Charter Voted Down 63% to 37%!
Thanks to Everyone Who Helped
For an analysis of
the results by precinct click here
(also results of the Public Safety Building referendum).
What is a Charter City?
A Charter City is a city that can exercise any power it wants as long as it does not violate either state or federal law. A Statutory City is a city that can exercise those powers specifically granted to it under state law. A Charter City must maintain a Charter Commission to keep track of the Charter and propose amendments.
Do We Elect the Charter Commission?
NO. A District Judge appoints the Charter Commission. The members of the Commission must be Roseville residents, but they are not elected. Individuals interested in serving submit their applications to the Ramsey County District Judge. He or She then selects the members of our Charter Commission. These individuals will serve for four years—or more if they are reappointed. The Commission will have to be maintained as long as a charter is in place.
Do We Need a Charter?
NO. Of the 853 Minnesota Cities, only 102, or 12%, are Charter Cities. Many of these cities were here before Minnesota became a state and already had charters for their governance. Some have chosen to be Charter Cities. However, currently in Minnesota 751 cities, or 88%, are Statutory Cities like Roseville. The Statutory Cities are not burdened with petition drives, special elections, and on-going Charter Commissions. According to the League of Minnesota Cities records, since 1989 three Charter cities have chosen to become statutory cities and we understand several other cities are thinking of dropping their charters and returning to statutory cities. In the early 1990s one statutory city chose to become a Charter city. Clearly there is no rush to become Charter cities sweeping Minnesota.
And NO Again. We have operated over 50 years as a Statutory City. We have the second lowest city taxes in the metropolitan area. We have sufficient reserves to prevail against this poor economy—relatively better than either the state or federal government, and much better than many other cities. We have excellent services and a strong tax base. This Charter would add nothing, and it could seriously damage what we have achieved.
Does Everyone Support the Charter?
No. The primary supporters of this proposed Charter seem to be Mayor Kysyslcyzn, Councilman Schroeder, Councilman Kough, and six of the nine members of the Charter Commission.
What Do the Supporters Feel are the Advantages to the Charter?
There are three main issues raises in support of the proposed Charter. Mr. Kough believes that the Charter will allow us to protect our public lands. Mr. Schroeder believes that it will facilitate citizen involvement in government. Mr. Bell feels that the proposed Charter changes little but offers the citizens the capability of initiative and referendum. Others feel that this proposed document does none of these things.
Will the Proposed Charter Save Us Money?
NO. This proposed charter adds the bureaucracy of an ongoing Charter Commission of 9 members. This Commission has a budget, holds meetings, and needs advice. Any referendum which makes it to the ballot will require a special election which typically costs taxpayers approximately $11,000.00 per event. Further, under this proposed charter, the City Council takes on much more of the responsibility of the management of the city. Since the Council sets its own salary (albeit it indirectly through a “commission” of three voters appointed by the Council), the salary shall surely be increased. This process of salary examination is done biannually, and the proposed Charter prohibits initiatives on the salaries of city officers or employees.
Will the Charter Protect our Public Lands?
NO. This Charter makes no mention of the protection of publicly owned land. In fact, if the current City Council wished, it could pass an ordinance requiring a public vote on the sale of any city owned land over one acre. Mr. Kough is on record supporting the Charter to keep the Council from selling Cedarholm Golf Course. He states, “I’m especially concerned that three council persons now can sell city-owned property. I think we need some way to protect the citizens from this happening.” Unfortunately this proposed charter does not do it. In fact, it strengthens the Council so that such an event is even more likely
Who Will Serve on the Council?
The proposed Charter states, “The council shall be composed of a mayor and four or six council members, as determined by the council who shall be qualified electors.” This is a typical problem. Does this mean that the Council will determine who is qualified to vote, or does it mean that members of the Council must be registered voters? The lack of clarity in this sentence is a single example of the problem with creating ones own document.
Are There Other Problems with the Language?
Terms such as “affairs of the city,” “insufficient,” and “irregular” are undefined in the proposed Charter. These terms are particularly important. Under the Charter, the Council can investigate “affairs of the city.” The City Manager is to evaluate petitions brought forward under initiative and referendum determining if they are “insufficient” or “irregular.” The need for legal interpretation, just as with a real “constitution,” is clearly evident. These are just a few obvious problems with the language and the clarity. Couple these issues with the difficulty of keeping the Charter consistent with existing and ever-changing state and federal law, and cost and effort can be overwhelming. Since 1989, three Charter Cities, Jordan, Isanti, and Sauk Center, have chosen to become Statutory Cities.
