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POV: County Charter needs updating

The writers are co-chairwomen of the League of Women’s Voters’ Charter Committee.

The League of Women Voters was begun to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in government and increase understanding of major public policy issues. We take positions on issues after study, but do not endorse candidates. Thus, we would like to update Spotlight readers on progress in getting a revised home rule charter for Albany County.

After a thorough review of the current charter by the Charter Review Commission, county legislators have now appointed a committee to review the proposed charter. Our current charter desperately needs to be updated, and as the Charter Review Commission found, “No person in County Government can say, with certainty, what are the exact terms and provisions of the Charter.”

Since the last revision in 1992, the current charter has had many revisions and amendments, “ballooning into a poorly organized, difficult to read, ramshackle mess.” (Charter Review Commission Report, January 2014, p. 4.) That is no way to run a government. This revision gives us an opportunity to obtain a more readable charter with improvements that will serve us well for many years.

If the legislature endorses the proposed charter, it will need to be passed by you as voters. We are urging the legislature to put it on the ballot for the November 2014 election.

The League has endorsed three major changes to Albany County’s charter that are proposed by the Charter Review Commission:

1.) Reducing the number of legislators from thirty-nine, the largest number in the state, to twenty-five. This reduction would make each legislator more visible, give each legislator more responsibility, enhance the accountability and efficiency of the legislature, and have the potential to save taxpayer money. The change, together with an independent, fair and equitable redistricting commission, would bring Albany County more in line with other counties in the state. This could be voted on now, but would not take effect until after the 2020 federal census is completed, thus giving the legislature time to adopt an equitable process for redistricting, as vital to reducing the size of the legislature.

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