City Hall update // Mysterious group proposes changes to city power structure

A fresh proposal to change the city’s power structure made its way to the Minneapolis Charter Commission for an examination on Jan. 4.

The proposal calls for a seven-member City Council, with members only eligible for two, two-year terms. Residents would elect the police chief, city attorney, city coordinator and mayor to four-year terms. Residents would also elect 14 planning commissioners, with two coming from each of the seven wards.

The proposal was brought forth by a group called Power by the People. That group’s attorney, Rachel Nelson, originally listed Martha Schiller as chair, but on Dec. 27 notified the city that Luna Al Qutob is the chair.  

Power by the People’s proposal says it is a political action committee, but as of Dec. 27 it had not registered with the state’s Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.

The Star Tribune reported that Basim Sabri is involved in the proposal. Sabri is a developer who spent 19 months in federal prison after being convicted on three counts of bribing a city council member.

Sabri did not return a phone message seeking comment. Power for People lists its address at 207 E. Lake St., a property owned by Sabri.

The proposal is known as a charter amendment. The Minneapolis Charter Commission, made up of 15 members appointed by the chief judge of Hennepin County, was scheduled to discuss the amendment on Jan. 4 before deciding to approve language that would allow the group to begin gathering petitions to put the proposal on a ballot.

The Commission’s decision was not made in time for this issue of the Southwest Journal.

Under the current city charter, residents elect 13 city council members and the mayor to four-year terms. The police chief, city attorney and city coordinator are appointed by the mayor.

Originally, the group had proposed a five-member city council, but has refined its request to seven members.

Mayor R.T. Rybak’s spokesman, John Stiles, declined to comment in the proposal because the mayor’s office hadn’t reviewed the amendment and didn’t know anything about Power by the People.

 
City overhauls website  

After two years of work, the city of Minneapolis launched its redesigned website on Dec. 19.

The new site has a cleaner layout with more white space and more space for photos. It will also allow city staff to update content quicker.  

The new site, www.minneapolismn.gov, has adjustable text that allows visually disabled users to view larger text.

 
Survey will help city close digital divide

Beginning in early January, an independent research firm will begin sending out surveys to Minneapolis residents to help the city better understand the digital divide.

The National Research Center plans to randomly send out 8,800 surveys to households in hopes of getting a diverse cross section of the city. The survey will ask residents about how they use computers, mobile devices and the Internet in their daily lives.

The results of the survey will be used by advisors for the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund, which aims to help people get access to the technology they need to compete in the digital world.

USI Wireless built and manages the city’s wireless system. As part of its contract with the city, USI agreed to establish the Digital Inclusion Fund to promote Internet access, low-cost hardware, computer training and local content.  

Since its creation in 2007, the fund has granted $400,000 to agencies helping bridge the digital divide.

Residents who wish to complete the survey in a different language should call 673-3000 or 311.

Reach Nick Halter at [email protected]