The mayor of Johnstown, New York has laid out his vision for the new year, with priorities that include job creation, a review of the city’s charter, and increased collaboration with the neighboring city of Gloversville.
Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius presented his State of the City address this week. His number one priority for 2015? Jobs.
“Obviously all across the state, I’d imagine that’s the number one priority, but our unemployment rate is not stable. We need to get people working.”
Currently, the Fulton County city’s unemployment rate stands at around 6.7 percent. Alongside Gloversville, Johnstown was once widely known for its glove and textile industries.
Mayor Julius said he is looking to bring new business to the area, including high-tech. He said he is looking forward to the city working with Albany-based firm Schwartz Heslin in the planning process.
“We’re looking for help in securing these type of industries that we’re hoping will help our area, and for me, that group, Schwartz Heslin, actually fits the bill for us,” said Julius.
Another vision for 2015 is to take another look at revising the city’s charter, something that hasn’t been done for 15 years.
“We want to tighten up the charter and make each department stand on its own and fully understand what their duties are and what their limitations are,” said Julius.
The mayor, who this week appointed members to a charter review commission, said he and the city council appear to be “pulling in the same direction” for a charter review.
At-large city councilor Christopher Swatt said it’s also time for Johnstown to make updates to its governing document.
“We’re not trying to uncover any evils, we’re just trying to move forward and stay current,” said Swatt.
Charter change was an issue at the forefront of debate in neighboring Gloversville in 2014. In a push led by city councilor Robin Wentworth, a measure would have city residents vote on election day to restructure the city from a strong mayor system to a city manager style of government.
Gloversville Mayor Dayton King offered a counterproposal to require city councilors be elected in city-wide elections. His proposal was not adopted, and King vetoed the charter change plan, stopping a referendum vote.
King said he’s willing to take another look at the city charter in the new year.
“I don’t know how many pages exactly that charter is, but if we could break that down in the next 9 or 10 meetings and really go through that charter and take a look at what’s outdated , what needs to be changed for 2015 and beyond that really hamstrings us, and we may be able to send a referendum for voters to decide,” said King.
King said while he’s not against the city adopting a city manager type of government, he would be if the position was subordinate to the city council.
“I think I am against it as far as giving the council that type of control. I think we do have an opportunity right now to have a city manager that reports to the mayor, and that’s something that I’m certainly not opposed to,” said King.
Meanwhile, both mayors said they are willing to explore more avenues for collaboration and shared services in the new year. Mayor Julius said he would continue his push to expand public transportation in Johnstown, provided by Gloversville Transit Services.
“In the coming months I would like to sit down with him and maybe we can hash out something that would be beneficial for both cities,” said Julius.
Gloversville Mayor Dayton King has yet to deliver his State of the City address.