Campaign for District Elections Will Finally Begin Circulating Petitions

Comments

1
If you want Chicago style politics, this approach will certainly help toward that direction. Based on that map districts #1 and #2 can kiss any influence by-bye.
2
This bad idea keeps resurfacing every few years, despite Seattle voters repeatedly rejecting it. The notion that it would reduce the power of monied interests is naive at best. Downtown (including South Lake Union) generates most of the City's revenue and will always get the most attention. District elections would not change that fact of life.

The Seattle City Council is structured around committees like Transportation, Housing, Parks, Public Safety, etc. The Council Committee chairs have great influence with the departments under their own committee's jurisdiction, but not much with the other departments. Since I now can vote for all nine members, if I have an issue, I can go to the Councilmember who chairs the relevant committee for help and they will at least listen to me regardless of where I live.

If Councilmembers were elected by district instead of by all voters, citizens would be pushed off to "their" Councilmember by the others. Unless that district Councilmember happens to chair the right committee, they will not be in a position to help. It would be harder -- not easier -- to get assistance from the City Council most of the time.

Instead of being based on needs, capital investments and additional public services would be traded like pork to get key votes on big issues (see: U.S. Congress). I want the City Council to care for ALL of Seattle, not just to bring home some bacon to my district.

If this gets on the ballot again it will be defeated again, as it should be.
4
What @2 said. This post pathetically omits any history of the issue whatsover. The voters have repeatedly REPEATEDLY rejected districts. Repeatedly. The Stranger no doubt thinks we're all a bunch of morons.
5
It'll be an interesting campaign, at least. The folks proposing it do stir things up nicely, even if the result is not often what they aim for.

Seattle has resisted the strong-mayor trend among cities, holding instead to one where council members, sufficiently motivated, can put a real check on executive power. Nobody's got too much power, but nobody's got too little either.

I like that aspect of our present system very much. It's interesting to hear about the possible benefits a switch might bring decades from now. But it's certain that during the immediate aftermath of a switch the council would be in disarray, letting the mayor's office gain power. No thanks.
6
Interesting stuff. Any sloggers want to convince me why this is a good idea?
7
Interesting how closely those proposed districts match the school board districts.
8
How much influence would Washington State have if we elected Congress and the Senate At Large. How much influence would Seattle have if we elected the legislature at large? How much influence would West Seattle have if we elected the County Council at large? How much influence does your neighborhood have now that we elect the City Council at large.
The answer to all of these questions is not much. Districts won't fix everything but, it is better system than what we have and that is good for starters.
9
I agree with 8.

It's taxation without representation way out in the other Seattle.
10
All but three of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. have moved to all district or mixed systems for council elections. Why? Because it's a more democratic way to elect representatives. Because it makes it easier for younger and less connected to wealthy campaign donors candidates to put on a realistic campaign (retail politics). Because it is not equitable or just to have a council whose members represent more people than live in entire states and congressional districts. Because it promotes representation and government decision making by people who actually know the issues of concern to the voters and residents of their district.

#1: What is "Chicago style politics"? Your argument is nothing more than slanderous anecdote. Walk around West and SE Seattle and see how many people you talk to think they have a say in major decision making affecting their community? I think you're way off the mark. We'll find out.

#2: It is not true that district elections don't improve representation of disenfranchised populations; this issue has been well studied. E.g., "Understanding the Effects of Progressive Era Electoral Reforms onCity Elections: The San Francisco Board of Supervisor's Races," Eric Lindgren, 2006. Also check out http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/loc… for an in depth exploration of politics and power in American cities. District elections promote democracy.

#4: Prior efforts were all district. The SDN charter amendment is a hybrid, with two at-large seats. The intent is to achieve a better balance of power in this town.

#5: We have had a strong mayor system since founding. Changing from all at large to a mixed 7-2 council will not change it. Nor will the council be in any more "disarray" than it has been. (One of the top 50 U.S. cities that retain all at-large councils is Portland OR, which has a commission system. It seems to work for them. The other is Columbus OH; not so much.)

#6: Working on it.

#7: Wrong; the school board districts are poorly drawn and are not even close to equitable in population. Someone could probably win a lawsuit challenging their district map; it violates "one person one vote" big time.

Article: The reason there was a pause is largely because the law requires that signatures be gathered in a six month window. It makes more sense to gather signatures in the spring and summer than in the winter months far ahead of the election season.

