Howe questions rolesRed Wing Mayor John Howe is asking the city's Charter Commission to review and possibly modify the duties and powers of Red Wing's mayor and City Council.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing Mayor John Howe is asking the city's Charter Commission to review and possibly modify the duties and powers of Red Wing's mayor and City Council.
The commission could, if it wishes, consider the matter when it meets June 30.
"The roles and powers that are in the City Charter — is that what we want today?" Howe asked in an interview with the R-E.
In recent talks involving Howe, city staff and City Council President Mike Schultz, the mayor questioned the exact powers and responsibilities of the city's elected officials and asked whether Red Wing has a weak or strong mayor form of government.
"It's a good discussion we're having about our roles," Howe said.
While commonly referred to as a weak mayor system, Red Wing's government — as laid out in the city's charter — represents a sort of hybrid of the conventional weak and strong mayoral systems.
Howe said that although Red Wing's system is a hybrid, he feels it leans toward a strong mayor system. He takes issue with the way the charter describes the mayor's office.
The charter calls the mayor the titular — in name only — head of the city, but then goes on to give the mayor duties and powers. Howe finds that contradictory.
Howe said he won't try to persuade the commission to make any specific changes.
"I think it's important not to influence the Charter Commission," he said.
In talking with the R-E, however, Howe mentioned Northfield's system of government, which is similar to Red Wing's with the exception that Northfield's mayor runs city council meetings, whereas in Red Wing the council president directs meetings.
"That might not be a bad option, because the person running the meeting might not have a vote," Howe said.
Asked if that's a form he'd prefer, Howe said, "I'll accept whatever form the Charter Commission determines is in the best interest of the city of Red Wing."
Other city leaders seem less concerned about the charter's language.
City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said some room for interpretation in the charter isn't necessarily bad, and that duties and powers needn't be spelled out in exact detail, as they would be in a regular job description.
She also said that while Red Wing's system isn't perfect, it's far from broken.
Holding a similar view, Schultz said he doesn't advocate that the commission make changes to the charter regarding powers and duties of elected officials.
He said the commissioners have the right to examine the charter and make changes.
"That's their prerogative," Schultz said.
There is another change both Schultz and Howe would like the commission to consider.
They'd like to see the commission write language into the charter incorporating modern technology, allowing the mayor to sign resolutions and ordinances electronically if that official is out of town.
This would be prudent, they said, because there's a time limit regarding when local legislation may be presented to the mayor for his or her signature.