Sunday, July 01, 2012

Kalamazoo Charter Amendments Would Restrict Democracy

UPDATE: The controversial amendments were postponed for more study.

The Kalamazoo City Commission is considering several charter amendments.

Kalamazoo City Commission to consider placing charter amendments on November ballot
At a June 1 meeting, commissioners began considering several charter potential amendments, including changes in the way Kalamazoo voters elect the mayor and city commissioners. They may include moving the mayor to a separate ticket, changing commissioners' terms to four years from two, and establishing wards and electing city commissioners from those wards.
Considering each in turn...

Right now, the mayor of Kalamazoo is mainly a ceremonial position. He has no more power than any other city commissioner. Currently, the mayor is the candidate for city commission who receives the most votes. It isn't clear why this should change if he has the same power as any other commissioner.

What would be the purpose of changing commissioners' terms to four years? Campaigns for city commission are hardly long or arduous. This would only have the effect of making commissioners less accountable to the voters.

Political districts are desirable when political jurisdictions are large, so that legislators from one area cannot adequately represent citizens from another area. This applies to the United States, the state of Michigan, and perhaps even Kalamazoo County. But does it apply to the city of Kalamazoo, whose area is about 2/3 that of a township? Can someone from Winchell not represent Milwood? I think not.

A ward system would have the effect of making it harder to elect members of minority groups in the city of Kalamazoo, such as Hispanics or Republicans.

No comments: