To all charter change supporters:
The rumors are flying about the Citizens Charter Initiative. You probably have all heard one thing or another about the 2019 charter initiative being put on hold until 2020. Since your support has been the foundation on which this initiative was based, you should know what is happening. This post is an attempt to distill it…
The easy answer is that the change in January in the state election laws (which made the July petitioning process such a crazy scramble to be finished by this Monday—or so we thought) ran up against the Municipal Home Rule Law and its separate notice requirements. Specifically, under the Municipal Home Rule Law, the City Council has up to two months following the filing of petitions to decide of its own accord to accept the petition and simply put the charter change question on the ballot based on the first filed petition signatures. As you probably know, the number of signatures required is 10% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. The conflict is that, with the new Election Laws, the ballot certifications by the Board of Elections (BOE) have been increased to ninety days before the election (this Monday, Aug 5) – which means that the City Council would have to decide immediately that they will put the charter initiative on the ballot to meet the November, 2019 date. They have, by law, up to two months to make this decision.
So, regardless of what the City Council decides to do, there is no practical way for the proposal to make the new 90-day certification deadline. If the Council declines to support the referendum proposal, the charter change supporters have a minimum of 2 months to file another set of signatures equaling at least 5% of the gubernatorial votes (hence, a little more petitioning in the fall when it’s cooler; half the population of the City isn’t on vacation; and maybe the makeup of the City Council will be different). These added signatures guarantee the proposal will be placed on the ballot.
We wish the impact of the election law changes had been made visible in January. This would have alerted the Citizens’ Charter Team to the need for more time. But, you can see changing when the charter proposal will be on the ballot has nothing to do with the 2019 City Council candidates, the 2019 election, or the changes in the City Democratic party. Some candidates for various Commissioner positions have privately expressed their disappointment that the initiative will be delayed, since charter change is something they want include as part of their platforms. The urgency may not now be immediate, but the issue will certainly remain and can still be raised.
Is 2020 a good time to relook at a charter proposal? Probably… The turnout will be huge and a motivated Democratic base could be determinative. The challenge will be to have the bandwidth to work for charter change locally and total change nationally! Given the response during the last three weeks, however, it’s clear Charter Change has a supportive and enthusiastic base. We collected over 1200 signatures in the heat – getting a few added signatures in the fall should be straightforward.
Thank you to all the supporters of charter change. We need to continue to take action to ensure the future of Saratoga Springs. Your support is the real strength of this effort. We will persist and ultimately succeed.