FREE SPEECH ZONE | Redistricting may be greatly changed.


November 2, 2010. Election Day. The grand finale on the Minneapolis ballot asks the Minneapolis electorate to vote on a major change in how we implement the ward and park district boundary changes in the aftermath of the US 2010 Census.

If 51% of the voters who vote on this Minneapolis Charter amendment vote “yes”, the amendment will be adopted. If so, The Charter Commission will have occasion at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting – November 3, the first Wednesday in the month and the day after election day, as it happens – to proceed on their planned approach to implementing this new system.

The “How to” documents about this are on the Commission’s website near the bottom of the page. There you will find a link to the procedures the Charter Commission intends to follow  

These procedures were adopted unanimously by the full Charter Commission at their October 6, 2010 regular meeting. They were crafted by a drafting committee of eight Commissioners (Lyall Schwartzkopf, convenor, Margaret Dolan, Todd Ferrara, Andrew Kozak, Barbara Lickness, Jana Metge, Andrea Rubenstein, and Ian Stade). Charter Commission Chair Barry Clegg sat in on the committee’s meetings ex officio and Commissioner Jan Sandberg also attended regularly and helped shape the best-estimate timeline the full Commission has before it. This best-guess timeline hasn’t been adopted – too many variables related to activity at the State Legislature – and I notice that the link to this timeline has been removed from the Commission’s website.

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Not to step on anyone’s prerogatives in this matter, suffice it to say that it will likely take all of 2011 to implement what has taken shape in the minds of the Commissioners. It’s also the case that three of the Commissioners will have their terms of office expiring next year. Commissioner Thomas Jancik’s term expires February 26, 2011. Commission Chair Barry Clegg and Commissioner Ian Stade will see their terms of office expire on May 1, 2011.

Applications for anyone wishing to apply to the Chief Judge of Hennepin County for appointment to succeed these three worthies – and they themselves may apply for reappointment at the discretion of the Chief Judge – will apparently become available next month (November, 2010) pursuant to the open appointments process administered by the Minneapolis Clerk’s office and will be available until the end of 2010 – that’s my personal estimate. The City Clerk’s material is a bit murky, but 5-7 weeks seems standard for the window of opportunity. It may be that only the February 26, 2011 end of term will trigger the November/December window and the window for applications for the terms ending May 1, 2011 may not open until sometime in early 2011. Dunno.

Meanwhile, under the provisions of the Charter Commission procedures already in place, steps will soon be taken to start the ball rolling on establishing the 9-member Advisory Committee adjunct to the Charter Commission itself. These are uncharted waters so don’t take offense if the official game plan remains uncertain for the time being.

There are some inevitable chunks of prep time in 2011. For starters, it’s the intention of the Charter Commission to have maximum prior notice to the general public throughout the redistricting process, beginning with having the Commissioners en toto or a committee of Charter Commissioners draft a proposed job description and proposed application form. (January, 2011).

These Commissioners will then have a public meeting for the purpose of discussing these drafts with persons interested in applying to be on the Advisory Committee (and, skipping ahead in the principles document, to be de facto peers of the 15 Charter Commissioners until the very final vote that the Charter Commissioners will take de jure that enacts the new ward and park district maps). (February, 2011).

That same month will presumably be used for the Commission to review what came out of the public discussion and then to draft a final version of both the Advisory Committee job description and the necessary application form.

The official results of the US Census for 2010 will also come into view in the first part of 2011 –  as also, I should add, the scrubbed-up results of the November, 2010 general election compliments of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s registered-voter database. These data are the raw material of the redistricting process at the state level. Congressional Districts are redrawn first, then the State Senate and State House of Representative Districts – but maybe not so quickly because many more factors than just the head count are involved. By statute, local jurisdictions like Minneapolis and Hennepin County have to wait to start their formal redistricting activites until after the State Legislature boundaries have been signed, sealed, and delivered. Litigation about these decisions could conceivably delay closure in these matters.

 Meanwhile, the Charter Commission can enact the job description and application form referenced above and pick the dates of the window of opportunity for persons wishing to serve on the Advisory Committee to turn in their applications. (Estimated March 15- April 30, 2011).

Please bear in mind that the Commssion is very keen to have diversity as a defining characteristic of this Advisory Group. The Procedures adopted by the Commission on October 6, 2010 make it clear that underrepresented groups (in terms of race, ethnicity, culture and the like) are meant to have first dibs on these nine seats, provided that the applicants who come forward are clear about the “good of the whole” sentiments expected of the full “Redistricting Group” as the composite of the 15 Charter Commissioners and the 9 Advisory Committee Members will come to be called.

While the Charter Commissioners are marking time during the open window for applications to serve on the Advisory Committee to arrive, they will presumably take occasion to formalize their approach to reviewing these applications. Thus either the full Commission or a subset of its members will have the month of May, most likely, to arrive at their recommendations for the appointments that the full Commission will enact in early June, 2011. By then the membership of the Charter Commission itself will have been stabilized by the start of new terms of office for whoever is to occupy the three seats up for renewal.

What’s Next – a sanity break for yours truly. I’ll continue this after I’ve recharged my creative batteries.