Faulty information used to justify charter change
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.