Will the Charter Involve More Citizens in Government?
NO. Voter apathy is a national problem. This Charter in particular will not improve involvement in the city government of Roseville. This proposed Charter makes the Council even more powerful, including such powers as meeting without a quorum, the power to investigate, and the power to subpoena witnesses. Since the Charter will theoretically offer the possibility of initiative, the Council will be come even less responsive to the citizens by simply requesting that they bring forward a petition for consideration.
Mr. Schroeder, a Councilman strongly in favor of the proposed Charter, has stated, “The basic foundation of the Charter is to enable the involvement of Roseville residents in our government.” Unfortunately he also said, “If you have a chance to gain rights, you grab them, especially in the city of Roseville…."
Sadly this proposed Charter is all about the efforts of some members of the city and the City Council trying to “grab” power and has little if anything to do with citizen involvement. If this Council were really interested in fostering citizen involvement, there would have been citizens involved in the planning and design of the proposed Public Safety Facility. The City Council would encourage open discussion of issues at their meetings and actively solicit citizen input on a wide range of topics. However, the majority on this City Council are not interested in fostering real participation. They are interested in control, control of activities, control of money, control of employees, and anything else they can “grab.” This proposed Charter is simply a tool to this end.
Will Initiative and Referendum Give Us a Greater Voice?
NO. This proposed Charter theoretically provides for Initiative and Referendum. However the process defined coupled with the lack of clarity of the language make it virtually impossible to really succeed. First is the long list of topics NOT available for initiative, “any ordinance relating to the budget or capital program, the appropriation of money, the levy of taxes, the zoning of real property, or the salaries of city officers of employees. Second is the large number of signatures (1500) required, third is the determination of “insufficiency or irregularity” without definition, fourth is the Council’s ability to amend petitions, and finally is the Council’s right to repeal any initiative or referendum. This was not designed to be a meaningful part of this document.
Can We Recall City Officials under the Proposed Charter?
NO. The Constitution of the state of Minnesota prohibits the recall of elected city officials. This is an option unavailable to the citizens of Minnesota under either Statutory or Charter rule. This must be corrected by the State Legislature through an amendment to our state constitution.
Would a Charter Improve Our Government?
NO. The proposed Charter would lead us away from the Plan B form of government under which the city is run by a professional city manager and a professional staff. This proposed Charter would increase the powers and authority of the Council to the point that it would no longer be the elected body to set policy, but would in fact take upon itself more of the daily management functions. Then the question becomes whether there are an adequate number of people in Roseville who are willing to run for City Council and who are able to manage a city with a $38,000,000.00 annual budget. Certainly if we could find five such individuals for our City Council they would expect to be well compensated for their efforts.
If We Try the Charter and Don’t Like It, Can We Go Back?
PERHAPS. Accepting this proposal for a Charter is rather like a marriage. It is much easier to get into than out of. If there is any doubt, don’t do it.
So, Does the Charter Change Anything?
YES. Mr. Robert Bell, Commission Chair, states, “Primarily the organization and powers would be the same. There is no major change proposed.”
We are sorry Mr. Bell, but there are fundamental shifts proposed here. Under this proposed Charter, the Council has the power to “investigate into the affairs of the city and the conduct of any city department, office or agency for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, and require the production of evidence.” The Council would have direct ability to “establish or abolish city department, offices, and agencies and prescribe their functions.” The Council, under this proposal, shall in essence set its own salary and adjust it every even numbered year. As stated in this version of the proposed Charter, “The Council shall determine its own rules and order of business. A majority of all members shall constitute a quorum but a smaller number may adjourn from time to time. The Council may by rule provide a means by which a minority may compel the attendance of absent members.” The City Manager would be assigned as “secretary to the Council.” In this proposed Charter the City Manager would become administrative head of the city in name only—essentially stripped of most of the real authority he held under the Plan B Statutory City Government because of the increased power of the City Council. These certainly seem like major changes. If they are not, they at least should not be how we run our government.
The proposed charter can be seen on the Roseville city website.
Chapter 410 on Minnesota State Statutes (enter 410 in the chapter search field)