Durham Leaders Debate Size of City Council
Posted November 29, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
DURHAM — The Durham City Council has had 13 members for 74 years. Now, a grass roots organization wants to reduce that number to just seven.
Monday night at a public hearing, both sides made their cases before voters who will ultimately decide the issue at the polls on Dec. 8.
Most Durham residents who attended the forum spoke out against reducing the size of the city council.
One after another, they asked supporters of the referendum to justify their plan to turn one of the state's largest councils into one of the smallest.
Those who support the reduction say a smaller council would work more efficiently. They point out that voters now have to persuade 13 people when they have an issue before the council.
"They have to make time to talk to 13 people. Now that not only takes times, it takes a great deal of effort," said former Durham Mayor Sylvia Kerckhoff.
Opponents say the projected $90,000 savings amounts to just $1 dollar per household. They say a 13 member council provides better representation and promotes diversity.
"I think other cities such as Charlotte and Fayetteville have actually increased their councils, because they have grown. Durham also has grown in the last 74 years, so a reduction of council would be a reduction of representation," said Council Member Paul Miller.
The reduction, if passed, would be phased in over a couple of years and would not fully kick in until 2003. Whether it kicks in at all will depend on what happens at the polls on Dec. 8.