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Moorhead Charter Commission decides to go slow on doing away with supermajority requirement for City Council

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Moorhead Charter Commission decides to go slow on doing away with supermajority requirement for City Council
Fargo ND 101 5th Street North 58102

The commission, a board of 13 Moorhead residents that deals exclusively with the city charter, met Wednesday morning and expressed that the proposal should not, and would not, be rushed.

“I think there was an impression that some of the council members may have had that we were gonna vote on this today,” said board Chairman Russell Hanson. “And that wasn’t the intent at all.”

The proposed changes include changing the council’s three-fourths supermajority voting requirement for important fiscal decisions and also giving the mayor a vote, on condition that the mayor then no longer has veto power.

The proposal to remove the supermajority requirement has drawn criticism from several City Council members.

Council member Steve Gehrtz, who was present Wednesday, said the requirement for three-fourths agreement promotes collaboration on the council.

Council member Brenda Elmer, also present, said she is worried about the impetus behind the proposal.

“If it’s a couple of policies that people wanted that didn’t get passed, that’s not the right reason to change our constitution,” she told the commission Wednesday.

The commission has researched Minnesota cities of similar size to Moorhead and has found that many use simple majority rather than supermajority, but several members at Wednesday’s meeting were concerned they had not seen that information because they were not present at the previous commission meeting.

Elmer said the commission should study more of Minnesota’s charter cities than those in the current survey.

A motion was passed to bring in representatives from the League of Minnesota Cities to provide more information about what other Minnesota cities do.

The commission also briefly discussed the merits of giving the mayor a vote.

Board member Ronald Hagemann noted that, unlike other cities, Moorhead does not have a City Council member who represents the entire city.

“The mayor represents the city,” he said.

Other members said the mayor could use her veto power more if she wanted to have a greater say.

The commission scheduled a special meeting for Oct. 22 to start working through the details of its proposal, beginning with voting requirements related to contracts and property. The discussion will be limited to the proposed removal of the supermajority requirement and will not deal with the proposed mayor’s vote, Hanson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Grace Lyden at (701) 241-5502

Grace Lyden
Grace Lyden is the higher education reporter for The Forum. Previously, she interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2014. She welcomes story ideas via email or phone. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to
(701) 241-5502