Convicted briber Basim Sabri is back at City Hall, but this time he’s adopted the mantle of civic reformer.
Sabri is a key figure behind a passel of charter amendments, including several to rein in the City Council and Planning Commission, that land at City Hall this week.
Sabri spent 19 months in federal prison camps in 2005-2007 after his conviction on three counts of bribery involving Council Member Brian Herron, who also did time.
Officially, the amendments are submitted by Power By The People, which labels itself a political action committee. It filed an election registraiton statement on Tuesday. Sabri admitted that the chairperson, Luna Al Qutob, is a relative after a reporter noticed that they share office addresses. Her driver license lists Sabri’s Shorewood address but Sabri said she’s since moved to Minneapolis.
Here’s what the group proposes:
• Cutting the number of council members from 13 to 5, and electing them and the mayor to no more than two two-year terms.
• Electing the police chief, city attorney, and city coordinator.
• Electing the Planning Commission, with two representatives from each of the five wards limited to two two-year terms, and stripping it of the county, park and school board representatives who sit on it now.
The ideas of reducing the size of the council and returning to the two-year terms that voters lengthened to four years in 1984 get kicked around periodically by some populists. But electing city department heads and the planning commission are less-traveled ideas.
Sabri said the ideas seek to capitalize on dissatisfaction on how the city is run. “I think the system allows for corruption in office,” said Sabri, who speaks from experience. “You get people in there, and they get more power and abuse it.”
Sabri has had several disagreements with City Hall over development proposals in the Lake Street area and has taken city officials to court over development issues. The proposal doesn't take aim at the four-year terms for Park Board or Board of Estimate and Taxation, with which Sabri has not clashed.
Sabri said that it’s not just his proposal, but said his 21-year-old relative, whose precise relationship he wouldn’t disclose, stepped forward because other committee members weren’t ready to go public.
The commission will examine the proposal at its 4 p.m. Wednesday meeting in City Hall's council chambers. It can make suggestions regarding the format before backers attempt to begin collecting the more than 7,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the city ballot next year.