Power Grab Hits Roadblock at Charter Commission

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A plan to alter the composition of the Minneapolis City Council had no support at the Charter Commission on Wednesday. This means the Charter Commission will not take up this issue again. The group behind the proposal will now need to collect and submit the required number of voter signatures if they want to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

The signature threshold is 5% of voter turnout in the last municipal election, or roughly 10,356 signatures. No one involved with the group pushing the proposal was there to speak, so it is unknown if they plan to begin collecting signatures.

The plan would cut the number of City Council wards in Minneapolis from 13 to 6. It would also create 3 “at-large” council seats (council members elected by citywide vote). The total number of council seats under the plan would be 9.

At last month’s meeting, City Clerk Casey Carl had a lot to say about the potential effects of this proposal: “research and practice in other jurisdictions” shows that “at-large elections do tend to favor white, wealthier, homeowning, property owning, higher educational status people.”

Some background for what’s motivating the people behind this proposal: they were on the losing side of a city council elections in 2017, and the losing side of a big policy debate in 2018, so they are now trying to change the rules of of the game.

(Call me paranoid, but I won’t count this effort as dead; this crew is currently suing the city to overturn the 2040 plan. If anyone is able to burn money on a long-shot petition drive, it’s them.)

While a few commissioners said they would not object to holding a public hearing, none were willing to make a motion to hold one. Several commissioners spoke in opposition to the substance of the proposal; none spoke in support.

  • “nothing like this has ever been proposed” -Clegg
  • “deeply skeptical of this” -Abbot
  • “unnecessary” -Cohen
  • “I did not hear a compelling reason to do this.” -Kozak
  • “solution in search of a problem.” -Kozak
  • not “well-baked” -Clegg
  • “obviously not a groundswell of support” -Clegg
  • “most people don’t know what it is” -Clegg

The City Clerk presented a collection of data, maps, and historical information about political development of the city. One notable aspect of that history: Minneapolis has gone its entire 163 year existence with a ward-based system. Two years ago the city elected its most diverse and progressive city council ever — under a ward-based system. The reason commissioners have had a hard time deciphering any real argument to make this change now — after 163 years — is because it’s too embarrassing for proponents to say it out loud.

Maps, Data, Consolidations, Simulations and Jerrdrew

In addition to history, maps and turnout data, the Clerk’s office put together a graphic showing what happens when you consolidate 13 Council Members down to six. This gave me an idea for an ever better consolidation simulation: I put pictures of Council Members Jeremy Schroeder and Andrew Johnson into the invaluable scientific resource, makemebabies.com. I’m pleased to announce the arrival of little Council Member “Jerrdrew.” Wards 11 and 12 must be so proud.

City Clerk Ward Mash-up
Wedge LIVE! Ward Mash-up (Wards 11 and 12)


In an attempt to shame the city into televising Charter Commission meetings, I brought junior video producer Anton Schieffer with me to record video with his phone. I think the results were outstanding. I still prefer to have the city turn on the microphones and cameras that are right there in the room.