Letter: The progressive populist case for single-member districts

Rarely in politics is there such a slam-dunk, air-tight case as there is for single-member districts in Alachua County.

Right now, we have five County Commission districts, each with roughly 40,000 voters. But when we hold elections, the entire county gets to vote for each commissioner. This means that all 200k voters can vote for all five, which renders districts themselves fairly pointless. The “meaty majority” in Alachua County gets to pick all five, and hence we are pretty much guaranteed to get five carbon-copies of each other in terms of policy.

I’m a Democrat. I volunteered for Clinton in ’92, Obama in ’08, and Bernie in ’16. But I also know that single-party control is very bad, regardless of the party. Our elected officials need not trouble themselves with public opinion or actually serving their constituents because they face little to no threat of losing elections. That is partially why we have among the highest energy rates in the state, along with unacceptably high poverty and income inequality.

The entire idea behind having an elected representative is that a “district” has a resident who runs for office and is voted on BY THAT DISTRICT. As it stands today, the 40k voters in each Alachua County district are outnumbered by the 160k voters who do NOT live in their district!

Let’s be honest. Most people against single-member districts do not WANT citizens in outlying areas like Archer/Newberry/Alachua having representation. Sure, they will come up with talking points like “but you have five reps instead of one,” but the truth is they WANT a County Commission with five identical establishment Democrats.

Alachua County is 50% Democrat, 27% Republican, and 23% other. There is no doubt that Democrats should and will always have a majority. But all five seats, in perpetuity? Is that fair? Is that what a representative democracy looks like?

I truly cannot come up with a rational reason to oppose single-member districts, and neither can those who oppose it, outside of preserving the status quo. I urge Alachua County voters to enthusiastically VOTE YES for single-member districts this year. It is just about our last hope at having anything resembling a functioning representative democracy.

Dan Richman, Gainesville

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  • Nice letter.

    Unfortunately the uneducated, no common sense, those who enjoy the high taxes, high utility rates, homelessness, crime loving voters of Alachua County will have one reason to vote “no.”

    They were told to.

  • The representative for our District in High Springs intentionally filed a false address here. We were basically were left without representation. The County collects over 50% of its operating budget from outside the Gainesville City Limits but only allocated back less than 20% of it. We’re providing the failed pet projects they keep pushing forward. Vote Single Member Districts it’s fair representation.

  • Wow, a progressive who actually makes a lot of sense. , without single member districts we will all be outvoted by liberal students who vote for the most liberal people they can and then go home and don’t pay any utility bills or taxes

  • One problem. The current commission draws the districts. Do you really think that out of the goodness of their hearts the Democrat majority will redraw the districts to create a rural/Republican/redneck/S*****C*****yLittleTimmyapprovedTM district? NO. All 5 districts will remain pie shaped centered in Gainesville, and the liberal Gainesville Dem majority will continue to elect all 5 districts.
    Second put your map where your mouth is. I challenge you to DRAW your proposed rural/Republican/redneck/S******C*****yLittleTimmyapprovedTM district. It cannot be done. I know, I have tried. The numbers are not there. There are too many liberals in the Gainesville core. State law requires equal populations in each district. So DRAW a map of your dream district and get Jennifer to publish it. We are waiting.

    • Let’s say you are right. So why are the incumbents and their minions campaigning so hard against it? Is it because they save campaign resources catering to the same greenprogressive bloc? Or is it because they are concerned this bloc is not large enough to remain in power if it is split up even a little bit?

      • One “rural” district just means the BOCC still passes everything, just with a 4-1 vote instead of a 5-0 vote. It is what they have now with a totally ineffective appointed Republican connected commissioner Ramen Noodle-Flem. She does not know how government works, adds nothing to the debate, gets pushed around by the horrible county manager (who needs to be fired but that is another topic) like the rest of the BOCC, seems disinterested in the job like she knows she is going to lose in November. Proof one token Republican does not make the BOCC a better body.
        Len is a numbers guy. Perhaps Jennifer can get him to draw a non-gerrymandered “rural” district that meets state law and will survive a court challenge. I bet he cannot and will not do it. A map is one thing the pro SMD folks will not draw, as it will show their true Rethulican agenda.

        • As a person who commonly votes R, I would gladly vote for a 3-2 commission with the majority being fiscally responsible yellow dog democrats. It seems that is the prospect the current group is campaigning hard to avoid. I do not know the current manager, so I am loath to denigrate her. But speaking generally, groups tend to get the quality of staff they deserve. Our county is not competitive with well run counties for the quality applicants. That is doubly true for the City.

  • Let’s cut the districts pie shaped with Gainesville in the middle. Cut the pie based on what water district best serves each slice. It’s not about politics, but services.

  • Here’s an idea – draw the boundaries during Winter or Summer breaks.

    Then the overpopulation of districts won’t be artificially skewed because of the transient populace. Gainesville would have a more accurate representation of the permanent residents.

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