Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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SARATOGA SPRINGS – A pair of multi-million-dollar deals in the heart of the city’s downtown district will affect three long-standing fixtures in a real estate overture that may best be titled: Broadway Variations.

The Saratoga Downtowner motel, constructed on Broadway and Division Street in 1963, was sold to the Lark Hotel group for $4.55 million, according to records at the Saratoga County Clerk’s office. Meanwhile, Cantina restaurant owner Jeff Ames, located across the street and a half-block away from the motel, has purchased for $2.2 million the former Lillian’s Restaurant on Broadway, where he anticipates opening a new two-story Cantina restaurant next May. 

“I thought long and hard about making this move, but it was an opportunity to own my own building,” said Ames, adding that the new location will be a lot more “bistro-ey.” Ames is selling the lease at the current Cantina restaurant, where he opened for business in 2007, for $699,000.

After nearly 18 years of operating their 42-room motel on Broadway, Mary Cae Asay and her husband, Bill, have sold the Saratoga Downtowner to Lark Hotels. The company will be making its first entry into New York and currently operates intimately sized boutique hotels in Maine and Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Mendocino, California - a coastal community north of San Francisco.

“I am really pleased about this new hotel group coming in because they have a focus on a sense of place. They want it to reflect Saratoga. They’re going to renovate it and I think they’re going to bring a refreshed vitality to the corner here,” said Mary Cae Asay. She said she will miss seeing the thousands of picture-takers capturing images of her garden outside the motel as well as many longtime guests, some of whom have stayed in the same room year-after-year, and have made the experience feel more akin to having visiting relatives come for a stay.     

“Maintaining the integrity of Saratoga was really important to me. We had multiple offers, but I was very grateful that this particular one worked out because they’re interested in keeping such a strong sense of Saratoga as part of their new business,” said Asay, who recently opened an office on Maple Avenue where she uses a holistic device – called a BEMER - to aid people in their healing.  Her husband, Bill, plans on continuing to coach the Saratoga Springs High School boys swim team, as he’s done since the Asays first moved to the area.

“The other thing I’m going to do is now go visit my guests, at their inns and restaurants and shops. They’ve come to my place, now I’m going to go to theirs,” Asay said.  “A lot of these people have come to the Downtowner for 15, 20, 30, 40 years. That’s how loyal and traditional our guests are. They love coming back to the Downtowner.  We are the fourth owners since 1963 and I feel honored to be a part of that history.”   

Lark Hotels CEO Rob Blood said in an email response that the company is excited to become part of the Saratoga community and to write the next chapter for the Downtowner. “While we are not yet ready to fully reveal our plans for the motel, I can say that our repositioning will focus on the cultural and creative community that is such an important part of the Saratoga Springs area,” Blood said. “We are currently targeting a summer 2018 opening for the property and look forward to unveiling more detailed plans soon."

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BALLSTON SPA – They descended on the village of Ballston Spa Tuesday – politicians and lawyers and election officials, members of the media and curious onlookers – on an unpredictable morning which gave no hint of the cold winter that will surely come, and no clue about how the prized chips of the day might fall.

All present crowded into a sub-level room at the county complex, Building Number Five. The “solar building,” as employees call it, was constructed atop land deeded to Saratoga County nearly 200 years ago by a New York City merchant named Nicholas Low for the development of a County Clerk’s office, assuring Ballston Spa would stand at the center of county government.

On this day, the 30-or-so people inside the building’s sub-level basement came to witness the opening and counting of approximately 550 absentee ballots. Some carried with them a cautious optimism to re-affirm the seat they’d won on Election Night remained secure, others with an angst-riddled hope that what they had lost might be regained. Most came to witness the counting of votes of the public referendum that could change the only form of governing the city of Saratoga Springs has known in its 102-year history.    

The Election Night tally depicted a city divided and a race too close to call. Of the nearly 8,500 ballots cast, the difference was a measly 48 votes. There were 4,202 YES votes cast that urged Charter Change. There were 4,154 NO votes registered in favor of maintaining the status quo. The counting of the absentee ballots, most assumed, would settle the final score.

