[JK: Vince DeLeonardis who serves as the city’s attorney, also chaired the Mayor’s Charter Review Commission. He recently wrote a piece for the Saratogian describing the commission’s work. The following is the full version of the text:]
The 2018 Charter Review Commission voted on and approved amendments to the City Charter which will be submitted to the voters of Saratoga Springs for consideration at the November 6th General Election.
The Commission was established by Mayor Kelly in March of this year for the purpose of reviewing our current City Charter and, specifically, “to find efficiencies and organizational improvements within the current form of government to better serve the people of Saratoga Springs.” Members include elected officials and employees from each City department, and across party lines.
Saratoga Springs operates under a Commission form of government and we have operated under such form since we were incorporated as a City in 1915. We are one of only two cities in the state which utilizes a Commission form of government and nationwide less that 5% operate under such form.
Is the Commission form of government unique? Yes. But, so too is Saratoga Springs; and our uniqueness is a trait which defines us.
Throughout our more than 100 year history as an incorporated City, there have been numerous attempts at changing our form of government, and each and every attempt at change was ultimately rejected by the people. Indeed, the only successful Charter Review Commission our City has had was the 2000 Commission led by its Chair, Harvey Fox. That Commission did not focus on changing our form of government but, rather, on improving our form of government.
The 2018 Charter Review Commission was established with that same focus in mind: to make improvements within the current form of government, because with each and every failed attempt at change, we have missed the opportunity to make the continued and necessary improvements to our City Charter that normally accompanies the passage of time.
To further our effort, the Commission held eighteen 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.
On the ballot will be two separate questions for the voters to consider:
- Shall the Saratoga Springs City Charter be amended as proposed by the 2018 Charter Review Commission?
- Shall the Saratoga Springs City Charter be further amended to provide for two (2) additional City Council members whose authority shall be legislative only?
The first question relates to the Commission’s proposed amendments which, in addition to finding efficiencies and organizational improvements, are intended to update obsolete language and improve consistency and readability of the Charter, provide greater clarity of functions, improve transparency and accountability, and increase flexibility of City operations.
The second question relates to a further amendment to include two at-large members of City Council. This proposal still keeps in line with and respects our Commission form of government while at the same time allows for individuals, who might not otherwise have the time or ability to run an entire department, with an opportunity to serve on the Council and participate in the operation of City government.
Ultimately, we believe the final product, unanimously supported by the Commission members, furthers the purpose for which the Commission was established and fulfills the charge placed upon us. I encourage voters to review our proposed updates and amendments to the Charter on the City website, or at the Saratoga Springs Library and Recreation Center where copies have been made available.
Vincent J. DeLeonardis
Chair, 2018 Charter Review Commission