Councilors Fighting Over Election Reform

City Council is looking at implementing some of the ideas for electoral change presented in January’s election task force report, and the discussion is getting a little heated. The four Democrats oppose a ward system — which many believe would benefit Republicans — while lone Republican Rob Schilling favors it. The discussion has gotten a bit heated, and it doesn’t look like it will get any better. Here’s some free advice for Charlottesville Republicans: push for an instant runoff voting system, as recommended in the task force report. It’ll get you 1-2 seats on Council, if you run candidates that aren’t in the habit of stabbing people. John Yellig has the story in today’s Progress.

3 Responses to “Councilors Fighting Over Election Reform”

  • It is NOT a ward system that the task force has recommended, but a MIXED WARD/AT LARGE city council. This is the exact same composition as the school board. The school board exists of four representatives from the four city wards along with three at-large representatives. There is huge difference in a “mixed ward & at large” than a strict ward or the current at large!

    The mixed ward/at large guarantees a voice for the four geographical areas of the city, this voice is monitored by the three at large members. It is truly the best of both worlds and will assure representation for many more city residents than the current (the last 60 + years) system of election of city councilors.

    Why is the current establishment so afraid of change?

  • You don’t have to be afraid of something not to implement it. It’s possible to just think it’s a bad idea.

    First of all, we’d have to redraw our wards to comply with the Voting Rights Act. An expensive project involving years to accomplish. It’s not like council can vote to make this happen next election.

    Second of all, I don’t want more back-room horse-trading going on ("support my pork and I’ll support yours"). If you’ve got a smaller constituency, it’s easier to aim pork at it that’ll get you re-elected.

    More importantly, I actually attended some of the meetings, and most of the comments I heard would not be addressed by any of Schilling’s pet ward nonsense. The complaints I heard and others I later read about were only addressable by changing the balance of power between City Council and the City Manager. We have a very strong manager position with a great deal of automony. That won’t change with a ward system of any persuasion — mixed or not.

    This was a bad idea and it’s time we finished ignoring it to death.

  • Actually, the task force was chartered to EXPLORE the idea of a ward system, directly elected mayor, and other possible changes. The previous Council did not want the commission to make any recommendations, but simply present research on the ideas.

    Sure enough, at the first Council meeting this year, the task force reported that a lack of COMMUNICATION was the underlying problem. While no recommendation was made, the implication is that better communication would make city government more responsive.

    I also find it interesting that councilor Lynch (D) (in the Progress article) opposes changing the system because the changes would make it easier for a Republican to be elected. So, conversely, he supports no-change because the current system makes it easy for a Democrat to get elected.

    Actually, the fear that a city leader with new ideas could get elected in a ward system seems unfounded. In the last city election, all 8 precincts voted roughly 2-to-1 for Democrats, 17% of the total eligible voters.

    The fact that the ruling party was elected with such a small minority of the population was one of the facts that prompted the study in the first place.

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