Monthly Archives: October 2013

Districts as Gatekeepers

Are City Councils A Relic of The Past?

by Rob Gurwitt | April 1, 2003

You notice two things right off about the 19th Ward in St. Louis. The first is that pretty much everywhere there’s construction, there’s also a large sign reading, “Assistance for the project provided by Michael McMillan, Alderman.” The second is just how limited Alderman McMillan’s domain happens to be. Walk a few minutes in any direction, and you’re out of his ward. You don’t see the signs anymore. You also don’t see as much construction.

Within the friendly confines of the 19th, St. Louis looks like a city busily reviving. There are new high schools being built, scattered apartments and loft projects underway, efforts to rejuvenate the historic arts and entertainment district, and a HOPE VI retrofit of an enormous public housing facility. While all this activity has some powerful people behind it, just one person has had a hand in all of it, and that is McMillan himself. Only 31, he has been on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for six years, and in that time has made it clear that his ambitions for his ward–and by extension, himself–are high. “I don’t have other obligations,” he says. “I’m not married, I have no kids, I have no other job. It’s one of my competitive edges.”

Cross the ward boundary, and you find out what “competitive edge” means in St. Louis politics. North of the 19th, and for some distance to the east, stretch a series of neglected, depopulated neighborhoods that do not in any way suggest urban revival. This is, in part, a consequence of private market decisions: These neighborhoods don’t have much clout within the corporate suites where such decisions are made. But equally important, they don’t have much clout in local government, either–at least not when it comes to large-scale development projects.

That’s because in St. Louis, each of the 28 ward aldermen is the gatekeeper of development in his or her little slice of the city. If they’re shrewd and well connected, like Michael McMillan, the ward does fine. If they’re inattentive, or maladroit at cutting deals, or on the outs with local developers, or just plain picky, which is the case in more than a few wards, hardly anything gets done. “You don’t see a Mike McMillan coming out of some of these devastated wards,” says one City Hall insider. “They have a voice, but if it’s weak, what do they really get?”…



Voters’ Pamphlet Statement

Voters’ Pamphlet Statement for November 2013 election

Politicians get to serve at large regardless of whether they are elected at large or by district.  It is only We the People who have our jurisdiction restricted by districting.  In comparing the city and county councils, the King County Council is also comprised of nine members, and all nine have jurisdiction over you as a resident of this county, yet you are prohibited from participating in eight of their nine elections because the King County Council is elected by districts.  BUT CURRENTLY, NO ONE CAN RUN FOR CITY COUNCIL WHO IS BEYOND YOUR REACH AS A VOTER.  Let’s keep it that way!

Districting also causes elections in which incumbents run unopposed: e.g. in 2009, 4 of the 5 districts electing someone to the King County Council had no challenger: only the incumbent’s name on the ballot.

City council members should be accountable to all of us.  Districts pit the interests of one geographic area against the others rather than addressing the common good.  We need to elect the best qualified candidates who will work for the common good, regardless of where they live in the city!

The districting advocates’ argument is that geography trumps freedom of choice.  Their argument is that you are better off to have to vote for someone you may not like who lives in your district than to have the freedom of choice to vote for the candidates of your choice regardless of where they live in town.  Just because someone lives in your part of town doesn’t mean that he/she shares your political ideologies.

And city council members are under oath to represent the entire city, not just their neighborhood.  For neighborhood politics you should go to your neighborhood councils.  This is why we have neighborhood councils.

If Charter Amendment 19 passes, in the future most city council candidates will be off limits to you: beyond your reach as a voter.  Protect your choices: Vote NO on Charter Amendment 19.

Note: A wealthy Seattle business person financed the districting campaign by paying for signature-gatherers to collect the necessary signatures to put districts on the ballot.  Don’t let money dupe you into forfeiting your choice of candidates.

Statement prepared by Marjorie Rhodes, Choices Not Districts

206.600.0141 voice mail

Email contact: choicesnotdistricts {a*t} gmail {d0t} com


REBUTTAL of FOR Districts Statement

(also see Extended Rebuttal page)

Amendment 19 will restrict us to three councilors. Currently, we each get nine councilors to lobby.

Councilors take oath to represent the city, not just a slice: public safety and utilities are citywide issues. We don’t need councilors with tunnel vision.

Retaining only two at-large councilors will not ensure that citywide needs are met; it takes five for a majority.

“[L]egwork” is fine in sports but the political playing field should not discriminate against physically handicapped candidates.

And, doorbelling works for well-connected candidates. Bob Ferguson, first running for county council, took a year absence from his law practice to doorbell his district. Few have the financial independence to do that.

With decennial redistricting, taxpayers will incur costs; and many will be bumped into different districts.

Pro-districting’s supporters are incumbents elected by district. No surprise!

In 1975, 1995 and 2003 Seattleites rejected districts. Let’s do it again.

by Marjorie Rhodes, Herm Ross


Endorsements of NO vote on 19

CHOICES NOT DISTRICTS has been endorsed by the Municipal League, better known as the ‘Muni League.’

Other familiar names include:

  • Larry Phillips, King County Council member (Magnolia); it takes courage for an incumbent elected by districts to endorse our side.  Thank You, Councilmember Phillips.
  • Jim Street, former City Council member (Capitol Hill)
  • Krist Noveselic, who was bassist with the popular band, Nirvana.  He has long been involved with election reform and is on the board with Fair Vote, a national, non-partisan, election watch-dog group (though this endorsement comes from Krist, personally, and should not be misconstrued as an endorsement from Fair Vote, which does not have endorsement status).

[Community residents who oppose districts listed below …]

Here are more people who endorse the NO vote on districting.  We thank you for letting us post your names:

  • Charles Bagley, Queen Anne resident
  • Nancy Bagley, Queen Anne resident
  • Sally Bagshaw, Downtown resident
  • Karma Bradley, Rainier Valley resident
  • Herb Bridge, Downtown resident
  • Nancy Eitreim, Mt Baker resident
  • Barbara Evans, Co-founder Poets West
  • J. Glenn Evans, Co-founder Poets West
  • Jody Grage, Ballard Community leader
  • Andy Noel, Queen Anne Resident
  • Margaret Okamoto, Queen Anne resident
  • Marjorie Rhodes, writer, Maple Leaf resident
  • Robert Rhodes, Rainier Valley resident
  • Herm Ross, Licton Springs resident
  • Ann Sandstrom, First Hill resident
  • Wayne Sandstrom, First Hill resident
  • Barbara Sarason, LakeCity resident
  • Steve Selter, Maple Leaf Resident
  • Nancy Smith, Downtown resident
  • Lucy Steers, Mt Baker resident
  • Cary Thomas, West Seattle resident
  • Art Waller, Maple Leaf resident
  • Laura Wells, Laurelhurst resident
  • Reid Yamamoto, Laurelhurst resident