Troy's new City Charter is now operational. However, according to one newspaper account, there are issues. It looks like some things were overlooked, creating potential issues for the future. This, after a commission worked on this for quite some time.
We suppose it is not unexpected that one or two things were overlooked. It happens and we all know that committees and commissions produce compromised products. Most of the issues should be addressed by the City Council as long as the items addressed do not reduce the powers of the mayor. We believe that is the standard. As long as changes do not reduce mayoral powers changes to the Charter may be done via legislation. If the mayor's powers are to be reduced, a referendum is necessary.
The biggest mistake, to our minds, was intentional and quite popular: the reduction of at-large representation from three to one. Augmenting the problem is the fact that the one at-large council person is elected to a four year term simultaneously with the mayor. This change sets-up some potential problems.
First, under the old Charter, the chance that the Council President's party would have a majority on the Council. This is what we have now. Council President Mantello will generally have the backing of a council majority. Under the new Charter, the chance that the Council President does not have majority support is much more likely. We think the head of the City Council should be in the majority. Things operate much more smoothly that way.
Also, we have set ourselves up for more politics and less bipartisanship. It is inevitable that the Council President will be the go-to mayoral candidate four years after their election. We will spend four years watching the mayor (if the mayor seeks re-election) and the Council President spare in an effort to position themselves for the mayoral contest.
There is no guarantee this will happen but given the nature of Troy politics, it will happen. More partisanship, less cooperation.
In an era of great distrust of government, it seems odd that we voted to reduce our representation and essentially increase the influence of two office holders. Instead, we should reduce the Council salary and increase the Council to 12 or 13 seats, eliminate the at-large seat and allow the Council to choose its President. Council Districts should be drawn so that party registration is as even as possible. Perhaps this will make council members more responsive to their constituents.
Won't happen, we know. The real problem with the new Charter is the changes to the council, not the other issues that can be fixed.