Saratoga Charter Debate Takes Focus Away From Mayoral Race

Nov 3, 2017

In a time of political turmoil in Saratoga Springs, one thing is for sure: the Spa City is getting a new mayor. Current Deputy Mayor Meg Kelly, a Democrat, and former Saratoga Springs City Center President Mark Baker, a Republican, are campaigning for the seat held by outgoing Mayor Joanne Yepsen.

Perhaps the most discussed topic during this election season in Saratoga Springs is the ballot measure to change the city’s system of government in 2020.

But both candidates indicated that charter change might be outshining some of the other topics that should be considered over the next two years.

Democratic candidate Meg Kelly supports charter change, but…

“I do think it’s taking over and I truly don’t like the negative stuff coming out of both sides,” said Kelly.

Debate over charter change has intensified. Just this week three members of the city council not being challenged for re-election and all opposed to charter change held a press conference to pressure a group supporting the measure to reveal its donors.

The group, It’s Time Saratoga, then released a statement confirming that it’s being funded by the International City/County Management Association and shot back. The group contends the donors who contribute to the SUCCESS campaign, the group opposed to charter change, reads like  a “who’s who list of Saratoga, made up primarily of builders, developers, and bankers.”

Republican candidate Mark Baker, who opposes charter change, also indicated the back-and-forth is taking away from the candidates’ platforms.

“So a lot of the discussion on what may be in a proposal has I think sort of dimmed the light on what individuals should be considered to run in our current form of government,” said Baker.

The candidates themselves want voters to know about their readiness for the job.

Since July 2016, Kelly has served as Deputy Mayor under Democrat Joanne Yepsen, who is stepping down after two terms.

“I think that I have proven myself inside with making new processes, being more efficient and effective. And I think that I have the inner-workings under my belt. I am deputy mayor running the mayor’s department right now under full-time status.”

Previously, Kelly had a career in professional golf and she is also the founder of the non-profit Saratoga Children’s Theatre.

Baker is a familiar face in Saratoga Springs, having led the City Center as president for 34 years.

He touts his performance leading the venue and having leadership skills to take on challenges within city government.

“I’m excited about this community and I am excited to be a champion and cheerleader for those projects we need to address.”

Among the issues Baker wants to address if elected mayor are traffic flow and parking, mass-transit, keeping up with downtown development,  programs for seniors, and improving EMS and fire response. 

Kelly has taken firm positions against development in open space surrounding downtown and has pledged not to support a “five-story concrete parking garage.” She seeks to continue the momentum from her time in city hall.

For years, Baker had pushed for the development of a lot behind the City Center to accommodate the needs of the venue. The plan remains controversial, and of late a court fight has surfaced between the city and neighboring property owners over the release of city emails related to the project.