Campaigns Over Whether To Pass A New Charter Begin

On August 6, 2020, Saratoga Today ran a story that the group that drafted a charter to change Saratoga Springs’ form of government that failed to pass in 2017, have launched a campaign to pass another version that will be on the ballot for the November elections. So they are back for another bite of the apple.

Today I received a press release from a new group called “Saratoga Works” announcing a campaign to oppose the charter’s passage.

[JK: Full disclosure. I am married to Jane Weihe]

This is a link to a story on WNYT.

Saratoga Works Supporters Gather in Congress Park

Press release:

A diverse group of Saratogians have come together to oppose a proposed change in Saratoga Springs’ form of government that will appear on the November ballot. Called Saratoga Works, the new organization issued the following statement:

“We are concerned with the third attempt in eight years to change our city’s form of government to a more expensive, less stable and risky option particularly during this time of pandemic and extreme economic crisis.

Abolishing and setting up a whole new form of government is expensive, disruptive, and challenging under the best of circumstances. Imagine doing this during a pandemic and national economic crisis equal to the Great Depression!

This expensive version of charter change will transfer power away from the people and give it to an appointed bureaucrat called a City Manager who cannot be voted out.   It will also politicize our neighborhoods by dividing them into wards.”

Saratoga Works points to the many examples of success under the city’s current commission form of government including keeping taxes flat for 8 years and guiding the city through the current crisis.

“Our commission form of government has used its disaster plan to successfully run our city when forced out of City Hall by a fire, and now has managed a pandemic and is working through the national business meltdown.”

The proposal to radically change the city’s form of government to a hired city manager and to divide the city into wards will appear on the November ballot in Saratoga Springs.

www.saratogaworks.org

Media contact:

Jane Weihe

(518)  573-1732

Jane.weihe@gmail.com

14 thoughts on “Campaigns Over Whether To Pass A New Charter Begin”

  1. This feels like a School Board budget vote that comes back and back until they get it passed…Sorry, but I don’t need a point person to address the city officials on my behalf… 6 wards? Can everyone get a grip here – this isn’t NYC with 8 million (maybe, 6 million now based on urban flight) – We don’t need more politicians – and having a committee of 5 versus a strong Mayor or City Manager (un-elected)…Look at Troy, Albany, Schenectady… you see something worth mimicking? If you take our two County Supervisors out and replace them with the Mayor, so the Mayor is on par with the neighboring Town Supervisors fighting for the city interests and gets a bump up salary stipend that could be worth a look…
    But it doesn’t matter its just a wheel that goes around and round… the “Reformers” are hoping the slot machine will pay out one of these cycles so their cronies political hacks can get a job the old fashion way… patronage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They can’t be serious, it’s just a little pathetic isn’t it? So Turner, Boyd, Bullock, Kaine, etc have morphed into the “Charter Women” ..??

    Anyone with a passing interest in politics here knows that they’ve been trying to win this losing battle with increased desperation for over a decade now…. And these are the fresh voices working to keep the fight going. Ann Bullock, Laura Chodos, Minita Sanghvi, Barbara Thomas, Beth Wurtmann …? LOL

    Sure, yeah, OK.

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  3. Don Quixote would be impressed… but seriously:
    I highly suggest that Saratoga Works make plans to assign people to watch every polling place in the city.

    In their most recent defeat (BTW how many times has this lost already through the years?) Charter Change Megalomaniac Turner installed his oblivious students at polling places, in shirts that falsely identified them as “Official Exit Poller”s”. They were anything but official. I observed this farce at the City Center.

    But it took on a dangerous, larcenous tone as these fake exit pollers were equipped with propaganda “fact” sheets that were given to people going in to vote. This in the lobby of the CC, well within the distance marked off for no electioneering. When pointed out, both the Republican and Democratic poll watchers (who were inside the voting room) agreed, asked the student to move, and, incredibly, was heard to say that Professor Turner has to authorize it! Needless to say, the police who were called did not agree, and the poly sci dude was given the royal boot he so richly deserved.

