Sep 19, 2007

New journalism and local commentary

Now Showing over on our main portal..

The latest Eye on the Valley column takes a look at a couple of local bloggers and how they have are filling the gap left by Big Media when it comes to local journalism.

Hear our take on I-Saratoga and (Dis)Utopia of Saratoga Springs at Tech Valley Times.

Sep 13, 2007

Saratoga Springs Mayoral Debate - Democratic Party Primary (Now Showing)

We needed a little practice doing a "guerilla webcast" (aka our one-man/one-camera shoot) for our new multimedia initiaitve, and there just happened to be a political debate going on in town. Heck, Saratoga politics has been pretty entertaining as of late, so why not?

So, without further ado, here is the complete 90-minute version of this week's Saratoga Springs Democratic Party's Mayoral Primary debate between Valerie Keehn and Gordon Boyd:

A Community Service of TechValley Times and Word of Mobile

Parting Glass Show Info, Previews and Tickets: RIGHT HERE


Sep 6, 2007

Rocky Velvet

A retro time warp indeed! Rocky Velvet brings their Wild Rockabilly! act to The Parting Glass in downtown Saratoga Springs on Friday, October 19 at 8PM. Come on down and catch the Metroland 2007 Best Band in the Capital Region.

Get your ADVANCE TIX here for $5 and save a deuce.


A tale of two city halls

In what might be a new trend that we haven't caught on to yet, two local municipalities are debating the merits of abandoning their downtown city halls.

The city of Troy has floated the idea of demolishing their current structure (after all personnel have been relocated, we assume) while a Saratoga Springs council member has suggested selling that city's place of business to a private developer.

One is a good idea, one is a bad idea. Let's give a reason for each:

Good Idea: Troy

As expressed in this column previously, the Troy City Hall is the poster child of everything that was wrong with the Urban Renewal programs of the 60's, 70' and 80's. This building resembles a cement fortress that it totally out of place with the Monument Square neighborhood and would look more fitting if it were the Allied Base HQ in Iraq. Bullozing it and starting over is the smartest thing that could be done to assist in the Troy revitalization movement. Let's just hope that good planning and design efforts go into the new retail & residential structure that is planned for that lot and that the nmew city hall finds a home within the downtown core. If this works out, maybe they will set their sights on demolishing that other nearby disaster: the Atrium.

Bad Idea: Saratoga Springs

The Spa City's City Hall, on the other hand, is an old-school buidling that, like the city as a whole, was fortuante enough to avoid most of the ravages brought on by Urban Renewal. Its design elements fit in perfectly with the Victorian and post-Victorian architecture of downtown, and it is one of the prettiest buildings in all of town. Doing business in City Hall serves to give residents a feeling of civic engagement and a link to a great past. Turning it into high priced condos would exemplify everyting that is bad about the recent trend of Saratoga Springs becoming a suburban ghetto. Let's drop this idea now, before it gains any kind of traction.

Waiter, there's a lien on my steak!

This Joe Greco character is a real news hog.

The not-so-affable owner of the overpriced and underwhelming Golden Fox restaurant in downtown Troy made some noise last week by announcing his intent to open up a 400-seat performance venue a mere block away from his current digs. Keep in mind that this location would put the new enterprise within walking distance of both the Troy Music Hall and Revolution Hall, both of which are established plyers in the ultra-competitive live-music field.

But Mr Greco's claim that he had verbal commitments from such artists as Norah Jones, Harry Connick and Spyro Gyra made anyone even remotely connected to the music business scratch his or her head. These artist are all lined up to play this 400-seat lounge (his words), remember. This guy was either totally out of his element, was living in a fantasy world or he was outright bullshitting. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was one of the first two.

Yesterday comes some interesting details about other events that were taking place in Mr Greco's life at about the same time he was letting the world know all about his grand plans of becoming the Mr Vegas of The Collar City. The Times Union reports that he was caught -- twice--- attempting to wheel meat and fish out of his local supermarket without bothering to undertake the normal compensation process.

