Faulty in­for­ma­tion used to jus­tify char­ter change

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - OPINION - For The Sarato­gian

By Jane Weihe

How many times do you think Saratoga Springs Char­ter Re­view Com­mis­sion Chair Bob Turner or a com­mis­sion mem­ber or one of their sup­port­ers has used faulty or se­cret in­for­ma­tion or cherry picked data to sup­port the need for char­ter change? I’ve lost count.

One of the more glar­ing ex­am­ples is the in­for­ma­tion Bob Turner uses re­peat­edly to jus­tify the $40,000 plus ben­e­fits salary for mayor that is in­cluded in the pro­posed char­ter.

Turner re­peat­edly states this salary is jus­ti­fied be­cause the av­er­age salary for a city mayor in New York state, ac­cord­ing to the New York State Con­fer­ence of May­ors, is $50,000. The thing is, NYCOM re­ports the av­er­age salary for a mayor in cities with a city man­ager is $22,000 while the me­dian is $12,000.

In the same ar­ti­cle he claimed past may­ors they in­ter­viewed said a salary in­crease was needed to match the hours the job de­mands -- ex­cept the mayor un­der the pro­posed char­ter will have sig­nif­i­cantly fewer re­spon­si­bil­i­ties than our may­ors cur­rently have. A city man­ager will be in charge of all the de­part­ments now su­per­vised by the mayor. The new char­ter lists only min­i­mal du­ties for this of­fice. (see sec­tion 2.04 in the char­ter)

So fewer du­ties for the pro­posed char­ter’s mayor, but a 175.9 per­cent in­crease in salary.

Pro­fes­sor Turner and oth­ers also fre­quently re­fer to a “sur­vey” the com­mis­sion says it did of City Hall em­ploy­ees.

Here are just a few ex­am­ples:

Bob Turner wrote in the Sarato­gian on Sept. 10: “…65.3% of City Hall em­ploy­ees said they be­lieved City Hall would op­er­ate bet­ter with a city man­ager.”

And Com­mis­sion mem­ber Jeff Al­ta­mari wrote in the Sarato­gian Sept. 10: “A ma­jor­ity of city em­ploy­ees feel in­ter­de­part­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion is a daily chal­lenge, of­ten driven by po­lit­i­cal ac­ri­mony.”

Demo­cratic May­oral Can­di­date Meg Kelly told Look TV on July 12: “80 per­cent of peo­ple who work at city hall are in fa­vor of char­ter change.”

Th­ese claims are all false or, to be gen­er­ous, “un­know­able.”

The city has 398 em­ploy­ees. The com­mis­sion web­site does not say how many em­ploy­ees re­ceived sur­veys or which de­part­ments were in­cluded. In any case, only 75 of the em­ploy­ees sur­veyed re­sponded, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion’s web­site. The per­cent­ages char­ter sup­port­ers give are per­cent­ages of th­ese 75 re­spon­dents only.

We can see the same mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of in­for­ma­tion in the 26 com­ments from this sur­vey that they of­ten re­fer to, not all of which are posted on their web­site. Miss­ing are com­ments such as:

“Al­though it’s an an­ti­quated form of gov­ern­ment I think it works well for our city. I think the two-year term in­creases ac­count­abil­ity for each Coun­cil Mem­ber.”

And, “Th­ese ques­tions are very neg­a­tive in the way they are posted to us em­ploy­ees. They seem de­signed to pro­vide neg­a­tive re­sponses.”

Un­for­tu­nately th­ese are only a few ex­am­ples of a dis­turb­ing pat­tern of the use of faulty and some­times se­cre­tive data to sup­port char­ter change. Th­ese mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions have been pointed out re­peat­edly to Turner but it doesn’t seem to mat­ter. He and other char­ter sup­port­ers con­tinue to re­peat them as if they were valid, hop­ing I guess that some­how some­where peo­ple will be­lieve them and vote for their char­ter.

Their mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions are just an­other rea­son I am vot­ing “no.” Jane Weihe is a board mem­ber for Saratoga Springs SUC­CESS, a Saratoga Springs cit­i­zen’s or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports the cur­rent form of city gov­ern­ment. More in­for­ma­tion about that group can be found on­line at www. sarato­gaspringssuc­cess. org.

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