HOME RULE CHARTER By Bob Reiss, From the Re-Echo, Summer 2002
The Charter under which the City of St. Louis Park
operates was adopted on December 7, 1954. The City is
planning to celebrate this Charter's fiftieth anniversary in
the year 2004 and is starting to plan for it. The
Historical Society has been given the opportunity to provide
volunteers for the Planning Committee. Anyone who
would like to serve on the committee, please contact Bridget
Wynn at the St. Louis Park Parks and Recreation Department
The Better Government League, with Morten Arneson as
Chairman, in the 1940s set up a committee to study the best
form of government for fast growing St. Louis Park's Home
Rule Charters. This committee very quickly came to the
conclusion that the Council-Manager type was the best for
cities of over 10,000 people.
As the city government was set up at that time, the Mayor
and each Councilman was the administrator of a department
such as Police, Fire, Street, Water and one acted as City
Clerk. They were elected and had to perform functions
for which they were not necessarily qualified. With
the Council-Manager type of government, the administrative
functions were all handled by hired professionals. The
elected officials were free to concentrate on the major
problems of a growing city.
This was a rather innovative solution in the 1940s. In
1935, there were only 300 cities in the United States with
this form of government. In 1950 there were over 1,000
and today there are way over 3,000.
As a result of this Better Government League Study, the
District Court selected a Commission to get it started.
It took four years to get it ready for a vote, and it failed
because of strong opposition. A second Charter
Commission was selected by the District Court in 1947.
Morten Arneson and Leland F. Leland were the only holdovers.
This time the rest of the Commission was made up of very
knowledgeable attorneys and the Charter was completely
rewritten. This second Charter was put to a vote in
March 1949. A group called the Charter Fact Finding
Committee, headed by C.L. Hurd, published its opposition in
a full page ad in the St. Louis Park Dispatch.
Again the Charter failed.
A second vote on this same Home Rule Charter was held on
December 7, 1954. The Better Government League did not
campaign for its approval because there was no organized
opposition. This time it passed with the necessary 60
percent of the voters approving. On January 7, 1955
the Charter became effective.
With the new Charter in place, the Better Government League
no longer saw a need for itself and devolved.
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.