Is the city council's effort to change the voting system in Jonesboro a ploy? If so, to whose benefit and to what end?
In practice, isn't "citywide" voting for all 12 seats a form of "hybrid" voting? Candidates can offset low standing within the ward's neighborhoods, yet still get elected. For incumbents in the past and today, don't citywide elections mask "votes not representative of their ward's preference," as both incumbents routinely vote in concert within the wards and, when they don't, it is probably not an issue of any ward's specific needs and/or preferences, for example, the budget?
The "one citywide, one ward only" option being proposed is just another version of hybrid. However, whereas "citywide" elections provide top-cover for both incumbents, i.e., what's good for the city is good for the ward, the proposed system may set incumbents at odds on some issues.
While achieving more friction within the city council is a good thing, given how supplicant an incumbent "citywide" produces, this system actually strengthens the campaigns and incumbency of "citywide" positions, — i.e., it still controls half the seats.
For example, in the November 2020 campaign, a political action committee (PAC) sent out a postcard, probably citywide, on behalf of three incumbents. All three won and all three will continue as Position 2, "citywide" incumbents, likely with PAC(s) greasing their campaigns (as PACs do).
However, challengers for Position 1 seats will also face the PAC-ish interests of November 2020 and of special interests that "wannabee like NWA and Central AR," with support if they agree to vote to grow government.
Therefore, a "one citywide, one ward only" becomes a change with little difference. Considering the voting history of the council the past few years, only a few "ward only" seats need to be convinced to pass pro-bigger government policies supported by "citywide," but each "ward only" incumbent will have to campaign and then politic with six interest groups — the other five "ward only" and the "citywide." Individually and collectively, "ward only" Position 1 candidates and incumbents will not have the strength and backing inherent in the "citywide" Position 2.
Given the above, why is "ward only" not being included as an option for voters, when it is the only option for true neighborhood representation? How would council representation change when both council members come from the neighborhood?
It's likely that the administration and council know the answers and, for reasons known to them but only surmised here, they are proposing the appearance of change rather than providing Jonesboro residents the option for choosing true representative government.
Will the council include a "ward only" amendment or only allow the change from "citywide" to "one citywide, one ward" that continues to protect those who benefit from hybrid systems?
Howard L. Weinstock