The current Commission form of governing relies on five elected part-time council members, each of whom are responsible for administering their own department, as well as serving as legislators. The proposed Council-Manager form of governing would see that the council hires a non-partisan, professional city manager to carry out city policies.

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10:16 a.m.: The first handful of ballots are taken from their envelopes and displayed to watchers. Saratoga Springs District Two, Embury Apartments: Yes. No. Yes. No. No. Yes. No. No. Attorneys scrawl stick figures atop their legal pads. The No’s have gained two votes. The overall Yes lead of 48 drops to 46.  

11 a.m.: More districts come in. The count: 18 Yes, 32 No. Overall Yes lead drops to 34.

12:30 a.m.: Break for lunch. The count on the day: Yes 128, No 161. Yes lead drops another 19 votes. Math update, overall: Yes 4,330, No 4,315. Overall Yes lead drops to 15. Fortified by sandwiches and fueled by caffeine, everyone returns from lunch and is moved upstairs to a bigger room. First up, one of the Senior Citizens Center’s voting districts. Result: 7 Yes, 14 No. Overall: 4,337 to 4,329. Yes lead up by eight.

2:02 p.m.: Saratoga Springs High School Gym voting district - 10 Yes, 17 No. Overall: 4,347 to 4,346. Yes clings to the lead by one vote.  Stress begins to show on the some of the faces in the room.

2:15 p.m.: City Center voting district: Yes 24, No 18. Yes back up by seven. Deep breaths on all sides.   Over the next half hour, voting districts at United Methodist Church, a second Senior Citizens Center, and the Interlaken Community Center are presented, collectively giving the No count 18 additional votes, and the lead. The room loses its mind. There are some audible noises. Whether these are cries of joy, or cries of pain are difficult to determine. At this point, it’s hard to tell the difference. 

3 p.m.: The mailman arrives. An election commissioner is dispatched to meet the mail carrier to learn if any last-minute absentee ballots have arrived on this, the deadline day. Inside the room, the counting continues of ballots from the city’s two final districts. And then it is over. The No votes have it, by seven.

But, wait, suddenly five more ballots are presented. These were set aside during the course of the day’s counting, one of the election officials explains.

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“It ain’t over til it’s over, and it ain’t over yet,” says Richard Sellers, a spokesman for SUCCESS, a citizen organization that supports maintaining the current form of governing.  “It feels a lot better to be up by seven than down by 48, or whatever it was a week ago (but) “I’ll celebrate when they tell me it’s over.”

“It’s a squeaker,” says Charter Review Commissioner Treasurer Gordon Boyd. The commission, which officially disbanded when the polls closed Election Night, conducted 16 months of study, staged dozens of public meetings and voted to pursue the possibility of Charter Change and adopt a council-manager form of governing. A decade ago, Boyd was a member of the SUCCESS group. This time he is part of the pro-change group. In the exploration of Charter alternatives, some residents have changed their minds over time and party lines crossed, making it all the more difficult to gauge which way the majority will go.

Adding to the unpredictability, the members of the City Council have also taken sides - this despite the words of state Board of Elections attorney Brian Quail, who said advocacy by a municipality on a referendum question is unlawful, and that a municipality hiring counsel to participate in a canvas conducted by the Board of Elections is, in his 16 years of experience, unprecedented.

Twenty-four hours earlier, City Council members John Franck, Michele Madigan and Anthony “Skip” Scirocco – each of whom have spoken in favor of maintaining the current form of governing, approved by a 3-0 vote the hiring of a Glens Falls attorney and an associate attorney at the combined rate of $525 per hour to observe Tuesday's event and “defend the city’s right to have all proper absentee ballots counted.” The two council members who have spoken in favor of changing the form of governing, Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, did not attend Monday’s “Special” City Council meeting.  John Aspland, the main attorney hired to observe the absentee ballot count does just that, occasionally inking notes on a legal pad throughout the day.

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Those last five ballots, the “set-asides,”are presented. Two are ruled invalid. The other three are held up, one at a time: No, no, and…no.      

The unofficially tally stands at 4,458 No, 4,448 Yes. It is a calculation that would require the re-beading of an abacus: 50.06141926 percent No, 49.943858073 percent Yes. Approximately half the city’s eligible 18,000 voters took part in the vote.    

