Lane: there’s a better way to govern the city of Scottsdale

In this day and age of public challenges to American representative governance and to the trustworthiness of elected public officials, we as duly elected public officials have to work hard to maintain and to build the public trust in ourselves and our government institutions.

Jim Lane

Having recently sought and won re-election to a third term as your mayor, I thoroughly understand my need to act upon my campaign positions and promises. I have always strived to meet all my campaign responsibilities head-on and to get things done.

It is now time to re-assert a campaign position that failed an initial test with council last year. That would be my effort to advance a hybrid district, more widely referred to as the “mixed system,” of the council representative election structures.  The “mixed system” would have three of the six members of Scottsdale City Council elected from and by the voters of defined districts — north, middle and south — with the other three elected at-large. The mayor is generally always elected separately and at-large.

It has been a long time since our citizens/voters in the south have had a representative on the council who hailed from the southern part of town. This hybrid has the distinction of providing an enhanced representation for diverse geographic areas and their unique economic or ethnic constituency, while at the same time maintaining a common community view by the balance of the council members.

The district seats would be by the nature of things a smaller voter constituency and easier to communicate with in a campaign. It would reduce campaigning cost, making it easier for citizens to run for public office and for elected officials to have more direct accountability to their constituents.

The “Model City Charter” provides for various accepted alternatives for municipal election systems. The “mixed” or “hybrid” system would provide for better representation on the council. It is said to also increase overall voter participation in municipal elections.

The National League of Cities indicates that of all the municipalities that elect council members, 21 percent use the “mixed system” versus 14 percent that the use a straight or all district election system. Cities like Boston and Seattle have gone to the “mixed system” for reasons that are not unlike what we face here in Scottsdale.

I believe it is important to have this discussion and to work toward a better way for us to structure our representative governance.

Editor’s note: Mr. Lane is mayor of the city of Scottsdale

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