CSAN has divided College Station into five areas for the purpose of building shared affinity within those areas. Many cities, like Bryan, have single member districts with Council members elected from within districts. While that may not be a necessary or even good approach for College Station, our City Council needs better connection to the community and especially to the neighborhoods.
After the last rewrite of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), the city staff worked with citizens to create neighborhood plans. These were well guided efforts that brought focus into distinct areas and allowed a high level of citizen input. Unfortunately, City Councils have ignored these plans and citizens have felt hoodwinked.
While single member districts may not be a good approach for College Station, a modified version might work well. We might consider assigning a Council liaison to each of the five areas and one to the business community. This would allow for a Council with a higher level of connection to the community without reducing the pool of possible candidates for each seat by forcing the election out of a restricted area. While each Council member’s mandate would remain community wide, they would have increased connection and focus in a particular area.
While a Council member would not have to be elected out of the district that they represent, they would be encouraged to meet with residence in that area and be accessible to them. If an area did not feel well represented by their liaison, they would support another candidate in the next election. The fate of that seat would not be determined only by the voters from that area but they would probably hold a higher level of influence.
We have a long history of neighborhoods going it alone at City Hall as they face an often hostile and disinterested Council whose strongest alliance is to their largest campaign donors. Area representation would help build better connection to the community. Is this is something that we should we should push for as we look to the upcoming rewrite of the UDO?