Baffling

I’m posting the comment below in full as it’s the City Charter section dealing with the Golf Commission.
Dream Weaver makes a valid counter point to my statement of “We should care when executive and legislative oversight is passed to a non-elected advisory council”.
I accepted the characterization of the Commission as an advisory council based upon the Sunday Recorder Editorial that is mentioned in my prior post here. Based upon the Charter, I do not see where the role of the Commission is advisory but rather it is a strong operational role in the management of the course. Per the Charter, the Council’s role falls under this:
E. The Common Council reserves the authority to enter into agreements for the use of facilities, such as concessions and restaurant, at said golf course.
Given the need for the Council’s approval on the pro contract, I believe the requirement rests under this clause.
As far as my statement of “when executive and legislative oversight is passed to a non-elected advisory council“, I believe my statement still stands given that this contract wrests authority formerly granted to the mayor back to the commission and cedes legislative oversight given the sentiment of approving agreements “regardless of the contract” by the council.
What’s baffling, or better yet most troubling,  to me is that the charter details no oversight requirements, no reporting requirements and no financial requirements for the Commission to the Council or Mayor. I have no financials upon which to comment or analyze so let me present a plausible hypothetical. Let’s say the operations for the course run in the red for the year. Who picks up the tab? If we have large capital projects “looming” (using Mayor Thane’s word), how do we assure the sound management and financing of such initiatives given the lack of oversight and given the laissez-faire approach of the council?
Contracts matter so if the only way to pry into the operations especially the financial operations of the course is via a single clause in a contract, then it should matter that some level of oversight remains in place regardless of how limited it may be. And it is indeed limited.
I appreciate the forward of the Charter and I’m thinking the Charter needs some retooling.
Dream Weaver Says:
December 4, 2008 at 2:24 am e
“We should care when executive and legislative oversight is passed to a non-elected advisory council”
But the Golf Commission is not an advisory council.
From the city charter (see http://ecode360.com/?custId=AM0234):
Section 28-3:
“A. It shall be the duty of the Commission to organize, manage, operate, maintain and govern said golf course and appurtenances.
B. The Commission shall have full authority to manage, maintain and operate said golf course and appurtenances, to establish proper fees for the use of the golf course by players and to do such necessary things and adopt such rules and regulations applying to the use of such golf course as may be necessary for its proper operation, maintenance and protection.
C. All revenues thus received from operation shall be deposited with the Controller of the City of Amsterdam, who shall maintain a separate account of such revenues.
D. Purchases made by the Commission shall be made in like manner as other purchases made by the City of Amsterdam. All money expended incidental to the management, maintenance and operation of the golf course shall be made upon submission of proper vouchers or claims, signed by the Chairman of the Commission, approved by the Director of Recreation and after audit by the Common Council in accordance with the provisions of the City Charter, all such expenditures and all such payments shall be chargeable to and payable from the fund and account maintained by the City Controller for this purpose.
E. The Common Council reserves the authority to enter into agreements for the use of facilities, such as concessions and restaurant, at said golf course.
F. Purchases of capital items shall be done by the Common Council upon recommendation of the Commission and within budgetary appropriations.
G. The consent and approval of the Director of Recreation shall be noted on all appropriations for operational functions prior to any commitment made therefor.”
Note the above under “G” – it could be that the Golf Pro’s contract was not properly before the council or, if it was, approval of the contract may still be needed by the Director of Recreation – who reports to the Mayor.

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4 Responses

  1. wildthane says:

    Mayor’s letter to the Council of March 2, 2008:
    I am writing to update you about the two-hour meeting with the Commission on Monday. As you know, I had sent a letter on January 22, 2008 to the Commission Chairman requesting the following information: a list of officers, minutes from Commission meetings for the past 2-3 years, a copy of their bylaws, financial statements from the Pro as per the contract they have with him, budgets – past, present and projected, and the short- & long-term strategic plan for the Golf Course which is a stipulated responsibility of the Commission as per the Charter. The Commission did not come to the meeting with this information.
    The figures we have from our audited financial statements indicate a perilous downward spiral. It is obvious that the Course is not a self-sustaining entity, Commission members are right in their assertion that labor costs and capital improvements to the Club House have brought us to a highly debilitated state over the past few years. My concern arises because there is not the close attention to finances we must have (they have no idea how much money the Pro makes) and there is not a plan of action to address our serious needs. The Commission gave me a two-page list of projects that need attending to at the Course (their “Plan”), but no course of action to come to grips with these problems. They kicked around some of the ideas that they had come up with over the years. I requested that they write them down so that they begin to come up with strategies to raise the revenue we need to continue operations at the Course without placing this burden on our taxpayers. Its my hope that we move begin to move this process along.
    I urge you all to support the changes to the Charter in regard to the Commission. The new language allows for greater oversight of operations, another layer of checks & balances if you will, which seems to have been missing in the past. Please note that I am suggesting, upon the recommendation of the Commission, the Council will approve the fee schedules for play, cart storage rates, rentals, contracts, rules, and regulations for proper operation, maintenance and protection of the Course. The Commission will continue to play an important role at the Course. I also propose that, along with an annual budget, the Commission make an annual written report to the Common Council that includes their list of officers, minutes of meetings, goals for the year that had been met, and a short-term and long-term strategic plan.
    Commission members will serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. Some of these Commissioners have served well over a decade on this board. I’m not so sure how healthy this is to any volunteer effort, though I value institutional memory and staggered terms. I have heard for years that this is a “private club” and that new ideas are squelched or ignored. New Commissioners have left in frustration. Complaints about play at the Course abound as well. Occasional golfers have trouble getting on the Course because of the “members” taking prime tee times and playing more than one round. The Pro shop is less than inviting and merchandise is old. I am not reporting these situations as fact; this is what people are complaining to me about. I am interested in hearing your thoughts as to these impressions.
    The language in the newly drafted Charter change removes the responsibility of the Commission to manage, operate or maintain the Course. The Commission is comprised of five volunteer members. It is my opinion that the operation of any City department cannot be given up to a volunteer group. It is the responsibility of City government to manage its departments. Therefore, I have proposed that the Commission serve in a advisory capacity, monitoring and evaluating operations, suggesting policy and procedures, and recommending short- and long-range goals/strategies for the physical & financial health of this department.

