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Minneapolis Charter Commission delays study to modernize government

The review had been suggested by a group of former city officials who are willing to lend their expertise.


A comprehensive study aimed at “modernizing” the management structure of Minneapolis government will not take place this year.

The review had been suggested by a group of former city officials who are willing to lend their expertise to the research.

The Charter Change Task Force approached the Minneapolis Charter Commission with the study proposal but was told Wednesday that the commissioners would prefer to finish work on a “Plain Language” charter revision headed for the ballot this fall and perhaps consider the study after that work and the election are complete.

“If we wait until November, we squander a lot of time,” former Minneapolis City President Paul Ostrow told the commissioners.

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He was joined at the meeting by former Mayor Don Fraser and former City Council Member Joan Niemic, who are all members of the Task Force.

The “Plain Language” charter revision, which has been in the works for at least nine years, is scheduled for a final vote at the commission’s June meeting. The process of revising the charter has produced at least 11 drafts.

The goal is to modernize the language of the charter, which even contains the Elizabethan-era word “doth.”

 The commission effort also would reorganize the charter material and remove some items that should be enacted instead in ordinance form, according to commission Chair Barry Clegg.

“If we have no interest in putting something on the ballot, then a study is a waste of time,” he said.

The commissioners recently finished redistricting plans for the Minneapolis Park Board and ward boundaries and are now focusing on the “Plain Language” charter revision.

“My gut feeling is that somebody — and that could be the Charter Commission — has to take a look at the governance of the city,” said Commissioner Lyall Schwartzkopf, who suggested that the idea of the study not be automatically discarded.

“Our job is not to sit back and react,” he said.” Our job is to take the initiative.”

The “Plain Language” charter revision is expected to appear on the 2012 Minneapolis ballot in the form of two questions. One would pertain to liquor licensing and will require a two-thirds majority to pass. The other question would refer to all other charter language.

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If adopted, the charter revisions would go into effect in late 2013.

Two Cities blog, which covers Minneapolis and St. Paul City Halls, is made possible in part by grants from The Saint Paul Foundation and the Carolyn Foundation.