    Since these guys couldn’t win fair and square, and even by cheating, I expect this chicanery to be taken to a new level.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do not consider this to be ‘another bite of the apple’ but rather another attempt to finally discard an apple that has been rotting for the past 105 years. One could also claim that years-long efforts to allow gay marriage, to end sexual harassment, to establish that black lives matter, to establish affordable and accessible universal health care, to acknowledge and address climate change, to end the Vietnam Nam war, to declare Civil Rights for all, to allow women to vote, to end slavery, to declare independence from the British, etc., etc. were simply additional bites of the same apple.

    Of the many communities across this nation that abandoned the Commission form of government, I don’t know of one that decided to reverse course and go back to it. That’s because anything is an improvement over local government that is inherently and severely flawed. While the Commission form of government is designed to provide an efficient way of dealing with crises, it fails miserably otherwise. The success of Saratoga Springs has been in spite of, not because of, Commission government.

    Local government should be democratic, accessible, free of conflicts of interest and efficient. Each and every proposal for charter change over the past many years, including this years’s proposal, has represented a dramatic improvement over what we have now.

    Chris Mathiesen

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    1. so one head is better than five?…. its much harder to abuse power if its not concentrated in one individual’s hands. I don’t see any Black Lives Matter banners on City Hall, nor on our streets… Consensus maybe more work but I don’t like the ability of one person to abuse their office or “insulated” City Manager to have a free hand. You don’t see city’s turning back to it because the political powers would not yield their power back to a commission format… quirky isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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      1. Quirky is a bad thing when coupled with terms like inefficient, undemocratic, abysmal, antiquated, tired, conflicted, etc.

        Chris Mathiesen

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      2. I am sure every dictator can show how efficient it is not to have to have opposition to their plans…If you can’t get a majority among 5 people, then maybe it isn’t in the taxpayers’ interest… checks and balances aren’t done for efficiency but to protect the people.

        Too many Mayors (Governors) abusing their power in the news today… I will pay a few bucks for my “Quirky”.

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    2. Dr. Mathiesen–

      I respectfully disagree. Saratoga Works has nothing to do with NOT supporting change. We simply do not accept this new proposal as worthy of our votes.

      Changing from Commission to City Manager with Wards would not magically solve the societal ills that you reference. However, it would literally and figuratively divide us into Wards, raise our taxes even higher than what we can expect due to COVID, and would make us all dependent on a City Manager that we would not have the right to vote out as individuals.

      Additionally, the costs associated with this form of government are risky at best. Elected officials Franck and Madigan have cited the unexpected costs associated with a City Manager form of government the last time it was up for a vote on the ballot in 2017. With well-funded attempts from lobbyists and consultants at ICMA in 2017 to the tune of approximately $20,000 to fund Saratoga Springs charter change efforts, fiscal projections for a new city government with a City Manager were found to be inaccurate:

      “Commissioners John Franck and Michele Madigan said the $391,000 in savings to the taxpayers if the city moves from a commission form of government to one run by a city manager doesn’t add up. Therefore, Franck won’t agree to pay for printing and mailing for a required flyer that is to go to every registered voter’s home. “I’m a CPA by trade,” Franck said. “They want us to believe they will replace 18,000 working hours with one manager who will work 2,000 hours a year. It’s statistically impossible. If they come back with projections that are factual and truthful, I’ll sign off in five seconds.” https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/City-council-blocks-charter-review-commission-12225110.php

      Think about the phrase “divide and conquer”. Why would we want to be divided into Wards? Why would we want our RIGHT TO VOTE our city leaders out conquered?

      John Franck is right. It doesn’t add up.

