- Please share any other comments or recommendations you may have concerning the City Charter, the City’s current form of governance, or other potential forms of governance for the City. Please focus your remarks on the form of governance, not specific complaints or criticisms of specific individuals.
Our problem isn’t too much democracy, it’s not enough. There’s no reason to have only 9, part-time legislators running our city government.
Having part-time council members severely narrows the candidate pool to those who are wealthy, those who are married to wealth, or those connected to special interests that don’t mind if their employees take a full-time job “on the side”. Council members should be compensated as full time employees to increase the candidate pool.
The city should implement ranked choice voting (doesn’t require a charter amendment) to further improve the candidate pool. My current councilmember won their election with a plurality of less than 40% of voters choosing them.
We should amend the charter to make our mayoral election ranked choice voting as well. The current system of “win enough districts or else there’s a run off” had a good intention, but can lead to back room deals to ensure spoiler candidates don’t win with a sub-majority of votes in a district. Ranked choice voting would give better results in making sure that all areas of our city have a voice while being dramatically simpler to implement and understand.
The city should publicly fund city council and mayoral elections to further increase the candidate pool and reduce the influence of larger donors on our local election.
We should increase the number of city council seats. There are more than 9 smart people in Richmond capable of great leadership. The more citizens on the council, the more time for expertise and specialization on committees, the more time for collaboration. The more citizens on the council, the less opportunities for individual council members to be significant roadblocks to progress, consensus, or compromise. The more citizens on council, the more responsive each council member can be to constituents. 9 council seats means ~25,000 constituents per seat. Conservatively raise the number of council seats to 12 or 15 people and you get each seat representing ~19,000 or ~15,000 people respectively. More aggressively increase it to 25 or 35 and each seat represents ~9,000 or ~6,500 citizens respectively. You might ask “but how will 35 people ever come to any agreement” and I’d counter “how do 9?” Humans come to agreement through conversation, empathy, and compromise. The more humans devoting their full time to this effort, the less any one of them has the power to hijack the process.
More democracy is better than less democracy. Please use this as your mission statement when reviewing our city charter.