- Associated Press - Friday, September 4, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - A group in Minot wants to reduce the size of the city council from 14 members to five.

The coalition #MakeMinot expects to begin circulating petitions within the next few days, the Minot Daily News reported (https://bit.ly/1JGKjUY ).

The coalition is advocating for choice and accountability, as the five members would be elected at large rather than from wards, group spokesman Shaun Sipma said. Eliminating wards would force elected officials to look more broadly at city issues, he said.

“This would also require each to be individually involved with every issue and decision, which taps them to be fully informed leaders that will have to represent every person in Minot and not just the person in their ward,” Sipma said.

Sipma said 25 council seats have been on the ballot in the past three election cycles. And of those 25, only six had contested races. The current size of Minot’s city government with 14 aldermen and a mayor is not typical in North Dakota.



Council president Mark Jantzer said residents have a right to consider changes in their government and elected officials need to listen.

“But I also think we should proceed carefully,” he said. “Every system has its strengths and weaknesses.”

Mayor Chuck Barney, who has previously served as an aldermen, said he’s concerned an at-large election will favor residents living in certain areas of the city at the expense of other areas, and that could affect equal representation.

If the elected board is reduced in size, he prefers it remain a council form of government rather than a commission, because commission members hold portfolios giving them the primary oversight responsibility for areas such as streets or public works, he said.

“I am not averse to change,” Barney said. “I just don’t think a commission form is the right one for Minot.”

Organizers of a petition drive started earlier this year to garner signatures supporting a smaller council have merged their efforts into the new campaign, so previous petitions signers would need to sign again.

The new group hopes to gather 3,000 signatures by Oct. 1 to present to the city council. Once the signatures are submitted, the council would have 60 days to certify the petitions. The council could choose to take action on its own to reduce the size of its body or put the matter to a citywide vote, Sipma said.

Sipma said the intent would be to retain a city manager and mayor in addition to the five governing members. The mayor would preside over meetings and vote if a member was absent and a tie vote occurred.

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Online:

Coalition website: makeminot.com

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Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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