City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector on Monday introduced legislation to shrink the City Council from 14 members to 12 — and put those members into four large, three-member districts.
Currently, the city is divided into 14 smaller council districts with a 15th member, the council president, elected at large. Spector said the bill is a way to avoid a council district going without representation if there's a vacancy or a council member is ill for an extended period of time.
"I've felt this way for a long time," Spector said. "If a council member is out for a long illness or there's a vacancy, that district has no representation."
Councilman Bill Henry joined Spector as a co-sponsor. "I think it's a worthwhile conversation to have," Henry said. "A smaller council and larger districts would be better for governing."
But council members Sharon Green Middleton and Nick J. Mosby spoke against the idea. "In a time of growing government discontent and low voter turnout, the multi-member bill weakens our local democracy and strengthens incumbency power," Mosby said. "We should continue to push for a more perfect democracy but this is not the solution."
By law, the city redraws its council district boundaries every 10 years to accommodate population shifts. Voters in 2002 approved a referendum that shrunk the council from 19 members to 15. The referendum abolished the six three-member districts that existed since 1967 and replaced them with 14 single-member districts.
Spector's bill, if passed, would not take effect until 2020. The council president would continue to be elected at large.
"The mayor thinks it's an interesting idea," said Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "There are pros and cons to it. We're going to wait and see what comes to us."