Group pushes ‘no’ vote on Spa charter referendum
But claim that little public input sought is disputed by city lawyer
A group of eight members of the 2017 Charter Review Commission have reunited to urge voters to reject the proposed changes to the city’s current charter because the revisions were devised without public input.
“We strongly urge a no vote on this year’s proposed changes to the Saratoga Springs’ charter,” the group wrote in a letter to voters. “The proposed charter was developed with little input from the public, weakens the position of mayor, and does not separate legislative responsibilities from administering laws. The citizens of Saratoga Springs deserve better government than this. The proposed charter is an inside job designed to serve the interests of city council members who wrote it at the expense of the citizens.”
The letter, calling the charter changes “an inside a job,” was signed by the group’s former chair Bob Turner and Jeff Altamari, Gordon Boyd, Ann Casey Bullock, Laura Chodos, Pat Kane, Minita Sanghvi and Beth Wurtmann.
On Nov. 6, Saratogians will have a chance to weigh in on the charter again with two referendum questions. The first will ask for approval for the revisions to the current charter that were recommended by the city’s four elected commissioners, their deputies and the city’s attorney Vincent Deleonardis.
The second question will seek approval to add two at-large members to the City Council, expanding the governing body to seven. Question 2 will automatically fail if Question 1 is not approved.
“We wanted to get the word out about the charter vote because it’s not the same as last year’s,” Boyd said. “The (2108) charter commission operated under the radar. People were not paying full attention and it’s important for them to know that it’s not the same charter. It’s different and worse.”
In addition to no public
input, the group objects to many of the changes proposed by the 2018 Charter Review Commission. They include the city council members having the ability to set their own salaries, no salary limits, no financial savings, a weakening of the mayor by stripping away some appointments, the Department of Public Works’ takeover of the Recreation Program and the two additional council members having no administrative powers like their counterparts.
The group also is disturbed by the separation of the city attorney, the director of risk and safety, the human resources director and the information technology director from an elected commissioner. If the changes are approved, these titles will now answer to the City Council as a whole.
“Having five or seven bosses means no one is responsible,” the letter reads. “When decisions are needed, only dysfunction will ensue given this structure. Citizen access to these services will be limited with no elected official to turn to for help.”
Deleonardis, who chairs the 2018 commission,
said the letter was unfortunate.
“Their claim that the proposed updates and amendments were ‘developed with little input from the public’ is false,” Deleonardis said. “To date, the commission has held twenty meetings, including two workshops and two public forums; submitted and received responses to questionnaires from former Council members and deputies, as well as designated city employees; conducted interviews with numerous individuals relevant to our review; and received extensive public comment and input at meetings, public forums, through written submissions, and in response to both an informal and formal survey, the latter of which generated responses from 250 city residents.”
He also said the claims that elected officials can boost their salaries unchecked is “ridiculous” and denies that various city employees, including himself, will have “no bosses.”
The group stands by its letter.
“A yes vote is a vote for unlimited city council salaries, lack of management accountability, more patronage and selfdealing in city government,” the letter reads. “Vote no.”