Brooklyn Center group working to change structure of city government, council member calls ‘very bad idea’

There is clearly an uphill battle going on in Brooklyn Center over who should have the power to run the city.

For decades, the city charter grants power to a city manager, an appointed position, who handles most key decisions in city government.

However, a group of citizens are fighting to remove this power.

“It’s really about checks and balances,” said Stefanie Nelson, who is part of the group Citizens for a Full Time Mayor.

Nelson said the group had been working for years to change the structure of city government — to shift power from the city manager to the mayor.

Currently, the mayor holds a part-time position with a salary of approximately $12,000 per year. Under the proposed change, the mayor would become a full-time chief executive, which could add up to six figures.

Mayor Mike Elliot, who is up for re-election, became the face of the city in April 2021 during the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright and the ensuing unrest.

“I wish I could have a say in what happens in our city and be able to weed out people who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to,” Nelson said. “Because at the moment we cannot make any changes.”

The group recently sued the city to secure its proposal in the November ballot after the city initially rejected the measure. Following the trial, the city clerk is now working to verify signatures before bringing the matter back to city council. The language of the ballot must be finalized by the end of August.

City Council member Dan Ryan strongly criticized the proposal.

“I think that’s a really bad idea,” said Ryan, who has been on the board since 2007. “Why would we want to be like Minneapolis? Are they exactly the model of efficiency and effectiveness for local government? I would say no.

Ryan has previously criticized Mayor Elliot’s handling of the Daunte Wright shooting and the riots and protests that followed. He fears that every four years voters will hand over the keys to the city to a new mayor who may not have the experience required for the job.

“Our current city manager has a doctorate. His predecessor had a master’s degree in public administration from Cornell,” Ryan said. “This is how it should be.”

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