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Charter vote to pit Amsterdam mayor against council

Charter vote to pit Amsterdam mayor against council

City residents will vote Nov. 4 to amend the city charter, which, in turn, could alter the balance o
Charter vote to pit Amsterdam mayor against council
Amsterdam City Hall is seen on Thursday, October 23, 2014.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

At a glance

Propositions listed on the ballot, if passed, would:

&bull; Strip the mayor of her duty as presiding officer over Common Council meetings

&bull; Add two at-large aldermen to the council

&bull; Add new language to define the separation of authority between the mayor and Common Council in contract negotiations

&bull; Give the mayor the power to run the city on a day-to-day basis, much like the CEO of a company

&bull; Give the mayor and controller power over their own budgets

City residents will vote Nov. 4 to amend the city charter, which, in turn, could alter the balance of power in City Hall.

Several months ago, the mayor and the council each named a committee to review the charter. Mayor Ann Thane said the committee the council chose was biased and had a political agenda. First Ward Alderman Ed Russo said the committee Thane chose was “just a group of her own people” that would make the changes she wanted.

The mayor said that, according to the city charter, she had the final say on which committee was appointed. Thane’s committee was commissioned, and began to look at the charter and determine which parts needed clarification.

Thane said the charter, as currently written, is vague and difficult to understand. She said the commission she formed worked hard to amend the charter and take the “political machination” out of decisions.

“The committee proposed a number of really good changes to the charter,” she said. “It will help with the budget process [and] hopefully save taxpayers money.”

She said the council should be focused on “big-picture” issues instead of small, petty things. She believes amending the charter will allow it to do that.

“They should be looking at ways to shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off the budget, not just thousands of dollars,” she said.

She added that taking away her power as presiding officer over council meetings will reduce some of the infighting that takes place during council meetings.

“The charter is not working for our city,” Thane said. “I encourage voters to vote yes on the proposals to make sure our government works better for them.”

Russo said he is upset with “how the whole thing went down.” He said the council and the mayor both need power, and the mayor’s decisions are politically motivated.

“If it isn’t broken, why do we need to fix it?” he asked. “This is not going to make the city a better place or help the residents.”

Russo said he has better things to do than worry about changing the charter. He said he is unsure how residents feel about the proposals, but he is confident the council is not supportive of them.

“Everyone on the council I have talked to … is not in favor of them,” Russo said. “I will definitely be voting no on Nov. 4.”

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