Viewpoint: 33-percent vs 14-percent is a No Brainer: Vote No!

By Pensacola City Councilman Charles Bare

It is no surprise to me that the local newspaper is pushing for the elimination of the two at-large seats on the Pensacola City Council. They have become the mouthpiece for restricting voters’ rights and limiting representation. A yes vote for the charter amendment will effectively reduce voters’ influence in the electoral process. Currently, each citizen has the right to vote for 3 members of the 9 member council, or 33%. If this measure passes and the city is reduced to 7 single member districts, voters can only vote for 14% of the council (1 member).

The numbers being thrown around for cost savings are also deceptive. Council members are paid about $14,000 per year. In addition, we are also allocated $10,000 in discretionary money which can be used to fund a number of non-profits in our community. Instead of considering fund requests from outside agencies, a decision was made a few years ago to provide $10,000 to each council member to meet these needs. If the goal is truly to reduce this amount by $20,000, there will be less money available for non-profits in our community. This is a sad reflection on those who support this measure.

The use of at-large seats is widely accepted across the nation. In fact, only about 14% of cities nationwide are represented exclusively by single member districts. Cities such as St. Petersburg, FL have 3 districts and 2 at-large seats. There is no doubt that the city may benefit from a reduction in the number of council seats; however, the rushed process adopted for this charter amendment is damaging to the reputation of our government. The voters should have been given choices as to the acceptable configuration of the council. I tend to favor an initial reduction from 9 to 7 with 5 districts and 2 at-large seats.

I encourage my fellow citizens not to be bullied into amending the charter and reducing their representation from 33% to 14%. The structure of this council requires further debate and input from citizens.

Vote NO on the measure to remove the at-large seats from the city council.