Mayor Kelly Responds To Yepsen’s Criticisms of Proposed Charter

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.

 

7 thoughts on “Mayor Kelly Responds To Yepsen’s Criticisms of Proposed Charter”

  1. I do not agree with the current Mayor. This proposal does weaken the position of the Mayor. In the current charter,the Mayor does have the position to appoint the members of the land use boards. The new proposal says the Mayor will appoint with the approval of the Council. If this is approved it will give the Council more power and weaken the power of the Mayor. This is not “making the council more efficient”. Remember the only members of this committee were members of the Council, minus the Mayor, and their deputies and the City Attorney.

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    1. Perhaps instead of looking at whether this strengthens or lessens the position of the Mayor, we should consider how this impacts the integrity of the land use boards. Having only one person making appointments that have so much importance can potentially lead to bias in those appointments or at the very least lead to the appearance of bias. Having the entire Council approve will ensure a more objective and balanced set of appointments and thus ensure greater integrity in those boards. This can only be positive in the long run and seems to be more important than the territorial debate on the “power” of the Mayor. Whether you like the commission form of government or not, it is what we have which means the Mayor is only one member of the Council and not the head of it so getting the approval of the Council seems to fit with that format.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d like to add that the idea of moving the City Attorney from out of the Mayor’s control is an excellent idea. The City Attorney is just that the City’s Attorney, not the Mayor’s Attorney. It is some confusion over this role in the early part of the last administration, under Joanne Yepsen, that initiated some of the conflicts that continued among counseling members throughout both her terms. At this time, while the Mayor appoints the City Attorney he/she clearly works not for the Mayor but the City as a whole and all City Departments. Moving the City Attorney position from under any one member of the Council will avoid this type of confusion and conflict in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t understand the angst over how strong the city’s mayor is. This is a commission form of government where power is shared among the mayor and four commissioners not concentrated in the hands of one person. The city was offered the choice of changing to a strong mayor form of government at least twice in the last few years, and voters rejected this change each time.
      Yes, the commission form is unique but it is working well for us here in Saratoga Springs where we have a vibrant prosperous city that is financially sound. The city even went through an amazingly smooth transition of relocating the entire city operation after the fire in city hall. Hard to imagine how it could have been done better by a city manager or strong mayor.
      Let’s stop these endless proposals for expensive and disruptive dramatic changes in how the city is governed. Let’s update and improve the charter we have by voting YES on November 6.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. No.
      You are dead wrong.
      You and our old mayor emiritis, need to take a nice, long vacation.
      Puerto Rico is a wonderful destination both economically and culturally this time of year.
      And think of all the GOOD you can do down there.
      So many democrats, so little time (lol)!
      -JC

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  2. Mayor Kelly sets the record straight in responding to the regrettable criticism levied by the ex-mayor, who had selected Meg as her deputy and 11 of 15 prejudiced charter review members that pronounced during their promotional performance that, “deputies, were not professionals”. I’m thankful that Meg Kelly chose to run for office. She has been a fresh breath from the partisan political swaggering of old and in her challenging first year in office being physically displaced from City Hall, our Council Meetings have run like clockwork, the Commissioners and their deputies have exhibited cooperative professional decorum and our City Attorney has superbly managed as chairman, to moderate this year’s legitimate charter review with measured authority producing a new document worthy of its scholarship. The city is in good hands, our citizens have much to be thankful for and as for the perennial zombie disgruntled dissidents who could not muster the effort to participate in this latest dialogue save for a last-minute dismissive response – shame.

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  3. I will be voting yes for the charter change. As we all know, the 2016-17 Charter Review Commission was stacked with people who had formerly made up their minds that there the only solution was charter change. They were charged with charter review, which they never did, producing only minutes of meeting notes rather than a review report, and launching into a charter change report instead. I respect Meg Kelly for honoring her promise to continue to work to make our city government more efficient in the spirit of compromise. Vince DiLeonardi’s letter in response to Bob Turner’s allegations was also convincing. The current Charter Review Commission did the job it was charged to do. They asked for feedback from the former charter review commission, and all but one refused to speak with them. I don’t like that kind of my-way-or-the highway approach. Progress, not perfection is my motto here.

    Liked by 2 people

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