Districts are a very good and very progressive idea that have produced progressive City Councils in places like SF and LA by reducing the cost of running citywide. The NIMBYs think they can dominate a district council here, but they are wrong, just as they were wrong with SF and LA. I do agree that it should be a 9-0 district system and that the map shouldn't be drawn beforehand, it should be drawn by a commission whose charge includes minority empowerment. I'm voting for this system and then change it after it's in place.

Ranked choice voting usually plays to the benefit of incumbents. At least that's been SF's experience. It won't produce the changes we want here.
@1 All electoral systems favor incumbents. Incumbents have a natural advantage.

But more to the point, SF my call their system "ranked choice voting" but it is just a more traditional instant runoff voting. It is not proportional like the choice voting system I describe.
Faye Garneau is shady as hell, if you ask me. She was a big donor to Elizabeth Campbell's Magnolia-centric anti-tunnel group too (not the sorta-sensible group, but the rich- whackadoodle-hobby one).
Goldy, districts in san Francisco cut costs of campaigns in half.

Districts are how we elect our state senators, who includes lots of women, minorities, and progressives.

At large means we get policies like the massive subsidies for the SODO arena, and $200 Million for the mercer remodel benefitting SLU landowners, while in your neighborhood, you can't get them to fix the curb cut on the ballard bridge which dumps bikes into traffic.

At large representing 600,000 is just too large. It means the office holders lose sight of real people at the local level.

The concern about cabining minorities into one district is silly. Seattle often elects minorities at large, which means (a) the two at large members could be minorities and (b) any of the seven district slots could be minorities, too. Just ask Norm Rice and Sherry Harris if they have problems running at large in seattle. And, today we have ONE minority person on the council, whereas with districts the smaller electorate allows people without access to big money more of a chance. Who are people in our city without access to big money interests? disproportionately women and minorities, young, etc.

Finally, we KNOW what kind of person wins in districts in seattle. it's a jessyn farrel, a mary lou Dickerson, a Jeanne kohl welles, a frank chopp, a Sharon nelson, a Pettigrew, tomiko santos, etc. all liberals, all progressives. Similar types will win city council races under districts.

proportional ranked this or that is a pipe dream but sure, you like it, you go get the signatures and put it on the ballot. finally faye garnuea did not exclusively craft this measure it was written by two pro density liberals who're lawyers with input from a broad group of liberals, anti poverty activists, independents, and Garneau who btw started out not so rich, worked her whole life, and helped fight prostitution and crime on aurora avenue.

Districts will work GREAT with public financing -- a minor tweak in the public finance law can be made to create a public finance system for the districts. I am voting YES on both. Alice Woldt, a leading progressive, is active on both campaigns and is voting yes on both, too.
I see Goldy has joined with the conservative wing of the Seattle City Council in opposing district elections. How brave to instead endorse a pie in the sky theory that has zero hope of becoming reality. I assume he plans to write in Ralph Nader for mayor as well.
Goldy, before you were a prominent blogger, which council member would you contact with your concerns?
Goldy, hon, you've really jumped the shark with this one. You're going into the "walk on by" list of slog authors along with Charles Mudede.
Goldy's reasoning is the same every time something like this comes up. If we'd listened to him, pot would still be illegal. We'd still have state run liquor stores. I'm sure we'll never have a state income tax if we have to wait until somebody writes an initiative that meets Goldy's standard. Anything that matches his vision perfectly is not going to pass anyway. It's a Catch-22.

What we've learned from our broken system that prevents our lawmakers from making the laws the public wants is that you have to pass some damn thing first. Then once the mandate comes from the people, the inevitable problems can be fixed. Same deal with gun background checks and GMO labeling.

It's a stupid, stupid system, and I hate it too, but it's our system. Well, it's Tim Eyman's system but he made it our system now. The solution is to elect a different kind of city council member and state representative.

But don't hold your breath. Our elected cowards have a lock on those seats for now and for the foreseeable future. So vote yes to make something happen, and force them to get in there and do the job right. The classic Seattle Process vote -- No -- means another decade of inertia.
@8 That's right. Don't like the opinions in this post, so just try to make your point by mischaracterizing my other positions. I supported pot legalization. And the income tax initiative. And I don't think anybody writing on the topic has been more creative in terms of exploring ways to get to an income tax.

