Scott Louser: It's Time To Downsize Minot's City Council

A group of citizens, running the political spectrum, has come together to create a measure to reform city government in Minot and reduce the size of city council from the current 14 members to 5.  The measure eliminates the ward system and replaces with at-large seats.

According to North Dakota Century Code, the terms would be staggered and every two years there would be a city election, either electing for the expiring two or three seats.  Sponsors of the petition are seeking 3,000 signatures to far surpass the necessary amount of qualified electors within city limits and the deadline goal to complete is October 1.  Upon submission, under Home Rule Charter rules for the city of Minot, the city council would have up to 60 days to act on the language.

Absent of the action of city council, a special election would be called within a subsequent 60 days and the voters of Minot would decide if they want to pass with a yes vote.

Much discussion has been had around the number of five or seven council members.  Ultimately it was determined by the sponsors of the petition that five was a desirable number with a mayor able to vote to break a tie (same scenario as current council).  This proposal does not mirror a commission, whereby each Alderman would hold a “portfolio” of city functions.  Doing so may strongly limit the opportunity for an otherwise very well qualified candidate to serve, depending on which portfolio positions would be up for election.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The #MakeMinot group is not suggesting that this initiative is a perfect solution, but does believe there is no doubt it can lead to substantial change in the governance of our city.[/mks_pullquote]

This proposal does eliminate the wards, something of some debate since it’s introduction.  The thought process behind eliminating the wards is that all citizens of Minot have the opportunity to vote for all members of the city council and those elected members of city council would be accountable to all of the citizens of Minot.  Currently, each voter only has the opportunity to vote for one seventh of the city council.

Another inherent benefit of this proposal is candidates would presumably campaign on what specific changes they would bring to the city council.  It bears an important effort on the part of the voters to ask the question, “if elected, what would you do to advance our city?”  Because this proposal spells out what happens to the current seats if passed, it gives candidates a full five months to campaign and be held accountable for the substance of their promises.  If an assumption can be made that this initiative is successful, it seems only appropriate the #MakeMinot group could facilitate some sort of candidate forum.  Those ideas could range from posted online responses to questions to a potential live debate-style forum open to the public.

Those potential candidates will undoubtedly be making a large commitment to serve our city.  They may be required to serve on additional committees and a logical solution to that time commitment would be to consolidate committees and increase citizen participation on a volunteer basis.  The budget for the council could remain the same or be reduced while accommodating a larger salary for those serving, logically a fair trade.

The #MakeMinot group is not suggesting that this initiative is a perfect solution, but does believe there is no doubt it can lead to substantial change in the governance of our city.  The proposal is not a personal attack on any Alderman, but an indictment of the system we’ve allowed ourselves to be governed under for so many years.  Those pushing for the change each participate because of their desire to see improvements to the city we’ve chosen to call home for ourselves, our businesses and our families.   Further information can be found atwww.MakeMinot.com or on Facebook searching for MakeMinot.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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