By Jessica Perez
The city of Phoenix has exponentially grown over the last 13 years with approximately 198,000 new residents. Is it time to add more districts to the city of Phoenix? Last week’s Phoenix City Council meeting gave some intriguing insight as to where Councilmembers fall in the debate and foreshadow what is likely to become an important conversation (and potential vote) soon.
I believe one’s representatives are always meeting our needs. Yet with large districts, can they truly meet all citizens’ demands within their area? Each district’s allocated resources, budget, and time are not unlimited, even if we wish they could be.
You may notice that it takes a long time to get a certain street cleaned or graffiti erased after you just made a complaint to your district. This isn’t our representatives blatantly ignoring requests but rather a lack of means. District 3’s Debra Stark expressed the need to improve the customer service given to constituents. Still, larger constituencies can make it challenging for district council members to make the necessary changes.
Another disadvantage to large districts can be that the majority in a district can bias against the minority which ultimately limits their voting power. While this can have a negative impact, the addition of more districts has the potential to change political maps.
During times of political divide in our country our Phoenix councilmembers from different ends of the political spectrum have come together to find a solution. Conservative District 2 Councilman Jim Waring brought up the need to add new districts to combat current issues during the last Phoenix City Chambers council meeting. He was supported by Districts 3’s moderate Councilwoman Debra Stark and District 7’s liberal Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari. Interestingly, District’s 4 Councilwoman Laura Pastor challenged this resolution and rather discussed adding more council members to our existing districts.
Deputy City Manager Ginger Spencer explained that adding new districts would need to be approved by voters since these additions would require a change of code. Once a new district map is implemented at the start of the year, discussions with district offices would commence to decide how and where new districts could potentially be added. Still, all district council members who supported this change recognized that the approval of citizens is most important. In the future, we will mostly likely see citizen listening sessions on this topic.
While adding new districts sounds like an easy fix, as voters we need to understand the full effects of what this would do to Phoenix. After we do it, it may very well be that Arizona’s largest city has even more of a representative government.