But I do think you're "do anything" approach (regardless of whether anything is effective) does a good job of illustrating my opposition to districts. That's not effective legislating, that's just lashing out.
@3. Does Magnolia even have a bar? It's practically a suburb.
Goldy, I asked you a serious question @ 6... Which council member did you approach when you had concerns? It's not a "gotcha."
good for you Goldy for pointing up the Faye Garneau connection! she is a aurora area big landowner who wants to own her own council-person; and a districted city council could well allow her to buy one. she wants her taxes lowered and specific policing for her properties and she sees this as the most direct means.

this is main problem with districting the city-council, the cost of buying (off) one council person is (obviously) doable with current local fortunes.
@11 I didn't pay much attention to local politics before I started blogging. So I never thought to approach a council member.
@10 as a former renter in Magnolia (living next door to often forgotten Discovery Park was wonderful as an amenity), yes, they had bars in their village and, a few down Government Way by Dravus and Red Mill, one or two by the docks where the Alaskan fishermen come in, and one hidden up by the formerly Thriftway-now-Metropolitan Market out on I think 34th. A couple of great places to eat, too, but yeah... Magnolia is sleepy and quiet, and except for a VERY dense ribbon of VERY dense housing along it's lower edges and a ribbon along their first ridge line, was basically in-city suburban in vibe. Not much to do, but gorgeous, and with the one of the best parks in the region hidden inside of them.
I agree with all of Goldy's complaints, to varying degrees, and I actually sat through a debate at West Seattle's Gathering of Neighbors this year between someone who was on the City Council previously, and one of the Districting supporters. I think there is tremendous risk in any major change. However, Seattle remains if I'm not mistaken one of the few major cities in the USA that doesn't do a District (or Ward, or whatever you want to call it) type system for city government.

Look here.

My take is: is our system as it exists a benefit or hindrance to the most people in Seattle, today? Yes, a massive chunk of Seattle's minority populations will be in one district, but they're already there. Once we're into a 7-2 system, which is itself a massive political hurdle, transitioning again later to 8-1 and then 9-0, or 11-0, isn't exactly difficult. What I personally like is that the boundaries are sort of boring, basic, and dull, with accounting done based on population. There is no apparent flagrant gerrymandering to benefit anyone, so hardly anyone can complain about gerrymandering. Almost everyone got nipped in the bud there.

If it goes 8-1 it then only requires a subtle tweak. Let's move these blocks over to this district here. All the districts contract a bit, and one balloons out. And so on for 9-0 and beyond.

Is there probably some shadiness, or attempted shadiness? Yes, duh. If 90% of anything politically is paid for by one person, yeah, probably. But on that, unlike my normal self, I don't care. This is Pandora's box-type stuff. The wealthy developer(s) may have opened it but they sure as hell won't control it once it's out.

I've been on the fence since day one, but I'm voting for it. It's way too interesting and possibly valuable as an experiment (funded by someone else) for progressives to attach to and take forceful control of. I don't care who bought and brought the booze and chips to the party; let's run wild it on their dime.
Goldy, a question, in regard to my comparing the District elections idea to Pandora's box:

Are you concerned that the wealthy, or it's underwriters, as such, would somehow be able to manipulate the district election process to their advantage? Or do you not feel that progressives wouldn't be able to seize or take control of this and undermine the goals of the business establishment, or whatever long game they may or may not be after?

Apologies to whatever business person reads this, if you're really just being altruistic in the name of democracy in your mind, rather than Mini-Putin.
@16 I think there are two sides to the impact of smaller districts. On the one hand, it does make it easier to campaign with less money. Mailers cost less, and you can more easily doorbell a district (assuming you are physically capable of doorbelling a district). On the other hand, it also makes it cheaper for a wealthy individual, organization, or business to influence the outcome of a race. Garneau is spending $250,000 to influence a citywide election—but for that money she could heavily influence 3 or 4 district council races.

I just don't see districts as the clear win that supporters make it out to be.
@ 13, who would you approach today, if you were still a relatively unknown citizen? How do you decide? They're all your representative, but they're all everyone else's rep, too.
@18 Most citizens never feel the need to approach any elected official. That said, if I was advising someone looking to advocate for something, I would advise the to contact every council member, for you never know which will be more sympathetic to your issue. They're actually pretty approachable.

That's very different from the legislature, where lawmakers have zero interest in providing constituent services to anybody outside of their district.
Goldy 13
@11 I didn't pay much attention to local politics before I started blogging. So I never thought to approach a council member.

Maybe if you paid more attention or ever tried to work with council you would get Districts.

Did you bother to ask Faye what her motives are? How can you be sure you disagree with them?

