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.

  • wow, that was an eye opener! I just recently moved here, I have no clue about stuff like this. It definitely seems pretty illogical, I can’t believe Ahwatukee and the Arcadia areas are in the same district!

  • Wow. You should run for office and have THIS be your starting task.

  • This is a serious problem. Let’s add perspective….

    Mesa: 437k people, 7 mayor/council.. 1 to 66,000 representation
    Chandler: 247k people, 7 mayor/council.. 1 to 35,000 representation
    Gilbert: 207k people, 7 mayor/council.. 1 to 30,000 representation
    Average from these 3 cities 1 to 43,670 representation

    Phoenix: 463k people, 9 mayor/council.. 1 to 167,000 representation

    For Phoenix to get back in alignment with some of its East Valley counterparts it would need to increase to 34 mayor/council seats.

    I hope this helps focus just how poorly Phoenix citizens are represented in their local government. Chicago and New York having 50 doesn’t seem so silly now does it…..

  • Interesting points, but the cities you mention at the top do not have the council-manager form of government, which Phoenix does. The scope of duties for the councils of these cities is vastly different.

    • Um.. All of them have Mayor/Council and City/Town Manager structure that I am aware of… Many of them even have a Vice Mayor.. I am not sure the scope of duties is all that different.

      • Yeah, the east valley cities you mention do, definitely. I meant the big cities that Sam mentioned in the top of his article. Sorry for the confusion.

    • Chandler, Mesa and Phoenix are all charter cities pursuant to the Arizona State Constitution, Article XIII, Section 2. Their charter includes the form of government, the office of mayor, the office of councilmember, council appointments and filling council vacancies. In addition to the council-manager form of government, each city has a common council as the legislative body of the city. Mesa and Phoenix go by district (Chandler does not), so even that argument is bunk in your position.

      I am disappointed an MPA isn’t more in tune with local government. 🙁