Minneapolis has 13. San Francisco has 11. Indianapolis has 25. Houston has nine. Chicago has 50. Los Angeles has 15, and New York has 51.
Phoenix has 8.
We’re talking city council districts. Some call them wards, and some call their representatives aldermen, but most have representation relative to their population. And, in addition to region-bound representation, many cities have elected officials serving the population at-large (Indianapolis has four, Houston has five).
But these are just numbers… what does it mean in real life? It means that District 8 (Councilman Mike Johnson) serves both the Downtown Phoenix business community and the South Phoenix residential community. It means that District 4 (Vice Mayor Tom Simplot) serves both Central Phoenix and portions of Maryvale and West Phoenix. It means that city councilors are asked to represented different segments of our population with extremely different needs.
In other words, the issues that residents of Ahwatukee are dealing with (an expansion of the Loop 202, for instance), have little to no effect on the residents of Arcadia. Except, of course, that their voice in City Hall is focused on tasks other than those pertinent then their own. Both populations are served by District 6 (Councilman Sal Diciccio), whose council map looks like this.
Phoenix has a population of more than 1.5 million people, which means on average, each city councilor is responsible for shepherding a flock of close to 200,000 people — many times made up of dozens of smaller communities with uniquely individual needs.
The argument can be made that we elect people competent enough to multi-task and have the best interest of all their residents in mind, but I challenge you to look at the district map and tell me that the residents of Downtown Phoenix’s historic neighborhoods like Willo, Coronado, Roosevelt and Encanto-Palmcroft have the same municipal needs as Laveen or Maryvale — which explains the daily challenge of District 7 and Councilman Michael Nowakowski.
This conversation is not new. Representative Chad Campbell (District 14) has been working with the O’Connor House in developing a comprehensive plan to redistrict the city of Phoenix in a more intuitive and common-sense way. With the 2010 census right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about this — and many other issues affecting our city. I’m looking forward to your thoughts below, and can’t wait to see you at RadiatePhx tomorrow night, where there will be all sorts of discussion about making our city a better place to live, work and play.