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Saratoga charter commission plans November vote

Saratoga charter commission plans November vote

Panel relents on holding special election
Saratoga charter commission plans November vote
Voters on Nov. 8, 2016.
Photographer: George Etheredge/The New York Times

The city’s Charter Review Commission has reversed its decision to put a new form of government to voters during a special election May 30 — instead opting to put the issue on the back of the ballot in November.

The 15-member commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to hold the charter referendum during the general election on Nov. 7 following opposition from the public and resistance from elected officials. 

The group, which is proposing a charter with a council-manager form of government to replace the city’s commission form, faced criticism for not having the draft completed. Group members, appointed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen in June of last year to study the charter, say they are nearing a final draft after nine months of work. 

“We have listened to the general public and elected officials, and they have told us they believe public participation and interest in the Charter Referendum will be highest in November during the city election,” said Bob Turner, the group’s chairman, in a prepared statement.  “The Charter Review Commission has worked very hard to review the charter the right way.  Whether or not our recommendations are approved, our goal is to make the process as open, transparent, inclusive, rigorous and thorough as possible.”

Last week, the City Council voted 3-2 against transferring $37,000 in funds for the special election, which would have been the city’s first. Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco and Accounts Commissioner John Franck — whose office would have had to run the special election — voted no on the funds, with Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen and Yepsen voting yes. 

Commission members had argued that a special election in the spring would give the city's constitution the attention it deserved without being overshadowed by several contested local races panning out for November. 

They also had maintained that Municipal Home Rule Law 36 gave the group the authority to call a special election funded by the city. The group's latest decision ends the possibility of legal action as a result of the City Council's refusal to provide the funds. 

Beth Wurtmann, chairwoman of the commission’s outreach committee, said the group will use the additional five months to reach more voters. 

“We will do our best to ensure that every citizen has all the information they need to make an informed decision when they go to the polls on November 7th,” she said.

Vice Chairman Pat Kane said the group heard clearly the views of elected officials and the public who felt the special election would “create undue controversy that would obscure the merits of our proposal.”

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