Should Council members be allowed to think?

This is in response to “A Failure of Civic Leadership” [Letters, Jan. 7]. The writer wants the mechanism for choosing a City Council member for a vacant seat to be “voter-centric,” with the seat going to the next-highest recipient of votes. He felt that it was inappropriate for City Council members to depart from recent protocol and substitute their judgment for that of the People’s, by using their experimental “essay charade.” I believe the words “collective shame” were bandied about.

I know what he means. I am so sick of elected officials thinking! The gall of our City Council members—who actually know a little bit about how this city works—to shamelessly try to govern the city. I think we should abolish this elitist “country club.” No more tyranny! Let the People make the decisions. For instance, the budget could be decided by referendum. Instead of City Council members, we could have mere tabulators of polls—and lots and lots of citywide meetings! I, for one, would really relish giving up a hobby and some volunteer work to spend quality time researching the water issue. And I’m sure everyone in my neighborhood would be equally zealous and qualified.

But, seriously, what is the will of the People in this situation? Say A, B, C, D, E and F ran for City Council, and A, B and C won. Then A moved to Atlanta. Does it necessarily follow that seating D is the will of the People? In a runoff election, would D automatically win?

Due to all sorts of variables, such as the party affiliations of all six of the original candidates, it’s possible that the elimination of A and the election of B and C would entirely alter the election between D, E and F (especially after a few months, another campaign and maybe a Great Depression). Therefore, if one were really concerned about divining the true will of the People (and not just getting D onto City Council), one would probably be in favor of another election for that vacant seat.

But not everyone thinks it’s a good idea to spend big hunks of money on a special election in this time of financial crisis—especially for a City Council member who’ll serve for less than a year. That’s why I’m glad we let our elected officials use their brains and try something innovative this time. I think that’s an example of what often happens in a “representative form of government,” which the letter writer was so very concerned about.

I’m a liberal Democrat, but I’m just wondering: Do you suppose the letter writer would be as outraged if someone like, say, Joe Dunn was the next-highest vote recipient? Also, it appears as if the writer waited until after the “vacancy farce” and “travesty of American democracy” was over before protesting. Maybe it only became a travesty when the person he wanted wasn’t picked.

— Gloria Good

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