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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 15, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Balkanizing City Council

Beneficial to add more voices

Unless the usual union members or activists are called out, Seattle’s City Council meetings are notably quick and bland.

Frankly, the city could really benefit from just an ounce of Balkanization. The fact that your editorial [“Don’t Balkanize Seattle City Council,” Opinion, May 14] cited only one expert — from the naysaying Chamber of Commerce, no less — demonstrates the heavy investment here in the status quo.

For all its thousand-and-one neighborhood councils, Seattle’s various enclaves are pitifully voiceless. Why be so dismissive of “yet another attempt” to add to the discourse currently controlled by the mayor?

— Daniela McDonald, Seattle

Looking for middle ground

Please reconsider your “Don’t Balkanize Seattle City Council” editorial and join me in proposing a middle ground for populating city councils in medium to large-sized cities.

How about a council that has both at-large and by-district members? Maybe six elected in districts and five elected at large, for instance.

This enables people who are less well known, or with fewer resources, to try their hands at the district level, likely broadening the number of candidates. Those who are successful at that level might well run citywide in a later election, joining other at-large members in the group who will have demonstrated electability in the larger constituency. Gee, maybe this would serve a winnowing process for producing — gasp! — mayoral candidates.

And residents will be the big winners. Their district representative will feel a special responsibility for localized problems, from potholes to cocaine dealers to hours at the branch library. It ensures that all parts of the city will have representation in the city’s legislative body. And the at-large representatives should bring a broader perspective to those big issues all cities face.

This approach combines the best of both, making it a true middle-ground option that I believe the thoughtful Seattle Times’ editorial writers would embrace enthusiastically. And you can — all it takes is a modest little “oops,” a new perspective and another editorial.

— George Randels, deputy mayor and City Council member, Port Townsend

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