LETTER: Former Mayor Has ‘Grave Concerns’ & ‘Strongly Opposes’ Districting
The ward voting system under consideration by the Burien City Council would be a dramatic and serious change in the way we elect our city council members. Dividing the city up into tiny pieces would seriously harm the freedom we have under our present voting system. We have always allowed anyone who is a registered voter to run against anyone who is up for reelection, no matter where they live or where you live. There are 281 cities in the State of Washington and only 20 have a ward system and of those 20, only 3 have a system like the BCC is discussing!!! That should tell you something.
Here is why it’s a very bad idea:
- It will ensure much more opportunity for the incumbent to be reelected. Why? Because no one outside his or her ward can run against the council member up for relelection unless that person lives in the same ward. Restrictive? Yes. Favors the chances for the incumbent? Yes. Fair? No.
- It has the effect of creating cronyism because it’s tough to run against your neighbor or a friend so it promotes favorites, no matter their qualifications. People are reluctant to run against someone they know personally. So it stifles competition, again favoring the incumbent.
- These two big facts would have a chilling effect on who runs and why. This is not a good way to have an open and robust election process.
The smoke screen for promoting this by some who suggest it will give more opportunity for minorities to run for city council is simplistic. Tell me how. How much effort has the city made to reach out to minorities and be inclusive? What strategies have they tried and have they worked? Have they tried to involve them in any aspect of city governance? How? What about our many commissions and committees? And remember, we have had two mayors from minority backgrounds and we have had candidates who represent a minority. Both these facts are good. I agree it would be great to have many more. We need to work harder to involve all the community and be inclusive in every way. Changing the way we vote is not a way to achieve that goal.
I was appointed to serve on the countywide Districting Committee for a year-long process of redistricting King County’s nine districts. We were told by our attorney that we could not use race or minority considerations in any way when we considered changing district boundaries or creating new ones. We had to be color blind.
These are just some of the reasons I have grave concerns and strongly oppose changing the way we are allowed to vote in our fair city. I fear that some of the members of the Burien City Council who are up for reelection in 2014 favor this change in governance because they are worried about their reelection chances. I hope I’m wrong.
What I am hoping is that all the members of the Burien City Council will vote “NO” on the ward system. I hope I’m right.
– Sally Nelson
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