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Plaintiffs reject Council plan

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Two plaintiffs in the court case against the city to institute ward representation on the City Council said they reject the compromise plan announced by Mayor Charles Ryan, State Representative Benjamin Swan and City Councilors Jose Tosado and Rosemarie Mazza Moriarty on Thursday.

Ryan said that a compromise plan to have eight ward seats and five at-large seats on the council would once again be submitted to the council for its approval. If approved, the home rule petition would be forwarded to the Legislature, where Swan said it should be approved quickly. Then voters would have the chance to vote on the make-up of the City Council.

Other councilors currently in favor of the action also include Bud Williams and Bruce Stebbins. Tosado said a total of six votes are needed to pass the petition.

The petition will be on either the July 17 or August 21 agendas. Tosado said that if it were referred to committee as it has in the past as a way to kill the action, he would wait a month and then bring it to the Control Board.

Ryan said that if the City Council fails to approve the changes, the Finance Control Board has the power to request a home rule petition.

Mazza Moriarty said the renewed effort is "a step in the right direction."

However Frank Buntin and Gumersindo Gomez, two of the plaintiffs, said they would oppose the plan.

Buntin said that the composition the plaintiffs want is all ward seats with no at-large seats.

Gomez said, "The plaintiffs were not engaged in discussion. We the people have been left behind. Five and eight: we're not buying it."

Swan, who said he has opposed the current at-large system since it was started in 1961 called the current plan as a "compromise" between the current system and complete ward representation.

"It will create a representative democracy in the city of Springfield," Swan said.