As documented in a previous post, eight of the now disbanded 2017 Charter Review Commission members issued an attack document on the proposed 2018 charter. They are:
Dr. Robert Turner
Dr. Minita Sanghvi
Ann Casey Bullock
In response, Vince DeLeonardis and Michael Sharp, the 2018 Charter Commission chair and co-chair respectively, issued a point by point rebuttal, to my mind thoroughly discrediting their allegations.
Realistically, I never expected Turner et al to publish a retraction but Dr. Turner and Mr. Boyd have gone so far as to repeat these demonstrably false or misleading statements recently in area newspapers and on their website.
In an earlier and quainter time (pardon my snarkiness), there would have been a debate in a public forum to allow the community to decide for itself which information was valid. Traditionally the League of Women Voters would have performed this service but the League has declined to provide any forum let alone a debate. In fact, in a kind of “blind” efficiency, the board of the League has issued a blanket rejection of the proposed charter without ever having met with members of the charter commission to discuss the changes. The League’s release was a study in brevity. Rather than go though the proposed changes, they dismissed the entire charter in just a few sentences. Apparently, because they oppose the commission form of government, considering whether any of the proposed changes might actually benefit the city under the current form of government was not worth their time to consider.
I will review some of the falsehoods and misrepresentations in the original attack below but I am issuing the following challenge. I will provide any and all of the people who signed the attack the opportunity to write their own post for this site. If all eight of the signatories want individual posts, I will accommodate them all. They can give it whatever title(s) they wish. They can make their post(s) as long as they wish.
The only caveat is that they must address directly the points made by Mr. DeLeonardis and Mr. Sharp in their rebuttal to their allegations. If they, in fact, have credible explanations this should provide them with an excellent forum to share them with us.
Let me go through a few of the points that would need to be addressed.
- They attack the proposed charter for removing the salaries from the current charter with the sensational accusation that this is being done to allow the council members to provide themselves with unlimited salaries. There are quotes in the minutes from Mr. Boyd and Mr. Kane urging that they remove the salaries from the charter. They need to explain this apparent contradiction.
- They attack the proposed charter because it would require the advice and consent of a majority of the city council for land use boards. Their charter had the same policy. These people need to explain this apparent hypocrisy.
- They claim that the projected cost for implementing the proposed charter did not include the increased cost of the city attorney and the cost of a human resources administrator. The city attorney’s hours were increased earlier this year by the council and has nothing to do with the charter. The human resources administrator was approved by the voters in the 2001 charter and thus not “created” by this charter proposal. Mr. Turner and the signers of this statement should have known they were making a false statement since they interviewed the HR person during their own charter deliberations. They need to explain these falsehoods.
- The proposed charter would make the City Attorney’s office and the Information Technology office responsible to the entire council rather than under the Mayor’s office and the Finance office respectively. They claim that having to report to five people (the council) would be dysfunctional. These same people proposed that a city manager report to the seven people who would have formed the council in their proposed charter. They need to explain why this would have been any less dysfunctional than that proposed by the current charter commission.
- They claim that the charter was crafted “with little input from the public.” I would refer people back to the DeLeonardis/Sharp paper but briefly, all meetings were properly noticed, opportunities for public input were provided both at the beginning and end of the meetings. Videos of the meetings were and are available on the city website, surveys and interviews were conducted. I would also note that unlike the Turner commission, the current charter commission strictly adhered to the open meetings laws giving proper notice of all meetings. The frequent violation of the Open Meetings Law by Turner’s group (which included a member of the LWV) was repeatedly pointed out but the violations continued. And because the last commission’s meetings were often held in the Music Hall, the recordings of their meetings are so poor that it is difficult to hear what members are saying. The tape of one of their public hearings was never made public. In addition, Dr. Turner, Mr. Boyd, and Mr. Kane were personally invited to address the current commission and declined. It would be helpful if these people would explain why they declined to participate in giving this commission any input and how their commission was more open to input..
- They claim that under the new charter the council members will be able to set their own salaries. This is false. The council can set the salaries for those who are elected in the future but not for themselves. As noted under item #1, this is the same language as in the 2017 charter proposal. They need to explain why they continue to repeat this false information.
- They make a point that the polling firm used to do a professional poll (as compared to the unscientific poll done by the previous commission) is a “Republican” polling firm. In light of the fact that four out of five members of the council are Democrats, they need to explain what is the significance of this firm, which was the lowest qualified bidder, being associated with Republicans?
- They allege that the mailer sent to the voters was “designed to confuse” and was “hiding the truth.” They say it did not state that the proposed charter “would continue the commission form of government.” The mailer includes the language that the mission was “to improve our Charter without changing the form of government” and further states that the Commission was charged with finding “efficiencies and organizational improvements within the current form of government to better serve the people of Saratoga Springs”. They need to explain why they used this uber language to describe the mailer.
- As to the accusations that the proposed charter would strip the mayor of her power, please review the DeLeonardis/Sharp document where they cite the Turner charter which designates that their mayor will have no administrative duties. They need to explain the apparent hypocrisy of this criticism.
It seems to me that if the facts support them they should jump on this opportunity. In fact, it would be nice if they offered me the same challenge to be on their Face book page. The public deserves these kinds of accusations to be properly addressed.