“The absentee ballots came in strong just as they did in 2012 when the Commission form of government beat down a challenge,” Sellers says.

The 2012 vote which proposed amending the Charter and replacing the Commission form of government with a Manager-Council form resulted in 6,738 - 4,872 No victory, a 58-42 percent difference. A referendum in 2006 proposing a change to a strong-mayor form of government was voted down 5865-3615, roughly a 62-38 difference. Counting this year’s referendum, the margin of differences have grown smaller with each successive vote. 

 “I don’t think the issue of the form of government in Saratoga Springs is going to go away any time soon,” a disappointed Boyd says.  “But I think we have a lot to be proud of, a lot to build on. This was a people’s campaign. We had the forces of both political party leaderships and the government of Saratoga (springs) mobilized against this proposal and we fought them pretty much to a draw.” 

Eighteen Military Ballots were requested, as of this week, none have been returned. They must be received by the Board of Elections by Monday, Nov. 20 to be counted, and indications are any which do arrive will be counted Tuesday, Nov. 21. 

Boyd was asked whether the referendum vote could be headed for the courtroom. “I don’t know. I just don’t know,” he responds. “We want to be sure that every valid vote has been counted.”

Bob Turner, who served as chairman of the Saratoga Springs City Charter Review Commission, said there are currently conversations being had regarding “overvotes,” which occurs when one votes for more than the maximum number of selections allowed in a contest. Turner said he doesn’t know the specific number of overvotes that appeared on voter’s ballots, but the incident could occur when voters hand write-in candidates on the front of the ballot and inked traces appear as multiple markings appear on the ballot’s reverse side, which is where Charter Change proposition question was printed.

“We’re exploring the processes. That could lead to a hand count of all 8,000-something ballots,” Turner said. That decision whether to pursue the matter could come early next week. The ballot numbers remain unofficial until they are certified by the Board of Elections. That process is anticipated to take at least a few weeks.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Bolstered by now-classic performances of the songs “Maggie May,” “Mandolin Wind,” the album’s title track, and a moving rendition of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” Rod Stewart’s 1971 solo album “Every Picture Tells a Story” will receive the Rochmon treatment at Caffe Lena on Tuesday, Nov. 21. 

Rochmon Record Club gathers once a month under the guidance of music savant Chuck Vosganian, who selects one ground-breaking rock or pop album to dig deep and wide in creating an entertaining, illuminating program of anecdotes, biographical, technical information and photos.

Stewart, accompanied by Ronnie Wood, was ascending to the height of his powers with “Every Picture Tells a Story”- an album cranky rock scribe Robert Christgau graded with an A-plus with extra credit for Rod the Mod’s ability of being “tawdry enough to revel in stellar pop-and-flash” while able to “refine the rock sensibility without processing the life out of it.”      

Doors at 6:30 p.m., presentation begins at 7, and a $5 donation is suggested.  Donations go to the restoration funds of Caffe’ Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.  

ALBANY – Saratoga Springs native Ashley Bathgate – whose cello stylings have garnered acclaim by everyone from the New York Times (an “eloquent new music interpreter,”) to the Washington Post (“a glorious cellist’), returns to the region for a performance at The Egg, at the Empire State Plaza on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Last seen in these parts coaxing ethereal tones from the strings of her cello and slicing the air with resonating vibrations in a 2016 performance at the Tang Museum, Bathgate – a 2002 graduate of Saratoga Springs High School - will perform an entirely new series of reflections inspired by the Unaccompanied Cello Suites of J.S. Bach. The work incorporates extended performance techniques, live electronics, and external media resulting in a radical deconstruction and re-imagination of the original music.

Concert showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28.  Students are $14 at the door – and special group rates are also available.  For more information on the concert, group sales and a special lecture/demonstration call:  THE EGG BOX OFFICE: 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org

In addition to the concert, Bathgate will be conducting a cello technique demonstration and master class at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18 at The Egg, where she will provide insight into her approach to playing the cello – both in the traditional manner as well as how she utilizes electronics that comprise “Bach Unwound.”  This event is free and open to the public.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - As part of Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s continued commitment to presenting programming that extends beyond the traditional summer months, SPAC announced that the Orchestra of St. Luke’s will perform Bach’s beloved Brandenburg Concertos at Bethesda Episcopal Church on Friday, Dec. 8. Show time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 General Admission seats and can be purchased online at spac.org.

