Spa City candidates wrangle in lively forum

— The first question out of the gates touched on the city’s charter and a much contested issue between Saratoga Citizen and the city about placing an item on the ballot that would allow citizens to vote on the form of government (managerial or commission).

Wilkes said it’s “no secret” he’s been a supporter of and worked with Saratoga Citizen and said the group’s petition to the city for a ballot item was sufficient.

“Under New York State law, citizens may petition for new government and what Saratoga Citizen did … was put together a proposed charter and collected more than enough signatures in accordance with that law,” said Wilkes. “Scott Johnson has derailed that process, using tens of thousands of tax dollars going to outside legal counsel and claiming there was no fiscal analysis even though he was presented with a fiscal analysis seven days after first requesting it.”

Wilkes said Johnson was creating “voter suppression,” a claim Johnson took quick issue with.

“There is no voter suppression happening in the city,” said Johnson. “I’ve stated many times it is simply propaganda in the context of campaign process.”

The current city charter does need revision, said Johnson, and he would be willing to appoint a charter commission after the court case is resolved.

“It’s the proper procedure to follow, I believe, under law and as mayor of the city,” said Johnson. “I voted in favor of pursuing legal action because I believe it’s my fiscal responsibility to the city under my sworn oath as mayor.”

A commission form of government would not be the right choice for Saratoga Springs, said Mathiesen.

“I don’t believe it’s appropriate for most municipalities in this day and age. It was a reform type of municipal government back in the turn of the last century that was popular for a short period of time,” said Mathiesen. “I respect people who feel otherwise.”

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