Times Union Covers Critics Of Mayor’s Charter Review Commission

In a story dated August 1st on the Times Union website Wendy Liberatore reports that the current Charter Review Commission is considering expanding the city council by adding two additional members who would serve strictly as legislators with no administrative responsibilities over city operations as I had posted in a blog  earlier this week. This is a link to her story: https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Spa-City-council-may-grow-13123866.php

In her story Ms. Liberatore writes that “Critics of this latest charter review group, which is made up of elected officials and their deputy appointees, dispute that two at-large council members would have equal power with council members who head up city departments. They say the idea demonstrates the group’s lack of understanding of municipal government.”

She then offers the following quote:

“They would be junior city council members,” said Bob Turner, a political science professor at Skidmore College who was the chairman of 2017’s charter review commission. “They will be at a significant disadvantage. It reflects their lack of any kind of research and understanding of the problems inherent with the commission form of government.”

I don’t understand how they would be “junior members” which I take is meant to be  pejorative.  These two members would have equal rights at the council table. They would be able to introduce legislation, have an equal vote, work with  constituents etc. Maybe he is thinking they will have a disadvantage because they will lack the kind of in depth knowledge and understanding of the workings of city government that Commissioners who run departments have.  But then that would have been the case of the entire city council in the manager form Turner’s commission proposed.

Even more puzzling, though, is Turner’s statement that the current Charter Review  Commission members don’t understand city government.

The members of this Commission are people with extensive practical working experience in government in general and in the Saratoga Springs’ commission form in particular.  I would encourage readers to sit in on one of this commission’s sessions or watch the videos on the city website. The conversations at the meetings I have attended/watched have been thoughtful, in depth, and sophisticated explorations of all aspects of our city’s charter. Members have shown not only an understanding of the charter’s provisions and legal implications but also how those provisions play out practically in the day to day running of city government. The other aspect of this commission that I find interesting is the lack of acrimony and the respect shown when members differ.

Professor Turner does not seem to understand what it means to civilly disagree with others. He might consider that Mayor Kelley supported the charter as proposed by his committee but in light of what appears to have been the defeat of the that charter, decided to explore what could be done to improve the commission form.  He also might consider that Commissioner Peter Martin who is a member of the current commission was an outspoken supporter of charter change. Turner’s attack on the current charter commission that they are have no understanding of the “problems inherent with the commission form  of government” is simply baseless and unhelpful.

Professor Turner’s obsession with ending the commission form of government in Saratoga Springs seems Ahab-like.  One hopes that he might step back and take the tack of Mayor Kelly and Commissioner Martin.  They have accepted that barring the overturning of the last election, the city will be maintaining the commission form and that we should explore how to make it as effective as possible.  Most of all, he might observe the proceedings of this Charter Review Commission as an example of how thoughtful people can come together to work on thorny problems where there are differences in a civil and constructive manner.




3 thoughts on “Times Union Covers Critics Of Mayor’s Charter Review Commission”

  1. “Ahab-like” – Kudos.

    Why is anyone asking Professor Defunct for his opinion at this point? I believe that he was asked to appear before the current Commission, so his pontificating blather could be part of the official record, but I guess he would rather snark from the sidelines.

    (Which is what I’m doing here too, full disclosure, so I get it on one level.)

    But at this juncture – particularly when disseminated via Mouthpiece Liberatore – his opines have a hollow, pathetic sound – a loser’s post-mortem, delivered in the same oblivious matter that has, in fact, cost his side an election that should have been won with ease.

    Now, one would think that, going down to defeat for the third time would give cause to reflect – perhaps behave with dignity (reference Al Gore in 2000), or at the very least – have the good sense to crawl under a rock – or up an ivory tower!

    Instead, we get “Ahab-like.” Incredible.


  2. OK – that’s be fair and factual here. I support charter change. I’ve lived here my entire life and the issues with this form of government is obvious. That said, I wasn’t a fan of the personal shots both sides were firing at each other between the charter change folk and city council and they let personal issues get in the way., That was wrong on BOTH sides.

    Your shots on Bob Turner are unfair when it comes to credentials. The guy is a political professor. He understands it a hell of a lot better than most.

    Adding two positions (and especially how John Franck wants to do it) makes it even HARDER for anyone to get something done in this city. Take it from someone who has worked with this city as well as neighboring townships. Chris Mathiesen’s idea made a LOT more sense (utilizing the supervisors). John STILl has a stranglehold on the position that is called ‘accounts’. Let’s be honest here. In ten years he’s had two opponents – both were accountants. What chance do you have to unseat him? Even running against him is basically impossible if you are not an accountant yourself. If that ain’t an advantage, well…. (and yes, I GET the ‘flip side’ of that, but that isn’t a good situation either).

    Wendy Liberatore is a horrible joke as a “reporter”. We’ve all seen that time and time again (like Comm. Madigan putting in a ‘personal bathroom’ and such).

    I don’t know how ANYONE would be against a recount when an election was decided by ten votes. That’s beyond wrong.

    I do commend Meg and Peter for how they have handled themselves on all of this, even if my friends for charter do not. That absolutely was the correct way to handle it.

    And please understand this: charter change is NOT going to go away until the legislative and administrative duties are separated. The faulty logic of the commission form of government will never go away, and that in itself will be its downfall.


  3. As far as being unfair to Turner because of his credentials, note that on the Skidmore website, he is listed as an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies and Sciences Program (https://www.skidmore.edu/environmental_studies/faculty/turner.php) as well as an Associate Professor of Political Science. In the latter position, his current and past research has been on topics such as:
    “A Framework for Cluster-Based Economic Development Policies” and
    “An Integrated Model of State Chief Justices’ Governance Agenda”
    All worthy academic topics, I am sure.
    The complete list is here: http://www.skidmore.edu/~bturner/research.htm

    When you look it over the list, please try to identify one of his research topics that has anything to do with either:
    1) Municipal Governmental Structure or
    2) Political Campaign Strategy and Tactics
    You will find nary a word. Zero.

    I see no writings on your pet topic of the separation of legislative and administrative functions, or anything close to being germane. If you see something, please point it out and I will apologize.

    But I will make no apologies for calling Turner on his real-world conduct in the past campaign – I’m not going to re-hash his oblivious ineptitude again, except to say that his true colors are revealed when he declined the current Charter Commission’s invite to participate, but yet has time to snark to an equally inept reporter.


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