“To be able to present some of Bach’s most beloved repertoire performed by one of the world’s great chamber orchestras in an acoustically and architecturally exquisite space during the festive holiday season is a great privilege,” said Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC president and CEO, in a statement.

David Hyde Pierce, Saratoga Springs native and Board Member of Orchestra of St. Luke’s praised the return of Orchestra of St. Luke’s to Saratoga and the new initiative:

“This concert means so much to me. SPAC was where as a young boy I first encountered the great artistry of the orchestra and the ballet; Bethesda, a place of comfort and worship for my family, was where I sang in the choir and learned to play the organ; the Orchestra of St Luke’s is the finest musical ensemble I’ve ever known, and they’re like family to me. It is a rare opportunity to hear music this great played this beautifully in such an exquisite setting— but that’s Saratoga. “

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s performs approximately 80 concerts each year at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

The December 8 “SPAC @ Bethesda Church” program will feature Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos, which were composed as a gift to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721, and are still considered pinnacles of the Baroque repertoire. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS - At precisely seven minutes after 11 on the night of Nov. 7, Meg Kelly was declared winner as the 21st mayor of the city of Saratoga Springs.

“I have so much to be grateful for,” Kelly told an exuberant crowd at the Inn at Saratoga where her fellow Democrats congregated election night. “I have a crew that has worked endless hours, with a limited budget, and we killed it.”

Members of the Republican Party were stationed directly across the street at the Holiday Inn, where a near-life size cardboard figure of President Donald Trump greeted all who entered. 

Kelly, currently the city’s deputy mayor, will begin her two-year-term Jan. 1, 2018. She defeated Republican candidate Mark Baker 4,630 - 3,911, or by a 54.13 percent to 45.73 percent margin. There were 8,742 ballots cast in the mayoral race. 

Voters also elected Democrat Peter Martin as commissioner of public safety. Martin - currently one of two supervisors representing the city at the county level – defeated Republican Donald Braim by a narrow 4,217 to 4,021 margin, and Democrat Francine Vero bested Republican challenger Andrew Blumenberg by a wide margin for the city judgeship.

In the vote to elect two city supervisors, 8,724 ballots were cast. Republican incumbent Matt Veitch - with 28.76 percent of the vote, and Democrat Tara Gaston – with 24.3 percent of the vote, were chosen to serve the city. Democrat Pat Friesen (22.94 percent), Republican John Safford (22.39 percent), and Green Party candidate Joseph Levy (1.56 percent) finished out of the running.   

Republican DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, and Democrats John Franck, accounts commissioner, and Michele Madigan, finance commissioner, were each re-elected in uncontested races for City Council seats. Between 243 and 295 votes were cast in the three uncontested races for write-in candidates, garnering approximately four to five percent of the overall tally in each race. The names of those write-in candidates will be documented and made public later this month, according to the Saratoga County Board of Elections.       

Kelly vowed to preserve the greenbelt, fix the city’s parking issues, and work collaboratively with the council’s four other members.

Current city Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who chose not to run for re-election, reminisced Tuesday about the night she first secured elected office by becoming the city supervisor in the 2005 election.   

"Twelve years ago, I stood in this room and accepted my first job in public service," Yepsen recalled. Since announcing her decision to not seek re-election as mayor, there has been much public speculation about her future political plans.    

"There will be no formal announcement this evening," Yepsen said. Asked whether she is keeping the proverbial door open to a political run in the future, Yepsen replied, "I'll always have an eye on how to help people more, always an eye on the political landscape."

Residents also voted in favor of changing the city’s Commission form of governing 4,202 to 4,154, but the miniscule margin of victory requires absentee ballots be counted. The county Board of Elections mailed 711 such absentee ballots and those returned by Nov. 14 will be counted on Tuesday, when a clear winner may be determined. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – After 16 months of study, dozens of public meetings, threats of litigation, and a volley of contentious words, 8,356 city residents headed to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to change, or maintain the Commission form of governing that has ruled the city for the past 102 years. The Election Day verdict: Too Close To Call. 

