Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission approves
Special Election for Charter Referendum
Spa City voters to consider alternative form of government May 30
Saratoga Springs- The fifteen-member citizen Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission voted 12-2 in favor of holding the charter referendum at a special election on May 30th.
“A city charter is a constitutional issue that should be insulated from the partisanship or politics of a general election,” said Bob Turner, Commission chair.
(Photo: 14 of the 15 Commission members)
Under the current charter, Saratoga Springs must form a citizen panel to review the existing charter and recommend changes. The new proposed charter must in turn, be approved by voters in a referendum. New York State Law and a 1987 NY Attorney General opinion stated that, “the charter commission may determine the election (special or general) at which the proposals are submitted to the voters for approval.”
At its January 10 meeting, the Commission engaged in lengthy debate on the merits of special versus general election. A majority of members felt that adopting a new city charter is one of the most important decisions a city can make and was concerned that it would get lost in the partisan politics of a general election. In November, the charter would have to compete for voters’ attention with eight other contested races: mayoral, finance commissioner, public works commissioner, public safety commissioner, account commissioner, two county supervisor and a judicial race, in addition to the city charter. The Commission was also concerned that voters might miss voting on the charter referendum since it would be on the back of the ballot.
May 30th is the last Tuesday that a special election can be held while also allowing new candidates to choose to run for the City Council in 2017, based on whether the charter referendum succeeds or fails. “A Special Election in May also gives any candidates for public office the full picture of what the voters want for their form of government, one way or the other,” said Gordon Boyd, Commission member.
Longtime resident and commission member Laura Chodos expressed support for the special election. “Voters will have undivided attention to the most important issue in the city’s future,” she said. “This is an opportunity to make Saratoga Springs even better in the way government functions. Nothing is more important.”
A special election would cost $37,000 and be run by the Commissioner of Accounts office with assistance from the Saratoga County Board of Elections. The City’s annual budget is $55 million.
The Commission’s next meeting is January 19, 7pm, City Hall.
Contact Beth Wurtmann (518)321-4607, Minita Sanghvi (336)210-3258