I've put the call out on Twitter, Facebook and e-mailed a list of specific people who I think people would like to hear from about changing the city's government and I would like to hear from anyone and everyone about their opinions on charter change.
To get us started, here are two random quotes from people on both sides of the issue from a recent forum on the issue that wouldn't fit in my story.
Former Mayor Ken Klotz came out against the proposed change. He defended the current form of government and said it is routinely being mischaracterized by proponents for change.
“To pretend we have five people running around like chickens with their heads cut off is giving the wrong impression of how City Hall works,” Klotz said.
On the other hand, proponents for change (who often do characterize the government like that, if not in those terms) said the change will save taxpayers money.
Now thus far I've received a couple of responses to my request for comment. One is from Charles Wait, CEO and President of Adirondack Trust Co. Here's what he had to say:
On the other side of the issue (no I didn't plan it that way, but it worked well) is former City Planner Geoff Bornemann, who wrote this letter to the editor:"I do not support a change in the charter at thus time for the following reasons:1. No strong case has been made in my opinion for change. The city is doing very well. Our unemployment is relatively low, our tax rate is very low compared to other cities, our population is increasing (an anomaly in upstate New York) and needed infrastructure projects (the recreation center and the new parking garage) are accomplished.2. The cost of a city manager would be a significant addition to municipal overhead and the argument that he/she will bring efficiencies to the budget is largely conjecture lacking specifics.3. The city manager would owe his first allegiance to the city council and not to the voters. In Bolton Landing the manager became ineffective when a divided council make it difficult for him to take action.4. The divided responsibilities of the current council acts as a check and balance on power with each council member able to offset to some degree the power if the others. A city manager would concentrate hat power. Problems that are under the direct responsibility of a department where an elected official is responsible tend to get fixed quickly. Problems that are under the responsibility if a civil servant tend to get lost in paperwork.5. If an elected official doesn't do his job, the voters get a chance to fire him every two years. A civil servant would be difficult and expensive to fire as they will only work with a contract."
"I support charter change because I worked in City Hall for 22 years.
With only a few exceptions, the management practices in the Mayor/Commissioners’ offices were inefficient and ineffective. The elected council members and their appointed deputies had little experience in managing personnel or implementing policy. They frequently didn’t trust their own staff, were unable to motivate them or give clear direction. They often had little knowledge of the good things other communities were doing. Deputies sometimes spent more time 'campaigning' for their boss than they did managing their department.
The existing Commission form of government creates five independent departments with no mandate to work together. Too many times I witnessed lost opportunities when staff from one department wouldn’t be allowed to talk to or to attend meetings called by another department because their bosses were fighting with each other. The unwritten rule was do not criticize what was going on in someone else’s department, because then they will criticize you. There is a better chance of these short comings being corrected with a professionally trained city manager in charge of implementing city council policy.The City would be more effectively run if the elected council members focused their energies on establishing policies rather than also having to implement them by running a department. Those are two entirely different skill sets. Few leaders have developed both those areas of expertise. I also believe that we would attract better council candidates if they only had to focus on setting policy and not run a department.
The proposed charter provides for 4 year terms instead of two years. Under the current two year term, the mantra in City Hall was always 'don’t do anything in an election year.' What results is no productivity for one half of a term of office.
From my perspective, our city’s past successes are more a result of private or non-profit sector actions than of government action. Our Commission form of government has not led this community – it has followed it. If we had a productive and well managed government, we could make far more progress and we would be out in front of issues.I will be voting “yes” for charter reform because it offers a hope of better management."
Anyone else with input is welcome to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll put them on the blog as I receive them. Some we may run alongside our coverage this weekend and our endorsement of one side or the other, but those will have to be kept to about 100 words or less.