Charter Commission Meeting Recap- April 22, 2014

I attended the Crystal Charter Commission Meeting on April 22, 2014.  The meeting was planned for earlier this year but was rescheduled due to a late blizzard.

There are two types of cities in Minnesota- charter cities and statutory cities. Charter cities, like Crystal, are governed by a city charter, which is overseen by a charter commission.  A city charter could be thought of as a type of local constitution.  Statutory cities, like New Hope, are governed by state law.  You can read more about the types of cities here.

Other than a bit of housekeeping (electing officers, approving minutes, etc.) the Charter Commission only had one thing on the agenda – a presentation on Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).  Because Crystal is a charter city, we could decide to adopt a different type of electing our council-members and mayor, and RCV is a new method that is being pushed by well funded outside groups like the one we heard from last night.

I did not intend to participate in the meeting- I was there only as an observer- but the one-sided nature of the presentation led me to offer to give the Commissioners an opposing viewpoint on the topic.  They graciously allowed me a few minutes to speak, and I was invited to find someone to fully present the opposing viewpoint at the next meeting in June.

Ranked Choice Voting is a solution in search of a problem.  It is an expensive and confusing method of voting that tends to favor incumbents.  There is no reason for Crystal to adopt a costly and untested new method of voting in our municipal elections, where we often see candidates run unopposed.  Fortunately we are a long way away from something like RCV being adopted in Crystal, and we will have plenty of time to ensure both sides of this issue are presented equally.

-Jeff Kolb

Crystal City Council Meeting Recap – April 1, 2014

I attended the Crystal city council meeting on April 1, 2014.  It was a short one, wrapping up by about 7:30.

The meeting convened, and then immediately recessed so a meeting of the Local Board of Appeal and Equalization (BAE) could convene.  The BAE is really just the City Council, so the convening/recessing was a technicality required by the law.

The point of the BAE meeting was to allow citizens a method to appeal the valuation of their property.  Residents were recently mailed property valuation notices.  All in all, 5 property owners came forward to appeal their valuations.  One man said he was looking at a 24% increase in his value.  The valuations are important because property taxes are calculated using them.  The BAE listened to the property owners, and then asked the county assessor to review the valuations in more detail and report back at the next meeting, which will be in a few weeks.

The BAE meeting adjourned, and then the council meeting reconvened.

There was a public forum on the agenda to discuss new liquor license fees, but it was tabled because there was a question about if notice was delivered properly.

The council then considered a motion awarding the contract for a $200,000 remodel of the council chambers.  Apparently the project was sent to multiple vendors, but only one vendor bid on each phase of the project, so the bids were awarded to that vendor.  This strikes me as odd.  We also found out that apparently the remodel will allow a council member to Skype in to council meetings.  I really don’t know why this is necessary, or was included in the project.  It was a last minute addition that put the project slightly over budget.

Finally, the council passed a resolution establishing the election dates and offices to be considered during the 2014 election.

After the meeting, the council went into a closed work session to discuss pending litigation.

Prepared and paid for by the Kolb for Crystal Committee, PO Box 28373, Crystal, MN 55428