_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

No one seems to know how Senate Bill 36 will go in the House — it passed the NC Senate last week, and though most local representatives from both sides of the aisle seem to be lining up against it, it’s entirely possible the die is already cast.

Either way, as long as everybody else is pitching their plans for city council, I might as well throw mine into the mix.

My redistricting plan for the city goes along the lines of the one proposed by state Rep. Jon Hardister for the legislature: five districts drawn by a non-partisan committee that adheres to restrictions set by the Voting Rights Act  — we simply pretend that key parts of it were not repealed. All districts should reach into downtown, I think, but I could be convinced of the need to keep District 5 a suburban, conservative enclave.

I like the nine-member council and the mathematical elegance of each voter choosing five candidates, a majority of the board. I suppose I’m okay with the mayor not having a vote in this scenario — Mayor Allen Joines in Winston-Salem credits his longevity in office in part to the fact that he gets to bow out on tough votes without making enemies — but I think I’d prefer a mayor with skin in the game.

I propose four-year terms, so that council members can learn the job before they have to run again. I like odd-year elections, because we shouldn’t have the distraction of the big races when we choose our city government. And we have to keep the thing nonpartisan, because life in our communities transcends party politics.

I also think council should be paid a living wage, not much but a variation on the city’s income per capita as set by the Census. The sum would be about $25,000 apiece, about twice what they’re making now — a mere $225,000 in the city’s annual budget, a fraction of 1 percent of the total, which exceeds $472 million. Hell, let’s pay them $30,000 apiece as long as we’re making pie in the sky, a statistically insignificant raise.[pullquote]We have to keep the thing nonpartisan, because life in our communities transcends party politics.[/pullquote]

Paying a living wage is a recognition of the burden our council members bear, the hours they put in, the income they’re not making. It allows people to run for office who otherwise might not be able to take on the responsibility — as it stands, only those who can afford to work part time or not at all can serve on council.

And it demonstrates to council just how poor some of the people in this community are when they see how far that $30 grand goes.

It’s simple. It’s fair. And it’s been pitched by the owner of a newspaper, which I understand puts it on the fast track for consideration in this city. Let’s see how far it goes.

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