Former Commissioner Against Charter Change
Having served as Commissioner of Finance from 2000 to 2002, and lived in Saratoga Springs from 1970, I have had plenty of opportunities to observe and participate in the commission form of government and I think it works well for us.
Many of the arguments for change simply don’t make sense to me. Here are some examples of the claims [by proponents of charter change] that I can’t buy:
They argue that the workload and responsibilities of the commissioners are so onerous that few people are willing to run for office, yet they claim commissioners’ and deputies’ positions can be abolished and their work assumed by one city manager.
They claim the city manager form of government is the most popular in the country. But that’s not true in New York State, where 74 percent of the cities have a mayor-council form. In any case “everybody’s doing it” was never a convincing argument for my mother.
Saratoga Springs, by any measure, is “the place to be.” We have aJa high quality of life and a low tax rate. We have a Comprehensive Plan that recognizes the value of preserving open space.
There is no evidence that a city manager form will make us more successful. We have only to look at Batavia, Watertown, Ogdensburg, Auburn, Corning, Peekskill, Canandaigua, Long Beach, New Rochelle and Sherrill—all cities in New York that have the city manager form—to see the fallacy in that argument.
I prefer to live in Saratoga Springs and will be voting “no” on charter change.
Former Commissioner of Accounts
New Charter Financial Impact Misleading
Jeff Altamari, the architect of the Saratoga Springs Charter Commission’s misleading financial analysis of the proposed charter, may know Wall Street but he doesn’t know Main Street.
Mr. Altamari’s confidence in the savings he claims will accrue from a change to a city manager form depend heavily on the elimination of the four existing commissioners and the five fulltime deputies. This assumption is especially stunning, since for all the interviewing they like to say they did the commission never talked to the deputies to find out what they do. They never asked the police and fire chiefs if they could pick up the work of Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Eileen Finnernan. Nor did they ask Director of Finance Christine Guilmette-Brown if she had time in her day to add on the duties of the Deputy Commissioner of Finance, which include creating the city budget.
More importantly, Mr. Altamari displays no understanding of how civil service and public employee unions figure into the elimination and reconfiguration of work responsibilities. City Hall is not the corporate world where jobs are eliminated and employees assigned new responsibilities at the discretion of the boss. He and the charter commission and their supporters may find they are in for sticker shock when the true value of the work the deputies do is assigned to a new and more expensive civil service position by the new city manager.
City Government Works Well
I don’t understand what a small group is complaining about trying to justify changing our form of government. Do they live in a different city?
Who do they think they’re kidding? They must know that Saratoga Springs is a wonderful city with beautiful neighborhoods and a vibrant downtown that the city employees keep safe and clean. Just today, the leaves on our street were picked up by a hard-working crew of city employees.
And Saratoga Springs keeps up with the times. The new solar park is impressive and the high-speed fiber network discussed at the last City Council meeting can make us even more economically attractive at absolutely no cost to the city. The tech company said they found Saratoga Springs because of our Smart City program and approached us as one of the most advanced-thinking cities in the country. Nothing old fashioned here despite what the complainers are saying.
All these good things have been happening without a tax increase in six years.
Luckily, I live here so I know first hand what a great city it is and have not been swayed by their doom and gloom pronouncements. They need to smile more.
Please, before you vote, look around your neighborhood, walk downtown, and compare Saratoga Springs to where you previously lived and vote “no” on charter change if you prefer living here. I know I do.
Vice Chair, SUCCESS
Need for Charter Change Doubted
Like con man Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” I suspect the Saratoga Springs Charter Commission has to convince us Saratoga is in distress in order to sell us something. In this case not band uniforms and instruments as in the 1950s musical but an expensive new government.
Reading letters from charter change supporters often makes me think of that line from the song in “The Music Man” that goes “ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City.”
Writers go on about criminal investigations and strife in city hall and I’m wondering what city do they live in? There are no criminal investigations going on and no job actions in city hall.
Instead we live in a city with excellent bond ratings, low taxes, excellent city services and a thriving downtown. This simply does not occur in cities as dysfunctional as the one Charter change supporters describe.
Hopefully Saratogians will see through the Harold Hills of the Charter Commission, turn over the November 7 ballot and vote “No” on charter change.
Proposed Charter Change Like the Edsel
Remember the Edsel car? The best research and the smartest people in the automotive industry developed a new car with everything people said they wanted. However, no one bought an Edsel because it was overpriced and overhyped.
The proposed new Saratoga Springs Charter is similar. It has everything that sounds good, but won’t be bought by knowledgeable Saratogians who understand we already have a unique city government that works for our unique and wonderful city.