City considers changes to charterThe Charter Commission used to meet once or twice a year. But in the past few years, the number of meetings has increased, and last year, members gathered more than 13 times.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
The Charter Commission used to meet once or twice a year. But in the past few years, the number of meetings has increased, and last year, members gathered more than 13 times.
That’s because the group has been considering a whole host of changes and amendments to the city’s charter, from ranked choice voting to the mayor’s veto power.
On Monday night, the commission met with the City Council to get a feel for members’ thoughts on the changes. The Charter Commission has been looking into 10 potential changes, some of which they decided were not necessary and others they recommend.
The commission wants to spell out a timeline for a mayor’s potential veto of an ordinance or council action. Members proposed that the mayor would have 96 hours total to make a veto decision, not including weekends and holidays.
“Basically this would make it for sure that the City Council will have a decision from the mayor before the next meeting,” acting commission chair Chris Schrader said. “It forces the mayor to be involved and take action.”
The council would have 48 hours after adoption to deliver the ordinance.
Current Mayor Dennis Egan said he would prefer that the 96 hours start when the mayor receives the ordinance rather than when it is adopted.
“There is still a concern that if a mayor wants more information or time to research … that there’s enough time for that to happen,” he said.
In another piece of the charter, the commission suggested adding language making absence from three consecutive meetings grounds for removal for a council member or mayor.
“The theme we were working with was we want people to be present and act quickly,” Schrader said.
The commission also is proposing eliminating the acting mayor’s veto power, because the acting mayor is the council president.
There were two other changes proposed that acting commission chair Chris Schrader said were relatively uncontroversial.
One was spelling out that the city primary election date will align with the state’s primary. The other was clarifying that primaries during special elections are not required.
After looking into shifting the mayor’s role, the commission decided to stay with the current arrangement. They also proposed no change to the 85-day timeline for special and recall elections.
A requirement that all votes be made in person – instead of via Skype or another digital presence – likely will be rejected because state statute allows it, Schrader said Monday.
Council member Dean Hove said the proposed changes really are clarifications that spell out expectations.
“It makes it much simpler for everyone down the road,” he said.
If charter amendments aren’t unanimously approved by the council and mayor, the commission can put the issue to local voters. But that probably wouldn’t happen this year for most of the proposals.
“It is not the Charter Commission’s intent to jam up the 2012 ballot,” Schrader said.
At Monday’s meeting, members also discussed ranked choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, which already is set to go before Red Wing voters in 2012.
The process involves voters ranking candidates and aims for a majority winner, and also eliminates the need for primaries.
The groups are wrestling with the commission’s role of educating voters before the election versus advocating for the process.
“It’s a delicate line,” Council administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.
The Charter Commission also is working on ways to flesh out the initiative and referendum portion of the charter to better define what issues are appropriate for citizen proposals.
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