Haverhill City Council prefers to live at-large

Haverhill gets into the debate over at-large versus district city councilors, but change doesn't seem to be in the air. The Eagle-Tribune's Shawn Regan reports that most of the current nine at-large councilors — all of them white — aren't inclined to make room at the table for colleagues elected from specific neighborhoods:

Several councilors including Michael McGonagle said they prefer the at-large system because they enjoy representing the entire the city and all its residents.

"This is looking for diversity for all the wrong reasons," McGonagle said of Donahue's proposal. "I ran to see if my personal experience could make the city better. I don't care about the race or sex of a candidate. I look at a person's record. Diversity for diversity's sake is a quota, and I'm against that."

But another councilor, William Ryan, says that it's "almost impossible for new faces to win" citywide:

Ryan said he could not recall a councilor ever being elected from the Acre area of the city and only one previous councilor from the Mount Washington neighborhood. Those areas are where most of the city's low-income residents and minorities live, Ryan said.

Boston added district seats to its City Council in 1983, but the change hasn't led to many "new faces" over the years, nor has it made the body as ethnically diverse as the city itself.

And according to 2007 Census estimates, Haverhill is still 83 percent non-Hispanic white, so even an all-district system of electing city councilors would not necessarily result in a drastically different City Council than Haverhill has now.