By Faye Garneau and Julius Caesar Robinson Special to The Times
GOVERNMENT works best when it is closest to the people.
A yes vote on Charter Amendment 19 in the Nov. 5 election means you would have a Seattle City Council member living in, elected by and responsible for representing your area of Seattle. Instead of representing 617,000 people, as each does now, seven council members would represent 88,000 residents each and share deep knowledge of your community to the council.
The amendment is a simple proposal; it requires no new taxes to implement.
Currently, nine members are elected at large to represent the entire city. If Charter Amendment 19 passes, Seattle residents would elect seven council members from specific geographic districts and two council members to serve at large. This 7-2 hybrid system offers the best of both worlds — citywide and community-specific views at the table every day inside Seattle City Hall.
A yes vote on Charter Amendment 19 also guarantees that you would have at least one member of the Council working hard to make sure your community gets its fair share of resources, such as parks, community centers, pedestrian improvements, street repairs and public-safety resources.
It creates a balanced approach to Seattle governance. You would still be able to talk to all nine council members — that won't change. But when you have a problem, Charter Amendment 19 means you would have a specific member to call to help solve your community's problems.
Each Seattle City Council member now serves at-large, representing a city with a larger population than the states of Wyoming and Vermont.
It's an impossible task for at-large council members to know what concerns each neighborhood. It shows.
Ask any resident of any community in Seattle. He or she will likely tell you important needs are going unmet. In a recent SurveyUSA poll commissioned by KING 5, fewer than half of Seattle voters said City Hall is on the right track. It is far too difficult to get the council to pay attention to specific public-safety issues, sidewalks, traffic, badly worn streets, parks and community centers.
That is the reason all but three of the 50 most populated cities in the U.S. have district-based city council elections.
Districts make it easier for qualified candidates to run and the winners pay closer attention to regular voters once they are elected.
More than 45,000 Seattle voters signed Charter Amendment 19, placing the measure on the ballot to modernize how Seattle elects its council.
The district boundaries were created by University of Washington Professor Emeritus of Geography Richard Morrill to conform to state and federal laws. Each of the seven districts is equal in population and the boundaries follow geography as closely as possible.
The first elections under this system would be held in 2015. Just like our state and federal boundaries, these boundaries would be examined every 10 years to ensure their populations remained equal.
Charter Amendment 19 is a good-government proposal. Even though Republicans and Democrats agree on little these days, they do agree on Charter Amendment 19. Both parties in King County have endorsed it.
A yes vote ensures council members and future candidates will be more closely engaged with you, your neighbors and your community.
Faye Garneau is co-founder of the Aurora Merchants Association. Julius Caesar Robinson is a campaign organizer for Seattle Districts Now. Website: seattledistrictsnow.org