Greensboro’s one-woman Nanny State revealed her plan for changing the City Council on Tuesday. As expected, it mutes the voices of the people but creates greater opportunities for the powerful.
State Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill would replace the 5-3-1 plan with a 7-1 scheme.
That means a new council would have seven members elected from individual districts and a mayor elected at-large. All would serve four-year terms.
The current council has five members elected from districts and three members and the mayor elected at-large for two-year terms.
Do the subtraction: Everyone casts votes for five council members now. If Wade’s
plan is enacted, that will be reduced to two.
Now multiply: With elections every four years instead of two, each resident will cast just two votes instead of 10 over that time.
There’s more mischief. The one person whom all voters would elect is the mayor. Wade’s plan doesn’t allow the mayor to vote in council meetings on most matters, except to break a tie. The lone official who represents all of the people has the least power in the normal course of things — with a caveat. The mayor could veto measures, subject to override by five votes from the council. That would be a new dynamic, with uncertain value.
Who benefits? Certainly not current members of the council. Wade’s bill accomplishes what legislators call double- and triple-bunking, where two or three council members find themselves in the same district. It guarantees that several incumbents couldn’t be re-elected unless they moved their residences.
Still, more and smaller districts can provide better representation for Greensboro neighborhoods. They also are subject to easier manipulation. Campaign money has more effect in a small district than in a larger district or at-large race. With longer terms, big expenditures every four years could help elect people who can accomplish a lot for those who put up the money. That’s more likely the aim of Wade’s plan than giving ordinary voters a strong voice at City Hall.
Fortunately, this isn’t a done deal. While the Senate may pass anything that Wade and leader Phil Berger want, the House should reject this scheme. Local Reps. Pricey Harrison, John Blust, Ralph Johnson and Jon Hardister know Greensboro doesn’t want a new election plan shoved down its throat.
To make certain they know, residents should tell them through calls, letters, emails, and statements at council meetings and other public forums. At the very least, House members should attach a referendum to this measure so that the people get to decide.
Greensboro residents have expressed few complaints about their election system and don’t want it changed without their consent by a Nanny State in Raleigh.