Districts don't undermine Prop 1. That is a completely separate campaign and they are not mutually exclusive. If you study the supporters list you'll find a lot of people supporting both.

The current At-Large system is a remnant jim crow law the ensures that Whites are always in the majority. There is nothing "Progessive" about that. People who support it (like you) support that. Switching to Districts would allow some minorities-as-the-majority districts. This is how Harvey Milk got elected in SF.

Proportional Choice Voting is not on the ballot. I don't even think it is legal in the state.
@ 20 I don't think he's disagreeing with Faye's motives but calling into question a city-wide initiative being bankrolled by ONE person. $232,447, when the second highest donor is currently at $5,000, is enough money that it should be called the Faye Initiative.
@ 19, do you think calling nine people instead of one is a better system? And do you really think it's bad for a representative of one area to ignore the constituent of another? What's wrong with that?

It's (maybe) cheaper to influence the outcome of one district race, but all you get for that is one seat. Citywide, you can influence multiple seats. And then you have the problem of TV and newspaper ads, that get priced based on their value in reaching the whole city when all you wanted was to reach one district. It's a wash. Save money on some types of advertising, lose money on others. Imagine a rich donor trying to influence the outcome of 3 or 4 seats in one election. The citywide media buys are much worse because you're paying of so many wasted ad impression on districts that aren't voting on your candidates.

The increased impact of doorbelling and other grass roots campaigning is a huge boon to candidates without big money from the rich donors. It multiplies the value of enthusiastic volunteers.

Splitting minorities up into districts dilutes their city wide influence. But splitting up rich people into districts also dilutes their influence. It's not clear which way that goes either. Rich donors in one district are less likely to donate to candidates outside their district. Especially the ones who think selfishness is a virtue. It's also a wash, at worst.

And then you bitch about the 7-2 district-at large split? You got some secret formula that says 5-4 is divinely ordained? You just don't like it because it's not your personal choice. Or as George Carlin said, “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
"vanity initiatives entirely crafted and funded by wealthy special interests like real estate developer..."

Faye Garneau (who is not a developer--she holds commercial property to rent out, not develop it) did not "entirely craft" Charter Amendment 19. Prof. Morrill drew the map, and I (Toby Thaler) and Cleve Stockmeyer wrote Charter Amendment No. 19, and it was peer reviewed by Knoll Lowney and Ryan Vancil. That's four liberal to leftie lawyers.
You propose PRC, 9-0, better map, etc. and conclude "Better to leave our method of electing council members in the hands of a wealthy old white lady, right?" You think it's better to leave our method of electing council members in the hands of wealthy mostly older, mostly white, mostly men (and mostly who live in Bellevue and few neighborhoods in town)?

Yes, 7-2 was a compromise because 9-0 has failed three times. PRC doesn't address the lack of geographical representation, the core of American representative democracy. In any case, PRC has about a snowball's chance in hell of getting on the ballot and passed by the voters. Are you organizing that campaign if Charter 19 loses, Goldy?
This comment thread shows how unbelievably white the Stranger's readership is.
junipero @1: "The NIMBYs think they can dominate a district council here, but they are wrong, just as they were wrong with SF and LA." I don't know L.A., but I know San Francisco, and your history is inaccurate. District elections in SF (in both 1976 and 1999) are a direct result of coalitions of organized labor, minority and gay communities, and "traditional" neighborhoods (some of whom you would call NIMBY). NIMBYs alone did not expect to "dominate the city council."

There is much written about both the 1976 and 1999 battles in SF, and both victories were the result of similar coalitions. The history of the 1976 win is particularly interesting: Harvey Milk was the charismatic leftist gay organizer who pulled the groups together to "take back city hall." He worked on districts for years.
Joe @ 15: Thanks for your comments. I think your analysis is spot on except there was absolutely no nefariousness in the creation of Charter Amendment No. 19, either the map or the text. Charter 19 is intentionally designed to make for as fast a transition as possible (ALL seats open in 2015, cuts off terms being elected this year at 2 years to do that, map already drawn). And the map had absolutely NO underlying intent other than to be as bland as possible while being equal population and following water, freeway, and neighborhood boundaries as much as possible. I've been a political activist for a while (was on 36th Dems Ex.Bd, now on 43rd's), and since I don't have enough money to buy power, I rely on my reputation for straight shooting democratic values, openness of process, and generally socialist political economic perspective (e.g., I'm supporting Sawant).

