Spa City Mayor touts fiscal conservatism

Johnson did say that the city would have to pull back on other fronts. Plans to develop a waterfront park were scaled back during this year's budget process, and he said that realizing the full potential of the property will probably have to be deferred until fairer times, as will the improvement of emergency response east of the Northway.

With state video lottery terminal aid cut in half, passing a budget without a tax hike was a bipartisan effort, said Johnson. He criticized Albany for pulling the money, though.

"In the end, these cuts will only have an effect on overburdened, local government by shifting the burden, not reducing it," Johnson said.

Johnson touched on other notable events of 2008 in his speech, including AMD's commitment to build in Saratoga County, the award of grant money for the Geyser Road Trail and the study of the city's zoning ordinance. The mayor praised the accomplishments of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, and issued a strongly worded opinion to its detractors in the ongoing affordable housing debate.

"Affordable housing is not the ruination of your neighborhood. As stated on prior occasions, the unfortunate truth is that many of our neighborhoods are still unwilling to have affordable housing nearby," said Johnson. "Overall, that still remains the largest obstacle to development of more affordable housing throughout our city."

As a signal of his commitment to bipartisanship, the Republican mayor asked Lou Schneider, former chairman of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, to introduce him.

"I asked myself, why would he pick me?" said Schneider. "I concluded that I have seen Mayor Johnson doesn't look at issues in a partisan way he looks at problems as a way of bringing people together."

Not all Democrats shared Schneider's view, though. The committee issued a response on Tuesday that blasted Johnson's speech as "self-serving" and said his enthusiasm for fiscal reform "has been non-existent in his administration."

The statement went on to criticize a recent $270,000 settlement with the DEC, the target of this year's budget cuts, the approval of a new city phone system and the ongoing negotiation of four of the six city union contracts, which is racking up legal fees.

"In sum, the mayor's State of the City was mere words, unsupported by actual facts or his own record. His first year has seen hostility, no civility to the community at large, wasteful spending rather than fiscal conservatism, and extreme partisanship rather than bipartisanship," according to the Democratic Committee statement.""

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