Letter to the Times: Districts would make city commissioners closer to constituents

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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I respectfully disagree with Matthew Herbert’s position, which is opposed to single-member districts for Lawrence city commissioners. He argues that greater accountability will be achieved by electing all commissioners on an at-large basis. I maintain that greater accountability is achieved by establishing single-member districts in which constituents are closer to their elected officials.

Mr. Herbert suggests that commissioners elected by all voters will maintain the city’s interests as a whole better than a single-member district system. I support that objective for our city government, which should be part of the oath of office for all commissioners regardless of the election system. When our elected officials are not acting in the best interests of district residents or the city as a whole, then we can and should replace them.

Single-member districts are ultimately a better choice for representative government, much as the way we elect members to the county commission. Single-member districts provide greater opportunity for neighborhoods to be represented by the people who actually live there and experience the local issues, which may in fact be different from residents in other areas of the city. A district system increases the likelihood that the city commission will reflect the diversity in different areas of the city. Historically, at-large elections have been challenged in many areas of the country since they dilute the voice of minority constituencies. I’m hopeful about the transition to a better form of representative government for the city of Lawrence.

Rick Cagan, Lawrence

Related column:

• June 14, 2021: Matthew Herbert: 4 reasons why city commission districts are a bad idea for Lawrence (Column)

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