Members want to reshape council City Council to hear 3 plans to change its size and districts.

May 20, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Three City Council members are sponsoring separate measures that would amend the city charter to make sweeping changes in the composition of the council.

There are now 19 council members -- three members elected from each of six councilmanic districts plus the council president, who is elected citywide.

* Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd, would reduce the council's size. His proposal would create 11 single-member districts and would empower the council to select the president from among the members.

* Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, would increase the number of councilmanic districts to nine with two members from each, keeping 18 members plus the president. The council president would be elected citywide, as is now done.

* Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, would decrease the size of the council by having two members, rather than the current three, elected from each of the current six districts and making no change in the way the president is elected.

"Since the council has looked to reduce the size of other city agencies, we should take a look at our own house," Cunningham said. "And, with the charter giving most of the power to the mayor, such a large council has become an anachronism."

Preliminary figures indicate that reducing the council to 11 members, as he proposes, would save around $1.1 million annually in salaries, benefits and support costs, Cunningham said.

Stokes said his plan would create smaller districts that would be easier for council members to represent.

Any of these measures approved by the council would appear as a ballot question in the November election. If the voters approve a charter change, it will go into effect for the 1995 municipal elections.

After a week of bitter debate in March, the council approved a new redistricting map that, according to its supporters, was designed to enhance the possibility of electing a majority black council in this year's city elections. Of the 19 current council members, seven are black.

Cunningham said single-member districts could be drawn to make it highly likely that at least six of the 11 members would be black.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke said the presidency should remain a citywide elected position because "it serves as an alternative to the mayor as an avenue of approach for residents."

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