Government Reorganization Plan: Minority Rule
Better Together's proposed constitutional amendment is best understood as a framework, establishing the ground rules under which our new regional government will take shape. Section 2.7(c), which entrusts the formulation of what the report calls a "reorganization plan" to the individual serving as county executive on January 1, 2021 ("Metro City Mayor") and Mayor Lyda Krewson ("Transition Mayor"), is at the heart of the amendment's efforts to limit who gets a seat at the decision-making table. The plan would rewrite our government, superseding "charter provisions, ordinances, resolutions, rules, regulations and orders."
Some decisions are necessary in order to make unification real — consolidating departments, eliminating contradictions in city and county codes, and much more. But unlike today's charter amendments, these changes would not be subject to a public vote, or even the approval of the Metro Council, the new city's legislative body. In what may be the proposed amendment's most extraordinary language, it provides that the plan goes into effect unless it is rejected by a two-thirds vote of the new Metro Council.
This approach runs against our nation's most fundamental democratic principles. When such important issues are on the line, it is imperative that changes have clear popular support. Constitutional amendments do not go into effect unless they are approved by a two-thirds vote in Congress (and ratified by the states). The city's current charter goes even further, requiring a two-thirds vote of the people. Better Together's approach does the precise opposite. Instead of permitting a third of the legislature to obstruct change, it empowers a minority to impose a vision developed by just two elected officials, and bypasses a public vote altogether. The absence of real checks is especially problematic because much of the substantive work will be done by privately funded lawyers and consultants — making this precisely the time we need rigorous oversight.