Maybe Norah Jones has a big meal clause in her performance rider?

Sep 5, 2007

Elizabeth Cook

Pop country? Americana? New traditional? How do you classify Elizabeth Cook?

Come find out on December 1, when we bring her into The Parting Glass for a live show.

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Go get your advance tix.

Who'dathunk? It's NYRA

In a comeback story rivaling the Rocky Balboa saga, Governor Spitzer announced that he has worked out a memo of understanding with the New York Racing Association that would extend that group's franchise to operate the three major horse racing tracks in the Empire State.

Such a notion would have been inconceivable two years ago; or even one year ago, for that matter. After being rocked by internal scandals (albeit for relatively minor offenses such as shaky teller accounting), general mismanagement and a questioning of whether a nonprofit business model was the best option for the sport (or better yet: businesss) of thoroughbred racing, NYRA's prospects looked bleak as a slew of racing industry contendors swooped in like birds of prey circling a dead woodchuck on the Northway.

But several things happened between then and now, including a new management group reporting for duty under the watchful eyes of court-mandated watchdogs to clean house. At the same time, the contending groups became a field of moving targets, with each week bringing a new collaboration announcement or some dirty laundry being uncovered. Maybe Magna Corporation would ruin Saratoga the same way it ruined Gulfstream Park, some knowing minds began wondering.

NYRA's biggest ace in the hole was its threat to basically shut down racing statewide by claiming ownership of the actual racing faciltiies. In other words, "if you dont give us what we want, we're locking the front gates and hiding the keys" became it's chief strategy. It argued that since it's been paying property taxes on Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, it therefore must own them. NYS said 'phooey,' and most legal scholars agreed.

But, regardless of who's right, Mr Spitzer knows -- better than anyone -- that the issue could throw a three-year monkey wrench called litigation into the festivities. True to form, the Governor took a long hard look at the landscape and decided that it wasn't worth that legal hassle and decided that NYRA could be made to work -- as could the nonprofit model.

This deal isn't 100% done, however. Senator Bruno is already making noise about not being pleased and is promising to be his usual obstructionist self. But Uncle Joe might better be careful on this one: NYRA was always the popular choice amnong the local Capital Region crowd and he might not have all the votes needed to stop this one from going through.

Without getting in to an opinion of whether NYRA was the right choice or the wrong choice, let this be said: the political leadership of Saratoga Springs didn't come out of it looking real good. Sure, most of them jumped on the NYRA bandwagon at the end, but the local NYRA support is strictly a result of greedy, short-term self-interest. "Saratoga Race Course rocks, and is making us all happy, so why fix it if it ain't broke?" So the Spa City thinking goes, at least.

What most of them don't understand, however, is the big-picture issue of a sport/industry in major trouble. While the Saratoga meet is a success, it is one of only three exceptions to the rule (along with DelMar and Keeneland) among dozens more that are empty shells of what this sport used to be--which was one at the forefront of the American psyche a half a century ago. Whereas Belmont used to draw 40,000 sports-minded citizens on any given Saturday, they are hard pressed to attract 4,000 hard core gegenerates today. Would a corporate CEO have his contract renewed after that kind of report card?

So, when the local politicains chimed -- in unison -- that the three New York tracks should not --under absolutely ANY circumstances -- be broken up and awarded to different operators at each one, it simply highlights their ignornace of the big picture. Running a combination race track/ casino/ real estate development business in metro NYC is a different project than running a country fair meet in upstate New York. Good business principles dictate that you realize such, and treat them as separate businesses with properly skilled management being dedicated to each one.

This is the type of thinking that the local set seems incapable of engaging in on this issue. As well as on most issues.

It looks like horse racing in New York is still NYRA's game. Let's just hope that the Big Scare they've been given over the past couple of years will do some good. Horse racing is just too important to screw up.