Is History Repeating Itself? Two men argue merits of Council Districts 1986
Debbie Klosowski – Outlook Reporter• “A proposed charter amendment to allow citywide council races will either broaden voters’ influence on elected officials or decrease accountability, according to two speakers at the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce forum Monday.”
McIntire vs. Deyo• Don McIntire, owner of McIntire’s Athletic Club, and Gresham councilor Larry Deyo debated the merits of the proposal.• McIntire, who is in favor of the change, lost a council race in 1984. Deyo lost a council race in 1980 under the old city wide system but won under the revised district system in 1982
McIntire• Gresham voters replaced the citywide system with a district system in 1980. Voters will have a chance to return to the old system when they vote on the amendment on May 20• Districting is valid in a large city like Chicago, which has a variety of ethnic, cultural, and economic interests, McIntire said. But a town the size of Gresham doesn’t need districts because it is homogenous with “pockets of poverty and wealth “spread throughout the area.”
Deyo• Deyo, though, said districts are necessary to represent the different interests in the city.• Neighborhoods have different priorities, such as the need for streets, sewers and parks, he said.• It’s important to have a councilor who will speak to the council about those issues.”
McIntire• McIntire also said the district system permits residents to vote for only on one of the six people who make the rules that affect lives and businesses.• In addition, the system discourages qualified people from running.• “There’s a possibility that some districts might not have anyone that is qualified.”
Deyo• It’s common to only vote for one person and to try to select the best.• Deyo said. For example, people don’t vote for all members of Congress.• Councilors elected on a citywide basis could be less accountable to voters.• People now call one councilor who must answer questions. But a citywide election might result in councilors passing off responsibilities
McIntire• McIntire acknowledged that districts give people who are not well known a better chance of winning.• But that is not a reason for sticking with the system he added.• “We should not predicate government on what is easiest for citizens.”
McIntire• Voters do not get a true insight into people just because they go door to door.• Guys that are out working for a living and enjoying the work of a small business” don’t have time to campaign that way.• People can judge candidates by their involvement in civic affairs and community services and the development of enterprise.
McIntire• The motivation for installing districts in 1980 also was based on a fear that business would dominate the council.• But there is no one on the current City Council “who signs a paycheck.”• He also noted that “a class of wealthy business people that had paid their dues” was responsible for creating a country with the greatest society of free people in the world.
Deyo• It isn’t important whether a businessman sits on the council.• What’s important is if the council understands business concepts and works with the business community.• Districts also reduce the cost of campaigning• A citywide race in 1980 could cost well over $2000 compared to less than $1,000 for a district race.• Campaign costs also would increase after Gresham’s population reaches an expected 60,000 after annexation is done.• A change in the charter doesn’t guarantee anything.• “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”