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Saratoga Springs mayor appoints new Charter Review Commission

Saratoga Springs mayor appoints new Charter Review Commission

Panel has 10 members
Saratoga Springs mayor appoints new Charter Review Commission
Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the first name of Maire Masterson, Saratoga Springs' deputy commissioner of accounts.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mayor Meg Kelly appointed a 10-person Charter Review Commission at Tuesday's City Council meeting. 

The commission, will be chaired by City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis.

Members include: Deputy Commissioner of Finance Michael Sharp, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works John Daley, Deputy Mayor Lisa Shields, Deputy Commissioner of Accounts Maire Masterson, Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Joseph O'Neill, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan and Commissioner of Public Works Anthony "Skip" Scirocco. 

A measure to change the current mayor/commissioners form of government to a city manager form of government was narrowly rejected on Nov. 7.

Kelly said the newly appointed Charter Review Commission would be tasked with making recommendations to the city's current charter, "to find efficiencies and organizational improvements to better serve the people of Saratoga Springs.

"They will submit a charter proposal to the voters of Saratoga Springs for a referendum in the November 2018 election."

During her campaign for mayor, Kelly said she supported changing the current charter and also said she would work under the mayor/commissioners form of government. 

"I believed then and I believed now that we need to make changes to be more responsive in order to provide increased services to the community," she said. 

Last year, a measure to change the current mayor/commissioners form of government to a city manager form of government was narrowly rejected on Nov. 7. The new Charter Review Commission is not tasked with resurrecting that idea.

Nearly 10 people spoke out about the appointment of the Charter Review Commission at Tuesday's meeting.

Saratoga Springs resident Patty Morrison read a statement to Kelly. 

"Yesterday mayor you added to tonight's agenda the appointment of a mayoral City Charter Commission," she said. "With this action you are blocking the citizens from moving forward with a petition that would put on the ballot the choice to choose between the current commission form of government and the proposed city manager council.

"Instead, with the action you are taking, we will only be presented with one option and that is to continue with a commission form of government. This current form of government did not get a clear majority of the vote in our last election. Your voters have spoken."

Phil Diamond of Saratoga Springs told Kelly and the commissioners at Tuesday's meeting that the form of government needs to change. 

"I demand that you let us petition, get signatures and put it on the ballot," he said of the charter vote. "This form of government isn't working."

Bonnie Sellers, a member of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a citizen's organization that opposed the charter change, said, "We have a historic form of government in place and this is the only one we've had. I don't understand why it's so difficult for those in Saratoga Springs to respect it and leave the form of government alone."

Barbara Thomas, president of the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County, said the organization supports a government that separates administrative functions from legislative functions.

Commissioner of Accounts John Franck addressed the audience after the public comment period at Tuesday's meeting. 

"The people have spoken," he said of the charter vote. "This form of government came out of the progressive era and is the most progressive form of government.

"Why do we have to vote every year on this and have a civil war in the city about this every year? What the mayor is doing is courageous and I believe it's the correct thing to do."

Commissioner of Public Works Anthony "Skip" Scirocco said he commends the mayor for appointing a Charter Review Commission that would review the current charter.

"It took a lot of guts to put it on there and I'm sure she took a lot of hits for it, but that's part of being in politics," he said to the audience. "I think the mayor sees that we have a good opportunity based on the results of last election. 

"Now that the elections are over, we're all elected based on the results and we need to move on. We have a good opportunity to look at what we currently have."

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