7 September 2004
Ward to your mother
Oklahoma City is divided into eight wards of roughly similar population (65,000 or so), each of which is represented on the City Council. Tulsa has a similar system with nine wards. Ken Neal, writing in the Tulsa World, says this system represents "ward politics of the worst kind," and wants to replace it with a convoluted mess where the nine wards will be consolidated into four, and the five other councilors will be elected at large.
"In effect," says Neal, the current system demands that councilors "are elected to try to put their district ahead of the overall welfare of the city." I don't live in Tulsa and don't have a grounding in Nealspeak, but I'll attempt a translation: "How can we do Great Things for this town if we keep having to piddle around with the petty needs of mere citizens?"
Ward politics by nature is fractious. For many years in Oklahoma City it was the three southside wards (3, 4 and 5) versus the rest of the city. But changing population patterns have changed the Council: parts of Ward 3 now extend as far north as NW 36th, and Wards 6 and 7 dip as far south as SW/SE 44th. Still, any city has limited resources, and this city in particular has to spread them over an incredible distance, so I'm inclined to think the residents of a ward would rather have someone sitting at the horseshoe who has some actual interest in that ward.
This should ensure that no one can be elected to the City Council without a pile of money and the endorsement of the Tulsa Whirled. It would also make it very difficult for the district councilors to represent their constituents effectively, which would be fine with the Whirled. Mr. Neal would no doubt hope that the Councilors elected under the new system would understand that their job is to represent the entrenched interests that financed their expensive campaigns, not the interests of ordinary Tulsans.
And I'm still concerned with Neal's tossed-off phrase: "the overall welfare of the city." If you can't get five councilors to buy such and such a proposal, maybe it's not so good for the overall welfare after all, huh?Posted at 9:33 AM to Soonerland