And please correct a major typo in your article--The kick off is Wed. Feb. 20th, NOT 22nd (which is Friday).
11
District elections are a good start. Who do our individual Council members represent? Let me give you a couple: Richard Conlin and Sally Bagshaw. Or maybe you're more of Jean Godden person. Do they represent you?

With districts, there would be a Council member representing your neighborhood. If that person doesn't listen to you, you can vote them out yourself. Or, with 85,000 person districts, you can run against them yourself. Districts are just a ton better than the status quo.
12
@1 nonsense. There would be constant spoiler voting with Districts 1 and 2 holding out against the others, probably teamed up with District 3, for various social justice issues in particular.

And no money? Uh, D1 and D2 hold the ports, Harbor Island, ALL of the city's industry, and Boeing. I'd put that money up against all the neighborhoods lining Green Lake. D5 might actually have more such issues, but not D1 and D2.

Now that I think about it, you're also overlooking the massive, massive swathes of deep wealth in West Seattle. D2 will remain the poorest district in terms of per capita per voter, but sure as hell not per capita per business.
13
Unless I can see a compelling reason to not support this I will be. The district most screwed, ironically, will be District 7, and I'm glad we moved out of Magnolia if this passes. Good luck getting anything substantial in that district done or pushed that doesn't hew tightly to the Downtown Seattle Association or whatever they're called, and those little tiny outfits called Amazon and Vulcan. The latter, at least, are benevolent overlords who make their holdings and lands pretty awesome.
14
Well said #2.

I will decline to sign.
15
@10: Fixed, thanks!
16
I used to hate the idea of district elections because it just pits neighborhood against neighborhood, and who wants more division within city government? BUT...now that it costs $250,000 to run a city-wide Council campaign, I'm warming up to the idea.
17
Thanks for responding, Toby @10. I'm nowhere near sure my concerns are as unfounded as you say, but I'll keep my eyes open during the campaign.
18
Awesome. Better to have 1 person to fire than 9 people to complain to when city council repeatedly ignores your neighborhood. I'll sign.
19
Right now, all of the power and voice rests with downtown interests. Neighborhoods can't be more disenfranchised than they already are.
20
Isn't this similar to the current argument over changing the electoral college? If apportioning presidential votes by CD is a bad idea, why does it make sense to do something similar on a citywide level?
21
@20 right now each council person 'answers' to 620,000 people, which means they're generally free to ignore all but the biggest groups by volume of people or cash.

In this system it's about 88,000 people to 1. A tremendous amount of power will return by voice to each district. It also means you during elections can ignore the rest of the city, lowering costs of running for office.
22
#20: The problem with the Electoral College for presidential elections isn't solved by moving to Congressional District apportionment as the Republicans want because Republican controlled legislatures in many states have gerrymandered districts to favor them. The answer--Elect the president by popular vote.

The problem with inequitable representation to a legislative body at the city level is a very different beast. Your suggestion is like saying we should elect the mayor by districts--winner is the one who gets most votes in four or more districts.
23
Seattle already has Chicago style politics. It's called the neighborhood community councils.
24
@23 heaven forbid people try to compete directly with the money interests through any sort of direct democracy!
25
@24 These councils are tied up be people and insiders who promulgate a patronage system that rewards people (and consultants) with city funding and projects. There is nothing democratic or inclusive about them, except on paper. They are quasi private organizations, and not subject to public disclosure. Every major politician in Seattle has used the neighborhood council system and "neighborhood revitalization" as a springboard into City Hall's political machine. There is nothing democratic about this.
26
#23/25: I have been involved in my neighborhood council for decades. We have indeed succeeded in getting the city to provide contracts for projects that improve the quality of life, such as open space and park development, putting in sidewalks where there were none, improving traffic flow. If you come to our meetings you too can hear the (almost) monthly budget report from the treasurer. It's similar all over town.

Community councils have indeed been a starting point or way station for some politicians on the way to city hall, including mayors. So what? You'd prefer they come exclusively from law and architect firms and Developers Inc., LLC? Talk about "quasi-private and not subject to public disclosure." Check out the connections of those who contribute the most to council/mayor reelection campaigns; that info at least is public.

Community/neighborhood councils are not "patronage machines." The do have authority to direct modest funds (e.g., "small and simple", transportation gap grants) to specific projects, but the process is very open. Even so, neighborhood organizations have much less power in Seattle than they did before Nichols became mayor. Their ability to influence the real decisions, like land use/zoning, city capital project siting, transportation infrastructure, even just basic planning, is very attenuated.

