Seattle voters made a series of bold decisions Tuesday night. Not only did they oust a mayor, they rejected public financing for political campaigns (Prop 1) and created a hybrid district system (Charter Amendment 19) that will alter City Council elections beginning in 2015.
Incumbent city council members Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and Richard Conlin retained their seats, but prepare for a shake-up at City Hall.
All nine members are currently elected citywide. With a new system consisting of seven district and two at-large positions, voters will be able to elect a candidate who lives in their neighborhood and is more accountable for local concerns. Most other major cities already do this. A similar set-up in Seattle should liven up city council debates, which some observers accuse of being increasingly stale because the current council is ideologically aligned. Members are also hampered by the fact that they each represent the broad interests of more than 600,000 constituents. With districts, they’ll be focused on addressing the needs of about 88,000 residents.
This will be a fascinating change. Among the key questions: Which council members plan to run again under this new system? Will they compete against each other or at-large?
Below is the Seattle Districts Now map. I’ve added text to indicate where current council members live.
Faye Garneau, the north Seattle businesswoman who bankrolled the Seattle Districts Now effort with about $200,000 of her own money, says it was money well-spent if it forces future council members to prioritize and be more responsive to neighborhood concerns outside the downtown core.
“It’s my city. I love it,” she said over the phone Wednesday morning. “I want to leave it better than when I entered it. And I think it will be. “
With the election behind us, the Seattle City Council must now set up a transition committee to prepare the city — and their staff — for district races.
Public financing didn’t gain traction with voters for a few reasons. Here’s our board’s editorial opposing the measure. Too many opponents are uncomfortable seeing their property taxes go to a candidate they may not believe in. The proposition didn’t do enough to address the rise of independent expenditures outside campaigns. Also, there’s something off about a scheme that’s pushed by incumbents. Voters agreed — and made the right choice voting down this version of public financing.