With primary season over, campaigns across New York are looking toward November. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard sat down with the Republican and Democratic candidates for Mayor of Saratoga Springs, who shared their ideas on some of the key issues facing the community.
Saratoga County Supervisor and Democratic candidate for mayor Joanne Yepsen is squaring off against Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton, a Republican, for the seat held by Republican Scott Johnson for the past six years. Johnson is not seeking a fourth term.Sutton says she is hoping to build off the successes of Johnson’s tenure if elected, including keeping taxes low and spurring economic growth – while Yepsen is seeking more accessibility at city hall. She also hopes to have a more controlled vision for the future of the Spa City.
Parking has been a longstanding issue in downtown, especially during the summertime tourism season. Republican Sutton heralded the current administration’s track recording, including the construction of a public parking garage.
"We tripled the parking in that area last year in just four months last year," said Sutton.
Sutton also said she’s looking ahead to another vision in the city’s parking plan, a garage to be built at the City Center.
"And this would be at no-cost to the taxpayers and it would expand our year-round convention business and it is critical for the downtown businesses," said Sutton.
Sutton also said she supports more appropriate signage downtown to direct visitors to available lots.
Democrat Yepsen said that she envisions a Saratoga Springs with a comprehensive transportation plan to relieve vehicular congestion.
"We can't just only think that people want to drive their cars," said Yepsen. "They need to be able to move around Saratoga Springs in a very connected way. In shuttle buses, on bikes...there's a lot of different ways to get around and I want to look at a comprehensive connectivity plan."
The candidates also weighed in on issues of public safety. Recently, city government faced criticism after Darryl Mount, Jr. was critically injured following a police foot-chase after a downtown disturbance in the early morning hours of August 31st.. Protesters and family members claimed police brutality. The police department is conducting its own investigation to determine what happened.
Yepsen said that if she was mayor, she would have called for an independent investigation, and also sees the need for increased surveillance on the police force and downtown area.
"We need to know what happened, and we'll never know unless we have better documentation of these incidents," said Yepsen.
Sutton said that as mayor, she would seek full cooperation with the Commissioner of Public Safety and police department to gather insight from the internal investigation, and also commended the city’s low crime rate.
"I do expect now that there's a full investigation going on, I am curious to see what the findings are first," said Sutton. "I also firmly believe having lived here all my life that we do live in a very safe community year-round even despite the tremendous amounts of visitors we get in the summer."
Looking into the future, Deputy Mayor Sutton said she’d like to continue the Johnson administration’s legacy by making the city friendly to the taxpayer.
"I believe that with our quality of life and keeping taxes and low are very important with our vibrant downtown, and because I've been Deputy Mayor for six years and have that experience and understand how to work in the form of government I believe that the fact that I'll have no learning curve whatsoever, that I can hit the ground running come January, and that we can continue with many projects," said Sutton.
Sutton also highlighted successful efforts by the administration to negotiate union health care contracts with city employees, a move that she said will save the city $32 million in lifetime liability payments.
Yepsen said that her vision as mayor will set her far apart from the current administration.
"We're going to take the barricades down in the Mayor's office and we're going to open up the transparency and the accountability, and the accessibility," said Yepsen. "Right now people are telling me all the time that they don't feel the mayor is accessible, and neither is his deputy."
Yepsen said she has plans to place a constituent services contact in the mayor’s office, as well as a new sustainable economic development plan to benefit the city’s downtown. Yepsen said she would reign in what she sees as “unbridled development.”