While it is certainly possible that on many minor zoning and planning issues an SMD representative’s constituents will be essentially indifferent, it seems that in several of the new districts the newly empowered median voters would have strong preferences about packing density into the center city on either affordability (boost supply) or environmental grounds (reduce transit footprint). A ‘strong’ version of the ward courtesy hypothesis just seems too deterministic and statistically implausible. For example, look at how many 4-3 votes there are on recent Austin City Councils – and these folks are elected by essentially the same voter universe!
It just seems highly unlikely that the new set of SMD median voters (and whatever policy entrepreneurs they unleash) will be utterly homogenous in their indifference to planning and zoning to the point that a perpetual tit-for-tat amongst legislators is possible.
Read the whole thing.
The model I have in mind is Chicago's, where the practice is called "aldermanic privilege." I suppose where Julio and I disagree is on the degree of suburban voters' indifference to central Austin zoning matters. If suburban voters had much of a preference they would turn out to vote now, but they don't. In my experience, only a very small percentage of the population takes a big-picture view of zoning matters. Most people don't care unless a zoning decision affects them directly. This leads to a natural parochialism. I don't see SMDs improving that; on the contrary, I think they will make it worse.