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Chamber opposes charter change

The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce board voted unanimously Monday night to oppose the Nov. 7 referendum to change the city form of government.

Chamber president Joseph Dalton said the vote followed an extensive review in which the 24-member board heard presentations from groups for and against the revisions. We're not opposed to change, Dalton said after the meeting. "But the rush to have a new charter on the ballot was just considered illogical."

Dalton said the process was rushed, and that the charter review commission didn't explore forms of governments other than the strong-mayoral form they are proposing. Also, Chamber members were concerned about limited public debate, education and involvement, he said.

Charter revision commission chairwoman and 16-year member of the Chamber of Commerce Beth Hershenhart called the Chamber's position a "rebuff" of the request by the charter revision commission to help educate the business community. The chamber has instead "substituted its opinion for those of the diverse chamber membership," said Hershenhart in a prepared statement. The chamber's board represents the entire county, but half of its voting members live or represent businesses in the Saratoga Springs area, according to Dalton.

Hershenhart said she and commission member Rory O'Connor asked the chamber board on Sept. 14 to partner with the commission in educating the business community on the important issues surrounding the proposed change in the structure of the city government.

"We are disappointed that the chamber board once again chose to take a position on behalf of its membership instead of empowering them to make their own informed decisions. But we know that many members of the chamber board and scores of chamber members plan to vote yes on Nov. 7 in favor of the charter amendment, which just makes business sense. I understand there are powerful forces opposed to making our government in Saratoga Springs work effectively, but the business community shouldn't suffer because of it," said Hershenhart.

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