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SARATOGA SPRINGS: Dems divided

Mayoral candidate Gordon Boyd, a Democrat, has questioned the content of invitations to Mayor Valerie Keehn's Jan. 25 fundraiser at Sargo's.

In recent days, a number of city property owners have received invitations to a political fundraiser for Mayor Keehn. These solicitations direct all responses to Ms. Nancy Goldberg, the new chair of the zoning board of appeals. Some of the 'invitees' have expressed their concern to me: If they don't give money, will they be given fair consideration before the zoning board in the future? Boyd asked in a written statement to media last week.

It's a reasonable question, Boyd said. Compliance with the city's codes and comprehensive plan must be the standard whenever the zoning or planning boards, or the design review commission, hear an appeal or petition from a property owner. But the city's zoning, planning and design requirements are complex, and susceptible to interpretation by the board members, said Boyd.

"Applicants must feel confident that their requests will be dealt with free of any appearance of political bias or favoritism," said Boyd. "I believe it is inappropriate for members of these boards to be involved in soliciting political money for city council members, or for candidates for these offices."

Boyd proposes the city ethics code be amended to prohibit members of the zoning board of appeals, the city planning board, and the design review commission from soliciting campaign funds for members of " or candidates for " the city council.

"The coercive and corrosive effect of such solicitations should be obvious," he said. "They look bad. They cast a shadow over these boards' decisions. They discredit the hard work that other board members are applying to their responsibilities. I believe this proposal will give the public greater confidence that our regulatory boards will objectively interpret the regulations and not use politics as the basis for their decisions."

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