  2. wildthane says:

    Just for kicks and giggles, I am pasting in the ordinance that was passed unanimously at the beginning of the year and then reversed by Council later in the year.
    CITY OF AMSTERDAM, NEW YORK
    COMMON COUNCIL MEETING
    March 18, 2008
    BY: MAYOR THANE
    Ordinance Number 2008-1
    Amended by Alderwoman Brumley and Alderman Wills
    AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 28 (GOLF COMMISSION) OF THE CODE OF THE CITY OF AMSTERDAM IN RELATION TO APPOINTMENT OF COMMISSIONERS, REMOVAL OF COMMISSIONERS AND APPROVAL OF ACTIONS.
    The City of Amsterdam, in Common Council convened, does hereby ordain and enact as follows:
    Chapter 28 of the code of the City of Amsterdam is amended to read as follows:
    § 28-1. Creation of Commission; membership.
    A. There is hereby created to advise City personnel in the management, operation and maintenance of the Arthur Carter Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course of the City of Amsterdam a Commission, to be known as the “Arthur Carter Amsterdam Municipal Golf Commission.”
    B. Such Commission shall consist of a board of six members, one of whom shall be a non-voting Alderman. The Alderman so designated by the Common Council shall serve as a member of such Commission only for the term of the Common Council of which he is a member. The other five members of such Commission shall not be either a city employee or official.
    C. The Mayor shall appoint the other members of the commission, who shall serve at the pleasure of the Mayor.
    D. All members shall serve without pay.
    E. Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as original appointments.
    F. Each member of the Commission, before beginning his term of office, shall file in the office of the City Clerk the constitutional oath of office.
    § 28-2. Appointment of officers; adoption of bylaws.
    The Commission shall appoint from among its members a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary of its organization, and thereafter such officers shall be chosen at its annual meeting. The Commission, however, shall be authorized to fill vacancies in said office occurring after the original appointment of election to serve until the next annual meeting. Upon its organization, the Commission shall, as soon as is possible, cause to be adopted a set of bylaws governing the conduct of its affairs, which bylaws, when adopted, shall be filed with the City Clerk. These bylaws shall provide for an annual meeting to be held on the first Monday in April in each year. These bylaws shall be approved by the common council.
    § 28-3. Powers and duties of Commission.
    A. It shall be the duty of the Commission to advise City personnel in the organization, operation, maintenance and management of said golf course and appurtenances. The Commission should develop short term and long term strategic plans to enhance the golf course as a recreational asset. The Commission shall assist in the preparation of operating and capital budgets to provide for the long term financial stability of the golf course.
    B. The Commission shall recommend proper fees for the use of the golf course by players and to recommend the adoption of such rules and regulations applying to the use of such golf course as may be necessary for its proper operation, maintenance and protection. The Common Council, after receiving the recommendation of the Commission and the Mayor, shall establish all fee schedules for play, season passes, cart storage, cart rental, locker rental and all other charges. The Common Council shall approve all contracts with respect to the services of a golf professional.
    C. The Mayor shall appoint members of the Commission. Terms of the members shall be three years. Any Commissioner serving a five year tern shall have his term reduced by two years. No commission shall serve more than two consecutive term.
    D. Purchases shall be made by the Supervisor of Golf Course Maintenance and shall be made in like manner as other purchases made by the City of Amsterdam. All such expenditures and all such payments shall be chargeable to and payable from the fund and account maintained by the City Controller for this purpose.
    E. The Common Council reserves the authority to enter into agreements for the use of facilities, such as concessions and restaurant, at said golf course.
    F. Purchases of capital items shall be done by the Common Council upon recommendation of the Commission and within budgetary appropriations.
    G. The consent and approval of the Supervisor of Golf Course Maintenance shall be required for all appropriations prior to any commitment being made for expenditures.
    H. The Commission shall prepare a proposed annual operating budget and submit to the Mayor and Common Council by February first of each year. The Commission shall keep accurate records of the operation of the course and its own actions. The Commission shall submit monthly minutes of its meetings and evaluation of the financial condition of the course. The Commission shall make an annual written report to the Common Council that includes their list of officers, report of the performance of the golf professional and concessionaire, goals achieved for the previous year, and the short-term and long-term strategic plans.
    ORDINANCE ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY.

  3. ann peconie says:

    Read today’s editorial in the Recorder today? Thoughts? They certainly love Joe the Pro and I think all of them at Recorder central must be Muni members and like it all just the way it is, no questions.
    Only point I agreed with was to go out for bid on course maintenance/upkeep and not use City employees- like Schenectady Stadium Public course does.
    Are you too busy shopping and decorating to comment on your blog?

  4. flippinamsterdam says:

    I’m a bit surprised as to the framing of this issue by the council and the Recorder. Good thing we don’t we have an economic crisis due to lack of oversight and to irrational financial risk management that might provide parallel lessons… oh wait, we do! 😉
    I’ve had many distractions precluding me from posting but I should be posting a bit more regularly in the weeks ahead.

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