From the campaign platform of Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for
mayor of Syracuse

October 04, 2005

Hawkins Calls for a New City Charter for Neighborhood-Based City

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Mayor in Syracuse, called
today for a new city charter to establish a "neighborhood-based city

"We need to empower the neighborhoods," Hawkins declared. "That will
make city government more responsive and foster the vibrant civic life
we need at the grassroots to build community and improve our quality
of life," he said.

The charter proposal calls for neighborhood assemblies, neighborhood-
based representation at the city level, instant runoff voting for
electing single-member offices, proportional representation for Common
Council elections, public campaign financing, and the vote for 16-year
olds in local elections.

"The foundation of this charter proposal is Neighborhood Assemblies in
the 25 or so real city neighborhoods where every resident will have a
voice and vote like a New England Town Meeting," Hawkins said.

The neighborhood assemblies would replace the eight advisory Today's
Neighborhoods Tomorrow (TNT) sectors with "empowered neighborhood
governments. They would have the power to plan neighborhood
development and guide the local delivery of city services," Hawkins

The Neighborhood Assemblies would also elect neighborhood
representatives to Common Council, the school board, and other city
boards and commissions.

"We need to get back to the neighborhood-based representation Syracuse
had before the 1935 charter changes when each of the city's 19 wards
elected a councilor, a school board member, a county supervisor, and a
ward constable. Fewer representatives and larger districts has
weakened accountability and constituent service," Hawkins said.

Hawkins also proposed reforms in how city officials are elected,
calling for instant runoff voting for single-seat elections and
proportional representation on Common Council.

"Instant runoff voting and proportional representation will create a
multi-party democracy where no vote is wasted and all points of view
are represented. Every vote will help elect representatives and every
citizen will have representatives of his or her party on Common
Council. That will increase voter turn-out and civic participation
generally," Hawkins said.

Instant Runoff Voting would apply to the election of single-seat
offices, including district councilors, neighborhood members of city
boards and commissions, and the Mayor, Council President, and Auditor.

Under Instant Runoff Voting, voters rank their choices on the ballot
in order of preference: 1, 2, 3, and so on. It takes a majority of
votes to win. If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, an
instant runoff election is held by eliminating the last place
candidate in the first round and transferring that candidate's votes
to their second choices. This process continues until the most
preferred candidate receives a majority of votes.

"Instant Runoff Voting will end the problem of 'spoiled' elections
when three candidates run, the two most preferred candidates split the
majority of votes, and the least preferred candidate ends up winning
by a plurality," Hawkins said.

Instant runoff voting is now used for statewide offices in Vermont and
mayoral and city council races in Oakland, California and Ferndale,

For Common Council elections, Hawkins called for a system of
proportional representation where each party gets seats on the council
in proportion to the support it receives in the election. Hawkins
called for "mixed-member proportional representation" system where
half the seats are elected by instant runoff voting from neighborhood
districts and the other half are elected at-large by votes for
parties. Voters thus have two votes, one for their district councilor
and one for their favored party. After the district winners are
determined, the remaining councilors are added from each party's list
of at-large candidates to make the overall composition of the council
reflect the party vote in the election.

Mixed-member proportional representation is the system used in a
number of countries, including Germany, New Zealand, and Venezuela.

Hawkins' public campaign financing proposal calls for a voluntary
system where all ballot-qualified candidates who agree not to accept
private money get an equal allotment of public campaign funds
sufficient to inform the voters of their candidacy and platform
through the mail and, for citywide offices, broadcast advertising.

"Our elections have been privatized. Private campaign financing is
legalized bribery. Look at how the city contractors line up to
contribute to the major party candidates. Public elections should be
publicly financed. It would cost taxpayers a few dollars a year.
That's a small price to pay for democracy," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said his proposal to enfranchise 16-year olds in Syracuse for
the Neighborhood Assemblies and local elections would "engage the
youth in the civic life of their neighborhood and city and help
instill a lifelong habit of political participation."

Posted by syracusegreens at October 4, 2005 03:28 AM

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