Have you ever found yourself in a confusing, chaotic situation and wondered: "Who's in charge here?" That is what Minneapolis feels like to me, someone who has lived in the city for almost 50 years and worked as its chief financial officer from 2001 to 2011.
The current city charter spreads authority for daily decisionmaking among the mayor and 13 council members. Department leaders often get requests from council members that are conflicting and use resources already planned for other purposes. This makes it nearly impossible to respond promptly or effectively to the things that happen every day in our vibrant city.
Under our current structure, there is no way to resolve internal conflicts between departments. I saw this firsthand when the city hosted the Super Bowl and Final Four. The police and emergency operations departments created overlapping and competing operations centers for these events. City departments were asked to staff both. Some departments did while others refused. It was wasteful, inefficient and confusing. No one had the authority to stop this inefficient use of city resources.
This year, Minneapolis voters can approve an amendment to the city's charter that strengthens the mayor's executive authority and clarifies the City Council's legislative and oversight powers. It will allow each branch of city government do what it is designed to do.
Long-term plans and the city's budget are best developed with healthy debate and robust public engagement: This is where the City Council is at its best. But executive authority is needed, and that is what voters elect a mayor to wield.
This change is long overdue. Minneapolis faces daily challenges that require city services to be led by a single executive: the mayor. City departments shouldn't have to constantly wade through 13 council members and a mayor to execute their daily work, whether that is repairing a street, issuing permits to locate a new business or finding ways to welcome immigrants. If we approve this amendment, our praise and complaints can be aimed at the right people.
The term "strong mayor" has been used to describe this amendment. This is misleading. It would be establishing a "regular mayor" — like ones seen across the river in St. Paul and in other large cities across the country.
I also have heard folks say that voting in favor of this amendment is a vote in favor of the current mayor. I would urge you not to make your decision on this ballot measure based on who is in office today. This change would last long into the future and is ultimately about creating a well-managed, equitable Minneapolis for us and for generations to come.
I hope you join me in voting yes on City Question 1 (government structure) on Nov. 2.
Pat Born is former chief financial officer of Minneapolis and former regional administrator of the Metropolitan Council.