This fall there are two questions on the ballot to change the Minneapolis City Charter. To better understand them KFNA turned to to Robin Garwood, the Policy Aide to Minneapolis Council Member Cam Gordon to help us understand them. Here is what Robin had to say. Question #2 is addressed first as it is a fairly simple technical “fix” to a problem the at the State Legislature created.
The Charter specifies that a special election must be within 90 days. But the Legislature has constrained which days can be election days, even for municipalities, in Minnesota. Since we can’t change that state law, we need to change the Charter to provide more flexibility – or possibly end up in a situation where, given the exact timing of an elected official leaving office in the middle of a term, we must (per the Charter) hold an election when we cannot (per state law).
Recommended: Vote YES.
This amendment is more consequential, and is also a response to a problem that the Legislature created. Thanks to what I believe was an ill-considered law put forward by then-Representative Phyllis Kahn, Minneapolis must hold its first election under its newly-redistricted Wards before the next regularly scheduled municipal election in 2025. This is not possible under the normal four-year election cycle. The best option – rescinding that law – was not available to us. The proposed Charter amendment is the least-bad option available to us.
It sets up a unique (and unfortunate) course of events in local politics: an election in 2021 for Mayor, all 13 City Council seats, all nine Park Board seats, and the two at-large Board of Estimate seats. Then, in 2023, another election – this time just for Council. Then, in 2025, yet another election, for all of the above offices (mayor, Council, etc.).
The only other alternatives were to a) make everyone go through three elections in four years (Mayor, Council, everyone else), or b) allow the Council elections to go off-cycle with Mayoral elections for two decades, before re-syncing. Option “a” was opposed, for obvious reasons, by the mayor and Park Board members. Option “b” would inject a whole new level of dysfunction into Minneapolis politics for a generation: an election every two years, but swinging back and forth between a “mayor” election and a “Council” election.
Recommended: Vote YES.