At the end of the day, residents in favor of adopting a new Charter held a 4,202 to 4,154 advantage, but the narrow margin of victory requires that absentee ballots be counted. The county Board of Elections mailed 711 such absentee ballots and more than 500 were received back, by Election Day. Those ballots have yet to be counted.

Ballots returned by Nov. 14 - the last day absentee ballots may be received at the county Board of Elections - will be counted on Tuesday, Nov. 14, after which a clear winner may be determined. Military ballots have until Nov. 20 to be received at the county board. Military ballots are anticipated to number less than 20 in total, although that count could not be officially verified by Thursday.  

Less than half of the approximately 18,000 registered city voters took part in Tuesday’s election; More than 95 percent of city residents who did cast ballots voted one way or another on The Saratoga Springs Charter Proposition. 

The study of ramifications in changing from a Commission form of government to a Council-Manager form has been lengthy, and the dialogue among some, contentious.

After a proposal was put forth to stage the referendum last May rather than in November, there was significant push-back from City Council members John Franck, Michele Madigan, and DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco - three commissioners who coincidentally ran unopposed in their respective re-election campaigns.  “This will come down to a lawsuit, I suspect, and the courts will decide what they’re going to do with this,” Franck said in February. “There may even be a lawsuit at the City Council level.”

Election Day was anticipated as the date to finally settle the matter. But given the slim 48-vote difference - with those in favor of change leading the count - it has not turned out that way. 

“I woke up this morning and thought: win or lose the charter debate was going to end today,” Saratoga Springs City Charter Review Commission Chairman Bob Turner said in the early morning hours following the election tally. “I realize now, we’re just beginning. It’s like Florida 2000 all over again and I have a feeling it’s going to be drawn out to a re-count, and a hand-count of ballots.” Turner is in favor of Charter change.  

“I have a feeling we are heading toward very brand-new legal territory in the next week,” Turner said.  “New York Municipal Home Rule Law 36, which governs the charter review process, (says) the charter review commission ends on the day of election, so it’s not even clear whether we are going to have legal standing after today. Who is turn is representing the voters who at present are up 48 votes?”

Accounts Commissioner John Franck on Thursday called for a Special City Council meeting to take place at noon on Monday to hire an election law attorney "to defend the city’s right to have all proper absentee ballots counted and defending the city’s voters in any potential court proceedings."  

“It is new territory,” said Richard Sellers, a spokesman for SUCCESS, a citizen organization that supports maintaining the current form of governing. “We’re reminded of the cliché that every vote counts, and we are waiting for all the votes to be counted. We’re confident in the Saratoga County Board of Elections and we look forward to a clear outcome.”

The county Board of Elections is anticipated to begin counting absentee ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 14.  

Thursday, 02 November 2017 17:09

Ice Cream Dreams

Paul Nasrani walked through Grand Central Terminal on a cold wintry day when a moment of opportunity suddenly intervened, offering him the possibility to fulfill a childhood dream.

“Every summer, I’d spend a couple of weeks in August up in Lake George, in Silver Bay,” Nasrani recalled.  “There was this well-over 100-year-old ice cream store that was everybody’s gathering place and I was allowed to have a hot fudge sundae, five nights a week, which was pretty awesome. That was etched in my mind as a child.” 

Nasrani worked in Manhattan and became the CFO of a mid-size corporation, his days occupied with his professional work in finance and accounting, his nights at play feeding a love of creating ice cream.  

“I started experimenting in a small studio apartment in Manhattan. Imagine this tiny place with one room and a kitchen you stand in, making ice cream at night and bringing it in to work for my co-workers every day,” he says.  “They loved it. They even got me a bigger maker, which I had to put in the tub because I couldn’t fit it in the kitchen,” he laughs. “It was insanity, but it was fun. Any time I had a free moment I’d visit dairies and ice cream plants. I’d knock on doors and hope somebody would let me in.  I learned a lot from people.”

It was this yearning he carried with him inside the cathedral-like building of the Grand Central Terminal, where among the bustling crowds on a landscape of marble he noticed some equipment from a former ice cream store up for auction.   

