Council members float proposal to decrease council size, kill partisan elections

They’re back — again.

Republican council members Nancy White and Erick Erickson have dusted off proposals that would cut the size of Macon City Council from 15 to 11 and eliminate partisan primaries. The issues have fast become perennial efforts that seem generally fated to go down in defeat.

But there was small hope for them Monday: Both items were referred to the Ordinances and Resolutions Committee for further consideration, a first step they have not always reached in the past.

In early 2007, the previous council actually approved a resolution to downsize itself. But when the city sought the required OK from the local state legislative delegation, state Sen. Robert Brown blocked the plan. Since then, the council has refused to even review subsequent plans to decrease its number.

The idea to hold independent elections without the Republican or Democrat labels has had equal problems gaining footing in the past two years, even though Macon is thought to be the only city in the state to still hold partisan primaries for municipal races.

In this time of economic uncertainty, White and Erickson are casting their proposals as ways to cut costs.

“Given budget constraints, I don’t think we need to look short term,” Erickson said. “This would be a good, long-term way for us to save money.”

Whether a majority of the council will agree will be tied closely to how it’s accomplished. As it stands now, the proposal eliminates four of the at-large seats. And the council president would be chosen by the rest of the council, regardless of whether that person held an in-ward seat or had won the sole citywide post.

“That’s ridiculous,” Council President Miriam Paris said.

Both White and Erickson said they are open to changing the way cuts to council would work. The legislation that was approved in 2007 eliminated in-ward seats rather than taking away at-large seats.

“This is a completely different resolution,” Councilman Rick Hutto said.

But Councilwoman Elaine Lucas sees this latest attempt as more of the same. She called the downsizing effort a means for affluent areas of town to gain control of the council. “I think we’re just beating a dead horse,” she said. “It needs to go where all those others have gone, where no man has gone before, into that dark abyss.”

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.