Editorial: Read the charter before voting

Published 7:08 am Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Here’s an idea: Before having a meeting on the city charter, the people making decisions on it should read it.

It seemed the city staff and commission members were unprepared at that meeting last Monday. There was way too much confusion about what the next step was if and when the Charter Commission makes a decision.

It says right in there in Section 2 that the Albert Lea City Council “exercises the powers of administrative boards and commissions.”

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The charter says all other city entities exist merely as advisory bodies.

That means the Albert Lea Charter Commission is but an advisory board — nothing more. It is no different than the Albert Lea Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Airport Advisory Board, the Heritage Preservation Commission and so forth.

The usual procedure applies. A matter goes to the advisory board or commission for a recommendation (and only a recommendation), then the true decision lies with the City Council.

Even if the Charter Commission says no to changing the charter, the City Council still can say yes. The Charter Commission has no true power. It pretty much just gives advice.

Furthermore, one commissioner thought the mayor’s vote didn’t count unless there was a tie. Again, read the charter. The mayor’s vote counts, even on unanimous decisions. He merely votes last.

Also, at the meetings of the Charter Commission, it might be fine for a city staff member to have an opinion on the matter, but they should not be vocalizing it unless asked by the commission.

If you work for the city, leave the politicking to the politicians and the general public.

Frankly a little bit more order to the Charter Commission meeting is needed. It was sort of a chatty talkfest last Monday.

Our stance

This Editorial Board favors changing the charter to give mayors four-year terms starting in 2014.

We favor four-year terms so that mayors can accomplish the goals people sought when they voted. We favor 2014 because this would make the mayor terms congruent with governor terms, and we all know how important it is for a mayor to have a good relationship with a governor. This avoids the problem of a mayor getting voted out in the middle of a governor’s term.

Again, Mason City, Clear Lake, Mankato, Rochester, Owatonna, Fairmont, Austin and Faribault all have four-year mayoral terms. All the cities of any size around Albert Lea have switched because the advantages are clear. Let’s do to the right thing and switch, too.