My neighbor is a law-abiding citizen who wants to set a good example for her second-grade daughter. So rather than simply ignore the “no sledding” post that suddenly appeared in January near a short, low-grade, unobstructed slope in Congress Park, she reached out to City Hall by phone and email to make a case for removing the sign from that area.
For four weeks my neighbor was bounced between well-meaning but ineffectual people in the mayor’s office and the public works department and was finally told that the sign was posted in error and would be removed that day.
This is a textbook example of the inefficiency of Saratoga Springs’ commission form of government, which is designed to have no one in charge. The mayor can eventually determine that a sign should be removed but lacks the power to direct public works staff to remove it.
My neighbor didn’t give up. She spelled out the situation in an email to City Council members and politely brought the matter to their attention during the public comment period of their Feb. 6 meeting.
Long-tenured City Council member Skip Scirocco, the commissioner of public works, responded at the meeting, saying the signs were posted to keep sledders off steep slopes near trees or stumps. Scirocco said “it’s not an issue” on the mild slope if children are supervised and people use “a little common sense.”
One of Scirocco’s council colleagues, Accounts Commissioner John Franck, whose oversight responsibility includes “risk management,” added that years ago an accident on a steep hill in the park had raised insurance issues. But neither he nor anyone else disputed Scirocco’s statement that parents needn’t worry about supervised youngsters sledding in the area that can barely be called a hill.
You can see and hear what my neighbor considered to be a satisfactory response from Scirocco on the video of the meeting, which is readily available on the city’s website. But that part of Scirocco’s comments are totally absent from the written meeting minutes, which are also on the site.
As a lifelong journalist, I know reporters must pick what to include and what to emphasize. They must condense long and sometimes rambling statements. And they must decide what to leave out. A clerk responsible for creating minutes of a public meeting faces similar challenges. In this case, the Feb. 6 meeting minutes ought to be amended to note Scirocco’s unequivocal assurance in response to my neighbor’s specific concerns.
My neighbor didn’t want the lesson for her daughter to be that it’s OK to ignore official signs. But at least she received the City Council’s promise that common sense would prevail in allowing children to enjoy mild sledding in that safe little section of the park – even though the poorly placed sign remains, two months later.