More Chaos From The Charter Advocates: The Mayor Is No Longer A Full Time Position

[JK: Until now I have found it very difficult to get answers about the proposed charter from the advocates of charter change.

It is to the credit of the moderator of the It’s Time Saratoga Facebook page that he/she was willing to address my questions. However problematic I may find the answers, any civil exchange over an issue as important as a new charter is a good thing.

Whatever the outcome in the upcoming election, the more we can learn from each other about how best to organize our city, the more we will all benefit in addressing the ever changing character of Saratoga Springs.]


The Proponents Of Charter Change Have Repeatedly Told Saratogians That With Their Charter They Will Get A Full Time Mayor

They promised this three years ago:

Benefits would remain intact for the mayor, whose job would become full time under the final draft approved by the city’s Charter Review Commission on Monday.

Professor Robert Turner, Daily Gazette, June 27, 2017

and Bob Turner renewed that claim on the Saratoga Flash News Website on September 13, 2020:

Saratoga Flash News September 13, 2020

Here it is again in their “Projected Budget For First Year Of New Government” on their Common Sense Saratoga Website

This is from the Common Sense Saratoga Webssite.

Well It Turns Out All Of This Is Not True

I had previously submitted questions about these full time mayor claims to charter change co-chairs Ron Kim and Julie Cuneo. As reported in my earlier post I did not hear back from Julie Cuneo and Ron Kim’s responses were really non-answers.

I decided to post my questions on the charter proponents’ Facebook pages. The site moderator of one of their pages, Common Sense Saratoga, ignored my questions. It’s Time Saratoga’s moderator, however, to their credit did address the questions I submitted to that site.

One of my questions dealt with the repeated statements by the advocates for charter change that the mayor would be full time. I pointed out that there was nothing in the charter that supported this claim.

The moderator of this website responded:

The charter does not require a full time commitment for Mayor. She or he can choose to maintain another job or business if they want. If they choose to devote full or nearly full time to the Mayor’s job, they will make better than the slave wages provided under the present charter.

See Post Below

The moderator has admitted that the truth is, in spite of all their pronouncements, the position of mayor is not a full time position.

This screen shot is from the It’s Time Saratoga website in which someone identified as “the author” responded to my questions.


Next Question: So How Did They Arrive At the $65,000.00 Salary?

I asked how they decided on a salary of $65,000.00 for this mayor’s position . Here is the response to that question:

Initial salary was set to be commensurate with leadership responsibilities.

It’s Time Saratoga Website (see above)

This is the second time I have gotten a non-answer to this question from this group. Previously Ron Kim, one of the co-chairs of Common Sense Saratoga, gave me a similar response.

As the meetings in which the authors (we don’t know who they were) arrived at this number were not public and there are no records of the meetings’ discussions, we have no idea what the logic or rationale was. This is even more problematic since we now know that there is no requirement that this mayor work full time.

The Myth That The Mayor Will Oversee The City Manager

I asked It’s Time:

You say the proposed mayor will oversee the city manager. I can find no where in your charter where you establish this. It appears the mayor has no more role in overseeing the city manager than anyone else on the council. Where in the charter is the mayor empowered to oversee the city manager?

My question

Their response:

See Article III, 3.01, 3.02, 3.04 “responsible to the City Council…,” 3.04 subparagraphs 6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14. Article IV,4.01 B,C,4.04,4.05 appointments with advice and consent. Those are just some examples.

Wherever the CM [JK: City Manager] is involved with the Council, it should be remembered that the Mayor will be presiding over that interaction, whether a report, appointment or Meeting. Mayor is also chair of the Finance Committee, so is involved in reviewing the CM’s budget.

Their Answer

The charter change proponents single out the mayor repeatedly in their materials. An innocent member of the public might conclude that the mayor plays some kind of unique leadership and oversight role vis a vis the rest of the council. This is not supported by a careful reading of the charter.

I have studiously gone through their list of charter references and here is what I have found.

With few exceptions, the mayor is given no greater authority or role than any of the other six members of the council. Rather than repeat myself in responding to the articles of the charter referred to above, I will simply note whether the mayor is even referenced in the article cited or whether it simply refers to the council. Oddly one section they site specifically as evidence of the mayor’s power is #6 in Article III, section 3.04 which reads: [The city manager shall…]attend all City Council meetings. The City Manager shall have the right to take part in discussions but shall not vote.”

Article III

3.01 Not exclusive power of the mayor, shared equally with council

3.02: No mention of mayor. Council function.

3.04: This section lists seventeen “powers and duties” of the city manager. The only reference to the mayor in this list is that the mayor signs contracts and that the city manager will provide staff support services to the mayor and the city council. In the case of the other fifteen, the mayor is not mentioned.

Article IV

4.01B: No mention of the mayor. Council function.

4.01C: No mention of the mayor. Council function.

4.04: No mention of the mayor. Council function.

4.05: No mention of the mayor. Council function.

The mayor does chair the finance committee which among its duties is to review the budget prepared by the city manager but the responsibility for oversight of the budget is shared by the committee. The charter does not provide any additional powers to the chair of the committee. He/she simply acts as chair.

In effect, the list the moderator of It’s Time Saratoga offers actually reaffirms that the mayor enjoys no greater authority over the city manager than anyone else on the council.

Why A Four Year Term?

Given how weak the proposed mayor’s position is the obvious question to ask is why did they grant this position a four year term while holding the other members of the council to two?

It seems quite possible that a mayor elected under this system could glide for four years doing little more than going to council meetings and cutting ribbons. An unhappy public would have to wait four years to remove such a person.

Conclusion

The overwhelming impression in scrutinizing the proposed charter is that no one really thought through the design and that the campaign is a continuation of this indifference to clarity and structure.

3 thoughts on “More Chaos From The Charter Advocates: The Mayor Is No Longer A Full Time Position”

  1. A couple of points, please:
    1) On the site ‘commonsensesaratoga.com’ nowhere that I see is that salary sheet you reprinted characterized as “Projected Budget For First Year Of New Government” – this is a good thing, as what is shown is hardly a budget at all, but a comparison of salaries and benefits. Nowhere is listed transition costs or operating budget figures for the first year… Having said that, the way the City Manager is portrayed is woefully inadequate. It is far-fetched to believe that this person will be sitting in an office by him/herself and… “manage” – no administrative assistant, no secretary – nothing?

    This person is not only going to write his/her own memoranda, then type it up, make copies, and post them up on bulletin boards, email them to various involved departments (remember, these are not going away if you want your streets plowed, building permits issued, and taxes collected) as well as fielding questions from the media, and making their own travel arrangements to attend the annual “City Manager of the Year” roast – location TBA. (It was going to be in Atlantic City, but since they just rejected an appointed city manager in the most recent election… Hello, Watertown! source: https://www.inquirer.com/politics/new-jersey/atlantic-city-election-marty-smalls-referendrum-casinos-government-open-20200513.html )

    2) But, I digress. The salary and bene comparison chart yields more nuggets – the best of which is that fantastic salary for ward members of a whopping $12,000/year! Wonderful – and good that they have six of these, for I am sure that these will be hotly coveted. Of course, this does not include food stamps, and, for the lucky West Side “warden” – instant qualification for subsidized housing at Intrada! No incentive for graft here at all!

    And hey, if you don’t like this plan – no worries, we’ll just change it! How about Micro-wards? Truly, an idea whose time has come!

    Like

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