Top of the day to all,
The breaking news in Newton is that the League of Women Voters sponsored Charter Commission has unanimously voted to ask Newton voters to abolish the position of Ward Councilor (formerly Ward Alderman) and create a new City Council of 8 Councilors at Large with a residency requirement, one from each ward, and 5 Councilors at Large. The lucky 13.
Such a proposal has all the markings of an elite, philosophically Republican, proposal to remove the electorate another step away from the legislative members of government by eliminating the Councilor position most responsive to local concerns.
I can’t wait to hear the arguments in favor. I’ll bet efficiency is at the top of the list. Efficiency is not a hallmark of democracy. Historically, Dictators run the most efficient governments.
I guess that comparison to other cities will also be at the top of the list. I didn’t move to Newton so I could live in City that struggled to upgrade its government so it could favorably compare to Somerville.
It could be that the League’s long term goal is to overburden the Councilors with constituent and legislative work so they can be reclassified to full time Councilor, with an office, staff and a living wage salary. Full time legislators are a league favorite.
Those white gloved, hatted, League Ladies of yesteryear will rejoice in their heaven at the thought that the Newton Legislature may be returned to responsible people who understand what is best for our City.
The political problem is that there is no one to address ward problems and issues. The fact that a Councilor at Large lives in a particular Ward does not mean that her support and her votes come from that Ward. In a great many cities Councilors at Large, without residency requirements, tend to come from a particular area, ward or neighborhood.
Those with experience in elective politics will agree that Ward Councilors can be most difficult to deal with. However, they also say, if you want something accomplished in your neighborhood the first person you ask for help is your Ward Councilor.
Some say the concept of local representation in government is one of the basic concepts of American Democracy. From Congress on down, the requirement that the smaller blocks of voters, whether States, House of Representative Districts or Municipal Wards, must have representation has been a continuing condition in all of our government organizing documents.
Peter F. Harrington