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New mayor takes office

Newly elected Mayor Scott Johnson, a Republican, noted the importance of racing during his inauguration on Tuesday, Jan. 1, and said he was sure a long-term deal is forthcoming.

We can't stress enough the importance of racing to our community and to our businesses, he said. "I am confident an agreement is in the making."

Johnson, a 52-year-old retired trial attorney, said he had been in constant contact with legislators regarding racing since he was elected in November. He said he had spoken to State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, R-Brunswick, on the subject just the night before.

"I think we, as a community, can breathe at least some sigh of relief," he said to a crowd of about 250 people gathered at Canfield Casino to see him and other members of city government elected in November sworn into office.

Johnson addressed concerns about some details of the racing agreement tentatively struck between NYRA and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, such as historic preservation of the track and property tax revenue for the city. Johnson said payments in lieu of taxes will be made to Saratoga Springs schools as part of the new franchise agreement.

"I have been assured that (continued PILOT payments) will be a part of any agreement reached with any franchise," Johnson told reporters at the reception following the inauguration.

Also sworn in Tuesday were Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, a Democrat elected to a second two-year term; Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins, a Republican serving his first term; Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim, a Democrat who was re-elected; and Public Works Commissioner Anthony Scirocco, a Republican elected to his first term.

All spoke of a need for congeniality on the City Council.

"The air of cooperation is extremely important," Johnson said. "I will strive to strike a balance in our community. I'm an optimistic person, that's how I've lived my life and that's how I'll lead my government."

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