The following is a reply from Mayor Meg Kelly to a Readers View published in the Saratogian. Yepsen’s Readers View follows.
Readers View: City Charter
Submitted by: Mayor Meg Kelly, 518.587.3550 X2523 Date: 10.22.18
For Immediate Release
I read with disappointment former Mayor Yepsen’s Reader’s View in which she opposes this year’s effort to update our City Charter. Ms. Yepsen takes issue with the manner in which I established the Commission while, at the same time, compliments herself and the Commission she established, despite the fact that their proposal was rejected by the voters.
Ms. Yepsen also attacks the membership of the current Commission and the proposals they have put forward with misinformation and misstatements of fact. Her claims are both unfortunate and incorrect.
While I supported last year’s effort to adopt a City Manager form of government, I also made clear that I would respect the will of the people and indicated that if this proposal did not pass, I would work toward updating and improving our City Charter to better serve the people of Saratoga Springs.
The votes were cast and, for the third time in recent years, the people of this City rejected an effort to change our commission form of government. In keeping with my word, I established the 2018 Commission and charged them with reviewing our Charter and proposing updates/ amendments to a document that hasn’t been updated in 17 years.
That I established the Commission in a manner that Ms. Yepsen believes was wrong, only reassures me that what I did was right. Rather than use my authority to stack the Commission, as she did by unilaterally picking 11 out of the 15 members and thereby denying her fellow Council members an equal opportunity, I appointed my fellow Council members directly to the Commission, together with all deputies and the City Attorney. As she knows, but is apparently displeased by, the residents of this City do not simply elect a Mayor but, instead, five individuals who represent them equally. My Charter Review Commission is reflective of that equal representation and I am proud of the work that they have done.
Ms. Yepsen also fails to understand that this year’s proposed Charter does not “weaken” the Mayor, as the position continues to be the Chief Executive Officer of the City and remains administratively responsible for numerous departments and critical functions in City Hall. To centralize the City Attorney and Human Resources, as currently proposed, recognizes that those positions serve city-wide functions across all departments and not simply the Mayor’s Department.
While it is unknown why or how Ms. Yepsen believes the currently proposed Charter would create a “weak” Mayor, yet she fully supported and advocated for last year’s proposal which removed all administrative duties, gave them to the City Manager, and left the Mayor a mere “ceremonial” figurehead. Also surprising, and I believe hypocritical, is the issue she now takes with having appointments to the land use boards be made with the advice and consent of City Council; that is exactly what was proposed by last year’s Commission.
Ultimately, Ms. Yepsen is misguided. This year’s proposal provides crucial updates and amendments to our City Charter and I encourage you to vote Yes.
Readers View: Proposed New Charter for Saratoga Springs
Submitted By Joanne Yepsen The Saratogian October 21, 2018
For numerous reasons, I will be voting NO on this year’s proposed new charter for Saratoga Springs. The approach, membership and proposed changes that will be on the ballot are very different than the 2016 – 17 Commission.
The 2016-17 Charter Commission included 15 talented individuals throughout the community with diverse skills, political affiliations, broad geographic representation, and professional experience needed for the task. It only came up short by 10 votes out of over 9,000 with no recount. This year, the make up of the “Commission” included no members of the community. Instead, the city hall internal committee crafted a constitution that perhaps accomplished political inside trading but not what’s best for our great city and us.
Also in contrast, the charter on the upcoming ballot weakens the Mayor’s role significantly; moving major departments, the City Attorney, the Human Resources Director, and land use board appointments out of the Mayor’s authority as well as weakens his/her position to bargain with the unions, present the annual state of the city and offer the Capital Budget plan.
Who wants a weak Mayor? Saratoga Springs needs a strong leader who is equipped with decision-making power, hiring and appointment capabilities and bargaining executive power to accomplish the vision and budget that the Council approves. In fact, the only charter commission that successfully passed a new charter in our history was in 2001 under Mayor Ken Klotz, laying the groundwork for a stronger executive. We must conclude, this year’s proposal sets the city backward, not forward.
Lastly, the new charter does not increase the Mayor’s annual salary of $14,500 (essentially the same salary for many decades) which continues to significantly reduce the pool of people that can serve. This is not sustainable, nor reasonable given the importance of our City in the state, nation, and world.