The city’s Charter Review Commission has come out with a list of strategic goals in its ongoing review of how local government is run.
In creating the list, the 15-member group of appointed citizens spent the past six months gathering input from city commissioners, past commissioners, former mayors and residents.
The city charter spells out the organization, powers and functions of city government and, by law, must be reviewed at least once every 10 years. Attempts to change the charter in 2006 and in 2012 were unsuccessful.
“Our goal at the outset was to make Saratoga Springs even better by designing the best possible city charter to meet the needs of citizens,” said Bob Turner, commission chairman. “Changing a charter is not something to be done lightly.”
The commission identified a series of criteria that will become a checklist for reviewing changes. They include values the commission considered to be widely-shared within the community, including the promotion of: accountability and public representation; high quality, efficient services and infrastructure; economic development and sustainability; long-term planning, investment; recruitment and training of a diverse, inclusive workforce; and ethical and professional behavior among city employees and leaders.
At its Monday meeting, the group will get the results of a survey of hundreds of city stakeholders about their willingness to run for local office. Among the revisions to the charter, the commission is considering other forms of government, including council-manager and strong mayor-council.
Saratoga Springs has an unusual form of government, in which four elected commissioners oversee the government functions of public safety, public works, finance and accounts. Together with the mayor, they make up the City Council, with each commissioner having authority over his or her department’s operation.
“The purpose of the survey is to get an accurate snapshot on whether our current form of government promotes a wide range of candidates and encourages public service,” said Pat Kane, commission vice chair.
While the commission is sponsored by the city, Mayor Joanne Yepsen said it is working autonomously and that she has purposely stayed uninvolved in its operation. She commended the group on being thorough in its review.
“A lot of us have the same goal, and that is we want to encourage more people to run for office — at least I do,” she said. “So we need to set up a system where more people have the desire to be running for these important offices.”