News Aug 3, 2016 at 4:00 am

Welcome to Round Two of Mayor Ed Murray vs. NIMBYs (and the Seattle Times)

Mayor Murray announced in July that he wants to cut the city's ties to neighborhood councils. istock


It's especially neat that the Seattle Times saw fit to run at least three guest Op/Eds and multiple Ed Board-signed pieces decrying this move and then "balanced" that with Rolf's piece, which was mean-spirited, inflammatory and not at all constructive.

I'm not really interested in defending Murray's timing or methods on this (it turns out that people are going to be really angry when you unilaterally end a long-used program without any tangible plan to replace it - shocking!), but in general the outrage around this is textbook white fragility. If these groups weren't central to maintaining inherited privilege in this city, then why are people frothing at the mouth like this.
If these people have a better solution please let us know. Time's gotta change.
Maybe the mayor cut ties with the councils because of Queen Anne.
There's a line in the story that I'd like to steal for other purposes:

Some people work at night; Some people don't have transportation; Some people don't speak English; Some people have other obligations... While caucus[es] work for some, the truth is they do not work for everyone. We want to broaden the access points and provide more opportunities. Everyone has a vote and it's our job to count them.
In the interest of journalism you should stop repeating that old canard about single homes taking 65% of Seattle land. It's actually 35.4% of gross acreage or 48.2% of net acreage. It's right there in the Seattle Comprehensive Land Use Plan:…
Craziness from so many sides don't know to laugh or cry.
For example, as to "citizen involvement" what about elections?
As to "cartels" - the N'hood Councils have NO POWER
Sheesh, I give up —Getting rid of Councils makes no difference except to show that Murray can be very inept.
There's no question that we should reform neighborhood councils so that they are more representative of the overall population. However instead of pushing for that the Mayor wants to get rid of them and replace them with a "Community Involvement Commission" with details TBD. Call me cynical but the commission will be but a small group of handpicked activists to do the Mayor and the council bidding. How is that for representation? I guess those white, selfish, homeowners (48% of the city) do not deserve representation.
@10 You pretty much nailed it.
The Mayor isn't "getting rid of" the community/district councils. He's simply not funding staffing of them, and their decisions won't be tied into a citywide council which will advise him. That citywide council is what is being gotten rid of. Thus, the community/district councils will continue to operate, but only in a neighborhood echo chamber, with the Dept of Neighborhoods/Mayor's Office listening only to a mayor-appointed commission.
I'm all for density, and I am certainly for more affordable rents. I had to leave Seattle, my home, when I became disabled because my income became fixed in a rising rent scenario - a most unhappy combination. I'm still not over it, and it has been several years now. I know now I should have purchased a house or condo at the start of the boom. (My Belltown apartment went condo and was offered to me for $94K in 1996. It's now valued at $210K. I didn't think I could afford the ~$800/mo. mortgage payments back then, so I rented other apartments for several more years - eventually paying way more than $800/mo.)

But you see that pretty little neighborhood with all the trees in the picture that accompanies this article? I sure would hate to see pretty little neighborhoods like that one in Seattle destroyed by chopping down those trees and supplanting them with big, ugly high-rises. I have seen that happen in other cities, and it's a drag. Seattle is so uniquely gorgeous that whatever is done about the housing crisis (and crisis is the right word), I hope the planners and developers are very careful to keep Seattle Seattle.
The purpose of Neighborhood councils and their representative District Councils is to build community and to bring the unique needs of each community to the attention of the city. For example, Maple Leaf would never have received its wildly successful park built on a reservior lid without thousands of hours of volunteer community involvement. The North District Council was crucial in organizing a broad expression of community support for the 130th Street Station being included in the final version of the ST3 plan. The Mayor's plan for a Commission on Community Involvement doesn't in any way substitute for community organizing of for the volunteer hours required by neighborhood grants.

The 2009 city audit of District Councils pointed to shortcomings in support and outreach that were never funded due to recessionary budgets. Instead, the councils have received $500 apiece, which may be used for room rental or other expenses. The District Councils are in agreement with the need for better IT support for websites and email lists, and, especially, for translated materials. Following the audit recommendations and funding the gaps, including establishing outreach goals, would make far more sense than abolishing the only set of geographically-based forums for neighbors to build inclusive communities.
There are 45 other mayoral commissions that represent all the diversity groups the Mayor named, and the District Councils would be more than happy to work with them on diversity.

In this next budget cycle, the City Council should fund the recommendations of the 2009 audit report and affirm the need for local community councils that include renters, homeowners and small business owners as well as many other local interest groups (e.g., watershed conservation). A list of all the neighborhood councils and their member groups should be compiled and published, maintained at city expense.

Neighborhood councils involve thousands of people in volunteer neighborhood improvement projects. Since the Mayor's action to end support for the district councils doesn't accomplish what he says they lack, there must be another motivation.
(Fifty two percent of Seattle residents are renters.) Sorry but NO. While more housing units are renter occupied (52% of occupied housing units) than owner occupied, the average household size is larger in owner occupied homes. Consequently more people (54% of the people) live in owner occupied housing than rented housing.
Increasing density only helps affordability if the new units are affordable. Developers aren't building affordable buildings, only the few units they're required to. Nor do they build larger apartments for families. Unless we want to have a high turnover rate as people move away to have kids, we need to address this.

The new construction looks at best like people warehouses, and at worst like some Soviet people's nightmare housing, built with an eye towards squeezing out every inch of usable space as cheaply as possible. Couldn't we try to build in ways that complement Seattle's unique beauty and architectural styles?

The neighborhood councils and Murray need to find some middle ground they can agree on, instead of digging trenches and lobbing media grenades at each other. And the architectural design committee for the city needs to either grow a backbone or get new members who aren't afraid to make developers follow guidelines.
Ansel, your (and other urbanists') understanding of the political economy in Seattle and how it drives the current housing and related inequity problems would be much more accurate if you would read Charles Mudede's article in the same issue. He even cites a book that explains the operating neoliberal dynamic in detail. Even if you don't agree with its thesis (or the earlier work it is grounded on) it will help you write op-eds (that's what your piece is) that are much more convincing.

And please stop using the "Seattle is 65% SF" canard. This "fact" has been debunked repeatedly (e.g.). Using it just makes you look like you don't care if your facts are accurate or not.
Ed Murray keeps making stuff up as he goes along. Maybe we should cut times with HIM in the 2017 election.
#3, how about more renters show up for a meeting once in awhile
Could we get the mayor to just pick up the huge piles of trash and human waste that are now littered along dearbourne and rainier? Whether or not we can fix the homeless problem overnight, we still need to provide sanitation . Murray has not done that yet.
Also, city needs to stop pushing all its problems into south Seattle. That is where the mayor proves over and over again that he has no sense of racial and economic equity. We are not Ballard. We are one of the most diverse zip codes in The country. Garbage, homelessness, traffic construction and gridlock.... And the mayors office is raking in money hand over fist from developers who are not building affordable housing. The city has the nerve to blame it on people who worked for years to buy a house so they didn't get priced out of their city. Make the developers reach into their pockets to pay for affordable housing. Maybe it would slow down them tearing down the affordable buildings that currently remain.

Fix the trash... Fix the sanitation conditions. No one needs that in their community, not renters, not homeowners, not homeless.
Developers aren't interested in 'affordable' housing, they want to get the most money possible and low income housing won't do it. They want to build expensive condos and houses they can then flip for huge profits and that's exactly what they will build. That's what I've seen happen in my neighborhood and in others.
I bet most of those councils' members are crypt- Nazis . . . .

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