2+2=4 City Council seats

Published 3:07 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

In the Tuesday morning city council meeting, District 6 City Councilman Osman Swati proposed an ordinance, which was approved by council, to have an item placed on the November 8th election ballot allowing citizens the opportunity to vote and possibly remove overlapping Districts 5 and 6 from council.

Today, the United Citizens of Port Arthur group are expected to turn in their petition of 1,454 signatures to the city requesting city council also place an item on the November 8th election ballot that will allow citizens to vote and possibly remove city wide Districts 7 and 8 from council.

Discussions about reducing the number of seats on our city council are definitely not a new subject. And there seems to be a growing consensus to do so. Reducing our number of city council seats to align with other cities our size along with reducing cost to the city are the main topics. And both options above will do that.

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However with both items on the November 8th ballot, the Port Arthur city council could potentially see itself reduce from nine city council seats to five. And we think that this would be very bad for all citizens across Port Arthur.

On the surface one might think that reducing the number of city council seats by four would allow the city to see twice the savings. And that would be correct. But there is a far greater loss that could affect each and every citizen, the right for each citizen to have majority representation on city council.

The Port Arthur City Council is set up in a way where each citizen is directly represented by five city council members. Those are the mayor, district council member, overlapping district council members and two citywide council members. This allows all citizens representation by a majority of city council seats.

Under the motion made by The United Citizens of Port Arthur, who wish to see the removal of citywide district seats 7 and 8, citizens would only be directly represented by three council members, ultimately eliminating majority representation for all citizens and resulting in a great disadvantage.

Which leads us back to the ordinance change offered by Councilman Swati. Under his proposal each citizen would still have four council members for representation and maintain majority representation on council for each and every citizen.

This really is a no brainer when it comes to maintaining a fair and equal appointment of districts to represent all citizens.

The United Citizens of Port Arthur worked hard to attain the number of signatures needed for their motion. Over the past few weeks their voice was heard. To ask this group to think twice about submitting their petition, after realizing their goal would be an extremely difficult thing to do.

But that is exactly what we are asking. For the sake of every citizen across Port Arthur, it is our hope that The United Citizens of Port Arthur realize how their motion could negatively impact each citizen of Port Arthur, and decide against submitting their petition to the city.