On Tuesday, we’re all charged with offering our vote on an important decision for Minot’s future. City Council reform has been the topic of local conversations for the past ten months. And many have argued the question we’re answering Tuesday is really a choice between Wards and an at-large system.That’s probably true. Most have accepted the idea that a reduction in the size of Council is needed; it’s just the form of that reduction that remains in question.
But if we step back from the question of which system we each prefer and instead ask the question of what’s best for Minot, there’s only one good choice. A ‘Yes’ vote on Tuesday moves us forward with a 7-member elected-at-large Modern Council. And in 2017, when the reform will be implemented, that’s the best choice for Minot.
Here’s why. Our current system is broken. A look at recent vote totals from each Ward tells us everything we need to know. Our Wards no longer have equal populations. And if we don’t have equal populations in each Ward, then we don’t have equal representation on City Council. That’s not acceptable under any system, and it needs to be fixed.
But the bigger problem is this: because we redraw Ward lines every ten years (after the U.S. Census), we’re still four years from having an accurate picture of how Minot’s population has shifted since the flood, the oil boom, and now the out-migration due to the downturn. Any system that includes Wards right now is a bad choice.
And what about the cost to run a new census before 2020? City staff looked into it, and the estimate is $1,000,000. So if we want a Ward system, we’re faced with three terrible choices. Keep the current Wards which no longer have equal populations or representation, draw new Wards using old, no-longer-accurate population numbers from 2010, or spend a million dollars.
On the other hand, a ‘Yes’ vote on Tuesday moves us into an at-large system. Next June, all our votes become equal. And the best part, a Modern Council gives us flexibility. If down the road, some combination of Wards and at-large positions is the best option for Minot, we’ll have the ability to implement those changes. Just because it has been 62 years since the last time we asked this type of question, doesn’t mean we need to wait 62 years till the next time.
So when you head to the polls on Tuesday, send the message that it’s time to stop talking. Now is the time to start doing. And you can do your part by voting ‘Yes’ for a 7-member Modern Council and make the best choice for Minot!