Council's Labor Committee recommends convening Charter Commission
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Labor Relations Committee will recommend the council take steps to convene the city's Charter Commission. The council last week referred a citizen's comments about the need for such a commission to the Labor ...
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Labor Relations Committee will recommend the council take steps to convene the city's Charter Commission. The council last week referred a citizen's comments about the need for such a commission to the Labor Relations Committee for study.
The citizen, John Sullivan, said the Charter Commission should be convened because state statute requires home rule charter cities like Willmar to have a commission meet once a year.
He said the charter should be updated if state law changes. The last time the Charter Commission met in Willmar was in 1992, he said. Sullivan said the League of Minnesota Cities recommends charter commissions meet twice a year. He said charter commissions in some cities meet more often.
During the Labor Relations Committee meeting Wednesday, member Rick Fagerlie offered a motion to recommend the council convene the Charter Commission, and the motion was approved.
He said some Municipal Utilities Commission members would like to be compensated for the work they do. MUC members presently serve without compensation.
"That issue isn't going to go away, and there may be some members of the Rice Hospital Board that would like it, too," Fagerlie said.
"But there are other issues, too, that we need to clean up in the charter."
The issue of whether or not the Charter Commission should be convened has been a topic of discussion since last year. In December 2007, the Labor Relations Committee voted to recommend the council convene the Charter Commission, but the council tabled the recommendation because three of eight council members were absent and discussion by all council members was desired.
The issue of convening the commission arose because the Rice Hospital Board and Municipal Utilities Commission had asked that term limits of members, appointed by the mayor and approved by the council, be extended. The board and commission requested the extended terms to help members deal with increasing complexities in the health care and utility industries.
A change in the terms must first be referred to the Charter Commission.
During a Feb. 13 work session, the council discussed the possibility of convening the Charter Commission. Following a lengthy discussion, however, council members reached consensus that they were comfortable with the present appointment process and that unless other Charter Commission issues surfaced there was no need to convene the commission.
The commission is to be composed of 7 to 15 members, who are suggested by the City Council and appointed by the district court. The size of the commission is specified by the council.
The commission is to submit to district court before the end of each year an annual report outlining its activities and accomplishments. Historically speaking, said City Administrator Michael Schmit, the commission has not met following its work to review and update the charter.
As a practical matter, he wrote in a summary of commission statutes, provisions and procedures, there is little or no reason for the commission to meet on a regular or annual basis.
In an interview after the meeting, Sullivan said he was pleased with the committee's vote.
"It's just something that has to be done. They've taken our constitution away from us, basically. A home rule charter city empowers the citizens and they've taken that power away from us," he said.
Sullivan said he will be happy "if they take it back to the council to appoint a charter commission." He thinks the commission should have from 9 to 13 members. "I think they could have a very good commission."