Outcome of March 27 Charter Commission Meeting & Next Steps

Dear St. Paul friends, 

A big thank you to everyone who attended the Charter Commission Review Subcommittee meeting on Monday, March 27. The meeting was convened in the large basement meeting room at St. Paul City Haul and, thanks to your enthusiastic response, it was again standing room only! We also appreciate those who took time to write an email or call urging Commissioners to reject any proposal to repeal RCV in St. Paul. Your presence on Monday and messages to the Charter Commission are making a huge difference!

Monday’s meeting ended with a vote by the Subcommittee to pass the matter of repeal onto the full Commission without comment or recommendation. There’s no formal charter amendment proposal on the table at this point, and no meeting of the full Commission is scheduled – but we will keep you appraised if this should change.

Here’s what happened at the meeting:

The Subcommittee met privately with police officers before the meeting began. We do not know what this was about, but nothing happened and the police officers left once the meeting was off to a calm start.

Commissioner John Kirr was the first speaker, presenting research he had conducted on RCV. It was not well-informed, but he did not recommend repealing RCV. Instead, he concluded that the Commission should evaluate and compare it to other systems. Of course, the League of Women Voters of Minnesota has already done this.

Commissioner Repke introduced a recent one-sided article from the Highland Villager community newspaper for the public record and began his arguments for repeal this year. When someone suggested the Commission wait to consider this issue until a year when the mayor is not on the ballot, an incensed Repke insisted it must be on the ballot during a year with an open mayoral contest.

In lieu of public testimony, Chair Brian Alton asked for a show of hands in support of and against RCV. A wave of hands went up in support of RCV. Only a couple of residents were there in opposition.

While public testimony was not formally invited, Council member Jane Prince was prepared to speak on behalf of the crowd there. Before she had the opportunity, mayoral candidate Tom Goldstein took the floor to speak in defense of RCV and to call out Commissioner Repke’s efforts to push a repeal proposal through the Charter Commission.

Repke interrupted Goldstein and attacked the Chair for allowing him to speak. Many felt that this was an egregious and inappropriate abuse of power, and one that was caught on video. To his credit, Chair Alton handled the situation calmly.

Commissioner Kathy Donolly-Cohen then motioned to pass the matter on to the full Commission without any further discussion or recommendation. That motion passed 5-2, with dissenting votes by John Kirr and Amy Felice.

The motion was not necessarily favorable to RCV as it keeps the repeal conversation in play, but it served to further delay any action on a repeal measure.  And as Brian Alton made clear, there is no formal charter amendment on the table for consideration, just a recommendation by Chuck Repke to consider one.

The matter is now in the hands of the full Charter Commission, without a meeting scheduled. Stay tuned for developments, and continue to email and call Commission members. It’s clear that your input is impacting this discussion. Our goal is to defeat a formal proposal from being considered and, if one is, to make sure it is voted down.  A charter amendment requires a majority vote by the full Commission, which is eight votes.

If you haven’t contacted them yet, your voice is more important than ever! Help us put a stop to this repeal effort that is being fostered by a tiny group of anti-reformers.

Thank you for your continued commitment to improving our democracy!

The FairVote Minnesota team

P.S. You may be interested in this related statement from St. Paul STRONG:

"I am here today on behalf of Saint Paul STRONG (SPS), a nonpartisan, community-led organization dedicated to improving open and representative government in Saint Paul by encouraging and supporting open and transparent public processes at City Hall, engaging and empowering resident participation, and building a stronger, more inclusive Saint Paul.

While SPS takes no position on Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), we do not support having the Charter Commission, with such limited public access, as Ramsey County Chief Judge appointees, taking simple and swift action to put a resolution on RCV on the upcoming November ballot. While the Charter Commission has the power to get this on the ballot with only 8 votes, it is important to note that it took 7,000+ St. Paul residents' signatures to accomplish the same feat the first time. At this time, SPS recommends that the Charter Commission members vote no on this resolution. Thank you."

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