Editor, The Spotlight:
I signed the Saratoga Citizen petition to put our City Charter on the ballot. I had no clue how I would actually vote on the issue - I wanted the right to vote on it. I have heard passionate arguments on this issue, and I have lived under both the current and proposed forms. There are good arguments for each, and I like them both. But we are being asked to decide between them, so we must make a choice.
I don’t believe that the proposed Charter is more efficient - any improvements will be at the top levels, not in daily city operations. Some argue that changing will provide more and better candidates for city office. I find that argument extremely weak; the County Board of Supervisors is similar to council-manager, but there aren’t that many candidates. After scrutinizing several recent city budgets and the proposed Charter, I can’t see much difference in costs - other than significant one-time expenditures to make the proposed change.
Currently, each commissioner has immediate clout. They each run a city department and must all cooperate (to some extent). Each has real power upon inauguration. Consider the accomplishments of our current council - ambulance program, complete streets, public access to the Kayaderosseras and waterfront park and no property tax increase (for example). Our two new commissioners were keys to each of these. New council members under the proposed Charter are unlikely to have such immediate influence (are new school board members or county supervisors able to do the same?). If you don’t like what commissioners are doing, vote for their opponents. Lack of opponents is the fault of the local parties, not the City Charter.
Our Charter is woven into the fabric and history of this city. Based on the premise that community members should work together to make decisions for the common good, it binds us in ways that the proposed Charter, with its reliance on a manager with no ties to our community, could never hope to do. We were one of the early adopters of this progressive governing format. It is our heritage.