SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> Last week, the Charter Review Commission voted unanimously in favor of a council-manager form of government. In a traditional council-manager form, the council selects the mayor and each council member shares the same powers. It’s more of a ceremonial role. The commission believes strongly that Saratoga Springs needed a mayor who could provide dynamic leadership and rejected the weak mayor model during a Jan. 26 meeting.

“The vast majority of cities have a hybrid form that combine the political leadership and coalition building of the strong mayor model with the professional expertise and administrative efficiencies of a city manager or administrator,” said commission chair Bob Turner.

The commission supports direct elections for the mayor and also four-year terms.

“I think we want a mayor who is accountable to the voters,” said commission member Laura Chodos.

Mike Los said he felt that the mayor would be more effective in collaboratively working with stakeholders to address city challenges if he or she were not bogged down with the details of managing the city’s staff.

“I think Saratoga Springs voters want a visible leader who can reach out to the community and build consensus on a vision for the future,” said Barb Thomas.

Under the proposed charter, the mayor would have the power to create ad hoc committees, as they can now, as well as appointment to land use and ethics boards, but the commission felt that the appointment to city boards should be subject to a confirmation vote by the city council since many have a seven-year term.

The commission did not decide whether the mayor should be full time or not.

“Every former mayor who has spoken to us said it was a 50+ hour a week job with part time pay,” said Turner

Gordon Boyd thinks Saratoga Springs needs someone who can articulate the city’s interests to outside stakeholders like NYRA, the State government and the business community.

The commission reviewed the research of New York’s preeminent constitutional scholar and SUNY Professor Gerald Benjamin on the appointment and removal of city managers. The commission supported having the city council be able to appoint and remove the city manager,

“I like having a one-year contract for the city manager to keep him or her on toes working to meet the needs of the city and city council,” said Pat Kane.

The commission also supported having clear qualifications in the charter for the manager/administrator, covering the education and experience of the city manager in the charter.

“Both law professors I have spoken with said this prevents a city council from hiring an unqualified political crony to do their bidding,” said Turner.

The commission will hold its next two meetings on February 2 and 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. at City Hall

The commission will discuss the role of county supervisors, ethics provisions, the city attorney’s office, the identification of departments and land use boards, vacancies, the Recreation commission and the city clerk.

A draft of the revised charter should be finished by the middle of February with a special election for the charter referendum being held on May 30.

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