Citizen Voice for City Council Accountability

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Citizen Initiative for placement on November 2012 Ballot to re-instate voter districts as the best option to meet City Charter Amendment of 1998 seeking greater involvement of citizen in local governance!

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  • This map represents those elected to City Council and the Mayor’s Office since 1994 based on Multnomah County Election Returns.
  • This map is a visual of the trend and consequences over time of exclusive at-large elections since 1994.
  • What is geographic representation? A. Geographic representation for the City of Gresham means that each citizen gets to vote for her or his council member, a council member from the voters district, a council member who represents that voter and the voter neighborhoods, and is aware of that area’s interests.
  • Ballot Measure No. 26-86 Section 9A, Citizen Involvement required both Mayor and City Manager to report annually progress in involving citizen in City Governance.
  • Table 1 (3,895 cities participated in election method survey based on population growth trends) *at-large, district and mixed.
  • Citizen Voice for City Council Accountability

    1. 1. Based on Testimony by Richard Strathern Before Gresham City Council on Geographic Representation February 7, 2012 Citizen Voice for City Council Accountability
    2. 2. Last Ten Elections City Wide Map of Council/Mayor Residence 02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    3. 3. Residence Trend Map ,Green 94-98 Yellow 2000-04, Red 2006-2011 02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    4. 4. Maps Prove that a Select Few Govern Gresham <ul><li>The unalterable fact that emerges is that large parts of Gresham are not represented or are grossly underrepresented because of the at-large system of elections </li></ul><ul><li>Twenty years of election history exposes extent of representation disparities </li></ul><ul><li>This moves the levers of democracy in the favor of a select few who prefer to operate in a non transparent manner despite Oregon’s Open Meetings Law and now has the city audit function reporting to the nonelected City Manager </li></ul><ul><li>This is not a new revelation. No attempts by City Council to gain voter approval for some form of Council Districts that would provide for equitable geographical representation is on the horizon. </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    5. 5. Geographic Representation? <ul><li>Does the absence of Voting Districts create serious representation consequences? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is geographic representation? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Each citizen gets to vote for her or his council member, a council member from the voters district, a council member who represents that voter and the voters neighborhood and is aware of their community interests! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why was the City Charter Review Committee not directed by City Council to do an outreach to properly engage citizens through formal dedicated education sessions and public hearings while addressing this issue? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the City Council see this issue as the major root cause of voter apathy, disengagement and citizen lack of meaningful involvement ? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is it true that 80% of the city is not geographically represented? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does recent low voter turnout and uncontested City Council and Mayoral races represent the worse consequence of exclusive at-large election? </li></ul></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    6. 6. Unanswered Questions for City Council Feedback <ul><li>Does City Council survey it’s citizen communities to discover citizen opinion on current at-large election system? </li></ul><ul><li>Could this lack of ongoing geographic representation be causing the City Council members to be less accessible and responsive? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the current at-large electoral system the primary cause of the high cost of campaigning and low voter turnout? </li></ul><ul><li>Does this high cost of running for public office discourage this key engagement and involvement process and place it out of reach and resources of all but those with high income and special interest groups? </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    7. 7. Exclusive At-Large Districts <ul><li>Does exclusive at-large voting districts dampen citizen voice and accountability? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the current cost to those who feel disenfranchised by Gresham’s exclusive at-large election system? </li></ul><ul><li>Could the City Council do more to level the playing field? </li></ul><ul><li>By a vote of 70%+ in 1998, Gresham citizens passed a City Charter Measure (Measure No. 26-86) which directs City Council to promote citizen involvement in city governance and which requires the Mayor and City Manager to report annually about citizen involvement progress. Many are puzzled why single voter districts took so long to be reconsidered when it has been a proven method for citizen engagement and involvement in direct governance. </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    8. 8. Growth and Expansion <ul><li>Due to our rapid growth and expansion, does the current electoral system contribute to downtown being a disproportionate beneficiary of the city’s public infrastructure investment in facilities and services? </li></ul><ul><li>Is this bias depriving neighborhoods of essential investment and services? </li></ul><ul><li>Has the Gresham exclusive at-large election process reduced the influence of single neighborhood associations and caused the reoccurring problem of too many neighborhood associations being in an inactive status? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it true that members of City Council and downtown leadership attempted to scuttle the location of a major development from Rockwood to Downtown? </li></ul><ul><li>Would this have happen if Rockwood was part of a single voter district? </li></ul><ul><li>Had Southwest, Centennial and Hollybrook Neighborhood Associations been part of a single voter district would the original 2004 City Council approval for a Superstore at 181 st Street happened? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you think of other similar examples? </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    9. 9. Citizen Voice and Council Accountability? <ul><li>The at-large election system means that all citizens – all 105,000+ of us are represented by every member of the city council. This current at-large election system fails to make any one council member responsible and accountable for our concerns, or those of our neighbors </li></ul><ul><li>When every council member is responsible to every citizen, by definition, no one council member is responsible or accountable to a particular citizen. The council appointed citizen charter review committee and the city council has rejected any thought of changing the current at-large election system </li></ul><ul><li>A newly formed growing coalition of citizens are pursuing a ballot measure that would change the city charter to require the majority of city council members to be elected from at least six geographic districts. This initiative is still in the formative stages and continues to gather citizen feedback and has set the target of November 2012 for Citizen Charter Ballot initiative measure for citizen approval </li></ul><ul><li>We are also seeking the support of a broad coalition of community organizations and welcome maybe even Gresham City Council </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    10. 10. The Balance of Political Power? <ul><li>Has the current electoral system changed significantly the balance of power between the Mayor, City Council and the unelected City Manager? </li></ul><ul><li>Citizen are now understanding the discriminatory and potential corrupting impact of a majority of City Council and the Mayor residing in a concentrated area and single location of a few neighborhoods? </li></ul><ul><li>Would a mix of single voter districts and at-large district elections significantly reduce this threat? </li></ul><ul><li>How many citizens are aware that the city charter of 1978 City Council election process had six districts and the Mayor elected at-large? </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    11. 11. Best Practice Potential Remedy? 02/25/12 Voice and Accountability
    12. 12. Reaction Panel and Open Q & A <ul><li>City Charter Review Committee debate welcomed </li></ul><ul><li>Neighborhood Reaction Panel to square off after presentation </li></ul><ul><li>Open Microphone - Q & A </li></ul><ul><li>Neighborhood Canvassing Sign Sheet in Support of Proposal for Single Voter Districts and At-Large Districts Mixed Model? Or return to original 1980 Six District and Mayor At-Large Election Process? </li></ul>02/25/12 Voice and Accountability

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