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Charter reform vote nears

Benton said the current system allows for the unchecked abuse of a commissioner's power.

"Abuses of power " unchecked by a system that anoints some commissioners with the unilateral authority to dispense rewards and punishments " have resulted in one lawsuit after another," said Benton, a former commissioner of public safety and member of the 2000 Charter Revision Commission. "When was the last time the city successfully defended a lawsuit brought as a result of a council member's abuse of power?"

Former state budget director Mark Lawton agrees the proposed charter changes would save the city money. Speaking at a Charter Revision Commission on Thursday, Oct. 19, Lawton also said a new form of government would make it easier to adopt programs and policies that are often left in gridlock in the current commission system.

"The taxpayer is the one who's going to win on this unification," said Lawton, a Saratoga Springs resident who served as former Gov. Hugh Carey's budget director. "It takes all of the city operations and puts them under one person " not the mayor " a city manager."

However, opponents of the charter reform, Saratogians United to Continue the Charter Essential to Sustain our Success (SUCCESS), held an informational session at which former commissioners of finance Remigia Foy and Ken Klotz weighed in on the issue. Dozens of jobs could be changed or perhaps eliminated, they said. Gordon Boyd, a SUCCESS member, said his organization can only assume the city will cut jobs, as the public has been left out of the loop on financial details.

"We can only go on what we know. The combined [annual] payroll of the mayor and city council will rise to $130,000 from $72,500 today. That's $60,000 for the mayor and $10,000 for seven city council members. If the cost of their salaries is going up and the overall cost of government is going down, as they say, we can only assume that there will be job cuts," he said after the meeting.

These anticipated job cuts have drawn the ire of the city's largest union. The Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA) has plans to urge the 1,000 CSEA members who live in Saratoga Springs to vote against the reform, according to a statement released by Kathy Moran, president of the CSEA's City Hall Unit.""

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