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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
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Charter commission vote At-large posts get green light

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Updated: 10:16 AM

By CASEY CROUCHER

casey.croucher@recordernews.com

The Amsterdam Charter Review Commission appointed by Mayor Ann Thane decided Monday to create two aldermen-at-large positions that would run co-terminus with the current aldermen's terms of office.

Seven of the nine commission members argued whether the at-large council positions should be two-year terms like the current council members serve, or if they should be extended to four years.

The commission proposed two weeks ago to create a seven-member common council with five of the members being the current ward aldermen and two of the members being at-large aldermen who serve city-wide instead of in specific wards.

Commission member Gina DeRossi wanted the at-large positions in office for four years.

"What's the incentive to run?" DeRossi said. "If you can run for your ward and you only need a fraction of the signatures, what's the incentive to go at-large? It'd be a lot less work. I think they should [be in office] for four years because again, what's the incentive?"

Commission member Curtis Peninger disagreed.

"I think it'd be better for the voters to keep everything copacetic," Peninger said. "Keep everything the same. We already have voter apathy and if we take this at-large position and make it a power alderman or power position then these two aldermen will be the power people because they'll have four years of being in City Hall."

Commission member Michael Chiara also disagreed with DeRossi's argument.

"If a person really wants to run, having to put up six more signs won't matter," Chiara said. "If they want to run they'll do it because they want to do something for the taxpayer."

Commission Chairman Peter Califano agreed with Chiara and Peninger and told the members he doesn't want to create a "power position."

"I don't want to give the illusion, whether it's an illusion or comes to be, that two aldermen are superior because they have a longer term," Califano said.

DeRossi countered, saying the at-large position would cover a larger area compared to a ward and they would deal with a lot more people.

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, who was sitting in on Monday's meeting, added that the at-large position would require five times as many signatures as a regular alderman and would deal with five times as many people when in office.

Califano opened the discussion to the public, which included First Ward Alderman Edward Russo, Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, and former Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas.

Dybas agreed that the at-large position should only have a two-year term.

"It should be the same as any alderman, or alderperson, the [title] should be gender neutral and that's something else that needs to change," Dybas said. "It should be the same. Why should it be any longer? Then you'd see who truly wants to run."

Russo nodded his head in agreement with Dybas. Hatzenbuhler said she had no issues with a two-year term for the at-large position.

The original motion for a four-year term came from DeRossi; Chiara made a motion to amend DeRossi's proposal in favor of a two-year term. The commission voted 6-1 in favor of the amendment. DeRossi cast the lone opposing vote.

The commission then voted unanimously in favor of the entire motion as amended, making the question of having two at-large aldermen serving two-year terms ready for the ballot.

     

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