Minneapolis residents will decide on two ballot questions this November seeking approval to simplify and modernize the city charter.
The revised document drafted by the charter commission is less than one-fifth the size of the current 70,000-word charter. It replaces outdated and legalistic phrases with straightforward language, and removes detailed provisions “better suited” as ordinances passed by the City Council.
It is not intended to restructure city government or make major policy changes.
“We don’t think it makes for a good democracy when the average person can’t read and understand their governing document,” said Barry Clegg, the charter commission’s chairman.
The process of developing the newer, “plain language” charter began more than a decade ago and included 14 major drafts.
Some of the revisions to the 93-year-old charter are as simple as changing “doth” to “do” and deleting mentions of the Minneapolis library board, which hasn’t existed since the city library system merged with Hennepin County’s five years ago.
Others eliminate inconsistencies regarding who appoints city officials. The charter commission determined that “the provisions governing appointments are redundant and conflicting, and practically unintelligible without a lawyer’s advice or additional study and research.”
The first ballot question, which broadly seeks permission to modernize the charter, needs only 51 percent of the vote to pass. The second question asks for approval to specifically rewrite liquor licensing provisions in modern language, and would require 55 percent.
Those measures would take effect in January 2015 if passed, Clegg said.