Good to see some progress on city charter

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It is good that the Austin City Council has finally mustered a consensus, of sorts, on changes to the city charter.

Although their charters provide vital guidance on how Minnesota cities should operate, each one unique, the documents are seldom of much real interest. For most city residents, the charter falls into the same general category as preliminary budget discussions: possibly important but definitely dull. Most charter revisions tend to be nothing more than bringing often-archaic language and ideas into line with current standards and practices. And those changes have, now, been put into place.

The question of whether the mayor and council member at-large’s terms should be extended to four years, and of whether the mayor should be able to break tied council votes, however, proved too controversial to decide. Those issues may yet go to the voters, even though neither issue is of earth-shaking importance. Most elected city officials already serve four-year terms. And the mayor’s tie-breaking powers would be rarely used — useful only when the seven-member council is short a member and happens to tie on a vote. Having approved the charter without those recommended changes, the council will now have to decide whether to put those issues before the voters for approval.

So the task of revising the charter, three years in the works, is not quite finished. It was good that the council was able to put most of the charter issues to rest. Residents can only hope that the remaining questions will also be resolved before too long.