Regarding your reference to the table at the smartcitymemphis site, I've prepared a similar table (and it's more current). Trying to get it up at If you want it and other info emailed, just drop me a line; I'm easy to find.
@16, @17: Based on sitting in meetings with her for a year: Faye is funding this because she is a native Seattlite and doesn't like the current system. She is not thrilled to be spending a bunch of money, but a few months in realized she had to if Charter 19 was actually going to get on the ballot and get enough attention to pass. I don't believe she has a strong interest in "buying" one of the district seats, and in case you've forgotten, unlike issue campaigns, there are limits on how much individuals can contribute to candidates.
it's ridiculous to have a local office like city council, based on a district of 634,000 people -- equivalent to say the population of smaller STATES.

it's just a city council. If the price of getting a traffic signal in greenwood is that the greenwood rep has to approve a traffic signal in madrona, that's good back scratching. ever see chimpanzees sitting around, scratching their backs? mutuality is a GOOD thing. what happens now without districts is three big fat gorillas named PaulAllenChrisHansenJeffBezos get their backs scratched, and other anatomical parts serviced, by the at large council, and we the people get not so much.

Ballard has a petition going to beg the council to keep funding a honey bucket in ballard commons park. And the council spent $200 million on an eight block part of Mercer mainly benefitting amazon/allen.

look at who we elect for state senate. that's the kind of person we get with districts. Try to tell me goldy, who's more progressive, Reuvyn Carlyle or Jeanne Godden? Sally Bagshaw, or Jeanne Kohl Wells? Sharon Nelson, or Jim Compton? Districts are progressive and populist and small d democratic. which means they're good for Democrats and progressives, too. This is why metropolitan democrats backs districts, ditto king county democrats and dozens of liberals and progressives who are face it USING faye garneau's money to put on the ballot this choice to change city government to a district based system so you have someone to blame and if you want them out you have a chance to get them out.

I'd bet sawant is going to lose. but had we had districts, she could beat Richard conlin over in the new third district centered on capital hill. Vote yes on 19.
Districts don't undermine Prop 1. That is a completely separate campaign and they are not mutually exclusive.
You are wrong. Prop 1's public financing would not apply to district races.
@31--And who wrote that provision? Council member Licata tried to fix it, but could only get four votes. In any case, if Charter 19 and Prop 1 both pass, the Council will be under huge pressure to submit the fix to the voters in 2014 so the program can apply to the 2015 election. They just as much as said so at the hearing when they put Prop 1 on the ballot:…

yes. and the council can quickly amend the public finance laws to apply to districts, too. there's nothing in prop 1 about public finance of a district city council race, so we don't need to wait two years as this change (to public finance the districts) isn't a change in prop 1. So Toby is correct and Goldy is just wrong. Districts does not undermine prop 1.

this is a phoney argument. This is why many folks like Alice Woldt are for districts, and prop 1.

king county democrats, metropolitan democrats, the large number of progressives endorsing districts, also endorse public finance prop 1.

Goldy's being a bit arrogant in thinking somehow all those folks got it wrong. obviously the two measures are both progressive and good government. in fact, we'd like public finance of state senate district races, county council district races, and on down the line, right?

there's nothing about districts that prevents them from being part of public finance, and there's nothing in prop 1 that's undermined if we go for districts. if both win, likely we and goldy will push for public finance of the district seats and good news!!!!! instead of talking about a race costing $240K largely paid for through public funds, running in the much smaller district would only require 1/2 to 1/7 that much. accounting for scale. and the threshold of 600 small donors could easily be just 100 people.

Goldy, imagine that. someone could run and get public finance with 100 small donations. That's real grass roots. Vote yes for districts, yes for prop 1.
district elections might have scuttled Goldy's favored billionaire's arena deal...
Thanks for (finally) noticing, Goldy. We want ALL of our Councilmembers accountable to us. We don't want eight of them telling us to call our ghetto's Councilmember. Especially since with districts, our poorly funded Councilmember is likely to get the crappiest committee assignments.

True prop 1 does not cover Districts as things are. However prop 1 does say that matching starts at 600 contributors. Given that current incumbents range from 600 to 1800 contributors running citywide, I don't think District candidate would need as many contributors as it takes to trigger the match level. So the question of public financing for Districts is a little academic.

