I received the following statement from Ken Klotz regarding the charter change proposal that will appear on the ballot in November in Saratoga Springs.
A note on Ken’s background: Ken served as Mayor of Saratoga Springs from 2000-2003. He also served as Commissioner of Finance from 1996-7 and served as the chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee in the 1990’s. Ken worked at Skidmore from 1985 to 2007 as a member of the academic staff for the college’s adult degree program, the University Without Walls; was coordinator of the Inmate Education Program from 1985-1992; and worked as an academic advisor from 1985-2007. In addition, what few people may know about Ken is that as a Yale student he was involved in an early civil rights organizing campaign in Mississippi in 1963. The effort he was involved with, during which he was assaulted and arrested, lead to the Freedom Summer campaign in 1964, a voter registration drive aimed at increasing the number of Black voters in Mississippi that was met with violent resistance from the Ku Klux Klan and others.
Here is his statement:
This fall we are facing yet another charter change initiative.
You’ve got to admire the sheer determination of the charter change people. They are determined to get a different charter, of any sort, if only it rids them of the detested commission form of government.
Many of them are friends of mine, and people I respect. Indeed people like Gordon Boyd, Pat Kane, and Bob Turner would make excellent council members under the current charter, and I wish they would choose to work within the system.
I’m not going to rehash the old arguments about pros and cons of different forms of city government. We’ve been through that many times. But I’d like to address the new wrinkle in the charter change proposal, the introduction of a ward system.
Where did this idea come from? I think I’ve figured it out.
If a city manager is hired, elected members of the council would have nothing to do—their old jobs would be taken from them by someone unfamiliar with Saratoga Springs but armed with the three semesters of graduate school training in city management that supposedly make them uniquely qualified to run the City of Saratoga Springs. But what do we do then with these elected officials who now have nothing to do?
Under the commission form of government all Council members are elected at large and represent the entire city. Various neighborhood associations, some more active than others, represent particularly parts of the city and lobby on behalf of their neighborhoods.
With the city manager in place, and with council members now representing only parts of the city, the council can be kept busy with neighborhood squabbles, leaving the city manager free to run the city without interference, as he sees fit.
(And I use the pronoun “he” advisedly because almost all of them are men. Though in the past charter change advocates have made the argument that charter change was essential in order to bring more women into government! You won’t hear that one this time around now that the majority of council members are women.)
It’s a brilliant solution to this built-in new problem. But it’s also condescending, cynical, manipulative, and disrespectful of city residents. The new wrinkle of a ward system is a REALLY bad idea, and makes this the worst charter change proposal we have ever seen by far. The voters can and should reject it—yet again.
Mayor, City of Saratoga Springs, 2000-2003