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Charter Review Commission

Charter review may bump consolidation

By WBTA News

At this point, all signs are go for the City of Batavia’s revised charter proposal to be on the voting ballot in November. And that means a vote on the consolidation of the city and town will have to wait.

The nine-member Charter Review Commission met last night at City Hall. The focus of the meeting was to vote on whether to put the charter proposal up for a popular vote in November. The commission did not officially move to do so; they’ll wait until Aug. 24 to decide. But Commission Chairman John Roach says they’ve already got a majority within the commission who want to move forward with the charter.

Besides, says Roach: “The consolidation people should have been aware that we have a charter commission that legally has precedence.”

One of the new additions to the charter is the ability of city council to appoint committees to work on issues outside of council meetings. Currently, every issue before the council must be debated in regular meetings. Roach says an approach-by-committee would streamline city operations.

“Most bigger governing bodies have sub-committees,” said Roach. “It makes things a little more efficient. Instead of nine people arguing over every little detail, you have a committee of three or four who work it out.”

Roach said he doesn’t believe a committee approach would stifle the public comments that have become a staple of regular city council meetings. He says citizens would simply have to attend more meetings, like the committee appointees, if they wanted to voice their opinions.

Consolidation, or new charter, city will need to decide which to put on November ballot

By Howard B. Owens

The City of Batavia's two-year effort to amend its charter is running head-on into any idea of consolidating the town and the city into a single government in the near future, according to John Roach, chairman of the Charter Review Commission.

Roach said this evening that City Attorney George Van Nest informed the commission that state law prohibits any other measure from being on the same ballot.

That means city officials will need to choose - new charter or push for consolidation.

"If we thought consolidation would pass, we would pull the charter," Roach said.

The Charter Commission's term expires, under state law, on election day. If there is no vote this November, then the city will need to appoint a new Charter Review Commission and the two-year process will start over.

Roach noted there are some issues in the revised charter that will not controversial, are critical. Among them the need to drop the requirement for the city to employee a City Engineer, a position that is currently vacant and is apparently no longer needed.  Also, under state law each member of the seven-member planning board should serve seven-year terms. The commission is recommending reducing the board to only five members so terms will be only five years (yes, that's the way state law works, according to Roach).

City Council President Charlie Mallow, a strong proponent of consolidation said to him there's no question, consolidation should be on the November ballot, not the charter.

Asked about the risk of the town not passing consolidation and then the city would need to start over on the charter, Mallow said, "That's the risk you have to take. That's something as an area we have to reach for."

City Manager Jason Molino, who serves on the consolidation committee, declined to say which choice he favored.

"It's up to the elected officials," Molino said. "If they feel fit to put it forward to the populace then they will."

Batavia's Charter Review Commission sends proposed changes to city attorney

By Howard B. Owens

The next revision of the Batavia city charter is heading to the attorney for review after the Charter Review Commission polished up its proposed changes tonight.

The last issue to get any discussion dealt with the definition of "affiliation" in the case a city council member resigned office mid-term -- if a council member was elected by a political party different from his or her affiliation at the time of resignation, which party should get to appoint the replacement.

By a 3-4 vote, the commission rejected a proposed change that would have defined according to which party gave the candidate the most votes.

Commission members who objected to the change said the current definition is clear, has worked for years, and less likely to subvert the will of the voters.

"We are trying to infer what voters want instead of keeping it black and white," said Matt Landers. "We're getting into a subjective area."

The issue was raised last month by Councilman Bill Cox, who was elected as a Republican on a Democratic line. He asked who would get to appoint his replacement if he resigned for any reason. Under the current charter, it seems, the Republicans would get to pick the new member.

After the city attorney finishes his review, the commission will meet to discuss any of his language changes and then set a public hearing for the revised charter in July. The vote will be in November.

Charter Review nearly done: Changes to replacement of vacancies and council committees contemplated

By Howard B. Owens

The Charter Review Commission has finished its review of the City of Batavia charter and will soon submit its revisions to the City Attorney for review, chairman John Roach says.

The big surprise, Roach said, is the need to clarify how a vacancy is filled on the City Council when a member resigns his or her seat for any reason. The vacancy is supposed to be filled according to party affiliation, but what that phrase means exactly wasn't defined.

Councilman Bill Cox brought the issue to the commission because he noted that while he's a Republican, he was elected on the Democratic and Conservative party lines. Roach said Cox would want to see the seat go to a Republican if he left office.

“There’s another feeling that the party that elected you should get to back fill your position, but it’s not really spelled out," Roach said. "So out of the clear blue we found ourselves (thinking) ‘OK, let’s define what affiliation means.’”

Roach's suggestion: Affiliation is defined by the party line that gave a candidate the most votes. In the case of Bill Cox, that would be Democrat.

Another big change to the charter, Roach said, would allow the City Council to operate through subcommittees, like the County Legislature. The charter won't require subcommittees, but will make the creation of a subcommittee system possible.

