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Proposal to remove half of Charleston City Council announced

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 8:59 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The city of Charleston is currently completing the redistricting process, but redrawing ward boundaries is not the only proposal being considered.

Council Member Jennifer Pharr wants to greatly reduce the number of people on City Council. She announced the proposal during Monday’s City Council meeting and plans to officially introduce it during next week’s redistricting meeting.

There are currently 26 people on Charleston City Council, including 20 people elected to represent a specific ward and six who are elected at-large. Pharr said that makes Charleston’s council one of the largest in the country for a city of its size.

Her current proposal would eliminate 10 wards by combining areas, and Pharr also wants to reduce the number of at-large seats down to only two or four. She said that would better represent the declining population of Charleston.

“I think if we are really trying to move forward and be like other cities, and be more productive, and be more progressive,” Pharr said. “We really need to take a look at this, and it needs to be done now when we have the redistricting and the opportunity.”

Pharr said there have been at least 10 council seats that were uncontested in the three most recent elections, and that has led to council members not showing up for meetings and doing their jobs.

“We have research and data that shows there is something going on in our city,” Pharr said. “We are not the anomaly. There is no reason for us to have 26 members. Other cities they have much larger populations and they survive with less than 10.”

Some residents said they like the current system because it allows them to know their council member who is from their small neighborhood.

“I think Charleston will go downhill, a lot,” Trisha Spangler said about the proposal. “Then you don’t have nobody to bring out the law here in Charleston or no protection.”

Spangler believes there will be major problems if the number of council members are reduced. She would rather see the current wards just be redrawn to reflect population loss, so every part of the city has its own representation when a problem occurs.

Other people agree with Pharr’s plan and believe a smaller City Council would allow the city to continue moving forward while focusing on major issues like homelessness and drug use.

“Charleston keeps losing residents every year, and they keep getting smaller, but the government doesn’t get any smaller,” Chris Bailes said. “We have way too many people in government for the amount of residents that we have.”

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