Aide To Saratoga Springs Mayor Resigns In Wake Of Protests, Plans Campaign | WAMC

Aide To Saratoga Springs Mayor Resigns In Wake Of Protests, Plans Campaign

Aug 14, 2020

After armored police confronted Black Lives Matter protesters in a Saratoga Springs intersection two weeks ago, an aide for Democratic Mayor Meg Kelly has resigned. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, David Snyder is now considering a primary against his former boss.

David Snyder worked in Saratoga Springs city hall as an intern under former Democratic Mayor Joanne Yepsen, when Meg Kelly was Deputy Mayor. The 2019 UAlbany graduate was brought on as Kelly’s executive assistant in March, but he left after five months.

Police respond to protesters on the night of July 30th in Saratoga Springs
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

After a July 30th pro-police “Back the Blue” rally, Black Lives Matter counter-protesters assembled in the intersection of Broadway and Congress Street where they faced off with a sizable multi-agency police presence that included an armored vehicle, mounted officers, and police in riot gear. Pepper balls were fired against the protesters, a response that the city has defended.

Snyder made a Facebook post critical of the city’s response, which he said he was told to take down. Snyder told WAMC he expressed his concerns to Mayor Kelly.

“She and the rest of the city hall officials that I spoke to who were critical of me were not open to hearing any sort of criticism on my part. That was not received. There wasn’t any debate, any discussion. And that’s why, when I realized there was no room for debate on the rally and the city’s lack of response to it, then it would be in my best interest to resign,” said Snyder.

Snyder said he already had political aspirations before the Back the Blue rally, whose organizers had permit approval from the city.

“But the inadequate response on the part of the city to the Back the Blue rally and the ensuring clash between the Black Lives Matter protesters and police afterwards only solidified my decision,” said Snyder.

Snyder said he believes the city should have anticipated that things could have escalated between the two groups and should have used a different response.  

“I have no quibbles with anybody’s right to protest and anybody’s right to freedom of speech, but I do think that if the city is especially made aware ahead of time that a protest like Back the Blue, or Blue Lives Matter or whatever form it takes in the future, if the city is aware of a protest like that than they should also be aware that they are going to be on the line for a credible response for any rhetoric that comes out of it,” said Snyder.

Mayor Kelly declined to comment.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

Snyder resigned on August 3rd. At the city council meeting the next night, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, a Republican whose department includes police and fire, delivered a statement standing by the actions of the city police.

Mayor Kelly was not critical of the city’s response, but did welcome future discussion on police-community relations, saying that she had reached out the city’s MLK Saratoga group and the new president of Skidmore College, Marc Conner.

Kelly made brief remarks before announcing the makeup of a 13-member task force to “reimagine” police to foster conversations that communities are directed to hold and make recommendations under an Executive Order from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I do believe that we’re all Saratogians and we’ve lived in harmony for a long time and if we need to maek changes, let’s make them now. Now is the time, and that’s why this executive order is so important,” said Kelly.  

Snyder says he’d like to put together a campaign for the 2021 race that involves fellow young people who share his progressive views. City Democratic committee chair Sarah Burger told WAMC she had not met with Snyder, but has been approached by “several” potential candidates.

“It’s hard to say what the level of interest is and how genuine it is, and I think it may also change depending upon whether or not he charter proposal that will be on the ballot in November actually passes,” said Burger.

In the same year as a presidential election, a charter change measure will again appear on the November ballot. If approved, the city would transition from a Commissioner-style form of government to a council-manager form in January 2022.

Burger says she believes the Democratic Party in the Spa City is more united than ever, though the party underwent a split in 2019 after Patty Morrison, a Democratic challenger to Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, won the primary.

Several Democratic leaders left the city committee to support Madigan, who would win the general election. Madigan, along Republican Robin Dalton and Democrat Kelly, ran together under an independent “One Saratoga” platform.  

Burger, who became Democratic city committee chair during that election cycle, took issue with Kelly, who ran as the endorsed Democrat in 2019, for joining with the other candidates.

“She joined this coalition when she told me she would not, and she worked with GOP and third party candidates against the rest of the party. And that’s the truth of the matter. And I think the Democratic Party and my sense from the committee – at the least the majority of the committee at this point, I mean, we haven’t had taken any formal vote on anything about this, but just based on the conversations that we’ve had in the last year – I think that people were pretty upset,” said Burger.

The three newly-elected candidates all appeared on stage at GOP headquarters on election night to celebrate Dalton’s win.

Earlier that night, Kelly told WAMC she believed her non-partisan approach resonated with Saratogians.

“I’m a Democrat. I still have Republican friends. My husband is a Republican. And I just – to me, we all just need to get the work done. I am probably the most nonpolitical mayor the city has ever seen and it’s a good thing for the city. It’s bringing people together from all sides,” said Kelly.

Petitioning for 2021 Saratoga Springs city elections begins at the end of February.