Strengthen Democracy

In Columbia's Governance

I believe that the debate over the status of the Columbia Council is an unnecessary distraction to securing the primary objective of our governance study -- the transformation of the Columbia Association into a truly democratic institution that is accountable to the residents of Columbia.

In a representative democracy, the ultimate power for all decision-making is held by the people and exercised through their duly elected representatives. There is no reason why the Columbia Council should not continue to exist and maintain an advisory role to a newly structured governing board of the Columbia Association. Indeed, the villages were designed by our "founding father" to nurture a "sense of community" and as such they are an important interest group.

But the villages, and consequently their Columbia Council, are not -- and must not become -- the authority that is responsible for overseeing, directing and controlling CA. The villages and the council do not speak for all the people because they do not provide the fundamental and essential ingredient of a democratic structure, namely one person-one vote given as a right of residency.

Columbia Association Board Chairman Joshua Feldmark and others on the council/board have stated publicly that they will deliver the one person-one vote principal for the election of the new board of directors, and that is unquestionably a big step forward. However, so long as the villages continue to be the voting districts for the individual representatives, the value of each and every vote is compromised. It is a mystery to me that our elected representatives, who frequently and genuinely express their concern for the entire Columbia community, won't "connect the dots."

With a single majority vote, they could declare that new board members to the Columbia Association will be elected either on an at-large basis or from equally sized districts; that terms will be two or four years in length and staggered; and that elections will be held on Election Day, the second Tuesday in November of even numbered years.

This is not only doable under the CA charter but also consistent with CA's mission statement and the Columbia vision. Perhaps we need to get a petition going with enough signatures to enable our current representatives to strengthen their commitment to democracy in Columbia and to say goodbye to a dysfunctional system that keeps us buried in the past.

Chuck Lapine