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Monday, January 14

Comprehensive Battle

A fight may be brewing over the appointment of a Comprehensive Planning Committee, expected later this week at the State of the City Address.

Mayor Scott Johnson had originally been planning to unveil the committee by the end of last year, but he said he was still waiting on commitments from some members when New Year's came and went, so he decided to wait until Jan. 17th for the State of the City.

"It seemed appropriate," he told me last week.

Well, he might have waited too long for his own good.

At the Monday morning City Council meeting, the seeds of discontent were planted by two members of the City Council.

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan and Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen both questioned the mayor's role in appointing a Comprehensive Planning Committee, which will be charged with reviewing the city's (wait for it) Comprehensive Plan. That document is basically a blueprint of how the city would like itself to look in the next decade or so.

"It's one of the city's most important documents," Madigan told me a couple hours after the meeting.

She and Mathiesen expressed their concerns about the fact that the mayor is appointing the entire committee.

"I can't find anything specific in our charter that the mayor appoints," Mathiesen said. Both he and Madigan cited Department of State documents which say it is the responsibility of the "legislative body" to appoint a committee or review the Comp Plan themselves.

On Page 16 of the Dept. of State's Guide to Planning and Zoning Laws, it defines the prepreation as follows:

"The legislative body of the city, or by resolution of such body, the
planning board or a special board, may prepare a proposed city
comprehensive plan and amendments thereto. In the event the planning board
or special board is directed to prepare a proposed comprehensive plan or
amendment thereto, such board shall, by resolution, recommend such
proposed plan or amendment to the legislative body of the city. "
 In the city charter, it says:

"The Planning Board shall have and exercise the powers and duties as follows:
A. At the direction of the City Council, to prepare a City Comprehensive Plan for the development of the entire area of the city."
 Both Madigan and Mathiesen said they would like the issue to be looked at, though Johnson seemed a little perturbed by the whole thing.

"I can tell you at this point in time the committee has already been constituted," he said, but added "we can talk about it."

Madigan later said while she hopes the issue can be sorted out "amicably," that "If (City Council members) are legally allowed to appoint members to any commission, I would be surprised if (other City Council members) give that right up lightly. I would not give my right to choose someone so easily." 

Of course, in the city code that outlines the mayor's responsibilities (Section 3) has this little tid-bit:
F. Initiation of reviews. The Mayor shall cause a review of the City Comprehensive Plan and City Charter to be conducted periodically. The City Comprehensive Plan shall be reviewed at least every five years, commencing with the effective date of this Charter. The City Charter shall be reviewed at least every 10 years commencing with the effective date of this Charter.

That, to me, muddies the water a little.

Madigan said she was unaware of the law until it was pointed out to her last week (I don't know by who) and that she was unaware that Johnson was planning to unveil his committee members at the State of the City.

I have been talking about his plans to appoint the committee for a couple of months now, but then sadly not everyone reads my blog or articles...

Johnson did not return a call for comment, but Mathiesen evidently did Tuesday morning. I was not yet in to get his call and he is now unavailable, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens at tonight's City Council meeting.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course only the City Council can adopt any changes to the City Comprehensive Plan that may come out of the committee's work so it makes sense to not bias the outcome by stacking the deck.

The outcomes will be second guessed by many in the community if Johnson does not appoint a balanced group. So he does no one, including himself, any favors by operating as he does.

The mayor should have consulted with the Department of State and the General City Law on the correct procedure BEFORE he lined up members. But there is a predictable pattern here and one that does not usually concern itself with Charter, General City and General Municipal Law.

This mayor still does not even correctly adjourn to executive session but the press gives him a pass. Rather he list several potential, generic subjects of an executive session while the POL requires a specific reference.

Even then he - as he did to hide the then proposed sale of additional water to Wilton - waits until the end o f the Council meeting - when all have left - and then takes the Council into executive session.

And speaking of how he operates, we note that while an ex-officio member of the City Center Authority board, he was conspicuously absent from the Authority meeting last week when the gun issue was discussed.

And, like Johnson himself, the Authority rendered a decision following a meeting that violated the Open Meetings Law. Who is their attorney?

January 15, 2013 at 1:48 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only the City Council., by resolution,, can appoint a comprehensive plan review committee.

This is spelled out unequivocally in General City Law. So here is the question: Where in the name of all that is good were the City's attorneys and Planning staff. Surely they knew what the mayor was up to and one of them should have explained to the mayor the correct procedure.

We are talking about people who make a decent salary. The head of the planning dept. makes well over $100,000 a year PLUS benefits.

Or where they told to keep their mouths shut.

So the City Council has to once again take charge and clean up the mayor's mess.

January 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did Saratoga Springs elect a City Council if it's Mayor alone is allowed to name Committees that will affect it's future?? If this is Saratoga's future than any elected official that "dis-agrees had better be willing "to suck it up"...

January 15, 2013 at 3:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't all previous mayors appointed their own comp plan committees? If so where were these objections then?

January 15, 2013 at 6:32 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Mayor has the responsibility to appoint the committee just as he has the responsibility to appoint Boadr Members to all of the city's boards. This is just part of the progressive plan to undermine the Mayor again. The previous committee set up by John Franck and Matthew Veitch as stated to me was nothing but a joke.This was stated by a high ranking member of that committee. Look at that result. We now will have a Menetal health Facility and the entrance to the city. The County like fools will spend over $2million + to upgrade the old Topper dealership, pay monthly rent and have a five year lease with a five year exyension. The owner who had no plan for the building and an associate of a member of the Council was delighted. In ten plus years he will have his revenue and investment back and have a new building that passes all EPA codes etc. he's smiling all the way to the bank. That's what happens when the Council choses members of a committee. Why doesn't the Saratogian and its reporters do their job and investigate this and many other issues?? Get the job done and stop sensationalizing the city as a DIVIDED CITY. Pure trash!!!

January 16, 2013 at 5:33 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:32 - Keehne and Klotz were Democratic Mayors with Democratic Councils. That's the difference.

January 16, 2013 at 5:35 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:08 - The Planning department is probably the strongest and most knowleable department in City Government. It falls under the Mayor's Dept. Quality leadership creates quality results. DPW and DPS are a shambles and we could spend hours discussing the whining and shortfalls but I don't want to waste my time educating the uneducated.

January 16, 2013 at 5:40 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These two Mathesian and Madigan have known for months about the Mayor froming this committee as required by the charter,I wish these two would spend the same amount time and energy trying to run their depts. as they do trying to embarrass the mayor.

January 16, 2013 at 6:35 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Francks'south broadway committee(That accomplished nothing by the way) who chose the memebers of that committee? just say'in.

January 16, 2013 at 7:05 AM 

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