Saratoga Springs residents on Tuesday voted down two amendments to the city’s charter.
The first ballot question, which was voted down 6,537 to 3,610, would have authorized the city to shift around some of the duties and responsibilities of government offices to make them more appropriate for their functions and to give the City Council more authority over some appointments that currently are controlled by one person.
The second ballot question, which was voted down 6,876 to 3,188 votes, would have authorized expanding the City Council by two at-large members to give all citizens representation in the government.
The first proposition included shifting the Recreation Department from the control of the mayor’s office to the Department of Public Works.
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The changes also would have taken appointment powers away from individual commissioners and the mayor and made them subject to approval by the entire City Council.
The second ballot question would have expanded the City Council from five to seven members by authorizing the public election of two at-large members who would represent the entire city.
The changes were proposed by the city’s 10-person Charter Review Commission, which was created by Mayor Meg Kelly earlier this year.
First Ballot Question:
- Yes: 3,610 – 35.58%
- No: 6,537 – 64.42%
Second Ballot Question
- Yes: 3,188 – 31.68%
- No: 6,876 – 68.32%
Kelly said Tuesday night that she accepted the vote, but noted that the results were indicative of an extremely divided city that had been marred by negativity during the charter campaign.
“The citizens have spoken,” she said. “The city won’t go forward until the negativity goes away. We’re very divided as a city,” she said.
Kelly lamented the loss of what she said would have been added “efficiencies” to the charter. However, she said, she understands that voters may be fatigued by the constant contentious campaigning of the last few years.
“I think the citizens of Saratoga Springs are very tired of the negativity that’s been going on with all the charter changes. We need to be kind and respectful, and that’s not happening here,” she said.
Mark Pingel of It’s Time Saratoga, a group opposed to the changes, said voters recognized that the proposed changes would not improve the functioning of city government.
“It’s Time Saratoga is proud of whatever small part it contributed to bring about this outcome,” he said in a statement. “Now it is time to get back to ensuring that the direction and leadership guiding Saratoga Springs will ensure this wonderful city remains a great place to live and work.”
The city’s charter question has been a controversial one for years.
Last November’s referendum, which would have seen the shift from the current commission form of government to a city manager form of government was narrowly rejected by voters.
The changes proposed were largely more modest than the wholesale revisions put on the ballot in 2006, 2012 and 2017, none of which won voter approval.
In the 2017 election, the change of government was approved by a margin of just 48 votes on Election Night. But, when all absentee ballots were counted a week later, the proposal lost by 10 votes — 4,458 to 4,448.