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Charter changes could be coming

The citizen referendum and initiative process would be clarified and mayor's veto power tightened under changes proposed by the Red Wing Charter Commission.

The initiative and referendum changes are aimed at clarifying the process that has proved confusing for some in the past, Vice Chair Evan Brown told the City Council at its Monday meeting.

"The biggest concern in looking at this was fairness all around," Brown said.

Council President Lisa Bayley said one of the biggest concerns when those have come up was the question of who decided whether the citizen question was proper and when that happened.

The proposed changes would allow the citizen group of five or more people planning an initiative or referendum to seek an opinion from the city attorney as to whether the question is proper before they go out to collect signatures. It also would be reviewed after final submission.

Council member Mike Schultz said allowing for that clarification means "the average citizen has a fair and fighting chance if they wanted to bring something forward."

"At some point they've got to feel they're on the right trail and on the right track," he said.

Council member Dean Hove agreed citizens need to know earlier if their petition is valid or not, especially before going out and gathering the hundreds of signatures required. He said that could avoid frustration on both sides.

Brown said the Charter Commission also would like to put together a citizen guide to referendums and initiatives that plainly explains the process.

The other commission proposal would affect the timeline for a mayoral veto. The change would require the mayor to deliver a veto within 96 hours of adoption by the City Council, not by the time it is delivered. It also requires the mayor to list his or her objections in writing, explaining the veto.

The goal is to tighten the procedures and make it easier for both the council and mayor to consider options in a timely fashion, Chairman Chris Schrader said, so "there's not any ugly surprises for anybody."

In the case of an emergency ordinance the mayor still has one hour to veto and no action would mean the ordinance goes into effect.

Both issues were referred back to Charter Commission for revisions.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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