Court of public opinion will be battleground for charter changes


There will be no “veto battle” on the issue of the charter review committee. A piece of legislation does not always need the mayor’s signature on it to pass. If at least 4 out 5 on the Amsterdam Common Council votes to override Mayor Ann Thane’s veto of the resolution establishing a charter review committee, it will be enacted and no signature from the mayor will be required.

It’s a contract, such as the one for Golf Pro Joe Merendo, that requires both the mayor’s signature and the common council’s approval in order to be valid. This issue went to court because the common council took the unprecedented step of passing a resolution that authorized another city official to sign the contract they wanted instead of the mayor. That resolution violated the charter and that’s why the mayor filed and won a lawsuit against the common council.

While the issue will certainly continue to be controversial, there does not appear to be any such legal conflict in this situation. Just to make sure, I asked Mayor Thane yesterday about it and she confirmed that if the council overrides the veto, they’ll have the committee they chose. I also asked her if she had made a decision as to forming her own charter review committee, to which she replied she was still looking into it.

I think if the charter committee sticks to Robert Going’s stated “Burkean” approach by clarifying ambiguous passages in the charter using precedent as a guide, their work could be beneficial to the city.

However, Thane’s public comments on the charter review indicate to me she thinks there is an agenda behind this committee. You also have Alderman Ron Barone’s statement that he will “dictate” to the committee what the council wants done. So despite what anyone has said publicly, I think it remains to be seen just what the committee will actually look to change.

Ultimately, any recommendations the committee makes will have to be approved by a public referendum. The battle on this issue will be in the court of public opinion. If the recommend changes would significantly shift the balance of power between the executive and legislative branch, I think the resulting controversy would greatly increase the chances that the changes would be voted down. And with respect to the time that the volunteers on the committee will no doubt put in, that would be a shame.

(Photo by Bev Lloyd-Roberts)

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.