Charter Review Truce: Welcome News

Gordon Boyd has published a letter in the March 23rd Gazette Newspaper.  He writes: “As a former member of the Charter Review Commission and an activist in the Yes campaign, I think it is in everyone’s interest at this point to lower the volume and give the community a breather.” 

The irony of Mr. Boyd advising people to show greater civility will not escape the people who follow this blog.   While I look forward to a period of calm regarding their charter proposal, I am not sure how to interpret his reference to “breather.”  It seems to imply that not only will his group be back but that they will be returning to the shrill tactics that this city suffered through for a over a year.

Mr. Boyd notes in his letter that Mayor Meg Kelly has established a new charter commission to review the existing charter and  propose changes.  He then offers “Fortunately, the 2016-17 Charter Commission produced a compendium of recommendations in this direction [JK: amending the existing city charter] (separate from the Council Manager proposal) that the new commission would do well to consider.”  

 The problem is that his commission never produced such a document.  It’s not clear to me what recommendations Mr. Boyd is referring to when he writes that the Commission produced a “compendium of recommendations in this direction.” 

The most significant effort by the Commission in this area was the work of the Drafting Committee appointed by Chairman Robert Turner in September 2016.  The charge to the Drafting Committee was to evaluate the current Charter and make recommendations for changes to it similar to the approach used by the 2001 Commission.  Chairman Turner appointed four members of the Commission to serve on the Drafting Committee including attorney Matt Jones as Chairman and members Beth Wurtmann, Pat Kane, and attorney Ann Casey Bullock. 

 The Drafting Committee met from September 2016 to January 2017.  During that time, they interviewed roughly a dozen city employees, most holding senior management positions.  In December 2016, however, the full Charter Review Commission voted to draft an entirely new charter with a council/manager form of government with the goal of placing it on the ballot in a special election in May 2017.  As a result of the Commission’s decision to pursue the council/manager form of government, Mr. Jones decided against expending the resources of the Drafting Committee to conduct further interviews to complete its work.  The Drafting Committee did not vote on final recommendations nor did it issue a final report. 

Mr. Jones responded to my inquiry regarding the work of the Drafting Committee.  He indicated that he felt there was consensus among the Committee on several proposed changes to the current Charter, but neither the Drafting Committee nor the Commission ever voted on these recommendations.

So, the question remains for Mr. Boyd.  Specifically, what recommendations are you talking about, who prepared the recommendations, and when, if ever, did the Commission vote on them? 

Here is the full letter from Mr. Boyd:

Last November’s referendum on the Saratoga Springs City Charter produced an excruciatingly close result. The 10-vote margin against change, out of more than 9,000 cast has, if anything, amplified the voices on both sides who want the issue to be settled their way. As a member of the former Charter Review Commission and an activist in the Yes campaign, I think it is in everyone’s best interest at this point to lower the volume and give the community a breather.

Mayor Meg Kelly has formed a new Charter Review Commission comprised of the commissioners and deputies, to review the existing charter and propose improvements. Fortunately, the 2016-17 Charter Commission produced a compendium of recommendations in this direction (separate from the Council Manager proposal) that the new commission would do well to consider.

Amending the existing charter was our hedge against the possibility that the council/manager proposal was defeated at the polls. So in this way, at least, the mayor’s initiative is in keeping with the former commission’s mandate. If the new commission’s proposal is on the November ballot, there will be plenty of time and space to comment.

For now, advocates of charter change need to lower their voices so that the discussion can be heard how the commissioners want to change things. We also need to give Mayor Kelly the consideration due to anyone who enters a competitive election and ends up on top. The voters made their choice, and the outcome deserves its time on the stage.


Saratoga Springs

4 thoughts on “Charter Review Truce: Welcome News”

  1. Gordon is presenting the City with a Trojan Horse; note his letter in The Saratogian as well. The Pro Charter folks have rightfully come to the conclusion that the greater public is tired of their BS.

    The very first chance they get they’ll have their Commission’s proposal back on the ballot. Perhaps a more decisive defeat in the future will finally put an end to this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The co-chief “amplifier” is only calling for a short pause…a breather. He’s signaling that they’ll be back as harsh as ever.

      Has anyone seen the apparently valuable “compendium of recommendations”? I couldn’t find it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “The real issue is one of appearances” is what mayoral candidate Boyd once wrote in 2007 when calling to amend the City Ethics Code. It is notable that, after three failed attempts in eleven years to change the city charter as a zealot for the YES campaign, his statement about the import of “appearances” still rings true. Indeed, it was not the best look that – as treasurer for his latest charter crusade – he solicited and accepted PAC money in a local election. It was also not the best display of concern for the city’s electorate to ignore the mandate to review our current charter by instead choosing to advocate for its complete repeal and replacement. Neither was it flattering of his charter change cause when his group unlawfully mailed promotional materials under the City’s Seal to residents without council authorization.

    The public is growing weary after having endured three failed Charter replacement attempts in as many years by same gaggle of agitators. Mr. Boyd must know this but it is exactly the above appearances of impropriety that serve to undercut the credibility his own recent “appeal for calm.” Furthermore, even if Mr. Boyd’s decommissioned, former committee had produced a worthwhile “compendium of recommendations” relating to our current Charter, its value to voters would be dubious given the actual contents of his group’s improper and one-sided promotional mailing that had masqueraded as educational materials.

    Admittedly, our city is required by law to review its Charter once every ten years. It is time for Saratoga Springs to permit its own professional representatives – members of an accountable City council form of government – to calmly review the existing City Charter for the next decade, to offer minor adjustments as practical, and then to simply move on and get on with governing. It should be reassuring to all that, even without reoccurring high-civic charter-drama, our city will still continue to be a thriving community that enjoys unparalleled economic success.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jim says:
    “Admittedly, our city is required by law to review its Charter once every ten years.”

    Then, why three times in eleven years??? Yes, let’s take a break, a ten-year break.

    Liked by 1 person

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