Voters will decide in November whether the city should change from its current commission form of government to a city council-city manager format.
The City Council voted 4-1 this week to approve the wording of the proposed charter change that will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
“We think the city is ready for this. We are excited,” said Patrick Kane, president of Saratoga Citizen, a non-partisan, grass-roots organization that has spent the past three years urging city officials to consider replacing its commission form of government, which comprises a mayor and four commissioners, with a more modern city council-city manager type.
The city and Saratoga Citizen have been in and out of court on the issue over the past two years, with the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court ruling in April that Saratoga Citizen’s more than 2,300 petition signatures were enough to place the charter change proposition on the ballot.
Mayor Scott Johnson said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that he couldn’t support the proposition language resolution because he wanted to be consistent with his vote in May against a local law that includes the charter change proposition.
Johnson said he does not favor a city council-city manager form of government because the city manager would be appointed yet control most of the city’s administrative functions.
“The [city manager] would not be directly accountable to the electorate,” Johnson said.
He plans to appoint a mayoral commission within the next 30 days that will explore the city’s current charter, looking for ways to improve it. The commission would make recommendations to the City Council sometime after the Nov. 6 elections, if the charter change is rejected by voters.
Johnson said he wants the public to know there is “an alternative” to changing the current form of government in the charter vote.
During Tuesday night’s discussion of the issue, Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said he didn’t want the public to think the City Council was in any way advocating the change in city government. He asked that a “disclaimer” be placed on the proposition noting this, but his wishes were overruled by other council members.
“The City Council should remain neutral,” said Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.
The Saratoga County League of Women Voters will hold a forum on the pros and cons of the proposed charter change at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Meade Auditorium at Saratoga Springs High School on West Avenue. This forum originally had been scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed.
Another forum on charter change will be held at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Skidmore College.