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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

League of Women Voters favors Saratoga charter change

League of Women Voters favors Saratoga charter change

Group has been accused of being biased for reform in past
League of Women Voters favors Saratoga charter change
The public referendum will happen during Saratoga's general election Nov. 8.
Photographer: Shutterstock

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County has announced its support of a proposed city charter change that will go before voters in November.

"LWVSC supports the proposed new charter, which creates a council-manager form of government, because it will provide for the separation of powers," the league said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday, as public debate about the charter proposal starts to heat up.

A charter review commission appointed last year by Mayor Joanne Yepsen recommended changing the current century-old form of government, in which elected commissioners administer specific city departments and also legislate as members of the City Council. For example, public works, public city, city finances and city clerk functions are all overseen by elected commissioners. The form of government is rare; Mechanicville is the only other city in New York state that uses it.

The review commission has recommended replacing it with a city council whose members are legislators only, with a paid city manager overseeing the day-to-day management of city departments, though answerable to the council. The council would have seven members, including an elected mayor.

"We believe that it is important to separate the legislative functions of government from the administrative ones, to have a strong centralized administration, to have clear lines of responsibility, to be representative of the entire community, to be efficient and cost-effective," the league said in its prepared statement.

The league also believes more people with more diverse backgrounds would run for council seats if the job didn't also involve managing departments.

The current form of government has powerful defenders, though, including former commissioners. They have formed their own group, called SUCCESS, which stands for Saratogians United to Continue the Charter Essential to Saratoga's Success. SUCCESS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the league's stance.

SUCCESS previously accused the League of Women Voters of being unfair and has decided not to participate in a Sept. 21 educational charter forum the league has planned at Saratoga Springs Public Library.

The public referendum will happen during Saratoga's general election Nov. 8.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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