Any group of people that is supposed to represent a larger group of people should be, well, representative of that larger group.
It just makes sense, especially when the smaller group is a legislative body charged with looking out of the best interests of its constituents.
Earlier this year, for instance, what was labeled the "most diverse" Congress in history (by Pew Research) was sworn in. But even that group fell a bit short with just about 20 percent of its membership classified as non-white, while around 38 percent of the nation it governs falls into that group.
Earlier this week, an election was held. I'm not sure if the people of Michigan City just elected the most diverse Common Council in the city's history, but it's certainly in the running. The council will go from eight men and one woman, to five men (two black) and three women.
Recent census results put about 65 percent of the Michigan City population as white, and 28 percent black. While two black members of a nine-person council falls a bit shy of that mark (22 percent), it's certainly a step in the right direction, especially considering the black community wasn't directly represented on the council at all until this past election.
Same goes for the women. While around 49 percent of Michigan City is female, the council now being 33 percent women isn't exactly representative, but it's definitely better than 11 percent.
One place where the council is decidedly not diverse, though, is political affiliation. The council is 9-for-9 in the Democrat column.
What does all this mean? Is the existing council that's finishing its term underserving women and minorities? Not necessarily. Overall, this council has been a good one, I think. They've done good work, working with administration to foster revitalization efforts and to ensure city services haven't been devastated in the wake of an awful tax crisis. Those things are good for everybody.
To me, this is all about points of view. People from different walks of life with different experiences bring something unique to the table. Plus, when citizens look at the governmental bodies that represent them, it's nice to see someone in decision-making positions who might better share your world view.
As the current city council serves out its term — overall, a productive one — four new people (Candice Silvas, Sharon Carnes, Bryant Dabney and Al Whitlow) will come in, and each of them represents a minority group. As Michigan City forges ahead in efforts to reshape its image to the rest of the world, it will do it with a council that looks more like Michigan City.
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-219-214-4170.