(PLATTSBURGH- Wednesday, December 20th 2023) - Plattsburgh City Mayor, Christopher Rosenquest is looking to create a commission to explore the future of the City’s form of government. Currently, the City operates under a “Strong Mayor” model. A Strong Mayor form of government is defined by a Mayor who acts as the Chief Executive Officer as well as the Presiding Officer of the legislative body — in Plattsburgh’s case, the City Common Council.
According to the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), New York cities and Villages each are made up of a variety of governmental structures. Of the 590 NYMCOM member communities, many are managed and led by a hired City Manager who oversees government functions, operations, and helps develop policy. Locally, the Clinton County Legislature operates under a similar Administrator-Legislature form of governmental structure.
Much like other governments, the City of Plattsburgh has three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. City Judges are appointed by the Mayor and operate independent of City government. The Legislative branch of City Hall comprises six Councilors, each representing the six legislative districts (Wards) in the City of Plattsburgh. The Mayor is elected at large and serves as the Presiding Officer of the Council, and is considered a member of the Council as well as the Chief Executive Officer overseeing management, operational, and financial duties.
“Our current form of government seems to work well when the voters install Mayors who have strong business, community outreach, and public policy experience. It’s been my experience that having a Mayor with negotiation, budgeting, management, public relations, and public policy creation experience serves the future of our community more effectively,” says Plattsburgh City Mayor Christopher Rosenquest. “Having a leader with the skills and experience to run a $64 million organization is critical. With a Strong Mayor form of government, the consistency and differing skill sets between Mayors can potentially create severe inconsistencies when we’re swapping out a CEO every four years,” says Mayor Rosenquest.
Rosenquest is asking this new commission to explore an alternative, known as the “Council-Manager” form of government. The Council-Manager form consists of an elected city council and Mayor who are responsible for policy making, and a professional City Manager, appointed by the council, who is responsible for administration and acts as the CEO of the City. The City Manager would provide policy advice, direct the daily operations of city government, handle personnel functions, and is responsible for preparing the city budget.
Under the Council-Manager statutes, the City Council is prohibited from interfering with the manager's administration. The City Manager, however, is directly accountable to and can be removed by a majority vote of the council at any time.
This is not the first time City Hall has called on City voters to consider an alternative form of Government. In 2015 a referendum was put forth to City voters to make the determination on whether or not the City should change the current form of government. That referendum failed with just 40% of voters supporting the change. “Anecdotally we’ve heard all sorts of reasons why this referendum failed. We also heard from many why they supported it. There’s something to be said about an active sitting Mayor calling for its serious consideration despite that meaning a change to the Mayor’s duties,” adds Rosenquest.
“When I was running for this office, I heard more voters demand that City Hall be run like a business. Even today, many people who approach me ask why the City doesn't consider installing a City Manager. I feel that’s a good question to consider and I’m asking this commission to help answer the pros and cons of these questions,” says Rosenquest. “I believe there are a lot of unknowns to be answered before anyone can authentically come out in support or opposition of a City-Manager run City Hall or before people jump on the ‘we already tried this’ bandwagon. There will be no perfect solutions and there are a lot of factors that should be weighed. These are the considerations this commission will be tasked with through fact gathering research, community engagement, and debate,” adds Rosenquest.
The Mayor has called forth a commission consisting of Councilor Jacob Avery (Ward 2), TDC President, Dave Champagne, local accountant and business owner, Forrest Edwards, SUNY Professor Kim Hartshorn, and Director of Community Development, Courtney Meisenheimer. Members of the Commission are being asked to conduct research, perform public outreach, review previous documentation on the issue, and produce a final report of recommendations. A referendum for vote, if approved by Council, would be placed on the 2024 November ballot for a 2025 implementation.
“I think the City Manager position could possibly be the positive revision we need in the City of Plattsburgh. The city being run by a Mayor for four years, with a strong turnover is not sustainable. Not to mention crucial aspects of our City Charter are based on having a City Manager structure. This may provide that important option for longer term institutional knowledge,” says Ward 2 Councilor-Elect and Commission Member Jacob Avery. “To do the research and review what a City Manager would look like will give our community better options as we move into the future. I am happy to serve on this committee and looking forward to fruitful discussions.”
"I have learned to appreciate effective and stable management through my experience as a public employee and unionist. I am interested in exploring this approach to municipal government,” SUNY Profession Kim Hartshorn
If the public wishes to submit a comment or to stay informed on the Commission’s work, please email email@example.com.