It’s time for city government overhaul in PA

Published 8:44 am Monday, June 29, 2015

Our city government structure has been the same for 30 plus years and is in need of an overhaul to allow our community to move forward. Currently there are nine elected seats on the Port Arthur city council, with only three of those elected by the entire city. Those are the mayor’s seat and positions 7 & 8, which are “At Large.” The six remaining seats are elected by the residents living in the districts that those council members serve. Initially, our city council was structured this way to ensure four city council seats were available for each district. Why four? Does three not work?
Where this structure might have been needed back in the 70’s and 80’s, we are in 2015, a new time and a new age. Focusing our attention on moving forward is great and there are a lot of people trying to do just that. However, we cannot allow our past to hamper our future. Not adjusting or correcting changes that were meant to better the past, but are not helping today, is quite simply a plan for continued failure.
After our last election on May 9th, I received a call from a reader who was frustrated that she was only able to vote for the open District 6 seat in which Osman Swati ran uncontested. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t vote for District 5 as well, as ultimately the successes or failures of the individual who “currently” won the seat affects her as well as a resident of Port Arthur.
I thought about this for a while. Ultimately she’s absolutely right. Each and every seat on the Port Arthur City Council affects each and every resident within our city. Not just the residents in their district. We should all have a say in who those individuals will be that make decisions about our city on our behalf.
Cities all over the country, not just in our state, have made changes to their city government structure — changes made to enhance and lead their communities to a stronger future. This is not a new mindset, we are just late coming to the party.
I believe each and every seat on the Port Arthur City Council should be elected by the entire city. Not just the residents of a specific district who account for only a portion of our population. We can still have district seats, to allow residents in those districts to still know who they should call upon for help or questions. But each needs to understand that their actions affect the entire city and need to be held accountable for that.
Additionally, with our population size, we don’t need nine city council seats. I believe we should reduce the number of city council seats to seven, thus allowing for swifter action and focus to the issues at hand. This will also help eliminate dead spots (council members who really have no need to be there) on the city council. Simply put, six district seats and a mayor.
I’ve had this discussion with a few individuals within city government and it is possible to change this. There are also some that agree with a change like this. Most assuredly there will be pushback, but I expect mostly from current city council members who would not have won their seat if all positions were open to a full election. Or by those whose future election hopes are dependent on our community’s continued failure.
Positive change for all does not come by keeping a community separated, it comes by a united front. For some it may be not be an easy pill to swallow, but once you get it down the first time, it becomes easier and easier. Maybe we need to start a petition?
Follow me on Twitter @rich_macke

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