CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – On Monday, by a narrow vote of 15 to 11, the Charleston City Council voted to create a committee to look at the size of the city council.
The city currently has triple the national average for city council size, with 26 council members.
Under the amended resolution introduced by councilwoman Jeniffer Pharr, the committee will have nine members: six will be council members, and three people will be from the community.
The resolution passed, but not without sharp disagreement from some councilmembers who said they like the way things are.
“Perhaps the other cities are doing it wrong, perhaps they need more councilmembers, so that the way the national government is going right now, people are not getting represented,” said councilman Cuck Overstreet.
Councilwoman Pharr insisted the committee will just be starting a needed conversation.
“We’re going to study the size, it doesn’t say we’re going to reduce it, it doesn’t say we’re going to increase it, it says we’re going to study,” she said.
Others, like councilman Emmett Pepper, said he likes the current large size of the council but thinks a conversation about it is the right approach, especially if attendance and cost of a sizely council are the real issues.
The city council also approved its new ward council map to be used in the next election.
Charleston City Attorney Kevin Baker says they still have 20 wards and each one has roughly 2,400 people to stay within the 5% population margin mandated by the U.S. Constitution.
“There’s been a population shift generally in the city, sort of from the northside of the river to the south side of the river and also a little from the east side of the city to the west side of the city and so the wards had to adjust in the same way to sort of keep the wards as equal as possible in population,” said Baker.
The committee has until 2023 to make a recommendation to the full council about the city’s council size.