The Citizens' Commission on City Government, appointed last fall by former Mayor Bill LaFortune to consider changes to the City Charter, including the possibility of adding at-large members to the City Council. The Commission issued its final report on June 9, recommending against any change to the structure or membership of the City Council. The Commission also addressed non-partisan city elections, moving city elections to the fall of odd-numbered years, and making the City Auditor an appointive office.
Here is the section of the report on at-large councilors:
At-Large vs. District City Councilors
The formation of our task force evolved out of a discussion over the composition of the City Council. There were individuals who sought a charter amendment which would have turned three of the nine councilors into at-large seats. Similarly, there were those who vigorously opposed any such change to the current form of nine council members, each of whom is elected from different districts.
Our task force spent a significant amount of time listening to presentations on both sides of the councilor composition issue, including remarks from political leaders, concerned citizens and community activists.
After much consideration, there was no consensus to alter the structure of the current City Council. In fact, most believed we should maintain the current structure of the Tulsa City Council with its nine members each elected by district. We reached this conclusion for the following reasons:
Regardless of whether a better system in the ideal would be one where there would be a blend of at-large and district representatives, it appears very difficult and highly divisive to reduce the number of seats elected by district. To do so would create a perception of, and in fact have the numerical reality of, reduced representation. Although many of us believe that we might have been better off, for example, had we moved to a 6/3 framework in 1989 at the time we jettisoned the five member, all at-large commission, it would be far different to move to a 6/3 structure today, after we have existed with a 9/0 structure for more than 15 years.
Tulsa's unique history, including the racial divides that still afflict us, makes it all the more difficult to change to a system with reduced representation.
To the extent that the issue of the council's composition emerged as a result of divisiveness between the mayor and the council, there is the current hope that the new elections, a new council and a new mayor have helped unify local politics and the community.
It should be noted, however, that a few task force members support a change to the charter. Such members suggest a slight expansion to the current council by adding at-large or super-district councilors rather than in any way reducing the number of councilors elected by district. Nonetheless, at the end of the analysis, most of the task force members reached the conclusion that no change should be made.
Here is a PDF file of the complete version Citizens' Commission on City Government final report, issued on June 9, 2006.