Rapid City Common Council takes first step toward Home Rule

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Rapid City’s Common Council on Monday night approved a big first step that could lead to a change in how the city governs itself.

Council members authorized the Mayor to create a Home Rule Charter Committee.

Under South Dakota law, unless a local government has a voter-approved home rule charter, the local government can only do what the state legislature expressly permits. With a home rule charter, that’s reversed. The local government can do anything that the state legislature does not expressly forbid.

Mayor Steve Allender compares a home rule charter to a city’s constitution. It lays out the form of government and what that government’s powers will be. It must be approved by Rapid City voters. Any future changes to the charter would also have to be approved by the voters.

The committee that the Council authorized Monday night would study the home rule issue and create a draft charter for the Council to consider before submitting it for a public vote. Some of the issues the committee will consider include the size of the city council and whether the form of government should be a Strong Mayor or Strong Council government, or whether having a city manager makes more sense.

Jim Phoenix, a Rapid City resident for nearly 20 years, says he has seen forms of home rule in other places he has lived and believes having a city manager could be great for Rapid City.

“Really look into their background, make sure they [a city manager] have a strong management background. Like I said, engineering doesn’t necessarily mean a lot but it does help. But he has got to be able to have full rein, full control and not be super-managed, under-managed, and micro-managed by the Council or by the people on the outside. He has got to have a job description that lets him fully run the city like a business.”

Mayor Allender has said he believes that once the committee is seated, it will take six to nine months for it to complete its work and present a draft charter to the Council.

The all-volunteer committee will be made up of Rapid City community members and business leaders.

Anyone interested in serving on the committee can complete a Citizen Interest Application.

The deadline to apply is 5:00 p.m. on January 3, 2020.

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