We recommended Decatur residents vote "no" in the 2010 referendum creating a council-manager form of government, mainly because of the impact it would have on minority representation.
A majority of voters, however, voted "yes."
We applaud Mayor Don Kyle's determination to follow through with his campaign promise to submit the referendum results to the U.S. Department of Justice for a determination on whether the proposed form of government complies with the Voting Rights Act.
We would remind reluctant council members that the Justice Department has not ruled on the referendum. Last year, the City Council withdrew its petition to the Justice Department after receiving a form letter requesting additional information. City Attorney Herman Marks tried to paint the Justice Department letter as a final determination, but experts agree it was not. The city was in a time crunch as it prepared for the 2012 elections and they tried to make it go away.
Very likely, the Justice Department will deny pre-clearance of the change. Another possibility is it will grant pre-clearance of the voters' request for appointment of a city manager, but deny it on the change in districts.
Whatever it decides, its evaluation will not be tainted by self-interest. City Council members, trying to protect the districts that elected them to office, have an inherent bias against change.
The people spoke in 2010. Ignoring their will is not a tenable position for the officials they elect and whose salaries they pay.
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