March 25th: Last Chance! Tell Charter Commission How to Structure City Government

March 18, 2021

The Charter Commission will hold one more hearing on its proposed amendment on Thursday, March 25th at 4:30pm. CALL TO ACTION

Please sign up to speak! Instructions for registering for the hearing can be found on the City’s website at:


The proposed amendment defines the mayor’s role as an executive with managerial authority and responsibility for city operations, and the City Council’s role as a legislative, policymaking body, with an additional focus on constituent service.

Proposed Charter Commission Amendment.

It was drafted after the Charter Commission spent months studying city government structure and interviewing City Department Heads and Former Elected Officials.


Nobody wants 14 bosses. All the dysfunction you can predict from that kind of system is readily apparent in a quick scan of our city government. While we have a Mayor - who you'd assume is "top dog" in the pecking order - we also have a City Council composed or 13 elected officials, and the overworked city staff is in the awkward position of taking direction from ALL of them.

This creates a lot of problems, and in the end residents of Minneapolis are not served with a clear direction that gets executed efficiently in the form of public services to meet our collective needs.

You don't need to look far to observe a better way. Our pretty twin sister, Saint Paul, seems to have it going on:

The City of St. Paul is structured with a strong mayor form of government in which the elected mayor is the chief executive officer for the City. In that strong executive model, final accountability is held by the mayor who is the head of the City’s administration and has the authority to direct the work of departments, to prioritize enterprise projects, and to make decisions within the policies set by the City Council. Generally, the mayor selects a “cabinet” which encompasses the heads of the City’s departments; thus, there is the potential for department heads to change when a new mayor is elected, but that is not a strict requirement, and department heads may serve in multiple administrations, despite changes in the office of mayor. One notable difference is for the chiefs of the police and fire departments, where each chief serves a defined six-year term (and can be reappointed). The organizational design in St. Paul ensures a direct line of accountability flowing from the mayor to each of the City’s departments.

(excerpt from "Report on Department Head Interviews" December 2020)

The Charter Commission has taken a serious look at the government structure in Minneapolis, and in many ways, is telling us to be more like our sister.

And by "serious look" we mean months of deep research on other cities, the history of city charters, interviews with current city department heads, analysis, studies and proposals that would make your head spin. Here is a sampling:

  • League of MN Cities: Handbook for MN Cities - The Home Rule Charter City

  • Minneapolis in the 20th Century - Chapter 1

  • Minneapolis Home Rule Charter History

  • Minneapolis Charter & Elected Officials

  • MN Senate Research Briefing: MN Structures of Counties, Cities & Towns

  • MN House Research Briefing: State-Local Relations

  • NLC New Principles of Home Rule

  • Government Structure Timeline Proposal

  • Government Structure Work Plan Proposal

  • Charter History Presentation Jay Kiedrowski (Oct 20, 2020)

  • Form of Government Structure - Study Criteria

  • Governance Structure Review - Commissioner Ginder

  • Exploring Minneapolis's Leadership Structure - Heidi Ritchie

  • Department Head Term Lengths Memo - Commissioner Ginder

  • 2018 ICMA Municipal Form of Government Survey Report

  • Separation of Powers in Municipal Government

  • Separation of Powers under Home Rule in District of Columbia

  • Strong Mayors in Weak Cities

  • National Civic League: Models of City Government

  • Mayoral Powers in Local Government Reform

  • Report on Department Head Interviews

  • Adapted Cities Framework

  • Minneapolis: A Balancing Act - Report by League of Women Voters

  • Minneapolis: A Balancing Act II - Report by League of Women Voters

  • Report on Former Elected Officials Interviews

  • Government Structure Work Group Memo Summary Options

  • Government Structure Work Group Amendment Drafting Process Timeline (Jan 19, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment First Draft (Jan 19, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Second Draft (Feb 3, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Draft Two (Feb 18, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Proposed Amendments to Second Draft Government Structure Amendment Draft Two (Feb 18, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Second Draft (redline version) (Feb 18, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Proposed Amendments to Third Draft (Feb 23, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Third Draft (redlined version) (Feb 23, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Third Draft (Feb 23, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Fourth Draft (Feb 25, 2021)

  • Government Structure Amendment Fourth Draft (redlined version) (Feb 25, 2021)

  • Governing Magazine Article - September 1997

The Charter Commission has 15 members appointed by the Chief Judge of the Hennepin County District Court. All Commissioners must be qualified voters of the City, and are appointed to four-year terms. Next time you see one of them, tell them thank you - they are doing this work for free on a volunteer basis.

After this exhaustive research, our Commissioners have proposed a Charter Amendment to fix our broken system by putting the Mayor in charge in an executive capacity (sort of like a CEO, with department heads reporting to the Mayor) and leaving the City Council to focus on legislative responsibilities and *gasp* constituent service. The goal here is to align responsibility and authority. Refreshing!

The Charter Commission hosts its last public comment on this Charter Amendment on March 25th. Let's show them some appreciation for the countless hours their work group put in to refining their proposal to make our city run more efficiently.

305 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All