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Council districts simply a bad idea

Let me first begin by saying that Mayor Shane Bemis and the Gresham City Council appointed me to the charter review committee early in the fall 2011.

The committee went through every issue of our city’s charter. We debated for hours. I can tell you with great certainty that our decision to keep councilors elected at-large was one of the best decisions we made.

Harrison BraaksmaThe arguments “Gresham6” makes for its measure is absurd. In order to set the record straight, I’ll go through each of the main arguments listed on their website:

Citizens in every neighborhood of Gresham will have a voice.

As citizens of Gresham, we have seven voices advocating for us. You’re welcome to call up any member of the council and have your concerns addressed.

If this measure passes, you can’t call another councilor if yours doesn’t respond. This doesn’t make sense. This statement should really be, “Citizens in every neighborhood of Gresham will lose their voice.”

Increases ethnic, economic, demographic diversity and geographic representation on the City Council; and, electing councilors by district encourage candidates who know the area well, but don’t typically run for council seats.

Where is the logic here? There’s no research supporting these statements, and quite honestly, there’s no common sense behind them.

Every member of the council is either retired, a small business owner, or has some occupation that allows for great flexibility.

Our city’s representatives don’t plan where they are going to live before they run for office and I have never heard any member of the council explain they couldn’t do something because their house was in a certain part of the city.

If we want to change our City Council’s demographic, we need to have a long, hard discussion about how we do that.

The discussion would ultimately lead to the fact that we must compensate our city’s representatives if we want to expand the pool of candidates.

The assertion that dividing our city into districts somehow increases the number of candidates is misleading.

Citizens will know which councilor to contact for help solving problems.

The Outlook’s June editorial said it best: “They shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken.” As it stands now, you can contact any city councilor for help resolving issues. As I mentioned, this won’t be the case if this measure passes. It simply makes it harder for us citizens.

Councilors will be accountable to citizens in their District.

All seven members of the City Council are accountable to every citizen of the entire city. If this measure passes, you will give up your right to vote for five councilors.

Essentially, this measure makes your city council less accountable to you.

When we looked at every issue within our city’s charter, we examined arguments from both sides. There was a reason the charter review committee decided against voting by districts: the arguments in support of it simply don’t make sense.

Our city is a great one. Let’s vote to keep it that way.

Harrison Braaksma is a member of Gresham’s Charter Review Committee and is former chairman of the Gresham Youth Advisory Council.



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