Council members jockey for influence

Cati Vanden Breul

The elections are over, but the games are just beginning for Minneapolis City Council members.

The 13-member council will elect a president next month who will determine which members serve on what council committees.

Most committees meet every other week before the biweekly meeting of the full council and come up with recommendations to bring to the council for approval. Council members usually belong to several standing committees and are required to participate in others, such as the Elections, Rules and Taxes committees, which do not meet as often.

Current Council President Paul Ostrow ” who represents Ward 1 ” said the Community Development and Ways and Means/Budget committees are the “money” committees of the council, and members typically only serve on one or the other.

“Those are the committees that make the money decisions; historically no one has served on them both because there are only 12 slots for 13 people,” he said.

Ostrow gave up his position on the Community Development Committee when he became council president so each of the other members could belong to one of the two committees.

Second Ward Council member-elect Cam Gordon, who will represent the University’s Minneapolis campus for the next four years, said he is interested in joining the Health and Human Services, Community Development, Zoning and Planning or Public Safety and Regulatory Services committees.

Over the next month, the returning and newly elected council members will attempt to figure out where everyone’s interests lie and how to best satisfy them.

“But as for now, we’re in a jockeying-around period where the people who want to become council president or chairs of certain committees are trying to find peoples’ desires and how to accommodate them,” Gordon said.

Although council members don’t always get to be on every committee they want to, most end up satisfied with the outcome, Ostrow said.

“It’s my experience that by and large it works out pretty well,” he said. “Maybe not everyone is completely happy with everything, but for the most part, council members get on their highest priority committees.”

Ralph Remington, 10th Ward Council member-elect and one of five newcomers to the council, said the candidates for council president often have an idea of where they would assign everyone in advance.

Council members can then vote for the candidate they believe will place them where they want to be, he said.

“I have my preferences about what issues I’d like to work with, and I want to see who will best be able to give those things to me,” Remington said.

Although council members have begun discussion among themselves about their committee preferences, he said many are not yet making them public.

“People are definitely letting each other know, but it’s not necessarily something for public consumption yet,” Remington said.

Third Ward City Council member-elect Diane Hofstede echoed his sentiment, and said she would not comment on any specific interests.

“I’m reviewing the options that are available,” Hofstede said.

Others were more open.

Scott Benson, Council member for the 11th Ward, said, for the most part, he would like to serve on the same committees he did during his first term, including Community Development and Transportation.

If the council decides to develop a new committee for health, energy and the environment, Benson said, he would want to be the chairman.

Typically the newly elected and veteran council members have the same chances of fulfilling their interests, he said, and the goal is to give everyone the chance to serve on at least one of the committees they want.

“The way you get into trouble is if there are people who don’t get anything they want,” Benson said.