Monday, February 04, 2008

It's getting scary out there Folks

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NYRA trustee quits, blasting Bruno

By JAMES M. ODATO, Staff writer
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Last updated: 11:12 a.m., Friday, February 1, 2008

ALBANY -- Saratoga Springs lost its representative on the New York Racing Association board today when Adirondack Trust President Charles Wait quit as a trustee, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for not serving the best interests of racing and the community.
Wait said he could not stay quiet about his frustration with Bruno's refusal to go along with an agreement between Gov. Eliot Spitzer and NYRA for an extension of the racing franchise. He suggested that racing could go dark in Saratoga, as well as at Aqueduct and Belmont, if Bruno continues his demands for new elements beyond those agreed to in a September deal with Spitzer.

Bruno has blasted that agreement because it was worked out privately and without legislators' input. He has sought assurances that NYRA would be held accountable. He also wants to shrink the size of the NYRA board and increase the number of trustees appointed by the governor, Senate and Assembly.

"I believe that it is important for Saratogians to understand that we are facing a crisis in racing," Wait said in news release. "I know that Senator Bruno is powerful and popular and I know that criticizing him in public may bring retribution."

In an interview, Wait said he had to resign to make his feelings known because trustees shouldn't be acting independently, particularly when they criticize the leading Republican in New York. A trustee for 23 years, Wait was a NYRA stockholder appointed to the board by the racing association itself.

"It is also my opinion that there is no plausible reason for the New York state Senate to continue to delay ratification of the memorandum of understanding first proposed by Gov. Spitzer," he said. "I urge my senator, Sen. Bruno, to use his power and popularity to end the discord and uncertainty clouding the future of the Saratoga race meet. I urge him to encourage the Senate to agree to the memorandum of understanding. I urge him to safeguard the most important engine of economic prosperity in his district."

Representatives of Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Spitzer have been trying to negotiate a resolution for months.

A Feb. 13 deadline looms and NYRA can't wait much longer before it runs out of money and will have to take actions such as cessation of racing, Wait said. NYRA would continue to sue to prove it owns the track properties, which it must clarify to either sell real estate or borrow against it to pay off more than $300 million in debt, he said.

The racing association entered bankruptcy court almost 14 months ago to shield itself from creditors, including the state of New York.

Bruno's office had no immediate response.

Wait's resignation leaves the NYRA board with 23 members.

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2008, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.


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