• 52°

My Turn, Kenneth Stutts: Be careful with Salisbury City Council changes

Writer

Kenneth Stutts

I want to thank Councilman David Post for repeating the call for an elected mayor position and voting wards for our city. Many others have brought this issue up over the years, but with no success. With Councilman Post’s long work history in Washington before returning to Salisbury, I hope his piece inspires more readers to consider this forgotten issue. While many will pick and choose from my words in order to generalize my opinion as opposition, it is not. I merely seek to advocate more careful consideration of the issue.

The mayor is the first among equals. The mayor is chosen by her or his fellow council members to be the leading face of our city, while at the same time working with them to ensure problems bought to a council member’s attention are meaningfully addressed. Some mayors have understood their role and actively included their peers in the process. Some mayors have not.

The mayor also serves at the pleasure of the council. This means if the mayor fails to fulfill her or his duty to the people of this city as a whole, the council can (and should) choose a new person for that role. An elected mayor would not be subject to this type of checks and balances.

Concerning the implementation of a ward system, there are many important issues to consider. How do we draw the ward districts? What factors should be taken into account? Do we construct the districts based on historic neighborhoods, race, age ranges or household income?

Many seemingly objective criteria are in fact not objective. This is an easily abused system.

Given the recent history of gerrymandering at the state level (Salisbury itself is currently gerrymandered using the cracking method), I naturally become wary when anyone starts talking about drawing districts.

Presently, we elect five people from the city as a whole. In order to be successful, candidates must appeal to a wide variety of people and groups across the city and cannot rely on single voting blocks to win their seats. This causes candidates to consider issues and concerns they may otherwise not have. Successful candidates take that knowledge of cross-city issues and concerns and bring it to the council.

The ward system would lessen the voice of smaller voting blocks. Instead of campaigning on citywide issues, ward candidates would limit their concerns to those of these artificially constructed wards. Citywide elections also allow the people to choose from a wide array of individuals that most closely champion their issues and concerns, not just individuals in their wards.

One of the main reasons cited for a change to a ward system is the disconnect between the number of African-Americans that call Salisbury home and their representation on the city council. It is a sad truth in our city that African-Americans do not turn out to vote in numbers that are proportional to their population in the city as a whole.

African-American representation on the city council is a civic engagement/voting issue which will not be remedied by instituting a ward system with ostensibly guaranteed positions. This would only serve to stoke the prejudicial opinions of other groups in our city and weaken the political clout of any candidates elected from these wards.

I also dispute the implied assertion that any imposed demographic category votes as a block, especially at a local level. Such labels give probabilities, not absolutes.

Finally, while this is an important issue, the people of Salisbury also have other issues with greater priority: restoring the trust of residents in their city government, encouraging more citizen participation in our city government, the state of our city schools, the prevalence of crime, the transparency of city actions, better jobs with actual living wages, and many more.

Change is hard in our city. We are also lucky in this town. We have elected five individuals with the ability to lead this city to greatness by building a stronger Salisbury. I personally look forward to the Salisbury City Council addressing these priority issues in a meaningful manner under the leadership of Mayor-elect Heggins and Mayor Pro Tem-elect Post.

Kenneth Stutts lives in Salisbury.

Comments

Health

County updates health director job description, will advertise for position

Elections

Board of Elections to purchase upgraded voting equipment using federal grant

Kannapolis

Kyle Seager drives in winning run in first game as Mariners split doubleheader with Orioles

Local

City exhausts this year’s funds for Innes Street Improvements, Municipal Services District grant programs

Landis

Landis adopts amendments to Zoning Ordinance related to signs, Planning Board terms

Nation/World

Cop, police chief resign 2 days after Black motorist’s death

Nation/World

Expert says cop was justified in pinning down George Floyd

Crime

Blotter: April 13

Coronavirus

County switches vaccines for Livingstone clinic after federal, state guidance

Coronavirus

US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

Education

Superintendent talks first 100 days, dives into district data

Business

‘It was an answer to a call:’ TenderHearted Home Care celebrates 10 years of providing care at home

News

Political Notebook: Local polls find increasing number of North Carolinians want COVID-19 vaccine

News

Trial begins on challenge to latest NC voter ID law

Local

Burch, Fisher, Marsh honored as 2021 recipients of Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Award

Landis

Landis board talks revenues, budget planning, department updates

College

College baseball: Catawba rolls 7-1 and 24-1

Nation/World

Student fires at officers at Tennessee school, is killed

Nation/World

Police: Minnesota officer meant to draw Taser, not handgun

Crime

Man receives consecutive prison sentences for sex offenses

Education

RSS Board of Education approves Faith Elementary sale

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department receives 400 Pfizer, 800 Johnson & Johnson vaccines for week

Crime

Blotter: Accident in Food Lion only weekend shooting to produce injuries

Crime

Salisbury man charged with felony drug crimes