[JK: Received This Release Today]
Press Release From Charter Commission [January 27, 2017]
Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission Endorses Dynamic Mayor; Rejects Ceremonial Mayor Role
The Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission discussed the powers of the mayor under their proposed new charter. The Commission was unanimous that it wanted a dynamic mayor elected by voters to represent the city rather than ceremonial mayor.
At their January 24th meeting the Commission voted 14-0 in favor of a council manager form of government. Under traditional council manager form, the mayor is selected by the council and has the same powers as other council members and plays more of a ceremonial role. However, the Commission felt strongly that Saratoga Springs needed a mayor who could provide dynamic leadership and rejected the weak mayor model.
Commission Chair Bob Turner, who is also an associate professor of Political Science at Skidmore, pointed out that very few city governments are a pure strong mayor or council manager model. “The vast majority of cities have a hybrid form that combine the political leadership and coalition building of the strong mayor model with the professional expertise and administrative efficiencies of a city manager or administrator.””
The Commission supported direct elections for the mayor and four year terms. Laura Chodos said, “I think we want a mayor who is accountable to the voters.” Mike Los said he felt that the mayor would be more effective in collaboratively working with stakeholders to address city challenges if he or she were not bogged down with the details of managing the city’s staff.
Barb Thomas said, “I think Saratoga Springs voters want a visible leader who can reach out to the community and build consensus on a vision for the future.” Under the proposed charter, the mayor would have the power to create ad hoc committees, as they can now, as well as appointment to land use and ethics boards. However, the Commission felt that the appointment to city boards should be subject to a confirmation vote by the city council since many have a 7 year long term.
The Commission did not decide whether the mayor should be full time or not. Bob Turner pointed, “Every former mayor who has spoken to us said it was a 50+ hour a week job with part time pay.” Gordon Boyd said, “I think Saratoga Springs needs someone who can articulate the city’s interests to outside stakeholders like NYRA, the State government, and the business community.”
The commission also reviewed the research of New York’s preeminent constitutional scholar and SUNY Professor Gerald Benjamin on the appointment and removal of city managers. The commission supported having the city council be able to appoint and remove the city manager,
Pat Kane said, “I like having a 1 year contract for the city manager to keep him or her on toes working to meet the needs of the city and city council.” The Commission also supported having clear qualifications in the charter for the manager/administrator, covering the education and experience of the city manager in the charter. Professor Turner said, “Both law professors I have spoken with said this prevents a city council from hiring an unqualified political crony to do their bidding.”
The Charter Review Commission will hold its next two meetings on February 2nd and 6th from 7-9pm at City Hall, where they will discuss the role of county supervisors, ethics provisions, the city attorney’s office, the identification of departments and land use boards, vacancies, the Recreation commission, and the city clerk.
The Commission is expected to finish their draft of the revised charter by the middle of February. Voters will have a vote in a Charter Referendum on May 30th. For more information, see Saratogacharter.com. If you wish to share a comment with the Commission or to ask a question, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies and Sciences
Director, Environmental Studies and Sciences Program