The #MakeMinot committee working to see the issue of City Council reform in Minot voted by the citizens issued a news release that includes an open letter and group of questions directed to City of Minot officials. The background information and letter follow. Links provide access to supporting documents.
At a City Council meeting on December 17th, the City of Minot made clear its intention to see the #MakeMinot city council reform petition considered on the City’s preferred timeline in June of 2016. This timeline and the decision to not put a certified petition on a ballot within the legally mandated 120 days raises several questions for which the #MakeMinot group is seeking answers.
For consideration of these issues, it will be helpful to read #MakeMinot petition language. It is also important to know The Minot Voice is an open advocate for City Council reform.
(Petition Language) An Initiated Petition to:
Reduce the number of Minot City Council members from fourteen members elected from Wards to five members elected at large and abolish all current City Council offices amending the Minot City Ordinances accordingly. If approved by voters, this initiative requires the election of five new at-large City Council members at the next primary election pursuant to North Dakota Century Code, and prior to the start of their terms, the terms of all current City Council members shall end.
The letter from #MakeMinot follows.
Mayor Barney, City Manager Staab, Members of City Council:
As members of the #MakeMinot organizing committee and sponsoring committee behind the city council reform petition, we believe that before a certified petition is considered outside of the legally mandated time frame, the citizens of Minot need answers. The City’s preferred timeline creates several legal and practical difficulties. We look forward to seeing the City’s on-the-record public responses to the following questions.
Questions to the City of Minot:
- The City’s proposed timeline requires moving the #MakeMinot petition to an election in June. This timeline falls outside the legally mandated 120day period for which certified petitions must be considered by voters. Under what authority, law, or precedent is the City of Minot citing as cause to initiate this timeline and to handle the #MakeMinot petition outside the bounds of legal mandate?
- A second special election (in addition to the Home Rule Charter election) called within the mandated 120day period (prior to March 31) would be a legal remedy available to the City. Why isn’t this option being considered?
- The #MakeMinot petition language has intent and effect that if approved by voters sees a transition of Minot’s governing body take place following the next primary election (June 2016). How does the City intend to remedy the intent of the petition to provide for an expedited transition to the new governing body makeup?
- How can the City alter the petition language, so the transition is then considered at a later election instead? Will #MakeMinot petitioners be required to submit an amended petition? Gather more signatures? Where is this process spelled out in law? Will consideration of the transition have to take place two years from June of 2016 the next primary election?
- If the City’s proposed timeline is accepted, it creates a situation whereby this spring’s election will see Alderman and candidates forced to declare candidacy for an office that may last only four months. Has the City considered the impact this will have on this spring’s election cycle? Will candidates be disincentivized to run because of the possible need to campaign twice in the same year? If so, what solutions to this problem is the City proposing?
- In declaring the intent to consider the #MakeMinot petition on the City’s preferred (June 2016) timeline, the City also took the official position that there cannot be a council-initiated reform measure on the ballot at the same time as the #MakeMinot petition.
- Is that the City’s position under the current reading of the law? Or is that the City’s position in general principle?
- If so, is it possible that the City’s position could change if the Home Rule Charter amendments are approved by voters? Reason being: if the amendments pass on March 1st, the City Council will have new authority to advance changes to the governing body and form of government to the voters; this is an authority city council does not presently have.
- Is it the City of Minot’s position that the #MakeMinot petition represents a change in form of government?
- Why? What is the reason for moving voter consideration of the #MakeMinot petition outside the legally mandated 120day period?
We look forward to your response.