Changes to mayor’s role on upcoming ballot

Published 8:20 am Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Members of the Austin City Charter Commission gathered at City Hall Monday afternoon to celebrate the changes made to the charter this year — and to gear up for Election Day when three remaining changes go up for public vote.

Residents will decide Nov. 2 if the mayor will have tie-breaking power when the City Council deadlocks, as well as whether the mayor and council member-at-large will serve four-year terms instead of two-year terms.

John O’Rourke, chair of the Charter Commission and former Austin mayor, said he supports the changes and he urges residents to vote for them.

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“Two-year terms are difficult,” O’Rourke said. “You spend a year figuring out what’s going on and a year running for office.”

O’Rourke said that Austin is one of 34 cities in Minnesota that has two-year terms for mayor. Sixty-three other cities — including the Big Nine — have four-year terms for mayor.

“The Charter Commission unanimously feels that (these changes) should be approved,” O’Rourke said in a previous interview.

If the public votes to extend the term limits, the changes would go into effect for the mayor in the year 2012 and for the council member-at-large in 2014.

Other changes to the city charter were made in June, including removing gender-specific phrasing, archaic definitions and areas that do not comply with state law. O’Rourke said the charter was reduced from over 100 pages to 41 pages.