EDITORIAL: When population shrinks, government should too

2013-01-11T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: When population shrinks, government should too nwitimes.com
January 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Whiting has been a bastion of local government reform in recent years. The decision to downsize the City Council is in keeping with that tradition.

Beginning with the 2015 election, voters in Whiting will elect five council members instead of the current seven.

Each resident will continue to have the same representation on the council -- three members, when you count the two at-large members as well as the district councilman.

The difference, of course, is that by switching from five to three districts, the district councilmen will represent more people.

That's not such a bad thing, when you consider the size of the city.

State law now allows municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people to reduce the number of seats on the council. Whiting's population is just under 5,000 -- less than half what it was at its peak in the 1930s.

Whiting Councilman Chris Sarvanidis led the charge to downsize the City Council. His research found more than 90 percent of cities with a population of less than 10,000 had five council members. 

Whiting will save more than $30,000 a year by reducing the number of people on the council.

Mayor Joe Stahura sees it as an efficiency move, too. "This probably helps eliminate some confusion in the city," he said. "Less people to talk to and less people to contact, and I just think that's an overall good thing."

This is a lesson other communities should consider.

Gary and Hammond, each with a population around 80,000, have nine council members. East Chicago, with less than 30,000 residents, also has nine council members. Portage, which now is larger than East Chicago, has seven council members. That should strike East Chicago residents as odd.

The Whiting City Council is doing what East Chicago, Hammond, Gary and others ought to do -- reduce the size of the council as the population shrinks. Bring down the cost of government.

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