Minneapolis leaders want a break from the annual “budgeting tornado” cycle, hoping a change to a two-year budget will allow the public a greater say in how their billions in city tax dollars are spent.
The City Council’s intergovernmental relations committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday on whether to amend the Minneapolis charter — akin to the city’s constitution — to allow for the biennial budget cycle.
Council Member Linea Palmisano, who introduced the ordinance earlier this year, said the annual process only gives city officials enough time to dig into proposed changes to the budget — just a small fraction of the roughly $1.6 billion total.
This current process leaves little time to incorporate public scrutiny or truly evaluate what’s working, she said. “This money belongs to the residents of this city, and it’s our responsibility to make sure the budgeting process for that money is inclusive and it’s data-driven,” said Palmisano.
Still, Palmisano appears to lack the votes to make it happen this year, meaning it might go to the voters as a ballot initiative.
It takes many layers of approval to change the charter. So far, the city’s charter commission has pushed the ordinance forward and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board passed a resolution supporting it, the latter saying it would allow for more in-depth planning and greater program oversight and evaluation.
The council plans to vote next month. In order to pass, all 13 members must be present and vote unanimously in favor.
At least one council member says he plans to vote no.
Cam Gordon said he doesn’t support changing the charter through a council vote, favoring instead putting the amendment on the ballot as a more “democratic” option. Gordon said he’s also not convinced the change is necessary. The city could choose to emphasize a more substantial budget every other year, passing a supplementary one on off-years, without going through the trouble of changing the charter, he said.
“I think a lot of the problems raised about the current system is the just the council’s own fault and the mayor’s own fault for the way we’ve started doing the budget over the years,” Gordon said.
If Gordon doesn’t change his mind, the proposal could go before voters on the ballot, though most likely not until the 2020 election.
Charter amendments have been common under the new council. Last November, voters approved a change allowing small neighborhood restaurants to serve cocktails, overturning what many called an archaic rule that limited spirits to certain business districts, mostly downtown. The council also voted unanimously to raise the city’s borrowing limit last year.
In an impassioned debate over officer accountability last summer, some council members pushed a charter amendment that would cede oversight over the Police Department from the mayor. The ordinance passed the council, but the charter commission shut it down, leaving it in limbo.
The public hearing begins at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in room 317 of City Hall.