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What you need to know for 01/19/2017

Voters kill charter changes in both cities of Saratoga County

Voters kill charter changes in both cities of Saratoga County

City residents rejected a proposed change from its long-running commission form of government Tuesda

City residents rejected a proposed change in the long-running commission form of government Tuesday, according to unofficial vote results.

The yes-no proposition on the back of city election ballots asked voters if they wanted to change to a more modern city council-city manager form of government.

An unofficial vote tally at Republican headquarters in the Holiday Inn indicated about 1,000 more no votes than votes in favor of the change. With 44 percent of the districts reporting, the Saratoga County Board of Elections showed no votes outpaced yes votes by a wide margin.

“It shows people are satisfied with the present form of government,” said city Mayor Scott Johnson, who opposed the change.

He said he saw deficiencies in the charter change proposal and was “concerned for the welfare of the city.”

Johnson will announce a 15-member charter review commission before the end of the year to look at ways to improve the current commission form of government.

“For many of us the defeat stings,” said Patrick Kane, a city resident and a founder of Saratoga Citizen, a non-partisan, grass-roots organization that brought the charter change issue to the City Council more than three years ago. The council fought placing the issue before the voters but Saratoga Citizen was victorious in court and the proposition was placed on Tuesday’s ballot.

The city has been governed by the commission form of government since 1915, when Saratoga Springs first became a city.

Every two years voters elect a mayor and four commissioners, one each for finance, public works, public safety and accounts. The mayor and commissioners act as both a legislative body and have individual administrative responsibilities over specific departments. Each part-time commissioner has a full-time deputy to conduct the day-to-day business of the department.

The proposed manager-city council form of government would have included a mayor and four city councilors elected to four-year terms. The city council would have legislative but not administrative oversight over any departments. It would name a city manager to be the city’s chief administrative officer to oversee all departmental operations.

Saratoga Citizen said the city manager-city council government would be “smarter, faster and cheaper.”

In the county’s other city, another ballot proposition also was defeated.

Voters in Mechanicville decided they did not want to abolish term limits for their mayor and City Council members. Unofficial vote tally was 1,013 against the change and 480 in favor with about half of the ballots counted.

The mayor and City Council members currently can only serve two, four-year terms in office. Mayor Anthony Sylvester said Tuesday he would be the only current council member affected by abolishing term limits. He is serving his second, four-year term as mayor.

A similar proposal was defeated by Mechanicville voters in 2006 by a vote of 650-380.

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