Hartford Charter Revision Commission Presses Anew For District Seats
JEFFREY B. COHEN
February 12, 2009
Last time around, the city's charter revision commission tried to change the makeup of the at-large city council by adding people elected to the council by district.
That effort seven years ago failed, but the desire to create what some call a "hybrid" Hartford city council continues. In a letter sent to the city council Tuesday, commission Chairman Richard Wareing asked the council for its feedback on two proposals that would each add district representation to the council. One would keep the current number of nine at-large members and would add anywhere from six to 10 district representatives. Another would have six or seven at-large representatives and five to seven elected by district.
In 2002, the council stalled reform measures by not backing the commission's plan for district representation. This time around, Wareing wants to know where the council stands.
For his part, Wareing likes the idea of some district representation. "If you have someone who is responsible for representing your neighborhood, you know who that person is, their obligations and duties are clear, and if you don't like the job they're doing, you know what you need to do at the next election," Wareing said.
"It has to be a small enough district that somebody who is motivated and works hard can actually meet the voters so that if they're not an endorsed candidate, they have a fighting chance of winning by direct appeal," he said.
It's also worth remembering, he said, that more council members mean more money in salaries.
Both Luis Cotto and Larry Deutsch, councilmen from the Working Families Party, said in interviews that they like the existing at-large format because it means that minority parties are guaranteed at least three seats. Deutsch said that he would consider some district representation, while Cotto fears that it could further diminish the role of minority parties.
Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch favors keeping things as they are, and says that she and her colleagues can represent the whole city well.
"I would prefer that it stay as is," she said. "For me, I like the at-large because I don't like to be just targeted to only represent one community."
Meanwhile, Mayor Eddie A. Perez has expressed his continued support for a city council elected solely by district. In a letter late last year to the commission, he expressed his support for a council with nine to 16 district members.
"This would guarantee that most neighborhoods would have a resident on the city council who could advocate on their behalf," Perez said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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