No more handshake agreements

To the editor:

This letter is in regard to the recent attention to licensing village property.

“There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”*

The roots of the handshake or “gentleman’s agreement” is an age-old agreement likely as old as the railroad’s development in a time of barter and trade rather than money and power. The most important part of this type of agreement is that it is an honor system that, in the end, cannot be enforced. The most recent letter to the editor by Paul Van Cott (representing the village board) suggests that a handshake agreement is indeed enforceable and that both the village and its people are owed something. I beg to differ. The village board is allowing its business savvy to overshadow one of our newly formed community events, the 6er hiking program. This program seeks to rank alongside Winter Carnival, First Night, Hobofest, Art Walks and Farm 2 Fork, among others. The village suggesting that there be a hierarchy of ownership of any one of these events is suggesting that the 6er is not a community event but an arm of its own business development strategy. All of these local Saranac Lake events (most of which are newly formed) suggest a rise of the creative class. “When talented and creative people come together, we increase each other’s productivity.”*

Blue Line Brewery has made it very clear that it is not out to profit from the 6er program, only to support it. Mark Gillis was approached by the village from the beginning, he donated his development time and, in turn, the naming rights of “his” beer to the village. Everybody won. Blue Line Brewery has expressed that it is not making additional funds from the sale of his beer and has offered that a portion of his sales be donated to the promotions of the 6er program (Just as he has with Hobofest and Winter Carnival.) Blue Line Brewery is a major first point of contact to these programs for visitors. It is great for a new business to be diving into such programs so early in its development. Mr. Gillis should be commended for his efforts in engaging in this village at the level he has.

We should be thanking everyone for their efforts, their personal investment and their dedication to this cause. Let’s not take any member or supporter down because we cannot figure out what we want(ed) at the moment.

I respectfully ask the village board to communicate the 6er development proposal, the goals of the program, how it will be run and by whom, exactly where the funds will go and who will keep track of them, and finally, how the early agreements, made with early adopters, will be brought up to speed in the future. Let’s all apologize for accusations and get everyone on the same page with what is going on.


Todd Smith

Saranac Lake


*Jane Jacobs (b. 1916), U.S. author, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” introduction (1961)