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      1. I remember Commissioner Franck’s arguments about the hours worked by deputies versus the hours that a professional manager would work. I would respectfully disagree. The five deputies cumulatively work approximately 9000 hours per year, not 18,000. The professional manager would not be working alone. He or she would require assistants which would at least double the 2000 hours projected by Commissioner Franck. Taking into consideration the increased efficiency and the elimination of duplicate deputy duties, as well as the greater proficiency of well versed professional managers, Commissioner Franck’s hours disparity fades away.

        Regarding the concern about having the City divided into legislative districts, I consider this to be a big step in the right direction. Imagine actually having someone sitting as our representative at the City Council table for the first time in 105 years. And, I continue to question the standing claims of Charter revision opponents that a vote for Charter change is a vote for higher taxes. Such scare tactics are not helpful.

        Chris Mathiesen

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    3. I don’t believe the current form of government is perfect, but mentioning the efforts of the group continuously pushing for charter change in the same breath as those who fought and continue to fight for LGBTQ rights, racial equality, healthcare and climate change falls somewhere laughable and egregious. Voters have had multiple chances to opine directly on changing the charter and have voted against it each time. Perhaps its time a different group takes up the charge, or looks into other potential forms of local government.

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  5. “The professional manager would not be working alone. He or she would require assistants.” It appears that you and I agree that there are additional positions and additional costs associated with this proposal that are not outlined in the proposal. These positions would have salaries and benefits and contracts – which are unknown costs to taxpayers since they are not defined at all in the proposal. Why would we agree to such uncertain costs, especially during this time?

    Regarding wards:
    In theory, someone “sitting at the table” for your neighborhood in a paid capacity ($12,000/year under this proposal) should deliver results. In practice, that is not always the case – especially when they have seven other people with competing interests at the same table. Here is some evidence to consider:

    My grandparents immigrated to this country and settled in the city of Albany. They were poor immigrants and they had a wards representative. Along with over 7,000 other residents and 3,300 households, their house was razed and everyone in the neighborhood had to move due to eminent domain. Huck Finn’s Warehouse now stands where their home and neighborhood stood. Their wards representative did not help them. This evidence is not anecdotal, it is empirical: 7,000 residents and 3,300 households in Albany alone (https://inclusivehistorian.com/urban-renewal/).

    Here is a map of Albany’s 15 wards dating back to the 1800’s: https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3804a.wd000517/?r=0.438,0.376,0.531,0.271,0

    Dr. Mathiesen, relaying facts is not a scare tactic. If you follow the history of Albany’s tax and crime rates, it is difficult to argue that the ward system has been successful in taking care of societal ills, or that wards representatives are effective stewards of the taxpayer.

    Having someone “sitting at the table” for your ward does not mean that they will get anything done under the structure that this proposal dictates. You are neglecting to mention the fact that under this new proposal, individuals will only get to vote for two people – their Ward Representative and the Mayor. If this proposal passes, your Ward Representative needs to fight with 6 other people on the City Council (including the Mayor) and the unelected City Manager in order to get anything done for your specific neighborhood. The ward system sets up a negative power dynamic, suppresses the power of an individual’s vote, neglects the best interests of the city as a whole, and increases bureaucratic layers in both theory and practice.

    Of the 932 towns in New York – many of which have a higher population of the City of Saratoga Springs – 167 are eligible to use a ward system to elect council members, (whereby town board members represent a particular area (or “ward”) of a town), and only 13 have chosen to do so. The voters of Amherst, Bethlehem, Brookhaven, Clay, Colonie, Hamburg, Huntington, Malta, New Castle, Ramapo and more have all rejected wards (http://www.townofbethlehem.org/DocumentCenter/View/3844/Governance-Options-Study-Committee-Final-Report?bidId=).

    Here is another fact, for those of you that have not had a chance to look over the proposal yet:
    Along with the unelected City Manager, did you know that the City Assessor would not need to live in our city either under this new proposal?

    Please visit http://www.saratogaworks.org to learn more about what you are voting on this coming Election Day.

    Liked by 1 person

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