Seattle, WA –Seattle Districts Now, a group Seattle of residential and business leaders who feel Seattle needs a change in how it elects its City Councilmembers, will register Thursday as a political campaign with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. Seattle Districts Now is proposing a City Charter Amendment to change Seattle from a nine member at-large City Council system to a mixed system with seven Councilmembers elected in geographic districts and two Councilmembers elected at-large.
The group—led by Fremont landlord Suzie Burke, along with Seattle activists Faye Garneau and John Fox—is holding a press conference tomorrow morning with fancy maps of their proposed new districts (the rest of their press release is after the jump). If all goes according to their plan, we'd be passing their city charter amendment next November, which would be a feat, considering Seattle voters resoundingly rejected district elections in 2003. But we don't need to wait 14 months to settle this... to the legally and eternally binding Slog poll!
Our press conference is being held to formally announce our campaign, to provide maps showing each district and to introduce to the press many of the 90 community leaders who are already supporting the campaign. Endorsers include 2 state senators and business and community leaders from across the city. Key leaders of the campaign and our attorneys who helped draft the proposal will be present to answer your questions.
Faye Garneau, a Seattle business leader and Co-Chair of Seattle Districts Now, states: “A mixed District/At-Large system would give every Seattle resident a specific point of contact at City Hall. It would ensure that an elected official would speak as your neighborhood’s voice on major issues.”
Seattle Districts Now hopes to qualify a city charter amendment for the November, 2013 Ballot. If the charter amendment is approved by voters, all nine Council positions will be on the ballot in 2015, with the seven district councilmembers elected to four-year terms and the two at large councilmembers elected to two-year terms. In 2017, the two at large councilmembers will run for regular four-year terms.
Seattle Districts Now want to ensure city councilmembers are closer to the people they represent and that voters better know their city councilmembers. The seven district representatives would provide for geographic distribution of Councilmembers, while giving individual neighborhoods a distinct voice on major issues, while the two at-large representatives ensure that the citywide perspective is maintained on our Council.
Suzie Burke of Seattle Districts Now cites another reason for the proposal, “Over the years, Seattle City Councilmembers have been often clustered in certain neighborhoods, while other areas of the city haven’t had a council member who knew and understood their area’s needs and concerns. A mixed District/At-Large system would ensure that no part of our city goes unrepresented.”
The boundaries of each district will be described in the City Charter Amendment, which is currently in draft form. The district boundaries were drawn by Dr. Richard Morrill, demographer and University of Washington Professor Emeritus. He created the boundaries based on 2010 census information with input from Seattle Districts Now. Seattle Districts Now is confident that it will obtain the estimated 30, 943 signatures needed to place the Charter Amendment on the 2013 Ballot.
John Fox, Seattle Districts Now’s other co-chair, says that: “The cost of a winning City Council campaign has soared from $210,000 in 2005 to more than $270,000 in 2011. “With a mixed District/At-Large system, most campaigns would see their voter contact expenses cut to 1/7th of the current cost and candidates could win by doorbelling precincts, rather than relying on expensive mailers and TV ads.”
Should Seattle Enact District Elections for the City Council?