The disenfranchised are left with litigation, or... running a charter amendment to restore a modicum of democratic governance to the urban power structure.
27
A lot of the criticisms of the map have more to do with how the map is drawn than the actual notion of ensuring the city leadership is spread out, or with unrelated issues with campaign finance. (Which, in other news...)

28
@26 Defensive much?
30
#28: Why don't you engage with non-fallacious argument?
31
@25: "Every major politician in Seattle has used the neighborhood council system and "neighborhood revitalization" as a springboard into City Hall's political machine. There is nothing democratic about this."

That's a pretty ignorant statement. It might have been true 30 years ago, but I don't think there is a single Councilmember at the moment who was a prominent neighborhood activist before taking office.

And you say the city is giving big contracts to neighborhood "insiders"? Can you cite one?
32


@28. Way to add to the conversation.
33
#31: Nick Licata was active with Vision Seattle: 1997 Seattle Times article. I'm not sure "prominent" applies; I was not involved in that organization.
34
Yes, districts are great. So, so, glad we have that Republican State Senate when the State overwhelmingly voted Democrat for the House and Governor. Way to go, districts!! And a Republican U.S. Senate when the nation overwhelmingly voted Democrat for the House and President. Districts, districts!!

This particular plan GUARANTEES that two of the councilmembers who have to run at large will represent downtown, in addition to the downtown member. The SE councilmember will be the Bernie Sanders (or Jim McDermott) of the City Council, permanently marginalized and always handed the crappiest, least consequential committee assignment. And the other eight councilmembers will finally--finally!--be able to stop pretending they give a flying fuck about SE Seattle.
35
Of course, the "more representation" argument only works if your representative is interested and in agreement with you on your issue.

If not, you're totally fucked.

Right now, if one Councilperson isn't interested in championing your idea/concern/change you can always try and bend the ear of another. Try that under a District Election system and those other ones will just laugh you out of their offices!

(Assuming they'd even deign to give you --a voter from someone else's District-- a meeting with them in the first place!)
36
#34: Washington state politics are fairly evenly balanced between Ds and Rs, and if you add in conservative and rural Ds, the fault lines are less about party and more about policy. Hence the conservative/reactionary takeover of the senate.

In case you haven't been paying attention, the U.S. Senate is still Democratic. It's the House that's Republican in a majority Democratic country, because Republicans control many state legislatures and draw Congressional districts so as to allow a majority of Republican districts (out of 435).

If S.E. Seattle wants to elect a "Bernie Sanders" as their district representative, who are you to sneer at their choice? That's what representative democracy is all about. Perhaps if enough "Bernie Sanders" were elected we'd actually move toward the just society many if not most of us want. If elected officials don't reflect the politics of a majority of their constituents, they should be voted out of office; districts make that a lot easier to do.

#35: What's the last time you met with any city council member? How well did he/she understand the issue(s) you raised? And how did they respond to your concern; did you get what you wanted from your contact with “your” city council members? You're basically saying we should have a legislature elected at large state-wide. How well do you think that would work? Over 600,000 and growing is way too large a city for a small town at-large council. Too many demographics and geographies are disenfranchised.
37
@36: No one is "sneering" at Bernie Sanders. You just made that up. The whole point of my post, which you completely ignored, is that enough "Bernie Sanders" are GUARANTEED not to be elected by this ridiculous scheme, because the at-large members and the members representing upper-middle class districts will have absolutely no reason whatsoever to pay any attention to the lower-middle class population. Got a problem in SE? Go tell it to Bernie. Oh, he's only one vote? Too fucking bad. That's what you wanted, you dumb shits. And guess where we're siting the next transfer station, light rail yard, paint shop, jail, etc., etc., etc. Bernie's district! 'Cause it's an easy 8-1 vote, with no repercussions for the rest of us. How can it be so hard for you to understand that?
38
@36: Maybe you'd understand it if you didn't live among a bunch of white, upper-middle class people in Fremont who are more interested in "being heard" or voting for some fake-dreadlocked 25-year old pothead instead of being fucked over by the city. Try living in the trenches some time and you'd be glad that Auntie Ruth holds the key to a significant chunk of votes for EVERY council member, not just the one that is shunted off into our district. Have you been reading the stories about how our Mayor actually has to come down here and beg for our votes? Fremont Troll, indeed.
39
37/38: Your anger blinds you. You have named yourself well.