June-July 1991 Home   Newsletters

August 1991

September 1991

Honolulu City Council Districts
Arguments for and against Limiting Terms of Council Members
Arguments for and against the Different Electoral Systems
Environment and Natural Resources
Conflict of Interest and Excusal from Voting
Viewpoint
Testimony at Public Hearing
Uncharted Realm of Term Limitation (Jeffrey L. Katz)
Consensus Meeting
Golf Course Development Policies Workshop
Teamsters Vote Count
Membership

Arguments for and against the Different Electoral Systems

AT-LARGE SYSTEM

(Still most popular nationwide -- 64%. The larger the community, the less likely it uses this system.)

Arguments for:

  1. Produces council members who represent the entire community and aren't hampered in dealing with broad issues because they are tied to the narrower concerns of a limited-interest constituency.

  2. Works against building of political machines.

  3. Council members are more apt to view problems of the community as a whole and to take a long-range view.

  4. Every member is accountable to the whole community and citizens can appeal to any or all of them.

  5. Prepares office holder for running for higher office because of need to appeal to diverse groups and the potential for building a record that indicates a concern for all groups.

Arguments against:

  1. Tends to over-represent the middle class majority, and fosters feeling of political impotence in minority groups and communities.

  2. A disproportionate number of council members may come from one small section of the city.

  3. Favors candidates who are well-known or who have money.

  4. Higher cost of campaigning can obligate candidates to large donors.

  5. Can lend itself to rather violent shifts in public sentiment within the community e.g. a progressive council replaced by a reactionary one.

SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICT SYSTEM

There is a noticeable shift away from the single-member district system in cities over 5,000.

Arguments for:

  1. Allows minority constituents more of an opportunity to muster enough support to win a voice on the council.

  2. Pork barrel system often associated with district representation may help the less fortunate districts get their needs tended.

  3. Campaign costs can be lower. Campaigning can be conducted on grass roots level with door-to-door work by volunteers. No need for large-scale media advertising.

  4. Gives every geographic subdivision a voice on the council.

Arguments against:

  1. Fosters pork barrel system.

  2. May pit one district against others in a struggle for distribution of resources, or may produce a compromise by which resources are distributed equally regardless of city-wide or district needs.

  3. Voter has no other direct representative to turn to for assistance should the district member be insensitive. Especially true for those who supported the opponent.

  4. System fails to guarantee that minorities will be represented in proportion to their voting strength.

  5. May give rise to political machines.

  6. Contributes toward taking a narrow view of major public issues.

  7. Lends itself to emergence of demagogues who would never be elected city-wide.

  8. A minority neighborhood or a depressed district which under an at-large council was receiving more than its proportionate share of the budget because of its greater needs might get a smaller share under the single-member-district system.

COMBINATION OF DISTRICT AND AT-LARGE

A strong trend is seen toward a mixed system.

Arguments for:

  1. Combines advantages of at-large and district systems and ameliorates some of the disadvantages of both.

  2. Offers potential for minority groups to influence the outcome of each at-large race in addition to selecting a minority candidate in districts where they are a majority.

  3. In areas where the minority groups are very small or dispersed, they would not be able to control a single district but would be able to influence the outcome of each at-large race, often resulting in higher levels of minority representation.

Arguments against:

  1. Those elected at-large frequently consider themselves more important.

  2. At-large council members may view themselves as potential rivals of the mayor.

VARIATION OF AT-LARGE COUNCIL MEMBERS NOMINATED BY DISTRICT AND ELECTED AT-LARGE

Arguments for:

  1. Council member is accountable to district for attention to neighborhood problems and yet cannot afford to be provincial in attitude and thwart community progress.

  2. Council members would have to be accessible to all citizens.

Arguments against:

Majority segment of community will have dominant voice in the election of representatives from minority districts.

VARIATION OF DISTRICT SYSTEM MULTIPLE REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICTS

Arguments for:

  1. Citizens have more than one representative to appeal to.

  2. May make representatives more available for community meetings, etc.

  3. Because each council member represents a more varied group of communities, he/she will need to see each issue from a wider perspective and adopt long-range views.

Arguments against:

  1. Districts would be larger, adding to campaign costs.

The Environment and Natural Resources are priority items Statewide and for the League of Women Voters. We are in dire need of volunteers - especially a Chair-interested in working on these issues. If interested, call Evelyn. Bender at 737-2524 today. The Chair may be an off-Board member, or may serve on the State Board.

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