Looks like we're one step closer to voting on a city charter amendment to change the way we elect Seattle City Council members. After a splashy kickoff in September and then a long silence, Seattle Districts Now filed their petition language with the city clerk's office last week and received a proposed ballot title (that's what would appear on the November ballot) yesterday. Here's the PDF of what's on file with city clerk's office. They're still finessing the ballot title with lawyers, but Seattle Districts Now spokesman Eugene Wasserman says they should have it finalized by the end of the week.
As Dominic reported last fall, Seattle Districts Now is proposing a city charter amendment that would create a hybrid district and at-large system. Seven members would be elected by newly proposed districts, while two members would be elected at-large by the whole city.
So where's the campaign been all this time?
Wasserman says (and the city clerk, Monica Simmons, confirms) that it's exceedingly rare to file an amendment to the city's charter—as opposed to a much more common citizen initiative—and it took time for the campaign to figure out the precise timeline and amendment process. "We’re a very odd collection of characters," Wasserman said of his coalition of neighborhood groups. "We’re not like the Rotary Club."
Apparently they've "made one small map change" since they released their original map proposal for the city's districts, so now all of Eastlake would be in one district. (The map up there is the one they filed with the city.)
The campaign will hold a signature-gathering kickoff event on Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, and from there they'll be fundraising, making presentations, and gathering signatures. Wasserman says they plan to do both paid and unpaid signature gathering, though they've got only about $9,000 in the bank at the moment. They'll need 30,943 signatures, plus a few thousand extra to guard against inevitable invalid signatures, by sometime in June—charter amendments have about six months to gather signatures. (Again, using the amendment process is so uncommon that the city clerk's office only recently developed guidelines for it on their website, and there's not a set-in-stone date by which the signatures need to be turned in; they just can't be dated "more than six months prior to the date of filing of the petition with the City Clerk," according to the relevant parts of the RCW.)
"The current city council election looks pretty boring right now," Wasserman tells me, in part "because it’s hard to run, especially for young people." (Check out the scintillating campaign announcement from Council Member Richard Dreyfuss, who announced this morning that he's seeking a fifth term.) If the amendment passes, the first council election it will affect will happen in 2015. Says Wasserman: "We think in 2015, it’d be a great time to be in Seattle if you’re a political junkie."
Here's the proposed version of the ballot title:
City of Seattle Proposed Charter Amendment No. 19 concerns creating districts to elect seven of nine Seattle City Councilmembers.
This measure would require the election of seven City Councilmembers by district and two from the City at-large. Residency must be established 120 days before candidate filing. Every decade a commission would re-draw districts to bring the smallest district's population within one percent of the largest. Councilmembers elected in 2013 and at-large councilmembers elected in 2015 serve 2-year terms. Thereafter, all councilmembers serve 4-year terms with district positions running together and at-large positions two years later.