At-Large Versus Ward Representation - Issue Resource Center

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Access and read the findings of the Board of Directors' Taskforces on the issue of at-large versus ward representation. These reports may be shared, cited and used freely.

From Mike Evans Feb. 17, 2013 Naperville Sun Op-Ed:

Aside from the important fiscal issues, the Chamber does not believe that dividing the city into five wards will create better relationships between constituents and the city council. While the threat of higher taxes is important, denying the ability of every voter of Naperville to hold officials accountable for their actions and decisions is also an important consideration.  

You do not make elected officials more attentive and responsive to the needs of businesses and residents by making them less accountable at polling places. Instead the switch increases the influence of narrow parochial interests and the prevalence of “horse-trading” votes.

At city hall, the Chamber has been on the winning side of decisions, and we’ve lost our share of votes too. That’s democracy and how our system is intended to work. Under an all at-large system, the entire community judges an individual official’s actions and decisions.

We appreciate some feel passionately that ward representation will provide neighborhoods with better influence over decision-making. The Chamber respectfully disagrees and believes the ward-based governance will impair our economic and fiscal climate, while negatively affecting our quality of life.

Statement of Chamber Position: Chamber Endorses At-Large Elections:

The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recommends to its membership and community that they vote to retain the at-large system of electing individuals to the Naperville City Council at the April 9 election. Citizens have the option to retain the at-large system of elections by voting yes on a referendum question.

In addition to the threat of higher taxes, the Chamber believes that the institution of an aldermanic-ward style of government will also:

    • Create an incentive for fractionalization and “horse-trading” of votes among the council when dealing with issues like infrastructure spending, development and zoning matters, and transportation decisions;
    • Interfere with the administration of city services through the Council-Manager form of government;
    • Impair the ability of residents to raise issues or concerns to all members of the city council; and
    • Limit the ability of voters to hold all council members accountable for their actions and decisions as public officials.

Highlights from 2010 Education Efforts:

John Schmitt, Presidnet & CEO, Op-Ed, Naperville Sun, October 6: "Chamber offers reasons for ward opposition"

The chamber does not believe that dividing the city into five wards will positively change the relationship between taxpayers and their elected officials. It is difficult to believe over time that citizens will have a better relationship with a ward-elected member of the council.

Additionally, a number of academic studies have shown a positive relationship between ward representation at the local level and increased taxes and debt over time. Currently, our nation, state and regional economies are under great strain. We must ensure that all of our governments are organized and delivering services in as efficient a manner as possible.

President & CEO Membership Announcement, Oct. 4, 2010: "Chamber Board Makes It Official, Chamber Opposes Ward System In Naperville"

Dear Members,

On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010, the Board of Directors of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce convened a Special Meeting to discuss the findings of a Board Taskforce on a ballot question that would alter the manner of electing individuals to the Naperville City Council.

There was a unanimous decision by the Directors attending the Special Board Meeting, that the Chamber fully adopt the recommendation and findings of the Taskforce, which were to vote no on the ballot question and issue an alert to the Chamber’s membership and community.

This position is the culmination of research of a taskforce of our Board Members, as well as feedback we’ve received from our Members and the broader community. I would encourage every Member of the Chamber to take a few minutes and consider where you stand on this issue before heading to the voting booth. The Chamber studied this issue, because we believe that the decision voters make this election, will greatly affect our future business climate and economic growth.

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Naperville Sun Article, "Chamber Likely To Oppose Districts", Oct 1, 2010

The chamber task force investigated 10 questions relating to a mix of ward-based and at-large representatives on the council and the effect a mixed council could have on city governance. Among its findings, the report argues that a hybrid council could “create factionalism and produce an incentive for ‘horse-trading’ votes,” “create an environment for increased spending, taxes and debt,” and “likely reduce or impair access to elected representatives.”

“The key findings report seemed to say that on whole the task force seems to feel this is bad for Naperville,” said Patrick Skarr, vice president for advocacy with the chamber.

Questions guiding the report included whether a ward system would “provide better and more open access to the business community and broader community,” “improve decision making on questions of public policy” and “provide for efficiencies or better services to the businesses and citizens of Naperville” among others.

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