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November 10, 2003 // UPDATED 11:06 am - April 30, 2007
By: Skyway News editorial staff
Skyway News editorial staff

Wrath of Kahn: gunning for politicians' salaries to force early elections

Minneapolis DFL State Rep. Phyllis Kahn has found the ultimate in political payback: she says if Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Councilmembers don't hold city elections ahead of schedule in November 2005, they must repay a year and a half of their salaries.

It's the latest -- and most personal -- twist in an elections lawsuit against the city of

Minneapolis.

Kahn and others say the current wards, based on the 1990 Census, have grown so unequal in population that they subvert the Constitution's one-person, one-vote principle. City leaders counter that the legislative prohibitions kept them from reapportioning for the 2001 elections, and four-year terms granted that year shouldn't be shortened.

During a recent court hearing, Kahn said her legal team pulled out Minnesota Statutes 205.84, subdivision 2.

The law says if the city's governing body fails confirm old ward boundaries or adopt new ones in the time required, "no further compensation shall be paid to the mayor or councilmember...."

If the argument prevails in court, it will take a mighty bite out of councilmembers' wallets. Based on 18 months since the May 2002 reapportionment deadline, Rybak would have to pony up about $130,000; each Councilmember about $100,000.

All told, city leaders would fork over $1.4 million -- far more than the $400,000 city election officials have said an extra, early election would cost.

"It is a wonderful statute; it is just incredible," Kahn said. "It says if the city doesn't adopt the redistricting plan, that they have to serve without pay."

Kent Kaiser, communications director for the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, said the issue hinges on whether the court says the city's vote to adopt the new map -- which the Minneapolis City Council took within 60 days after legislative redistricting -- meets the legal requirement, or whether it actually has to hold an election and implement the new wards.

Said Kahn: "We are saying 'adopt' means 'adopt and implement.'"

James Moore, the assistant city attorney handling the case, said he could not comment on pending litigation. -- Scott Russell

City Hall rotunda reopens in December A celebration is in the works to mark the end of the year-long restoration of the City Hall rotunda, including the overhaul of 30-plus stained-glass windows, said Jos Cervantes, director of the Municipal Building Commission.

The celebration is planned for late afternoon Dec. 19, so community members could participate in the unveiling and then enjoy the Holidazzle Parade, Cervantes said. He called the revamped space "a holiday gift back to the community."

Restoration work began in last November, and scaffolding has lined the rotunda, at times blocking off stairways.

The project cost $1.2 million and came in on time and on budget, Cervantes said. The city and Hennepin County shared restoration costs.

The project included a floor-to-ceiling scrub of the Italian Carrera marble, removing a century of air pollution and cigarette smoke, according to a project brochure. Unofficial building lore attributes the yellowing marble to a cleaning solution sold to the Building Commission in the 1940s by "a wily snakeoil salesman." Other work includes new light fixtures that match the building's historic character.

Workers completely dismantled each stained glass window -- 72,000 pieces --cleaned them, reinserted each piece into new lead frames, and reassembled the windows. Roughly 4,000 pieces were missing, broken or chipped and workers had to repair or replace them, Cervantes said

City Hall was built in the 1890s, and the Building Commission has overseen it since 1903. -- Scott Russell