Yesterday a group including citizens and a couple of council members announced their effort to amend the city charter to change the composition of city council, reducing the number of representatives to nine and eliminating the at-large seats in favor of 'super' district seats.
I'm opposed to this particular restructuring of city council for multiple reasons, including:
* I do not support the further balkanization of the city. The individual districts are already in competition with each other for city spending and projects. Having super districts just creates a larger area of competition - along with coordinated support of two other council members.
* I do not believe that where a person lives is a primary concern when it comes to whom we elect. The issue is not where they live, but how they vote. Changing their residence does not change their behavior.
* I believe that the mayor has the ability to threaten - or imply - that funding/services for specific areas are at risk when council members fail to support the administration's proposals. Changing to all districts makes that threat more powerful, as there are no at-large members who would be immune to such actions.
* I do not want council members to think they work only for their district. Right now, some council members believe they have no need to respond to general city issues you raise to them because they don't represent you. They often will tell you to call your own district rep.
* I do not like that at-large members think they can avoid 'neighborhood' issues by telling you to call your district council member. This attitude comes from the idea that district reps are the only ones who are supposed to handle such issues. The problem is this current delineation of accountability - not that some members of council live in only certain areas of the city. Changing the composition of city council will only exacerbate this lack of overall accountability.
* I want each and every council member responsible to the city as a whole. I don't want council members doing what is good for a district to the detriment of the overall city. Currently, road improvement funds are divvied up by district not by need, resulting in every council district getting a somewhat equal amount of money to spend, even if roads in one area of the city are more in need of repair than others.
* I do support the reduction in number of city council members and like the idea of an odd number. I would rather they all be at-large and responsible to everyone for everything that goes on.
These are just some of the issues I have. Overall, changing the form of government does not change our representation. Gerrymandering the areas from which council members are elected does not ensure 'representation' except from a geographical perspective - and the current problem is not geography, it's philosophy. While many people will embrace the 'change,' they will soon realize that this particular change does not solve the problem of Toledo city government.