“I ended up buying a machine. I quit my job. I put the machine on a trailer and moved up to Silver Bay,” he says. Nasrani set up shop in the hamlet of Silver Bay, which sits alongside Lake George, an hour’s drive north of downtown Saratoga Springs. 

“I can remember being about 12 years old and sitting there thinking: someday I’m going to have an ice cream company and we’re going to sell the ice cream in the Silver Bay store. And I did do that. We did make ice cream there and we did sell it at the store.”

Nasrani founded Adirondack Creamery at Silver Bay and with a yearning for growth found a dairy in Kingston where he was able to design his own ice cream based on an old-fashioned recipe of cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks. More expansion followed. One of the company’s primary distributors is located in Saratoga on Edie Road, and a dairy production facility in Queens enabled Adirondack Creamery to release all-natural flavors in pint packaging that could be sold at retail stores.

Today, the company boasts more than a dozen different flavors and includes seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Pie, Peppermint Stick and Egg Nog, and limited-edition offerings such as Caramel Apple, made only with ingredients from upstate New York.

The latest flavor is a Syrian date and walnut creation inspired by the middle-eastern treat, ma’amoul.

“I’m not Syrian, but immigration really reflects on my own personal life, my own family history. I grew up in a part in northeastern Pennsylvania where most of the people were ancestors of coal miners who came in the late 1800s and the 1900s for the same thing. They were suffering and there was famine.  They were persecuted and came here to live a different life and to have a future,” Nasrani says.  

“My father was emigrated from post-partition India in the ‘60s in Pakistan, trying to get away from discrimination and find opportunity and growth, to have a family and be able to be who he wanted to be. My mother’s family dates back to the Mayflower and the pilgrims – and those people also came here looking for a better future - and so all of that has had an impact on me personally.”

Nasrani found out about a Syrian refugee family who started making ma’amoul treats and selling them online.

“I ordered a whole bunch of them and I loved it. That’s when it all clicked,” Nasrani says. “I thought: you know let me make an ice cream flavor and see if I can put this together. The idea is that what’s unique about this is that in America we adopt flavors from other countries, put them in our kitchen and make them our own. The ma’amoul ice cream follows that same line. You know when people share food it breaks down a lot of cultural barriers. It reminds us that we’re more similar than we are different.”

The label’s packaging proclaims “Peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew and is designed to bring focus to the plight of Syrian families seeking refuge who do not have a voice. Nasrani is donating half the profits of the ma’amoul ice cream to the International Rescue Committee. The organization responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

You might wonder what a love of ice cream does to a person’s personal life.

“When I met (the woman who would be) my wife, she assumed I was some boring finance guy. On our third date I told her, ‘You’re not going to want to date me anymore. I’m quitting my job and moving up to Lake George.’ I thought she was going to be like, ‘Goodbye. You’re not going to make any money and you’re moving.’ Well now we’ve been married for 12 years and have two kids,” Nasrani says. “I won her over. It’s been an exciting journey.”

Adirondack Creamery’s Syrian Date and Walnut flavor ice cream is currently available at the following regional stores, with more stores to be added in the coming weeks: Four Seasons Natural Foods, 120 Henry St., Saratoga Springs; Just Meats, 1023 Route 29, Schuylerville; select ShopRite supermarkets in Albany, Colonie, Niskayuna and Slingerlands; the Honest Weight Co-Op in Albany, and Niskayuna Co-Op in Schenectady.  

 

 

Thursday, 02 November 2017 16:59

Following the Money in City Elections

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Republican city mayoral candidate Mark Baker entered the final 11 days of his campaign with about $23,380 on hand, while Democrat city mayoral candidate Meg Kelly reported a balance of approximately $14,600 during the same period, according to campaign financial disclosure reports, provided by the New York State Board of Elections.

Citizens for Yepsen, who also filed a report 11 days prior to the Nov. 7 election, has about $3,850 in the bank. Current city Mayor Joanne Yepsen has elected to not seek re-nomination to the two-year post.

Baker’s campaign began with about $21,500 on hand in July. Financial contributors to Baker’s campaign include a handful of local builders, construction companies and developers, John Hendrickson and Marylou Whitney, and local GOP political figures Shauna Sutton and Michael Lenz. Baker was previously the long-time president of the City Center Authority.  

