Suburban California cities are now having to learn to deal with district elections. Everyone assumes four councilmembers plus a mayor is just the right size because that’s the way it’s always been. But it’s not working. We seem to need more councilmembers. The point is to help government connect with citizens.
There are huge disconnects evidenced between residents and city council in Livermore. As the population of Livermore passes 100,000 and we switch over to district elections, each district handles 25,000 residents. Councilmembers are too far away and they just do not realize it. We need six districts plus a mayor, not four districts plus mayor. That’ll help in the right direction.
There are clues evidencing council disconnect:
1) Councilmembers rely too much on staff and less on citizen input. But staff is primarily concerned with stability, cash flows and split-hair nuanced legalities. Everything is viewed through that lens.
2) Council ignores broad-based citizen input, and when it conflicts with special interest working with the council, the broad-based citizen input is labeled “the minority special interest.” Renaming the good and calling it the bad becomes Orwellian in scope.
3) Personal attacks rage endlessly on community activists who for decades served in the trenches to build vital, broad-based buy-in throughout the community, for creative and lasting solutions.
4) Citizen initiatives are ignored, subverted and attacked repeatedly with nuanced legal opinions justifying every step. Blistering, malicious personal attacks emanate in a cascade of council-sponsored productions, using city funds to promote the council’s special interests.
5) Council loses all objectivity and finds itself unified in not listening, forcing truth seekers to use referendums in order for the citizens to be fairly heard.
These are all indications of a disconnect.
This Orwellian reality is a passing phase once cornered egos cool down. Bringing councilmembers closer to the residents they serve will help. We are learning the problems of a combination of relying too much on staff, and not walking the precincts and saying hello to those we serve.