Charter change? The people decide

This article was written by Amanda Dobbs

On Tuesday, November 2 the citizens of Minneapolis have the opportunity to shape the future of our city, by not only voting for city leaders, we will also vote on three questions on the 2021 Minneapolis ballot that propose amendments to the City Charter. Here are the questions that are presented to voters:

City Question 1: Government Structure: Executive Mayor-Legislative Council

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to adopt a change in its form of government to an Executive Mayor-Legislative Council structure to shift certain powers to the Mayor, consolidating administrative authority over all operating departments under the Mayor, and eliminating the Executive Committee?

City Question 2: Department of Public Safety

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety, with those specific functions to be determined by the Mayor and City Council by ordinance; which will not be subject to exclusive mayoral power over its establishment, maintenance, and command; and which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety, with the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot? 

Explanatory Note: This amendment would create a Department of Public Safety combining public safety functions through a comprehensive public health approach to be determined by the Mayor and Council. The department would be led by a Commissioner nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the Council. The Police Department, and its chief, would be removed from the City Charter. The Public Safety Department could include police officers, but the minimum funding requirement would be eliminated.

City Question 3: Authorizing City Council To Enact Rent Control Ordinance

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to authorize the City Council to regulate rents on private residential property in the City of Minneapolis, with the general nature of the amendments being indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot?

Explanatory Note: This amendment would:

1. Authorize the City Council to regulate rents on private residential property in the City of Minneapolis by ordinance.

2. Provide that an ordinance regulating rents on private residential property could be enacted in two different and independent ways:

i. a. The City Council may enact the ordinance.

ii. b. The City Council may refer the ordinance as a ballot question to be decided by the voters for approval at an election. If more than half of the votes cast on the ballot question are in favor of its adoption, the ordinance would take effect 30 days after the election, or at such other time as provided in the ordinance.

This information was taken directly from the city of Minneapolis website

Each registered voter can answer each of the questions. Only YES or NO votes are counted toward the total votes. Each of these three ballot questions need at least 51 percent YES votes to pass.

For anyone confused by all this, it’s okay, you’re not alone! These charter amendment questions have been in and out of the courts trying to get the language of the ballot question clear and concise. It’s imperative to understand the questions posed, because if passed, they will transform our city’s government.

Question 1 clearly identifies the Mayor as the City’s Chief Executive and eliminates the Executive Committee. Instead of just being in charge of the Minneapolis Police Department, the Mayor would also control the fire department, public works, health department, community planning and development, and other departments as well. The City Council would have direct authority over the city clerk and would focus on policy making and local legislation. The Council would still have the power to finalize and adopt any budget put forth by the Mayor. This charter amendment question was submitted by the Charter Commission after they researched what the changes would mean for our city and after they conducted public hearings in March.

Question 2 was submitted by citizen petition that was organized by The Yes 4 Minneapolis Committee. If passed, this city charter amendment would remove the Police Department as a standalone charter department and create a new Public Safety Department.  

This chart illustrates how the city departments are currently structured. The dotted line shows which departments have been created through the city charter.

If this amendment passes, the City Council and the Mayor have 30 days to implement the charter change.

Question 3 authorizes City Council to enact rent control ordinances for private residential property. A 2018 a study done by the Minnesota Housing Partnership showed that more than half of Minneapolis residents rent. Rent control policies place a limit on the amount of money that a landlord charges for leasing a home or renewing a lease. This change to the charter would allow the city to enact rent control ordinances. The amendment proposed by City Council would not impose any immediate changes to how rental property is regulated in the city, it would legally give City Council the opportunity to figure out the details of rent control ordinances. 

Early voting started September 17, please register to vote if you need to, get educated on the issues that are important to you, and cast that ballot.