A City Council member says four elected officials are controlling city government and he'd like to break it up by going to seven municipal voting districts.
The council has yet to do anything with Councilman Ben Porter's draft ordinance, which proposes the seven districts rather than the current four plus three at-large seats. Under the proposal, three new districts would be created in central Provo."I say let's bend the rules and have seven districts and seven people and then you have better coverage in the city," Porter said, who represents the southwest district. The current system doesn't afford residents throughout the city adequate representation, he said.
"I don't think it's right to have four councilmen and the mayor (Joe Jenkins) from the same area. The mayor doesn't have a vote, but he has a lot of clout," Porter said. At-large council members Barbara Smith, Mark Hathaway and Steve Clark and the mayor all live in the northeast section of Provo. Councilman Ron Last is the northeast district representative.
Porter says those five are "controlling the city. That's not right."
Clark, the council chairman, and Jenkins say that isn't so.
"I don't really think so. I think most (council) people are interested in the city as a whole, not just one district," Jenkins said.
Both Clark and Jenkins said people in the northeast part of town are more involved with politics than those on the west side.
"The unfortunate thing is the people on the west side are not politically active and don't care," Clark said.
Clark said he used to think seven districts were a good idea. After closer examination, he said, he found it "degenerates into everyone taking care of his own district. It tends to foster long-term incumbency."
Jenkins agreed, saying it encourages provincialism.
"I'm very much in favor of staying as we are," he said. He said there is more opportunity to run on a local level if at-large seats are available.
Porter said it's expensive to run a citywide campaign.
The councilman would like to see the change adopted before November's municipal election.
If Clark has his way, the proposal will move slowly if it all.
"I seriously doubt it will ever come out during my term as chairman," he said. The council has had some cursory discussion of the ordinance.
During that discussion last month, Hathaway said he'd like to leave the system as is but look at limiting campaign spending.
Councilman Stan Brown said both systems have some justification.
Jenkins said the city should address the issue after the state redraws voting district boundaries next year to bring them in line with the 1990 Census.