“NEW KIND OF FONO”
I think the dialogue around election of Senators and reapportionment of House Districts needs to be considered on a grander stage than simply trying to massage the system we have today. We shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box.
For starters, for a community of around 55,000 people we have way more legislative representation than we reasonably need, at way more cost than we can afford. Cities with populations in the millions get by with six or eight or 10 City Council members. Are we really such a complicated place we need upwards of 40 legislators to get the job done?
Why not think about a unicameral legislature. One House, with say 15 elected Representatives. Three from Manu’a (where they must reside on a regular basis), and 12 from Tutuila and Aunu’u. Then reapportion Tutuila and Aunu’u so that each District has 3,500-4,000 residents, relying on traditional Counties and Districts as much as possible, and have the 15 elected Representatives.
Add to the 15 Representatives three “Super” Representatives selected by traditional custom. Call them Senators if you want. One each from Manu’a, the Easter and Western Districts (much like the District Governors of today). Thee three elder statesmen or stateswomen would be regular, voting members of the Legislature, having one vote each alongside the elected Representatives, and would be able to add their voices of wisdom and experience to the debate.
Make membership in the Legislature a full-time job; pay accordingly and in an amount that would attract the best candidates. Get rid of the “expense” funds now being paid on top of existing salaries.
Have the “senators” sit for four-year terms, and re-elect the 15 ordinary Representatives every two years. Have term limits — two terms for ‘Senators”, four terms for Representatives.
Dialogue around the political directions in which we must move forward is good. But let’s not have the dialogue be limited to the Governor’s ideas and those who say “no way”. Let’s consider all the possibilities.
Chief Election Officer
1978 & 1980 General Elections