Seattle voters chose well-qualified moderate candidates in November by decisive margins. The City Council should follow that strong voter sentiment in selecting its leadership.
The council’s next president should be North End Councilmember Debora Juarez. Her pragmatic record on the council and outstanding civic résumé indicate she would work toward City Hall consensus instead of continuing the council’s pattern of bitter ideological fights.
As an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation, Juarez would be the first Indigenous president in the council’s 152-year existence, a historical omission in the largest U.S. city named for a Native chief. Selecting her as leader would be a sign the nine-member council, with one newly elected member, is open to constructive cooperation with the new mayor after endless confrontation with departing Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell, a moderate progressive like Juarez, ran to restore public safety after the council’s knee-jerk budget cuts sent hundreds of officers and Chief Carmen Best packing. Juarez refused to join the council majority in 2020 that committed to cutting the police budget by 50%. That group included the other contender for the president’s job, West Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
“Councilmember Juarez would be a more effective council president,” Harrell told the editorial board. “And I believe she’ll be more effective because Councilmember Herbold seems to still succumb to this notion it’s us versus them, that it’s the city council versus the mayor. And I believe Councilmember Juarez is an independent thinker and looks at the city as a whole, and her department as a whole, but also realizes that the city wins when we work collaboratively.”
Every city resident has an interest in who serves as council president. The president assigns council committee membership and runs the council’s meetings.
Juarez can put council members in roles where they can do the most good. Herbold has chaired the council’s public safety committee for two turbulent years because outgoing Council President M. Lorena González assigned her to that powerful committee. González lost to Harrell in the mayor’s race.
Juarez, an attorney, previously served as a King County Superior Court judge and counselor to two governors. As council member, she strongly advocated for transit and other infrastructure, including the new $56 million Northgate pedestrian-bike bridge she pushed to name for U.S. Rep. John Lewis. She championed KeyArena’s renovation, the Clean City Initiative to remove garbage and graffiti, and led the city to address Native causes including the outsized number of missing Indigenous women.
This editorial page has not always agreed with Juarez. She has supported large-scale upzoning and has a mixed record on taxing the city’s biggest employers. To lead this fractious group to better days, she will need stamina and patience.
She is clearly the best choice to lead the City Council through a redirection, and her selection would be consistent with the strong message they sent at the ballot box. Seattle is long overdue Native leadership. Juarez deserves the job.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.