Goldy, you didn't answer my question. Do you really think people should call nine council members instead of one (or three)? Do you really think it's a bad thing for reps to answer only to their own constituents as you seem to imply?
Your last paragraph is just silly. So instead of listening to an old rich white woman, we should listen to a middle aged, middle class white man? Why bring race and sex into the reason not to listen to the other side, especially when your the same race and a sex that's higher up the chain of power, can't you just stick to debating the points? Shit like this really under cuts your argument.
Goldy, the fact that Seattle's minority population would be heavily consolodated into one district isn't a problem with the maps. It's a problem with Seattle.
Hmmm. Guess I'll have to draw my own conclusion. It's probably hard to intellectually defend your position.
While I miss the idea of voting against the Council members I tend not to agree with (with 9-0 voting in favor of the bag ban, it's all of them) the fact that the same clowns keep getting re-elected, I believe, stems from widespread voter apathy and minor amounts of name recognition going a long way. I think districts will challenge that paradigm a bit and so I'm willing to give it a try.

I remember the first time I wrote an e-mail to the city council and noticed nobody was necessarily "my representative" so I end up emailing like a spammer.... I like the idea of a voter just having to be familiar with 3 clowns rather than 9.
@26--Why is the racial demographic ("unbelievably white") of the Stranger readership (or at least comment posters, so far as we know), a "deal-breaker" for Charter 19 (is that what you mean)? Lack Thereof @40 and others are absolutely accurate that Seattle's minority populations are not evenly distributed geographically.

"Seattle's" very wealthy people also mostly live in a few specific neighborhoods, and mostly not in Seattle. Seattle's current demographic arrangements are a result of both race and class--the poor get driven out by gentrification, the poor are higher % minority, they end up in Kent and Seatac fighting for a living wage. You can't solve racial injustice without solving class (economic) injustice. MLK 1967.

Morrill points out that in 1980, District 3 (CD) was still majority minority. Gentrification unraveled and transformed a community, an inevitability in a growing urban area. There is nothing wrong with a dense urban core, but all the people in it deserve a say in how changes happen.

District vs at-large city council elections addresses class and race inequities, and also age and gender bias. They level the playing field by being local. Of course SDN's 7-2 is not perfect, but it is lots better than what we have now. Please vote yes on Charter Amendment No. 19.
Alternate title: Fuck all my hipster coworkers who agree with Frank Blethen, I'm voting against whatever The Seattle Times endorses.
@44--Thanks, love it, lol
Fuck the SECB. I'm voting against McGinn.
It's apropos of nothing really, historical. When the then-Yugoslav civil wars were going I had prof who said more than one Serb and Croat at a political conference he was at were really shocked the diversity of the then Seattle city council wasn't from districts.

There's that and Tacoma's experience of trying various tech fixes for city government. I believe they've gone full circle back to the system changed in the 50's for being a disaster to fix the problems of today.

There is no substitute for an interested, empowered and informed electorate. If district elections help with that (and it might) that would be great but seriously, it probably won't help much. Worth trying I think but I'm not betting the farm on it fixing much.

Tacoma has a council-manager government (mayor is essentially a member of the council); 5 elected by district, 4 at-large (counting the mayor). Spokane also uses districts.

Great. All old, white people. Where are the unions and not-so-white folks?
Oh yeah, they didn't like the map and told you that they didn't like the map.
But oh, wasn't it Faye Garneau who threatened to take away her money and go home,
if she didn't get her way on the districts? Unions and minorities roll hard, Toby.

$250K is just the beginning. Don't forget the ads, polls, and signs.
Sorry, I don't buy this "apple pie, America" reason why ONE person is
willing to spend $250K+ on a campaign, unless your name is Koch or
corporations are people, they're people! Damn, maybe I can buy
a half of house in Fremont with $250K.

Don't forget that this is Faye Garneau's second time around with
districts. Remember in 1995? Oh, oh, hand in cookie jar.



Faye Garneau, who was co-chair of Citizens for a Community Based City Council campaign, said: "All we did was put money in the bank and report it. . . . We just tried to do what we could, and follow the rules."

Garneau said the group was fined about $2,200 for filing reports late, which she said was due to the treasurer's illness.

Garneau, who already has turned over the group's banking records, said she also has received a subpoena from commission executive director Carol Van Noy to turn over other records next Tuesday, indicating the ethics commission investigation is continuing.

Former City Council President Jim Street, who campaigned against the district-election measure, described the disclosures last night as "outrageous. . . . They paid for signature gatherers to change city policy, and now we find out it was even worse than it looked."

So what Seattle is one of the three major cities in the good ole' USA that have at-large?
Think about it: You get to vote for nine people for nine spots, instead of one
person in one area. Like a casino buffet of choices.
Seeing the bigger picture that affects the entire city is more important than
the provincial and parochial views of some small boss in a district.

Vote a Big GTFO "NO" on Charter Amendment 19.

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