NEW ULM - In a swift Tuesday meeting, which lasted 15 minutes, the New Ulm City Council unanimously adopted the revisions to the New Ulm Home Rule Charter.
The revisions have been a point of contention among New Ulm residents who wanted to maintain the New Ulm's traditional government structure, which grants the mayor the power to fire or hire any police officer subject to the Police Commission's approval. The revision transferred the hiring and firing powers to City Manager.
According to the Charter Commission, which proposed the revisions, the changes are intended to give the responsibility to someone who is better versed in the rules and regulations involved.
Mayor Bob Beussman and Council Chair Charles Schmitz both expressed reservations at the June 7 Council meeting about adopting the revisions. They both said they have changed their minds after recently learning that the mayor has the ability to appoint himself to the Police Commission.
"I feel it's an acceptable solution. I can appoint myself to the Police Commission and still have a loud voice," said Beussman.
Beussman said he was unsure when exactly he would appoint himself. The appointments for this year are already completed, so he will have to wait until at least next year.
"I haven't checked yet, but I'll look to see if there is anyone [on the Commission] that has served six years. If there isn't, I'll either wait until someone has or speak with someone about having them step down so I can fill the position," said Beussman.
There are currently no plans to change the number of members on the Police Commission. If the mayor appoints himself, the position will simply be occupied as long as the mayor choses.
Former Mayor Joel Albrecht, who was a leading voice for the New Ulm residents opposing the changes, said he thought the idea of the mayor self appointing was a good compromise.
"I think it's certainly a fair way to go. I just hated to see old traditions thrown out the window and the mayor totally bypassed in the process," said Albrecht, "I think this way allows for more flexibility. It retains the mayor's power over the police force. It also allows someone who runs for mayor that doesn't want to be in charge of the police to simply not appoint himself."
With the unanimous vote, the Charter revision will become effective in 90 days.
In other business, the Council approved a resolution declaring that the City of New Ulm has adopted the Council on Local Results and Innovation Performance Measures Program.
The program is an effort by the State of Minnesota to create measure for rating a city's performance at efficiency in services. Those that show positive rating in the program will be rewarded with small funds and will not be subject to a levy limit.
The City will develop its measure over the coming year to show the efficiency and quality of its services. The end of the year was set as a tentative target for completing the process.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)