About | Fair Cincy

Reasons to help get this charter amendment on the November 2020 Ballot

 

This charter amendment would change the way we elect City Council members from citywide election of nine councilmembers to five council members elected by geographic district and four elected by all Cincinnati voters.

You can have a Council member living in, elected by, and responsible for representing your area of Cincinnati. Currently, no one on the City Council represents your specific area and each Councilmember has to represent 300,000 people. 

We initially intended to collect enough signatures to place on the March 2020 ballot; needing 6,410 valid signatures. As of December 2, 2019 we have 7,420 signatures. Due to the typical validation signature hit rate for Cincinnati, we do not believe we have enough valid signatures at this point. We now intend to come up with enough to place on November's ballot.

 

This Charter Amendment is important for Cincinnati because:

  • There will always be at least one member of the Council ensuring your neighborhood gets a fair share of resources such as parks, community centers, public safety, human services, pedestrian improvements, and road maintenance. A YES vote means you will finally have a Councilmember advocating for the specific needs of your community.
  • District elections give all legitimate groups, especially those with a geographic base, a better chance of being represented on the city council, especially minority groups. 
  • District council seats will have a primary election which will allow for two candidates to face off in productive head to head debate. At large council seats will remain a field race.
  • By retaining four “at-large” Councilmembers and the Mayor representing the whole city, this Charter Amendment ensures regional and citywide needs will have a voice. 
  • Each district under this Charter Amendment will have about 60,000 residents, meaning a grassroots candidate can win against an incumbent using good old fashioned legwork and people power. Under the existing system, candidates must use expensive mailers and television ads to reach hundreds of thousands of voters. This proposed amendment opens the door for qualified younger or less well-connected candidates.
  • Recent City Council elections have resulted in only about 30% of the City's registered voters casting a vote. This style of elections may improve citizen participation because councilmembers who represent a specific district may be more responsive to their constituency.
  • Of the top 50 municipalities in the USA, only 2 currently hold the same style at-large elections Cincinnati does. Most municipalities either elect their councilmembers via all districts or a mix of at-large and districts like this plan proposes. Even small cities like Cheviot and Norwood elect their council via districts.

 

 

Possible arguments against and Fair Cincy’s response 

 

We are a small geographic city

Geographically smaller and denser by the day, in fact. Actually, this system works better in a smaller city. The struggle of any representative government is balancing the ability to efficiently govern against the need to give voters a voice in that government. The fewer voters that occupy each discrete voting district, the more weight their voice carries with any individual council member. While Cincinnati cannot have a City Council of 1,000 members, nine Council members do not need to represent all 300,000 residents. This initiative increases voter representation in Council without hamstringing Council's ability to govern

We just went back to 2 year terms. Let’s wait and see how that shakes out. 

 It is true that more frequent elections increase the accountability of council members to voters. Dissatisfied voters do not have to tolerate poor representation for nearly as long. But two-year terms do not solve the issue of expensive elections that give more political influence to wealthy donors and voters with the ability to finance City Council campaigns. In fact, the problem may be exacerbated now that Council members must be constantly planning for their next $100,000 campaign 24 months from the day they take office. 

This proposal could reduce the cost of elections and increase the influence of individual voters, making the accountability of two-year elections an even more potent motivation for Council Members to engage with their constituents over wealthy donors. 

Isn’t council representative of the city now?

No. Money plays an outsized influence in politics currently. Wealthy contributors wield more influence with council than even blocs of voters since races are so expensive. Council members are more dependent on their donors than voters under the current system. Breaking representation into districts gives more weight to voters in the geographic areas represented by each council member. 

Will this cause district council members to create alliances? Such as “you vote for my neighborhood, and I will vote for yours”.  

This is a positive effect of this plan. Compromise and deal-making between voting districts is a feature, not a flaw, of both our state and federal systems. Cincinnati should reap those advantages at the local level as well.  (Federalist 10 if you want to be a BIG nerd about it.)

 

Will this cause district council members to create alliances? Such as “you vote for my neighborhood, and I will vote for yours”.  

 This is a positive effect of this plan. Compromise and deal-making between voting districts is a feature, not a flaw, of both our state and federal systems. Cincinnati should reap those advantages at the local level as well.  (Federalist 10 if you want to be a BIG nerd about it.) Plus, the current system already works like this where a councilmember will vote for another's plan if they vote for their plan.

 

Why didn’t you use the 5 Police Districts instead of creating a new map?

The populations in each police district vary greatly. With the City’s population at around 300,000 people, each district needs to be really close to 60,000 residents for this map to be fair. Police district 3 for example, holds 95,000 residents which is way over the 60,000 average.

 

Who actually created this district map?

Our team of Henry Frondorf, Lesley Jones, Tamie Sullivan, and Matt Woods created the map. We have been told that 3 groups over the previous 30 years have organized in an attempt to create council districts. Each time a major issue was the creation of the map. People want their house to be in one district or the other, so these groups would make one change to make one person happy and by doing so would inadvertently make 4 people mad. Therefore we created the map ourselves using census data, found on the City of Cincinnati's website. Individual census tracts within the City limits were kept within the same district. Splitting neighborhoods between districts was avoided as much as possible. From this data and the 2010 Cincinnati Statistical Neighborhood Approximations only two of the fifty-two neighborhoods were divided, Westwood and Evanston. These two neighborhoods were split as the population variance between districts was needed to be kept as small as possible. There is less than a three percent population difference between the district with the most residents and the district with the least. This map will hold true for only the 2021 election. With the 2020 census data forthcoming, a five-person panel will be formed, (two appointed by City Council, and one selected by each of the local Republican, Democrat, and Charter parties) to determine the layout of the 2023 district map.