Seattle’s civic engagement is at a high point this year.
Many residents, fed up with the City Council’s poor handling of challenges like growth and homelessness, are demanding change and more responsive leadership. They are engaging through campaign donations, forums and numerous political-action groups, and a flood of well-qualified, first-time candidates are on the ballot.
One of those newcomers, attorney and arbitrator Ann Davison Sattler, is the best choice to represent District 5, covering the city’s diverse and rapidly evolving North End.
Incumbent Debora Juarez has done some good things for the district and the city since getting elected in 2015, particularly her advocacy for transit, missing indigenous women and arena redevelopment. She’s a sharp and well-informed attorney who articulates both sides of key issues in conversation.
But that thoughtfulness and charisma is not always apparent on the dais. Juarez consistently joins the council majority on wrongheaded policy, such as the passage of a head tax that would have resulted in job losses among her working-class constituents, and broad-brush upzones over the objections of neighborhoods pleading for more inclusive planning.
There are also complaints about Juarez being disengaged from constituents. That was captured by a viral video this year of Juarez coldly interacting with a resident who came to testify about bicycle-path safety. In a meeting with this editorial board, Juarez was dismissive of that incident, calling the resident a frequent attendee of council meetings, although he isn’t a gadfly and she does appear disinterested in public testimony at times.
In a surprising admission to a newspaper editorial board, Juarez also defended policy deliberations outside public meetings, such as backstage haggling that crystallized the council’s head-tax position. She also said she’s tired of being a city council member.
“This is probably my last campaign,” she said. “I’m kind of tired of it. I want to get back in the private sector.”
Fortunately, there’s another North End attorney excited about the opportunity to represent District 5. Sattler vows to be responsive to constituents and focus more on city issues — such as housing, homelessness and public safety — than national politics.
Before her legal career, Davison Sattler worked five years in management of the Seattle SuperSonics. While this board disagrees with her support for the failed attempt to locate an NBA arena in the SODO industrial area, her experience in pro sports operations and commercial negotiations would be a valuable addition to the council as Seattle Center arena redevelopment proceeds and the city works to return the NBA.
Juarez still has a lot to offer the public. If she does return to private practice she could also be an outstanding contributor to regional and state task forces or work groups.
But for a City Council making a fresh start and needing to rebuild relationships with neighborhoods and constituents, Davison Sattler is the best candidate in District 5.