The early results from Seattle’s city elections portend a powerful rebuke to the City Hall status quo.

The ballots from nearly a third of the city’s registered voters broke so sharply toward changing the city’s direction that it can only be interpreted as a mandate for better governance. 

In the crucial open mayor’s race, more than 64% of this group of voters supported bringing Bruce Harrell back to City Hall rather than elevating sitting council President M. Lorena González. Many additional votes will be reported each afternoon this week to offer a fuller view. But those who voted early decisively showed they were fed up with the city being on the wrong track.

Harrell, a former council president and interim mayor, campaigned forthrightly on the shortcomings of the city’s current response, particularly in public safety and homelessness. He stressed that the city must confront its failures and forge a new direction. A Seattle where 300 police officers voluntarily depart their jobs in less than two years, and where too many parks and sidewalks are lined with the tents of people living without permanent homes, is not doing the right things.

Harrell’s wide lead, along with Ann Davison’s in the race for city attorney and Sara Nelson’s for an open council seat, reveals a voter demand for restoration of pragmatic leadership. That means solving the problems that exist throughout the city’s social fabric. Harrell will push for compassionate, and thoughtfully planned, responses to the city’s deepest crises — such as his pledge to add 2,000 units of emergency supportive shelter within a year for people experiencing homelessness. Too often, such needs have been addressed with performative, ideological mismanagement.

City policing offers a prime example. Governing by fashionable meme rather than on-the-ground facts, a González-led council majority last year committed credulously to cutting the police budget 50%. The council shoved $3 million toward dubious “research” on alternatives and whacked away at the department’s budget and processes without bothering to consult Chief Carmen Best, who quit.

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Necessary structural change need not be so jarring and wasteful. Harrell’s thoughtful message was that policing should be reformed without being eviscerated, and that many social-services responses could be handled by a “a new kind of officer.” He promises a clear vision of restoring the city’s tarnished aura through a careful, inclusive process.

Seattle lost its shine as a smartly progressive metropolis through City Hall’s jolting, us-against-them mismanagement. The current council’s dysfunctional ideological posturing needs to end for authentic, compassionate progress to happen. Undoing the damage to this city means getting businesses, residents and government agencies in healthy, improvement-focused dialogue, not pushing each against the other to score ideological points.

Members of the public — all of it — deserve accessible parks and a police force equipped to be responsive and humane. Seattle has been cheapened too long by undermining these fundamental values. Voters are right to call strongly for better municipal governance.