“If this goes through, these nine people all trying to be on TV, grandstanding for the public," Roach said, "That will all disappear. You’ll have your committees like other governmental agencies and there will be no grandstanding and things will get done much, much better.”

The proposed charter will also require a mandatory review of ward boundaries.

The wards haven't changed in 20 or 25 years and the number of voters in each ward are no longer evenly distributed. There aren't big differences, Roach said, but the problem will only get worse if not corrected. The revised charter would require boundary changes every 10 years after the national census.

As an example, Roach mentioned that wards 1 and 2 are different sizes, and the ward boundary runs down the middle of Vine Street. If both sides of Vine were moved into ward 1, then they would be even again.

“Everybody’s known it. It’s no real big thing," Roach said. "But after 25 or so years, it’s time for them to just adjust it. It’s politically unpopular. Nobody wants to say, ‘well, now you’re in my ward.’” By putting it in the charter, they can say, ‘those charter guys did it.’ It gives them cover for doing what they should have done all along."

Another surprise for Roach and the commission was that New York prevents the city from creating a public safety director position that combines police and fire duties, as once heavily discussed in the city, because cities the size of Batavia must have a police chief.

“When we first started this idea, we were not aware that there was a New York State law that required a police chief  for a small department like us," Roach said. "I was surprised how micromanaging that turned out to be. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. I figured here’s a way to save some money. This makes sense. And boom, there’s a state law that stops us.”

The charter will expand from 19 sections to 20 so it can address the role of the city historian.

New York requires cities to have historians. Currently, it is an unpaid position and filled by Larry Barnes.

"It was never defined, what is his job, who appointed him, for how long, and what was it we wanted him to do," Roach said. "So in the charter we’ve now established how long can he be appointed for, who does the appointment and what is it we really want him to do. It’s a minor change to the charter and it costs no one any money."

While the role of the historian is now defined, the commission is proposing the elimination of the city engineer position. Now that the city's infrastructure is largely built out, there is no need for the job -- which has been vacant for some time anyway -- and so not filling the position will help the city save some money.

After the commission's next meeting, the proposed changes will be submitted to the City Attorney for review.  He will clean up any legal language and return it to the commission. Once that's done in June, a public hearing can be scheduled for July. The revisions can then be placed on the November ballot.

Charter Review Commission meets tonight

By Howard B. Owens

We received this press release from the city:

Please be advised that the Charter Review Commission for the City of Batavia will hold a meeting on Monday, March 2, 2009.  The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room on the second floor of the Batavia City Centre.  

The public can speak at the meeting by signing in prior to the start of the meeting. 

John, can you add more detail on what might be discussed tonight?

Batavia City Charter Commission and the Examining Board of Plumbers

By John Roach

 There has been some deliberate misinformation about the City Charter Commission seeking to do away with the City Examining Board of Plumbers. This is not true.


New York State laws, rules and regulations are always changing and it’s hard to keep up with them. The Charter Commission asked the City Manager to check with the City Attorney and determine if Batavia was still required by law to have an Examining Board of Plumbers, as it has had for years. That’s our job. There has been no change in the State requirement that the City of Batavia still have the Examining Board of Plumbers, so there will be no change in the Charter.

As a point of information, this board consists of 5 members. Two (2) shall be Master Plumbers with no less than ten (10) years of plumbing experience. One (1) member shall be a journeyman also with at least ten (10) years experience. The other two members are city employees involved with plumbing, sewers and drainage.


John Roach

Charter Commission Chairman

Batavia Charter Review Commission meets Monday

By Howard B. Owens

Press release from the city:

Please be advised that the Charter Review Commission for the City of Batavia will hold a meeting on Monday, October 6, 2008.  The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room on the second floor of the Batavia City Centre.  

The public can speak at the meeting by signing in with the Chairman prior to the start of the meeting. 

News roundup: Charter Review Commission meets Monday

By Philip Anselmo

We're back! After an intensive three-day video training workshop in Fairport, Philip is back in Batavia, more capable than ever to get out there and record the news. In the meantime, here's what you'll find at WBTA this morning:

Batavia's Charter Review Commission will meet Monday at 6:30pm at City Hall.

Batavia families welcome some inner-city kids to the open country as part of the Fresh Air Fund experience.

Professional Turf Services breaks ground today on the company's 12,000-square-foot facility in Pembroke Commerce Park. The company based in Grand island and Lockport distributes fertilizer to golf courses.

Check out for more on these and other stories.

Charter Review meeting tonight

By Philip Anselmo

Batavia's Charter Review Commission will meet tonight at 6:30pm in the Community Room at City Hall. Public comment is welcome. I was unable to connect with Commission Chair John Roach this afternoon, so any more details aren't yet available. We should have more updates for you when we can.

Click here to download the Batavia City Charter.

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