David Chenoweth responds in a long post on his own blog titled "Logic, Absurdity and Single Member Districts." I can't tell for sure, but I feel like he thinks his post supplies the "logic" and mine the "absurdity." [Update: Chenoweth clarifies that he was not referring to me or my argument as absurd. I regret the false conclusion on my part.]
After the jump, a brief look at his "logic."
Chenoweth starts out reasonably enough:
The main argument for single member districts where the voting is done at large is that more of the representative represent more people and will not only represent just a small section of the people. The argument seems to be that this is a better system for the whole as opposed to just representation of multiple small groups that would pit one neighborhood against another.
But then he immediately goes off track:
So, let go with that thought, the needs of the many should be attended to and have a higher priority than the needs of particular groups of people.
Once off track, Chenoweth eventually ends up in the land of black helicopters:
But why stop here. What we really need is a One World Government to make sure and take care of the needs of everyone in the world, giving no preference to those who might be more adept at making more for themselves than others, and thereby ensure an equal outcome for all. All people are created equally, so why not mandate an equal outcome for all as well?
Let's pull back and refocus on the challenge of getting things done back here in Richardson.
Where in Chenoweth's first, reasonable summary of the argument is anyone arguing that the needs of the many should have higher priority than the needs of particular groups of people? On the contrary, my two examples were both cases focused on the needs of particular groups of people. In the case of residents of old East Dallas, their needs are at risk of not being met because of divisions on the Dallas city council caused by single-member districts. On the other hand, in the case of residents near Richardson's West Spring Valley corridor, their needs are getting attention in part because Richardson has a council based on at-large districts. The question is which form of government -- single-member districts or at large elections -- is more likely to result in the council majorities needed to effect positive change?
It's the old barn-raising model of community growth. Everyone gets together to help a farmer raise his new barn, knowing that when their own turn comes, there will be community help for them, too. Single-member districts don't preclude having that community spirit; they just make it harder to thrive. That's because single-member districts aren't designed to get good things done; rather, they are designed to stop the majority from doing bad things to the minority. On the other hand, at-large elections foster that community spirit. Every candidate must appeal to every neighborhood to get elected. By everyone helping everyone else, the community as a whole benefits.
So, why don't at-large elections work everywhere? Because they don't work where the community has geographic divisions -- racial, ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic -- that work against that community spirit. If everyone gets his barn raised in a community effort except that African-American farmer or that Hispanic farmer across the creek, the model breaks down. That's the problem in the City of Dallas, in Dallas County, in Texas, in the United States, and in the world as a whole. Those geographic divisions aren't there in Richardson (see the demographic information in that earlier post). Let's not do something likely to create geographic divisions, like adopt single-member districts.