City votes to accept county changes to charter

ALBANY -- The Albany City Commission voted 6-1 to accept the county's change to the proposed charter of a consolidated government today, and agreed to send its list of changes to the county board for consideration.

In being the lone holdout, Commissioner Tommie Postell said he saw the vote as a means of expressing support for consolidation.

The county's change to the proposed charter -- which would be the foundation of a new combined government of Albany and Dougherty County -- simply added staggered terms for the eight commissioners and an at-large elected CEO.

The City Commission has reached a consensus on several proposed changes including the following:

n a full-time CEO, which was approved 6-1 with Commissioner Bob Langstaff against;

n non-partisan elections for the commission and CEO with the CEO's election falling on presidential cycles. Commissioners Jon Howard, Roger Marietta and Postell were each against -- they each supported partisan elections with the CEO being voted on presidential cycles;

n establish the referendum on consolidation to be held in November 2010 with Commissioner Morris Gurr voicing opposition;

n that the current salaries of the city commission be used as the basis for the new commission and CEO. Langstaff was against;

n that the assets of the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission stay within a planned Urban district. Langstaff was against.

Those changes will be put into a memo and sent to County Manager Richard Crowdis and Chairman Jeff Sinyard to present to the commission for discussion.

Mayor Willie Adams, who said at one point during the discussion that the commission was acting like a bunch of "fifth graders," said he believed the idea was that the city and county commissions would work to hammer out their differences on a charter before voting to send it to the statehouse for consideration for a referendum. Should the two boards fail to reach a consensus, he said, the city and county could send separate documents, a sentiment challenged by Marietta.

During the discussion, Adams said that after traveling throughout the city he had found very little support for the issue saying that if it were to go to a vote "it would likely tank." But reiterated previous statements on the importance of allowing the public to vote on the issue.

At Monday's county commission meeting, Sinyard said that despite the sentiments expressed at several listening sessions throughout the city and county, the people should have a right to vote.

"For 300 years, people have fought for the right to vote on issues that affect them," Sinyard said. "The people deserve the right to vote on how they are governed. It's a basic tenet of democracy."