Two referendums, one to create a city manager form of government and the other to have Common Council members elected at-large, didn’t receive enough votes to reach November’s election ballot during a meeting Tuesday night.
Two weeks ago Mayor Dayton King vetoed an amendment to the city charter that would create a city manager position and usurp most of his power. He also proposed another amendment to the city charter that would create at-large Common Council seats.
However, in an attempt to put both referendums on the ballot, he encouraged the council to override his veto if it would also allow voters to open council seats to a citywide vote.
“I would really like people to be able to go the polls and vote on both referendums,” he said. “I hoped that we would allow the whole city to pick our city’s future.”
First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, who proposed the city manager position, has said that the person in charge of running the city should be well-educated and understand the inner workings of a business operations.
King said that the proposal is a political power-play that is motivated by Wentworth’s inability to win a citywide election.
“You couldn’t win a citywide election,” he told Wentworth. “Sixty-three percent of the people voted for me.”
Wentworth fired back by saying only 12 percent of registered voters in the city turned out to vote.
“You shouldn’t sit up there and brag,” she said. “Only 12 percent of voters elected you.”
Wentworth was upset that King vetoed the city manager proposal after it passed the council by a 4-2 vote.
But, a supermajority of five votes is needed to override a veto and the council could only muster 4 votes in favor of overriding the veto.
The five council members that were present voted down the at-large election proposal. Councilman At-Large James Robinson and Third Ward Councilman Stephen Mahoney were absent from the meeting.
Fifth Ward Councilman Jay Zarelli said he has received an overwhelming number of calls from constituents who are opposed to the citywide council elections.
“They all want someone who is in their ward and knows the issues of the neighborhood,” he said.
During a public hearing on the citywide election proposal not one person spoke out in favor of the proposal. Most expressed concern that if council people were not elected on a ward-by-ward basis the concerns from their neighborhoods would go unrecognized.
Lance Gundersen said that at-large elections would fracture the city and hurt the people of the city. He also said that at-large elections could “disenfranchise minority voters because of its tendency to marginalize minorities.”
“Gloversville needs to avoid making the regressive at-large election mistake,” he said. “It is my hope that Mayor King … will recognize at-large elections will not move Gloversville forward, but serve to fracture the city even further.”
Mike Rose called the citywide election proposal a “knee jerk reaction to city manager position” and said it would hurt the city.
“I think you are taking it more personally than you should,” he told King. “I want my council person to function as a council person from my ward.”