Charter government would serve the Spa City well

Published 4:49 pm, Monday, August 14, 2017

Voters in Saratoga Springs will have the opportunity, the privilege, and the responsibility this November to vote to change our 100-year-old form of government.

Today, members of our City Council have to serve both as legislators, making all the major decisions affecting the city, and as supervisors of entire city departments. Not many people are willing to take on both jobs for part-time pay. This year, for example, three out of five candidates are running unopposed.

The new charter will give us a seven-member elected council, one of whom is the mayor. One of the major improvements in the new charter is the inclusion of an appointed professional city manager to oversee the daily operations of government at the direction of the council. Instead of five separate departments divided among five elected officials, the manager will see to it that everyone at City Hall works together. The mayor will retain the responsibility to appoint members of various boards and commissions with the approval of the council, and will continue to be the titular head of the city government. The manager will work closely with the mayor and council and provide regular progress reports.

With the responsibilities of department supervision transferred to the manager, council members will be able to focus fully on making policy about the direction our city should go in the many areas where there are decisions to make. We have many good, caring, able citizens who might run for these seats who do not want to manage a department. Our policymaking council would be made up of our friends and neighbors.

Under the new charter, the only staff changes will be at the executive level. Present staff will continue to do their work, with some changes in reporting lines and organizational structure. This change in form will not result in a reduction of the city workforce, as some skeptics have suggested.