By Jimm Roberts, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
As I write this, I have no idea who will have won the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday. Whoever prevails, I offer my congratulations. As it stands now, you’ll have no opponent in the general election. This means you’ll become our mayor with an anemic mandate.
To preclude this from happening again, I hope you’ll pump some energy into our limpid democracy by empowering the citizenry. You can show leadership in the following ways.
Use the three existing school districts as political districts within which two council representatives are elected. Doing so would make important the person and their services within their own community, not merely those popular among the few who vote in the Democratic primary. Currently, it’s this small forum that essentially appoints most, sometimes all city councilors. Great if you are a Democrat, but not great for democracy.
Provide these newly created political districts authority to spend a small fraction of their taxes by letting district residents decide what projects to fund. It’s their money after all, and letting them spend a modest sum in their districts would engage many more residents in civic affairs.
Require referendums to approve major expenditures. This step would give the taxpaying public — not four city councilors — the power to decide if council-created mega-million dollar spending extravaganzas are something for which citizens want to pay. Again, it’s their money, and requiring them to decide whether to spend it will engage even more residents in civic affairs.
Establish term limits as a means to add fresh vigor and new voices on city council. If term limits are good for the governor and the president, then they will be good for our small city. Serving the public should not be allowed to morph into an entitlement; it should always be an opportunity. Eight years is enough for any elected office holder.
Add a polling feature to the city website. Use it whenever city council must address an especially contentious issue. This will further engage the public by allowing them to cast an advisory vote, especially if the call for one is used judiciously.
You may become mayor with a puny mandate, but effecting these initiatives during your tenure will give you a lasting legacy all who revere democracy will praise.