What is a Charter City?

July 13, 2011 at 7:17 am 8 comments

Most of the cities here in the Northwest Metro are called a “Charter City.”  But what exactly is a Charter City?  Here is how it is defined;

A charter city is a city in which the governing system is defined by the city’s  own charter document rather than by state, provincial, regional or national laws. In locations where city charters are allowed by law, a city can adopt or modify its organizing charter by decision of its administration by the way established in the charter. These cities may be administered predominantly by citizens or through a third-party management structure, because a charter gives a city the flexibility to choose novel types of government structure.

Third party management structure?  In other words, the people we elected aren’t the ones making the decisions.  What’s the point of having an election if some third-party bureaucrat has all the power?

Here is a nice example of charter city abuse

In California, cities which have not adopted a charter are organized by state law. Such a city is called a General Law City, which will be managed by a 5-member city council. A city organized under a charter may choose different systems, including the “strong mayor” or “city manager” forms of government.   One example of abuse of the charter system was in Bell, California. The charter was created after a lit­tle-no­ticed spe­cial elec­tion, where few voters understood what becoming a charter city meant. After a charter was approved, state laws limiting city salary no longer applied and City Manager Robert Rizzo gave himself a salary of $1.5 million for managing a city of about 36,000 people.  As of June 2008, 112 of California’s 478 cities are charter cities.

Well isn’t that a nice story.  Here in Minnesota we have several forms of government possibilities;

Minnesota’s two basic types of cities are home-rule charter cities, which operate under a local charter, and statutory cities, which operate under the statutory city code (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 412). The distinction between home-rule cities and statutory cities is one of organization and powers and is not based on differences in population, size, location, or any other physical feature.  Home-rule charter cities may establish any form of government they choose in their charters. Typical forms include: council-manager, strong mayor, and mayor-council.  Statutory cities may choose a form of government from three alternatives: the mayor-council plan with either an elected clerk (standard plan), or an appointed clerk (plan A), or the council-manager plan (plan B).

We continued to dislike the “Charter City form of government” because we don’t think it adequately represents the people.  We would like to see a “strong mayor” not a “figurehead mayor” with the power to veto or sign council actions.  This would ensure a balance in government and separation of powers, principles we remember seeing in the this thing called the constitution.


Entry filed under: Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Golden Valley, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth, Robbinsdale.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bob Johnson  |  December 10, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Can a mayor be recalled in a statutory city?

  • 2. Red  |  December 10, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Which as Crystal notes on documents as (them) [they] being a Non-Statutory City

  • 3. Rikta11  |  December 10, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I think a mayor can only be recalled if the charter allows it.

  • 4. brad waite  |  January 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    In Codta Mesa Ca., we are haveing a session at the council meeting tomorrow, to discuss the posibility of going to a charterr city format. four of the 5 members are in favor of that type of city. Only one member is against it, and I am leaning her way. We sure don’t want another Bell situation here!

  • 5. Pat helmberger  |  August 14, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    How can a statutory city become a home rule city? Is the state legislature involved? Does the City Council request such a change?

    Thank you.

    • 6. communitysolutionsmn  |  August 15, 2016 at 7:47 am

      I’m not sure how to “pass” a charter but any city can do it. I think it would take a referendum: This is directly from the League of Minnesota Cities: The Minnesota Constitution permits the Legislature to establish home rule charter cities, counties, and other units of local government. State statutes enacted under this constitutional authority authorize cities to adopt home rule charters. Any city may adopt a home rule charter. Of the 852 cities in the state, 107 are currently operating under a voter-approved home rule charter

  • 7. steven traut  |  July 24, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    can a charter city take away my ripearine rite to access the water under my property for reasonable use in minnesota

  • 8. steven traut  |  July 24, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    i want to drill my own well


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