I spoke with 15th District Alderman Robert Mozol yesterday about his proposal to extend the terms of Racine aldermen from two years to three. At this time, the proposal has been referred to the committe of the whole, according to Mozol.
I asked him how his proposed change would benefit Racine residents. His answer, paraphrased, was that Racine residents would benefit from a more efficient government. It takes time for an alderman to learn the ins and outs of city government, and that extra year would help aldermen get things done. A very small amount of money would be saved with fewer elections, though, to be fair to Mozol, he did not emphasize this point.
I disagree with Alderman Mozol for the following reasons, listed in no particular order:
1) If an alderman hasn't sufficiently learned the ropes after two years, he probably wouldn't be an efficient leader in his third year anyway, so voters should retain the right to replace him rather than live with his inefficiencies for yet another year.
2)The proposal, with respect to improving efficiency, would only affect first term aldermen. Do we want really want to reduce voter input by 50% so that a few slow learners can stay in office an extra year?
3)Our system of government was designed - think checks and balances - to be inefficient so that impulsive mistakes are not made.
4) Why is efficiency so important anyway? 6 year terms would be more efficient still. Elections are less efficient than appointments. Or we could do away with aldermen altogether and just have a mayor that issues orders. That would be more efficient still. My point is that perhaps we shouldn't be so enamored with efficiency in government.
5) Presently, a small percentage of voters elect our aldermen. Most aldemen continue on to a second term unopposed. Most residents have little or no input in city government between elections. Wouldn't government serve us better with more citizen input rather than this proposal which would reduce it further?
6)Veteran political observers well know that impending elections can have a dramatic effect on legislation. What this means, in other words, is that politicians will legislate differently, and often better, when they know that voters are watching more carefully. A local example, I suspect, was the West Racine low income housing proposal. This was sailing through the development office, committees etc... and then Becker got busted, an election ensued, and the proposal was shot down, unanimously if I recall correctly.
Sorry folks, I have been a bit wordy. I will wrap this up as efficiently as I can. Alderman Mozol's proposal is a bad idea for Racine.