LETTER TO THE EDITOR | No on Charter Amendment 19

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The current system is working well. Sure, we could do better (see below), but districts would be worse. Just look at the gridlock in Congress or our state Legislature, where parochial interests trump national or state interests. Think pork barrel politics, neighborhood NIMBYs and entrenched politicians who are easily bought off (by people like Faye Garneau, who has financed this district proposal almost single-handedly).

In a district system, representatives who are not in your district don’t need to listen to you. Suppose you really care about public transit, like I do, but your representative doesn’t — then you’re out of luck.

To do better, just get rid of the “positions” so that all candidates are running against each other. As it is now, some candidates have no credible challenger, while others have several strong challengers. If the there are four to be elected, then the top four vote-getters are the ones elected. You could simply have everyone vote for [his/her] top four candidates (called “approval voting”).

Even better, rank your top four candidates, with four tallies automatically assigned to your top choice, three tallies to your second choice, two tallies to third choice and one tally to fourth choice (called the “Borda Count”). The four candidates with the most tallies are the ones elected. No primary necessary.

Even though all candidates would still run citywide, a candidate with a strong but narrow base and good alliances could still get elected while losing badly under current voting. That base could be one region of the city, or it could be an interest, such as labor, small business, environment, an ethnic minority, etc.

Just say no to districts — we can do far better.

P.S. I think public financing of elections (Proposition 1) is great. Not only would strong challengers have a much better shot at it, but incumbents would [be] less beholden to affluent voters.

Dick Burkhart
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