going to be able to pull together our police and first responders to address any issues in the coming weeks and then we're going to be having an active conversation with the City Council and the community about how in the longer term we address, essentially, making our entertainment areas in the city more secure.

What kind of ideas do you have toward that end?

We're certainly going to look at closing the bars earlier. We're certainly going to look at maybe a security perimeter around some of the areas that we think need to have stronger checks on who's going in those regions and areas and make sure that they're not carrying anything that's dangerous, or that could be harmful to the public. So, we'll look at all those and evaluate them and make some decisions in the next couple of weeks.

So you would like to see a rollback from 4 a.m. closing to 2 a.m., or something along those lines?

I think that makes sense. I do. Repeatedly people have said nothing good happens after a certain hour and I think that's true and I think we saw that this weekend, unfortunately.

Do you expect that the bar owners and the establishment businesses in this particular area of the city are willing to go along with some of the ideas you've just mentioned?

I think that one of the things about our community is we are a community and we may disagree at times, but we all care about Saratoga Springs, and we know how wonderful place it is. So, I think we'll have people approach this issue with some open minds and with the desire to address the issue in a productive manner. So, I'm confident we'll have a good conversation out of this in the next few weeks to determine what's the best steps to take.

You've been a public figure, obviously, in different roles in Saratoga Springs for a long, long time. How surprising was it to you to see something like this happen?

I was the Commissioner in 2005 of the Public Safety Department. There was obviously no instances of this magnitude when I was in office and during the time I was out of office. Certainly none. It was very surprising. We've always had issues on Caroline Street in particular. But it's usually been crowd control issues and this kind of act is really unprecedented. So, I mean, we want to keep it as a rare instance in our in our community.

Can you explain why you decided to release the body cam footage of the incident so quickly?

Yeah, I sat down with Commissioner Montagnino yesterday afternoon. We were aware that there were sort of rampant and unsubstantiated rumors about what had happened and we felt it was really, really important to the residents of Saratoga Springs, the visitors to Saratoga Springs and really all concerned that we be as transparent as possible. So, one of the ways to do that was to release the videos that we had. We think that helped frame the discussion in a way that was factual. I mean our communities and democracy depend on facts and we wanted to make sure the facts were out there as much as possible. There's a limit to that, because there is an activate investigation, and we want to respect that. But we also wanted to make sure people understood what happened, which the other side of that is, that it eliminated a lot of other things that people assumed had happened, whether or not they came to this with a bias or just heard unsubstantiated rumors, and we wanted to squash those immediately.

From what you have seen and what you have learned so far, are you satisfied that Saratoga Springs city police acted correctly here?

Yes.

What is your message for people who are planning to visit the downtown bar area sometime in the next few days over the Thanksgiving holiday?

You know, Saratoga is a wonderful place. It really is. It's a wonderful place to shop. It's a wonderful place to come for entertainment. We have great local musicians who are at the various nightspots. It's a safe place. We have a great first responders, who, as you saw, are willing to take any action necessary to make sure we're safe. So, people should not hesitate to come to our community. We have a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning. It's going to be a great event. So, we’re open arms to people who want to visit us and we hope they'll come in and continue to enjoy all of the things that Saratoga is famous for.

Just one more thing, Mayor Kim. Have you thought about how this particular incident plays into the debate that's happening statewide over the establishment of “sensitive locations” where people are not allowed to carry concealed weapons? Because it seems to me, this is an incident where you had somebody with a firearm in a nightclub and state lawmakers during the special session, after the Supreme Court ruling, perhaps had something like this in mind.

Yeah, I really support the idea that there are some places where firearms not only should be prohibited, but they create a special danger. I think in our entertainment part of the city where people are having drinks and enjoying the nightlife, we shouldn't have to have this kind of concern. So, I would support that. I think that we're going to, as a city, be looking at that possibility and just on our own local laws, and we're going to take measures that hopefully will eliminate this possibility as much as possible.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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