October 31st, 2020

A simple way to better balance representation on council


By Letter to the Editor on December 6, 2019.

In the course of its Nov. 18 meeting, Lethbridge City Council was unable to agree on a course of action that would address the long-standing problem of under-representation of north Lethbridge.

Approximately 50 years ago, The Herald published an article noting that the Holy Spirit Catholic School Board was the only elected board that did not under-represent north Lethbridge. At that time, citizens also voted for members on the Municipal Hospital Board. But the salient point is that the under-representation of north Lethbridge is as apparent today as it was 50 years ago. In fact, we have on occasion had city councils without any north Lethbridge representation whatsoever.

On Nov. 18 city council voted against allocating $80,000 for a consultant to draw a new electoral map. I can understand the reluctance of city council to sign a cheque for $80,000 during a time when budgets are under stress, but I think I can help. At no cost to the City, I will attempt to develop a proposal which council could present to the public for consideration in the course of the next municipal election. But first, some facts: Lethbridge consists of three similarly-sized communities. The largest of the three, with approximately 41,000 citizens, is west Lethbridge. It presently has three counsellors and is also home to the mayor.

I would propose allocating three counsellors to west Lethbridge. The mayor would be determined by popular vote, as has always been the case.

With approximately 31,000 residents and four counsellors, south Lethbridge is the second-largest community, though it is only about 3,000 citizens larger than north Lethbridge. I would propose allocating two counsellors to south Lethbridge, as well as part of a third, as I will explain.

With a little more than 28,000 citizens, north Lethbridge is the smallest of the three districts. It presently has one member of council. I would propose that two counsellors be allocated to north Lethbridge and that another, the eighth, be shared with south Lethbridge.

Rather than developing a unique electoral map for the eighth member of council, I am recommending a simpler and less expensive solution. I am proposing that the eighth councillor be chosen on the basis of vote totals from the pool of candidates residing in north and south Lethbridge.

I am forwarding a copy of this letter to mayor and council. If it helps them to make a difficult decision, it will have served its purpose.

Robert D. Tarleck

Lethbridge

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Montreal13

Random thoughts and opinion:

1) Sending a letter to councilors may or may not even get a response. A letter from a past mayor may get more attention though, and Mr. Tarleck is a past mayor. Would that attention be more than a “Dear John type letter” in response from Mayor and Council?
2) What would compel a public and official action? Perhaps, a written request on a submission form in order to try and get a public presentation to Mayor and Council, in council chambers,with these proposals? He would have to call in a request for the form,they are not available on line.
3) Provided that the agenda committee even granted Mr. Tarleck an opportunity to submit his proposals,that doesn’t mean that he could also get an audience to present publicly to council . The agenda committee may simply include it on the agenda and say,”Thanks for your submission,we have read it and now will just simply file it as read”. Dead end, unless either in chambers personally or possibly just in his written submission, he requested a detailed written and public response to his proposals by a certain date, from his elected representatives. That way perhaps, these proposals are not too easily dismissed or forgotten or “filed”?
4) I’m sure Mr. Tarleck knows this and far more. Perhaps, a letter from him and this letter to the editor, is all that is required for further consideration and debate from Council. His ideas are well informed and thought out. However,because it was a close vote, it is obviously important to some councilors and therefore to a considerable number of city residents as well.
5) Therefore, I think that a publicly announced response to Mr. Tarleck’s proposals is in order. Again, I believe an official submission form to Mayor and Council would go further to help bring this about.
6) We may see how determined Mr. Tarleck and the Councilors who voted to actually and finally examine this idea,really are.

IMO

In light of a stressed municipal budget, thank you, Mr. Tarleck, for coming forward to offer your assistance in developing a proposal to address the needs of a growing community.

Citi Zen

$80,000 for a consultant to draw some lines on a map? That’s absurd! I’ll do it for $1000.
City council is too often an easy mark for big money. Unless of, the consultant is related.

Resolute

From what I hear there are only 9 citizens opposed to a ward-like Council in Lethbridge. Our current system ensures each Councillor represents all of Lethbridge while being responsible for none of it. Not optimum as bourne out by our City’s unacceptable capital and operational irresponsibility. And the obvious bias against northside life quality. Bob’s proposal has merit and is simpler than a fullbore population-based ward system but may create a team division where north and south gang up on the west or similar nonoptimal results. Better would be the more complex ward system where there are no clearcut teams. And a 2 term limit to reduce empire building and encourage fresh ideas.

Montreal13

Mr. Tarleck offered,”At no cost to the city”. Just a few years ago council approved $75,000 to study full time positions for councilors. The study committee said no and recommended a ward system. I agreed at the time,because I don’t want full time without more accountability. I believe a ward system would aid in that endeavour.
I agree Resolute, with a number of your comments. “The obvious bias against northside life quality” ,I find to be an interesting statement. Well phased. Many, including a number of councilors(backed up by their actual votes on northside issues)don’t seem to recognize this. Would you care to expand on that?
It could be argued, that the city plays the different neighbourhoods against each other now. To even the playing field with a ward system,could open up transparency, on many issues.
Anyways, a formal letter of request(submission form) to council is a more serious attempt to address the issue. A letter to the editor (how many councilors read the herald regularly) and an email to those who,”represent all of Lethbridge while being responsible for none of it”, may not cut it.
There is obvious teams on council now. That may explain the infighting that goes on. The town of Fort Macleod brought in municipal affairs to oversee and manage their council,because it was soo dysfunctional. I don’t know if Lethbridge’s is in the same state. Some people would argue, that it is.
Currently, the local taxpayers pay for the meals of councilors on the days of council meetings. Back a few years ago it cost us about $35,000 to $40,000 a year. This was according to a councillor who brought forth a resolution to have council vote on this practice. I remember which councillors voted to stop it and which ,didnot. Could this be a source of savings to apply to a study of ward systems or could they find the money somewhere else?