Where Watertown’s mayoral candidates stand on city charter

wwny Where Watertown’s mayoral candidates stand on city charter

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It's a question city of Watertown residents will be seeing on November's ballot: whether or not they want the city's charter to be replaced.

Signs are up in some yards in the city. The proposition the signs refer to is replacing the city's charter. It's a yes or no question that will be at the bottom of November's ballot.

"I was really disappointed to see that more options were not going to be presented for the voters on the ballot this fall. I think that some of the changes should have been broken down more so they can see exactly what is they are voting on," said Allison Crossman, mayoral candidate.

The new proposed city charter was presented in August after a series of public hearings. The yes or no vote means that the charter will pass in full or not at all. It would take effect January 1.

"You can't piecemeal this. You could put 20 or 30 propositions on there but that becomes very confusing. Proposal number 1 might depend on proposal number 3 and number 4 and if only one gets passed, you get even more confusion," said Jeff Smith, mayoral candidate.

The proposed charter would create a deputy city manager position who would also serve as commissioner of public safety, overseeing police, fire, codes, and a health officer. There would no longer be a fire chief, but instead a director of the fire department.

The charter also calls for "one or more" city judges.

Smith says he supports the proposal; he was chair of the charter commission.

"It is clearly an improvement over the existing charter. It moves the city forward. It's better, it creates and defines departments. It fills in holes of the current charter," he said.

Smith’s opponents in the mayoral race Cody Horbacz and Crossman say they will be voting no on the proposed charter. Both are against the commissioner of public safety position.

"Today we have about half of the police officers we had 30 years ago and adding another layer of management to over that really doesn't make sense," said Horbacz.

Horbacz and Crossman also wanted a vote on whether or not the city should switch to a “strong mayor” form of government.

"I think that was something that a lot of voters wanted to see," said Crossman.

Other charter changes would include automatic raises for the mayor and city council every July. New department heads like the deputy city manager would also have become a city resident 90 days after taking the new job.

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