The previous charter review commission pressed a narrative that the city’s commission form of government was by its very nature riven by conflict and run by deputies who were political hacks. While the members of that commission put in many long hours their lack of knowledge of how government actually works was reflected in their often meandering discussions . They basically largely focused on their belief that the problems of city government were the result of the commission form of government and assumed that a city manager would resolve everything. By their second meeting they had dismissed exploring correctable problems with the commission form.
I received a release that summarizes the work of the current commission whose membership is made up of the Commissioners and their Deputies. I strongly urge the readers of this blog to take a few minutes to peruse the document. It made me feel very good about the people who serve us in city hall. The summary shows that the members of this new charter commission have a thorough understanding of the way city hall functions. There are thoughtful recommendations being considered that will ultimately go to the voters about reorganizing the responsibilities of the various departments so the city can operate more efficiently. The reader will find an amazing lack of turf conflict. It is also impressive how civilly and professionally these people handle their differences. I don’t know how anyone reading this release or watching the videos of their meetings cannot come away feeling a sense of pride about our city government. Credit also needs to go to Mayor Kelly who selected the members of the committee and crafted its mission.
The current Charter Review Commission regularly sends out releases that summarize the work of each meeting. They meet the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays monthly at 4PM in the City Council chambers. Meeting minutes and video recordings are available on the City website. In addition a public forum will be held Wednesday, May 30th at 6PM in the City Council Room. City residents can also give feedback at each of the commission’s meetings or through the city website Link
MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT: 2018 Charter Review Commission Update
Date: May 25, 2018
Saratoga Springs, NY — The 2018 Charter Review Commission (“CRC”) held its sixth meeting on Wednesday May 24th at 4pm in the City Council Room. During this meeting the CRC reviewed the sections and the proposed edits discussed during the meeting held on Saturday May 19th for the benefit of those CRC members who were unable to attend, and also completed its initial review of the remainder of the current Charter.
As a reminder, the CRC was formed on March 6, 2018 by Mayor Meg Kelly with the goal of finding efficiencies and organizational improvements to better serve the people who live and work in the City of Saratoga Springs. The Commission’s proposal will be voted on by City residents via a referendum in the November 2018 election.
Below are some of the topics that have been discussed in the past two meetings, along with a recap of some of the discussion points. No discussion noted below is final. The CRC intends to review and vote on each section later in the process, along with a comprehensive review by outside legal counsel.
• Within the Finance section, the CRC again spoke about moving the Capital Budget from the Mayor’s section to Finance, so that the City Council member elected to create and manage the City’s Operating Budget also manages the Capital Budget. The Capital Budget inherently influences the Operating Budget and therefore the tax rate paid by City residents. Other potential Finance edits discussed included more explicit language around the Finance Commissioner’s role as Internal Auditor and adjustments to the budgeting calendar, as to allow Finance more time to finalize and present a Comprehensive Budget to the City Council and residents.
• When discussing the Public Works portion of the Charter, the CRC referred back to earlier conversations regarding Recreation, Parks, and Open Space all potentially moving to Public Works, given this department’s stated responsibility over City land and facilities. There was also some discussion around facility management responsibilities between Public Works and Public Safety, and if this separation, and any possible changes, should be discussed further within the Charter.
• Regarding the Public Safety section, the most material issue remains the potential merger of Code Administration in Public Safety with Building and Zoning Enforcement with the Mayor’s Department. There seems to be consensus among the CRC that combining the group, either in full or partially, makes sense and would increase efficiencies internally and for residents, though the most appropriate structure has yet to be determined.
• Within Accounts the topic that received the most attention was the requirement that the Commissioner of Accounts shall be a licensed assessor. The CRC discussed what the City’s options might be according to State law.
• In the Legal Matters portion, the CRC largely agreed that the City Attorney should continue to be appointed by the Mayor, but that that appointment should require the advice and consent of the City Council. Per the Charter, the City Attorney serves as general legal advisor to the City and all its departments, not just the Mayor, so many felt the other City Council members should have the ability to vote on the appointment. Also discussed during this section was the potential creation of an administrative unit which would include other groups that support departments across City Hall, though no consensus was reached on the structure or which groups would potentially be included.
• Other topics discussed from the remainder of the existing Charter include the necessity for an inside and outside tax district, limitations imposed on the City’s bonding limit, and the term and number of County Supervisors explicitly laid out in the Charter, among others.
• Outside of the Charter review itself, the CRC approved the brief questionnaire that will be given to attendees of the May 30th public forum, and the CRC Chairman updated the broader commission on matters such as retaining outside council and subcommittee meetings with select groups and individuals.
As always, the meeting minutes and video recordings from CRC meetings are available on the City website. City residents are also invited to give feedback at future CRC meetings, the public forum to be held on Wednesday May 30th at 6pm in the City Council Room, or through the City website (http://saratoga-springs.org/2144/Charter-Commission ).