Under Saratoga’s current commission form of government, no one is in charge at City Hall. City staff are divided among 5 independent departments supervised by 5 elected officials and their 5 political deputies. Commissioners spend more time protecting their turf than collaborating on issues. When council members don’t get along, their departments don’t work together. Services suffer, and our government wastes lots of time and money.
Few people who would make good city council representatives have the time and expertise to run a department for a part-time salary. You can’t vote out somebody you don’t like, because nobody else will run. In their last election, 3 out of 5 city council incumbents went unchallenged.
The last Charter Review Commission surveyed City Hall employees. An overwhelming majority said our current charter promotes wasteful spending and prevents the effective management of the city. 65 percent said yes to a city manager.
In the new charter, direct responsibility for city operations is transferred from 5 elected officials to a single professional manager, and city staff work together as a single team. That’s going to save money. Freed from direct management responsibilities, more young people with jobs and families from all political parties will run for office and have a voice in city government.
We hear that a new manager and an assistant can’t replace 5 commissioners and their deputies. But I’ve spoken with the managers of other cities in the state, and they all told me – no problem. They’d work directly with the highly-paid department heads already on our payroll. Currently, 50 city employees make over $100,000, and 16 make over $130,000. They’ll be glad to give up 2 layers of bickering politicians for a streamlined system under a single professional manager, who will work under a more vibrant and representative city council.
It’s time, Saratoga. Turn over the ballot and vote yes!
- Rick Fenton, Saratoga Springs