Editorial: Seven members right size for commission

Published 6:38 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

With the stroke of a 4-1 vote April 18, the Cass County Reapportionment Commission cleaved the board of commissioners from an unwieldy 15 members back to the seven size which prevailed during the 1990s.

The five-member panel, whose composition is set by statute, had meetings scheduled Mondays and Thursdays through May 2 because that’s usually how long it takes for what can be an acrimonious partisan process of redrawing political boundaries following the census every 10 years.

The panel had until June 6 to finish its work on a new map, but why belabor it?

During our experience observing the county commission in the 1980s, when there were 11, ’90s and ’00s, seven has been the best fit.

Fifteen commissioners dice the county into what “looks more like spaghetti than districts,” as LaBre put it.

Irwin calculated that seven commissioners would cost $63,525, saving $73,742 per annum, or more than half a million dollars for taxpayers going forward.

“This county has been well-served by having 15 commissioners,” Taylor said. “We have provided to the residents of the county tremendous levels of constituent services. We are roughly 3,500 people per commissioner, which enabled me when I was there to go to every single home, and I know my successor (Roseann Marchetti) has done the same thing.

“We have been providing a heavier level of service than might be appropriate for the money it costs us. I looked at it much as Bill did: Let’s cut down on the break-ups of the townships, villages and the city. I started with the goal of zero splits and ran square into the same problem as Bill in the City of Dowagiac, so I have a split. You’ve got four splits with seven.”

Partisan politics typically don’t matter as much.

Republicans traditionally control the board, but the current chair, Minnie Warren of Pokagon Township, is a Democrat, as was Johnie Rodebush of Howard Township.

And to the 15 commissioners’ credit, that size of board worked better than some of the dire predictions made at the outset. It didn’t get bogged down and polarized by personalities and infighting much, but seven seems a better number for the government-reining era we’ve entered.