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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Neighborhood Council Splits After Longtime Feud

posted by on July 24 at 0:06 AM

After two years of in-fighting on the South East District Council (SEDC), one neighborhood group has resigned from the council to protest an “imbalance of voting power” in the SEDC.

Today, the Mount Baker Community Club (MBCC) circulated an email and fired off a letter to Mayor Greg Nickels and the city council, attacking SEDC’s for giving a number of social service agencies—which play a large role in parts of the community in South Seattle—voting power on the council.

The current imbalance of voting power has resulted in the residents of the Mount Baker Community being grossly under-represented at the SEDC. Our roughly 5,000 households have only one vote, as does each individual agency, despite having a small staff and serving a limited group.

Although the situation at SEDC—which mostly acts as a means to distribute neighborhood project funds and offer opinions on city policy—cooled down a bit last October, things have generally been been tense. According to SEDC members, police have been called to meetings—where screaming matches and name calling are commonplace—fist fights have almost broken out and at least one city council member has threatened to revoke SEDC’s membership in a citywide neighborhood council.

Members of SEDC have also alleged that much of the tension on the council is due to racism and classism, and it probably didn’t help that some members of the MBCC have been actively involved in a campaign to keep Casa Latina out of South Seattle.

MBCC has charged that SEDC’s leadership isn’t looking out for low-income families in South Seattle, and that social service groups on the council are pushing the city’s agenda” by backing changes to multi-family zoning, for not opposing the addition of housing for the chronically homeless in South Seattle and for supporting the use of eminent domain for “blighted” areas in their district.

The biggest problem with this whole stupid fight is that the Southeast District Council—just like every other district council—is only an advisory group to another citywide advisory group which, truth be told, doesn’t really wield a whole lot of power.

Despite the reality of the situation, MBCC is now looking to form their own neighborhood council—the “Southeast Neighborhood District Council”—and get official recognition from the city. So far, MBCC claims the Lakewood/Seward Park Community Council, Othello Neighborhood Association, Columbia City Business Association, the SE Crime Prevention Council have also resigned from the SEDC in protest, and it appears they may be banding together.

I’ll check in with the city tomorrow and find out if the MBCC has any chance in hell of getting official recognition as a council.

RSS icon Comments


Calling it a stupid fight understates the substantive differences between the gold coast/ Mt. Baker and Rainier Valley.

Posted by Trevor | July 24, 2008 7:04 AM

seattle is run by the upper middle class, ie. archtype Montlake, Mr. Baker, and a dozen othr neighborhoods

Rainer Valley is NOT in the same league

And the middle class power queens will fight to keep their standing

of course, the R.Valley has a bright future, diversity, cheaper land, and soon light rail

NIMBY ism is the speciality of the elite neighborhoods, by the way

Posted by John | July 24, 2008 8:08 AM

Yeah, all of those damn upscale South Park and Highland Park residents fighting a new jail really prove the last point @2. Not.

Posted by Mr. X | July 24, 2008 9:23 AM
MBCC is now looking to form their own neighborhood council—the “Southeast Neighborhood District Council

They should dub themselves "SouND Council" and then immediately overplay the triple meaning to death.

Posted by lostboy | July 24, 2008 9:27 AM

Um, the point is actually that the SEDC should be comprised of residents of the Southeast District, and it should represent and relay their ideas for the community. It shouldn't be padded with non-profit entities and development companies that see the Rainier Valley as fertile territory for grabbing some of the Mayor's agenda money.

For example, my neighbors and I don't go weigh in on what action the surrounding community should pursue about the dumb Woodland Park Zoo parking garage... because, duh, we live a 1/2 hour away!

And by the way, the groups that have abandoned the SEDC definitely do not qualify as being run by your "middle class power queens". So, I'm not sure where your objections of elitist behavior factor in. If the Mayor gets his way (rubber stamped by our eager "representatives" in the SEDC) and starts declaring eminent domain down here, guess who's land gets taken away? Hint: It sure isn't the elite Mt. Baker Stroller Mom who is losing her PHO shop.

Posted by ss47 | July 24, 2008 9:34 AM

So it's a stupid fight because the residents are powerless to oppose the city's agenda?

I got fed up with the city treating the Rainier Valley as a dumping ground for social services and large-scale housing developments and voted with my feet.

Posted by movin' on up | July 24, 2008 9:39 AM

This sad little incident is actually a symptom of a defect in Seattle's government and should motivate more people to support district representation on the city council.

Since Seattle doesn't have district representation on the city council, neighborhood issues are forced into the neighborhood councils, which become the only venue for people to get things done on a neighborhood level (even though the neighborhood councils have virtually no power).

Note that neighborhood councils are typically run by middle class white people with time on their hands, incidentally, so the authentic concerns of a given neighborhood are not reflected on those boards.

If we switched to a city council that had district representation, maybe with a couple of at-large seats, we would find that these neighborhood councils would become largely unnecessary because a council member would be directly responsible to that geographic constituency. Issues specific to, say, South Seattle or to districts with large or majority populations of people of color would finally have a forum in the actual city council where political power theoretically could get things done.

(Alternatively, we could devolve some political and budget power to neighborhood councils, but that seems unwise.)

In the meantime, the city council continues to act "in the best interests of the city as a whole" (i.e. commercial interests and upper class folks) to the detriment of urgent issues that are more neighborhood-specific.

Posted by Simac | July 24, 2008 9:53 AM

This happens a lot more often than you think - neighborhood councils split all the time. Just look at all the splits in Fremont and Queen Anne and West Seattle.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 24, 2008 10:14 AM

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