Jim Letizia reports.
The activist group called "Everyday People for Positive Change" says in a news release it has submitted a copy of a petition it plans to circulate to put onto the ballot a proposed amendment to the city charter creating a nine-member council elected by wards, with each member living in the ward they represent. The seven current council members are elected at-large and represent the entire city. The proposal also sets term limits of 12 consecutive years and takes power to appoint council members from council and gives it to neighborhood commissions. The current council members were all apointed, giving them the advantage of incumbency on election day. In the past, critics of ward government have said it is a corrupt system and unwieldy. But supporters have said city hall is controlled by powerful elites, and proposals like this would give more control to the people. Council members last year declined to place a similar measure on the ballot, but did pass a plan approved by voters in 2017 to expand council to nine members. Council is scheduled to expand to nine members in 2023. Backers of this plan say it would help the city better comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its prohibitions against “minority voter dilution,” an issue raised by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 2017. Some of the people behind this plan are long-time city hall critics, including Jonathan Beard and Willis Brown. City officials note voters in 2016 overwhelmingly rejected these ideas because they would divide neighborhoods and make council too large.