Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Harry Jaffe's column calling for "more democracy"

Harry Jaffe, co-author of Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C. writes two columns each week for the Washington Examiner.  Granted mostly he writes about police officers and how they get s*** on, but he does write about other stuff.  Friday's column, "Home rule becomes home fool as D.C. politics unravel," covers something that I have written about a lot, changing the Structure of DC Council. 

Confirming the general idea, in a conversation I had with Peter Shapiro, formerly a County Councilman in Prince George's County and more recently a candidate for the At-Large position in DC, he made the point that if the District of Columbia City Council is supposed to be more of a legislature, then yes, it should be expanded.

From the article:

More democracy: The current system has too few elected offices. It is constipated. Why not double the size of the City Council to 26 members, cut the pay in half and make it truly a part-time job? Follow through on current legislation to make the attorney general an elected post. Break up the current one-party system, run by Democrats, by mandating that at least a third of the legislature is Republicans.

(Although as an alternative, Jaffe suggests creating a Council-Manager form of government, where much of the power in government is invested in a City Manager, an appointed public official. My experience in Baltimore County is that this can be problematic as well. By default, the County's most powerful official is not the elected County Executive, it is the County Administrative Officer, who runs the budget, and isn't subjected to the two-term limit imposed on the County Executive. He has more authority over the Master Plan--"don't put any recommendations in that will cost money"--than anyone. And the County suffers for it. Especially in transportation planning and non-automobile transportation infrastructure.)

Jaffe's proposal is almost identical to what I suggested in February 2011 ("The highly paid DC City Council and governance and voting systems") although he made a mathematical error, and doubled the number of chairman positions as well.  I suggest 24 Councilmembers, 2 from each ward (there is one now), and 8 at-large positions.

Although in another blog entry from 9/2008, "Speaking of DC representation: Do we need more, smaller wards?," I also suggested having additional wards, that maybe 8 wards is too few.  I didn't suggest a number, but 10-12 would be the maximum with which I would be comfortable.

Other pieces on the general topic include:

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