Government is the three-toed sloth of the human world. It often moves with frustrating slowness.
So when a government body appears to be in a rush, it’s time to get suspicious.
In that vein, one has to wonder why Saratoga Springs city officials are moving with such speed in trying to ram through a voter referendum aimed at changing the city’s current form of government from a system of task-specifi c commissioners to one with an executive mayor and a city manager.
A public vote is slated for May 30.
One major problem with going forward in such haste is that they haven’t even determined basic matters like the power and duties of the mayor and terms of office. That information could come in handy for voters in making their decision. Why set a vote when fundamental elements of a plan haven’t even been decided?
Another piece of evidence they’re trying to rush something through is the date of the vote itself. May 30 is just four months from now.
Looking back at the most recent effort to change the form of government, whatever they come up with is going to be highly controversial and invite vigorous public debate. The voters should have as much time as possible to review the plan and organize either in support or opposition.
Along that line, there’s no reason to hold a special election for this at all. The plan won’t be implemented for at least two years. And there’s certainly no reason to hold the vote on May 30, the day following the traditional three-day Memorial Day weekend. Who’s going to be thinking about voting on the Tuesday after Memorial Day? It makes one wonder why they chose that specific date.
Why not instead hold the vote on — here’s a novel idea — Election Day? Holding the election in November would give the organizers of the vote more time come up with an actual plan to present to voters. It will also give each side plenty of time to assemble their arguments and hold public debates. And holding the referendum on Election Day would ensure the largest turnout, which should be the goal of any election.
Another benefi t to taxpayers of holding the referendum on Election Day is that it will eliminate the expense of a special election — about $37,000 — since voters are already voting that day anyway.
The other thing they seem to be rushing through is the timetable for implementing the change, if it’s approved by voters.
The changeover would take effect in 2019. That happens to fall smack dab in the middle of the incoming City Council’s two-year term.
It wouldn’t be practical, or probably legal, for incumbent council members to transition to their new roles in the middle of their terms. So it’s likely the city would have to hold another council election just to elect a new board under the new form of government. Let the old form of government run its course, then start with a clean slate of candidates.
Changing a form of government is a signifi – cant endeavor that will affect all citizens for many years to come. Something this important requires time for careful consideration and discussion.
This is one case where government being sloth-like would actually be a positive thing for taxpayers.