Minneapolis residents will get to decide in November about increasing the filing fee to run for mayor to $500.
The Charter Commission voted Wednesday 10-5 for the referendum proposal, which now goes to the City Council to sort out the exact language of the ballot question.
City leaders have debated stepping up the requirements to run for office since 35 people ran for mayor last fall — with only $20 needed to land on the ballot. Critics complained that the system, also the first major test of ranked-choice voting in Minneapolis, encouraged frivolous candidates and confused voters.
Last month, the City Council voted down a Charter Commission proposal to raise the filing fees for mayor and council to $250 and $100, after two council members opposed it. Changing the charter without a referendum would have required unanimous approval from the council.
Voters will also decide whether to raise the filing fee — now $20 for not just the mayor’s office, but all candidates — to $250 for candidates running for council and $100 each for people running for the Board of Estimates and Taxation and the Park Board.
Mike Griffin, director of campaigns for Fair Vote Minnesota, expressed support for the move during the meeting, saying the organization wants candidates on the ballot who take the job seriously. But several mayoral candidates from last year testified against the move.
Bob Carney, a repeat city candidate, told charter commissioners Wednesday that he didn’t see the rush to raise the fee when the next municipal election is in 2017.
“I’m very concerned about unnecessarily early action,” he said.
Captain Jack Sparrow, who also ran for mayor, said raising the fee would create a government for those with money. After the vote, he said he couldn’t have afforded to run if it cost $500.
Candidates still have an option under state law to gather 500 signatures or 5 percent of the total votes cast in the last election — whichever is less — in lieu of paying the fee.
A motion to keep the fee for mayor and council at $100 failed Wednesday, as did a proposal to raise it to $250 for mayor and $125 for council.
Charter Commission Chairman Barry Clegg said the city should keep its filing fee at the same level as St. Paul — which is also $500 and $250 to run for mayor and council, respectively — and noted that the fee has been the same for 60 years and probably won’t change for another 60.
“By that time, $500 will get you a small latte,” he joked.
Commissioner Jana Metge also voiced support for the plan, saying that $500 amounted to 10 donations of $50 and that even if a candidate chose to gather signatures instead, that would amount to a half day’s work. She added that she couldn’t even organize a candidate forum last year because giving time to 35 candidates would have left time only for opening and closing statements.
“It was really hard to get good information at a community level, because there were so many people and folks wanted serious candidates,” she said. “Without a primary, it made it really difficult.”