Monday, Oct 28th: Minneapolis Plain Language Charter: Simplicity or Uncertainty?

Minneapolis residents will face two amendments on the ballot next Tuesday that the Minneapolis City Charter Commission says would shorten and ‘modernize’ the language of the near century-old City Charter.


Next week, Minneapolis will vote on whether or not to adopt a new ‘Plain Language’ version of its city charter. The Charter Commission is proposing twoamendments on the ballot which completely rewrite and modernize the City’s Charter. The Commission says this new revision eliminates outdated details (the original version was written almost a century ago), clarifies ambiguous language, and re-organizes information, making it easier to reference, while at the same time preserving the way Minneapolis has traditionally been governed. This means there are no changes to the roles of the Mayor, the City Council, or the roles of our independent Boards, such as the Parks Board and the Board of Estimate and Taxation.

Careful attention has been applied to this revision process (watch video), which has taken over a decade to complete, but is it possible to preserve all of the same parameters of governance in this new charter draft that is merely one third the length of its predecessor? Is simplicity a virtue in the city’s supreme legal document? City Attorney, Susan Segal has stated that she sees ‘more risk than benefit,’ but can anyone really know without putting the new charter to the test? If adopted, there would be one year between the time the new charter draft is adopted to the time it is implemented. This would give the City Council and the City’s Independent Boards time to respond to any resulting ambiguities left by the new language and pass clarifying ordinances.

This revision proposal is not without precedent. St. Paul drafted and adopted an updated City Charter in 1972, and just two years later Minnesotans took an affirmative vote to redraft the Minnesota State Constitution. Has the last four decades been enough time for Minneapolis to catch up? Can its residents be confident this plain language draft will serve them the same as the current charter has? TruthToTell’s Andy Driscoll and Michelle Alimoradi discuss this and more with this Monday’s guests. 

On-air guests: 

DAVID TILSEN – Member, Minneapolis Farmer-Labor Association; former Mpls. School Board member

LYALL SCHWARZKOPF- Former Minneapolis City Clerk and Minneapolis City Coordinator,  Secretary, Minneapolis Charter Commission.

BARRY CLEGG- Chair, Minneapolis Charter Commission, Business and Tax Attorney for Gray, Plant, Mooty