Kelly, currently the city’s Deputy Mayor, entered the race with $6,000 on hand in July. Kelly’s financial supporters include prominent City Democrats Raymond Watkins, Bill McTygue and Bahram Kermmati, as well as current city Supervisor Peter Martin. Political committees supporting current officeholders Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Judge Francine Vero and Accounts Commissioner John Franck have also contributed to Kelly’s campaign.

In the other contested race for a seat on the five-person City Council – Commissioners Franck, Madigan, and Scirocco are unopposed - Public Safety Commissioner hopefuls Don Braim (R, C, I, RFM), and Peter Martin (D, WF, WEP), reported balances of approximately $9,350, and $3,500, respectively, as of their filings of Oct. 27.

A local vote will also be held Nov. 7 regarding the city’s form of governing to decide whether to switch from a commission form of government to one run by a city manager.

The group Saratogians United to Continue the Charter Essential to Sustain our Success, or SUCCESS, is in favor of maintaining the current form of governing, and reported about $25,000 on hand in its 11 Day Pre-General Report filing. Notable contributors to the group include Charles V. Wait and W.P. Dake - each contributing $3,000; J.T. Roohan and John Hendrickson - each contributing $2,000; and Joseph W. Dalton, James Lavigne, Michael Hoffman, Frank Parillo, Thomas J. Newkirk, the Allerdice Building Supply Company and Mazzone Administrative Group each contributed $1,000 or more.

It’s Time Saratoga! – the group in favor of changing the current form of governing in the city to one run by a city manager reported just under $19,500 on hand in its 11 Day Pre-General Report filing. Among the group’s largest financial contributors are the nonprofit International City/County Management Association – who contributed $15,000, and the New York State City/County Management Association, who donated $2,500. Gary Dake ($500), and Gordon Boyd ($750), are among notable individual donors to It’s Time Saratoga! Boyd, who has acknowledged a change of mind regarding charter change in Saratoga Springs, initially donated $300 to the SUCCESS organization when it first started in 2006.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Tabla player Ballu Khan sat at center stage, thwonk-ing jubilant beats, breaking into contagious smiles and commanding the center of attention Monday night at SPAC’s Little Theater where the Sachal Ensemble staged their Saratoga premiere.

The ensemble, perhaps best known for their role in the 2015 film “Song of Lahore,” was created by Pakistani investor and philanthropist Izzat Majeed. The “music-mad millionaire” – as a 2014 NPR interview referred to him – joined the Lahore-based group onstage for a curtain call. 

The eight-piece ensemble, making their debut U.S. tour, performed a 70-minute set, re-imagining western based crowd-pleasers such as Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme,” and the jazz standard “Take Five” – first and most famously performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet more than a half-century ago. A rendition of French composer Michel Legrand’s “Windmills of Your Mind” was emotionally stirring.  

But it was the band’s own personal creations, imbued with syncopated dives, synchronous ascensions and a melodic sweetness that best ratcheted-up the sonic intensity.  "Taxali Gate" – written about one of the gates of the old medieval Walled City of Lahore, and “Shalimar,” inspired by the garden complex located in the Pakistan metropolis known as the city of gardens, were the best of these.

Khan’s tabla playing was collaboratively paired with the player of a double-headed hand-drum – called a dholak; the duo’s percussive resonance augmented by the bow-ing of a violin, the tinklings of a grand piano, and the gentle pluckings of a sunburst Gibson Les Paul.

Well-placed accents were delivered by the multi-layered string arrangements of a sarangi - a small, box-shaped string instrument bowed with one hand and noted by fingers across the fret-board with the other. A flutist provided melodic accompaniment, occasionally infiltrated with short tonal flares reminiscent of the stylings of Roland Kirk - all of it held together by the foundation-clang of the beat-keeping bells. 

Greeted warmly by a large audience inside the theater the ensemble’s performance was a poignant reminder, for those who may have forgotten, of the collective power of music to erase geographic borders, melt cultural differences and served to transcend the musicians’ struggle to keep music alive under the auspices of a conservative Islamic regime in their native Pakistan, where music of a non-religious nature is discouraged.

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Tabla player Ballu Khan. Photo provided. 

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