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Final Amendments To Saratoga Springs City Charter Proposal Approved

The Saratoga Springs 2018 Charter Review Commission (file photo)
Lucas Willard
The Saratoga Springs 2018 Charter Review Commission (file photo)

A commission in charge of drafting a new governing document for the City of Saratoga Springs has finished its work. Voters will decide on a new city charter in November.

The Saratoga Springs 2018 Charter Review Commission has approved the final amendments to its proposed city charter, which goes before voters on election day.

City Attorney and Charter Review Commission Chair Vince DeLeonardis gave an update at Monday’s city council meeting.

“The Commission did vote and approve final amendments to our proposed charter. That document was duly filed with the office of the city clerk and will subsequently be forwarded to the county Board of Elections,” said DeLeonardis.

The 2018 Commission came after a charter change ballot measure that would have moved the city to a council-manager form of government failed last year by only 10 votes.

The Commission, made up of city council members, excluding the mayor, and their deputies, was tasked with making changes within the structure of the city’s current charter, where the five department heads also serve as the city’s legislative body, each with an equal vote.

DeLeonardis says they’re dealing with a compressed calendar this time.

“We were established as a commission in March of this year and here we are in September. So we didn’t have an enormous amount of time,” said DeLeonardis. “But I can indicate that the commission, I thought, worked very well together and we accomplished what we were charged to accomplish and I’m proud of the outcome and proud of the final product.”

The largest change to the structure of city government would be the addition of two at-large city councilors. Unlike the rest of the council, the new members would not have administrative responsibilities at city hall.

The measure to expand the city council under the new charter will appear as a separate ballot question, in accordance with New York State law.

Mayor Meg Kelly, a first-term Democrat who appointed the 2018 Commission, is pleased with the final product.  

“And the efficiencies that they made in that document are great so, to me, it’s going to help us function at a higher level,” said Kelly. “So, I think it’s a great document.”

On the campaign trail last year, Kelly ran in favor of charter change, citing a need for a more “streamlined” system.

The revised charter realigns certain responsibilities.

For Kelly, the new document won’t solve all interdepartmental problems, but more flexibility is a step in the right direction.

“It won’t clear it all up but it will definitely clean up a lot of that and put people where they belong in city hall,” said Kelly.

The move to find efficiencies while retaining the commission-style form of government is being supported by a group called SUCCESS, which opposed the 2017 proposed charter.

SUCCESS member Bonnie Sellers applauded the structure of the 2018 Charter Review Commission and the work led by Chairman DeLeonardis.

“I used to tell people ‘It’s a pleasure to hear knowledge and professionalism’ and they were. Vince was outstanding in everything he did. He made sure everybody understood,” said Sellers.

Between now and November 6th, it’s up to the Charter Review Commission to educate the public on the proposed document. The documents are posted online. Mailers will also be sent to residents.

SUCCESS has scheduled a public forum with the Charter Review Commission for October 3rd at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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