Subcommittee formed to consider switching from at-large to by-district voting

LOGAN – Logan Municipal Council Member Jess Bradfield had one request from fellow council members Tuesday night – “to be heard on the potential for voter districts.”

After more than two hours of being schooled by fellow council members in procedures and rules, accused of playing politics, and told bringing up the subject three weeks before an election was “inappropriate”, Bradfield was allowed to make a short presentation that ultimately worked in his favor.

By the end of the night, the council voted unanimously to create a subcommittee to look into changing future city elections from at-large to by-district voting.

Since 2008, council candidates in Logan have been elected through an at-large process, meaning they do not run for a specific seat.

Bradfield, the only member of the council who lives on the west side of Logan, expressed concern that candidates from his area are an “endangered species.”

My intention is to raise awareness,” he added, “to hope that the people on the west side will understand that they will not get representation until they take it into their hands and force the issue.”

Several dozen people attended the council meeting hoping to get a chance to comment and view Bradfield’s entire 40 page presentation. Neither occurred. Bradfield was able to present some of his material, including data detailing which districts in the city decide the elections and where the majority of previous council members reside. It all points to the east side of the city, he explained.

“We had zero (candidates from the west side) four years ago. We had two out of ten, two years ago and we have one (Keegan Garrity) out of seven this year,” stated Bradfield.

The problem, according to Bradfield, boils down to money. On average, residents living in neighborhoods east of Main Street have considerably higher incomes than their neighbors to the west.

“But why is that a barrier to filing for election?” asked Councilmember Jeannie Simmonds.

“Because to run an at-large election cost between $5,000-$10,000 for a council candidate,” said Bradfield. “We have good people who we say we want in an at large election, and so we want to keep it open and fair. But the very thing that we say keeps it open and fair is actually discriminating against the neighborhoods that are lower affluent, more minority and have less of an income.”

Councilmembers Simmonds, Tom Jensen and Amy Anderson all said implementing by-district elections was worth consideration but objected to bringing the issue to council before the election and accused Bradfield of playing politics.

“If you are not politicizing it,” asked Jensen, “why is it urgent to bring it up three weeks before the election?

“When we raise an issue from council that draws attention to one specific thing for a specific candidate, to me it feels like we’re politicizing the work of the council,” said Anderson.

Bradfield insisted that bringing the matter before the council now had nothing to do with politics or endorsing any candidate.

“My hesitation…with waiting is that I had approached each council member individually and they said they were not overly excited about this, so I was not trying to jump the gun,” he stated. “My intention was to make sure that it got the proper attention that it deserves so that it could proceed in discussion – which is the outcome and I couldn’t be happier.”

The subcommittee to discuss the possibility of by-district representation, which begins its work in January, will consist of two council members, chairs of the existing neighborhood councils, a representative from the city’s legal department and the city clerk.

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