Seattle Districts Now has a plan for electing most City Council members by district — and it’s one worth considering.
All nine members of the Seattle City Council are now chosen in nonpartisan, at-large elections, meaning all city voters decide on all council members.
Past attempts to change the city charter to require district elections have failed. But Seattle Districts Now, a group of business and community leaders, has addressed some of the objections raised in those campaigns.
First of all, not all nine seats would be tied to a district; two seats would still be elected at large so voters would still be able to vote on three of the nine positions.
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The Seattle Districts Now proposed charter amendment, which still needs 30,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot, includes a map of the new districts so voters will know where they would land under the new plan.
Seattle Districts Now also has good arguments for why districts would be an improvement over the present system.
• The question of “Who ya gonna call?” when you want a new streetlight installed or a pothole repaired in your neighborhood will have a definite answer: a council member wholly responsible for that district.
• Running against an incumbent or for an open seat wouldn’t require more than $200,000 and six months out of a potential candidate’s life. With only 87,000 people in a district, 60,000 of them voters and 15,000 of them consistent voters, the districts will be “doorbellable,” as Eugene Wasserman, coordinator for Seattle Districts Now, puts it.
The change would also make it more likely that a different voice could be heard on the council. “We’ve become so monolithic that it’s boring,” Wasserman said.
This plan is a way to give neighborhoods more power and representation and a way to make government more accountable to the voters and district residents.
It might be a solution in search of a problem, but the best way to find out is to let voters decide. It’s worth bringing to the ballot one more time — especially in this amended form.