Charter Review Commission sets goal for Spring 2017 public referendum
Saratoga Springs – By a tally of 15-0, the Saratoga Springs City Charter Commission voted to draft a new charter that could set the course for fundamental change in how city government functions. The new charter would present an alternate form of government to the current Commission form. Options include the strong mayor-council and city manager-council forms.
“Changing a city’s charter is not something to be undertaken lightly,” said Bob Turner, Commission chair. “After six months of analysis and interviews with dozens of city officials and community members, I think members of our commission felt confident in their understanding of the charter in order to make this decision. It was a long process, but well worth it.”
The Commission, comprised of 15 volunteers appointed by Mayor Yepsen, also set a goal of holding a Spring 2017 public referendum, when voters would consider its recommendations. A change to the current ‘Commission’ form of government would have to be approved by the electorate.
In another action taken Tuesday, the Commission decided that a new form of government, if approved, would not go into effect until 2018 at the earliest. “I think many members of the commission are concerned about the challenges of transition from one form of government to another,” said Gordon Boyd, Commission member who proposed the resolution to craft a new charter. “Giving elected officials time to minimize transition challenges probably makes sense.”
In tandem with the drafting of a new charter, the Commission will also propose updates to the current charter. “Charters with the Commission form of government have served the City for a century,” said Matt Jones, Commission member leading the effort to revise the existing charter. “It’s our responsibility to offer the option of improving the current document that our city has worked under during many years of tremendous economic growth.”
Under the current charter, Saratoga Springs is mandated to form a commission to review the City Charter every ten years. Since June, the Commission has interviewed 20 current and former city council members, ten department heads, seven other mayors and city managers, conducted a survey of City Hall employees and potential candidates, held a town hall meeting, and has engaged in countless discussions with citizens and community stakeholders.