Council At-Large

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Scott L
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Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:48 am

Council At-Large

Postby Scott L » Mon May 18, 2015 7:25 pm

Most people don't spend too much time wondering how/why our entire City Council is at-large -- meaning all 6 councilpersons serve all citizens at once. There is no councilperson for any specific district - if you live in Mt. Holly, you have SIX councilpersons to represent you.

I haven't a clue how that started but there are now open meetings laws that makes this form of representation awful for the citizen. This is because open meetings laws do not allow a majority of councilpersons to deliberate (such as gather information or weighing or reflecting reasons for or against a decision). That means councilpersons cannot send e-mails to a majority of other councilpersons to communicate anything official.

If a citizen were to send an e-mail to all the councilpersons and one of them hit reply-all, courts are likely to say that was a violation of the Open Meetings Law and whatever costs there might be to undo something inappropriate like that could come back on the councilperson who did the reply-all.

So when a citizen needs to communicate to a councilperson in a way that that would suggest they take action, it is quite difficult to have a unique conversation each with 17% of your desired representation to government. It's hard enough to get citizens engaged and informed -- make a citizen expend 600% the effort and you're sure to get low citizen participation in any constructive way.

Is it time to ask council to change the at-large councilperson system to a district-based system in hopes to improve community engagement and participation in government?
  

MtHollyMom
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Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:54 pm

Re: Council At-Large

Postby MtHollyMom » Wed May 20, 2015 7:43 pm

So, they all are supposed to work for all citizens of Mt. Holly. How would the district based be more beneficial? Write in more simple terms please.
  

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Scott L
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Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:48 am

Re: Council At-Large

Postby Scott L » Thu May 21, 2015 7:44 pm

What's known as a "Ward System" is when councilpersons have their "territory". We don't have that. If we did, I could get to know MY councilperson and they would know me. They would know how N. Main potholes are bad because they drive it every day. They would know how traffic speeds at times on roads in my immediate area.

Another thing is a "Ward System" would have more of a chance of including a minority district. If a district existed that was predominantly minority race, they would be better able to choose someone they felt would best represent them.

When I want to have my views heard, I have to meet with SIX councilpersons. I was told by someone who should know, that I likely won't even get a meeting with all six councilpersons if I asked. Wow! I elect someone to represent me and they won't even meet with me to hear my concerns?! I really hope that's not the case.
  

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Scott L
Posts: 433
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:48 am

Re: Council At-Large

Postby Scott L » Fri Aug 14, 2015 8:27 am

Let's examine this a little more. Our council is at-large for a population of about 14,000. That means every council member has to do the work to understand the registered voters of 14,000 people and then represent the will of those voters to government. Gastonia has a Ward system where each councilperson has an average of 12,000 people in their territory. So it might surprise you to know that Mount Holly councilpersons have a more challenging job to represent a diverse 16% more people than Gastonia councilpersons.

If our councilpersons cannot represent us people well (enough), perhaps we ought to reduce the difficulty of how they do that so we have closer/better relationships with a single councilperson that serves us. An effective councilperson could easily get to know the wishes and desire of a percentage of registered voters in about 2,300 people.
  



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