Bigger Council Is Not Better

Out of the blue, Councilmember Tony Daysog suddenly has a new priority.  He wants to expand the city council from five to seven members.  (Daysog’s Swearing-in Ceremony Speech, Alameda Sun, Dec. 29)

What gives?  This expansion was not part of his recent campaign platform nor proposed during his 18 years of service on the council, including his stint on the recent city-charter-review subcommittee.  There has been no community outcry for such an expansion either.

Can you imagine how much longer city council meetings will last if this happens?  The council can barely get through its meetings in a timely fashion as it is, often having to continue agenda items.  Adding two more members with another nine minutes for each to speak on every issue could make meetings go later into the night, hindering public participation.

Daysog claims that “for a city of our size,” having more councilmembers would make for a more “responsive city hall.”  But Alameda is a relatively small city.

Are his constituents telling him they are frustrated with his or other councilmembers’ lack of responsiveness?  In any case, many comments and inquiries to councilmembers that require a response are passed on to city staff at their respective departments.

The only recent public interest in local electoral reform has been for instituting ranked-choice voting, which was repeatedly brought up during the latest campaign season and over the past several years.  A responsive city hall would be advocating for that voting method.  Instead, Daysog is ignoring that call and instead championing something no one is asking for.

Having two additional councilmembers will not solve recurring problems, reduce negative campaigns, produce greater consensus, or ensure that our representatives are elected by a majority of the voters.

The addition of two more councilmembers will not make our small city run better nor attract more revenue and funding for city projects.  A seven-member council will not suddenly make it easier to deal with “traffic and transit challenges,” which can be expensive, or lay the groundwork to bring BART to Alameda Point, as Daysog asserts.  In fact, a larger council might make it more difficult to get anything done.

Daysog implies that our current five-member council is not responsive to the needs of Alameda’s youth but that more councilmembers will be.  He also implies that our preservation laws do not protect Alameda’s architectural heritage and history but more councilmembers will.  The dots do not connect.

In the 2022 election, five people ran for two seats on the city council.  Having another seat open during an election might make races less competitive (as is also the case with district elections).  This is not good for democracy.  The only thing accomplished by adding additional councilmembers is to increase the odds of particular candidates being elected.  This serves only the politicians, not the city and its residents. Bigger is not better here.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

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