Yes scrabble letter blocks pexels miguel padrin 2882686Fayetteville residents will have an important opportunity when they go to the polls on Nov. 8 , or take advantage of early voting. The ballot will include a City Charter Amendment that will change the structure of the Fayetteville City Council from its current nine single-member districts to a combination of five single-member districts and four at-large seats.

This change will ensure that every Fayetteville resident will have six council members reporting to them versus one and the mayor. That means if you have a problem, whether it be with trash pickup or public safety, you will have six council members accountable to you at the ballot box. We all agree that we need more representation, not less.

I had the honor to serve the City of Fayetteville as an at-large member, a district councilman and as mayor from 2013-2017. I served as a council member with both structures of government. With those real-life experiences, I have seen the advantages and disadvantages of both models. There is no question that having a combined model with both at-large and single-member districts provides the best opportunity for success for our city.

Fayetteville competes against other major North Carolina cities for good jobs, economic investment and an enhanced quality of life. To be successful, we need to have the same tools and best practices that they use to lead their cities. Unfortunately, we find ourselves following behind these other cities as we spend excessive time dealing with district infighting and too little time on the key issues, and the big picture that prevent us from keeping pace with the rest of the state.

Nine of the 12 largest cities in the state have at-large members as a part of their city council structure. Practically all of the local governments in Cumberland County also include at-large members. They include the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, the Cumberland County Board of Education, and the towns of Hope Mills and Spring Lake. None of these entities are considering the elimination of their current at-large seats because they see that a balanced approach — with both at-large and single-member districts — works best for them.

The remaining five single-member districts will continue to provide attention to district issues. The target population of around 42,000 residents for each of the five districts is far lower than the Cumberland County Board of Commissioner districts with an average target population of 64,500 or the Cumberland County School Board with an average of 55,760 residents.

Fayetteville residents will no longer have to live in gerrymandered districts where City Council members choose their own voters. This results in numerous neighborhoods and even voting precincts being split in order to promote incumbent protection, fostering civic disengagement and voter apathy. Quite honestly, it’s confusing for everyone almost every time we have the opportunity to go to the polls.

Equally important is the fact that there would be a balance on the City Council with half (5) of the council members also charged with looking at the big picture and addressing city-wide issues that continue to hold us back, because they don’t get the attention needed, at the urgency we need.

Successful candidates for the at-large seats will have to spend time educating themselves about the entire city, not just one of the districts. They will also be directly accountable to every Fayetteville resident at the next election. This accountability is sorely needed in our current City Council structure!

To be competitive, Fayetteville needs a structure of government that allows us to compete with the other major cities in North Carolina.
The Vote Yes Charter Amendment will provide you more voice and more representation on the City Council.
I encourage you to join with me and Vote Yes on the City Charter Amendment on Nov. 8.

Editor's Note: Nat Robertson is a former Mayor of Fayetteville (2013 to 2017). He also served as an at-large council member from 1989 to 1995, and the District 5 representative from 1999 to 2001.

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