Seattle's New Council Election Format; Revisiting the 'Neighborhood Movement'

Starting in 2015, seven of the nine seats on the Seattle City Council will be elected by district. The new system has inspired some to rethink the city's neighborhood district council system.
April 30, 2014, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"Nearly three decades since its inception, and with the advent of district elections for Seattle City Council, it is reasonable to ask: Do we need a city sponsored neighborhood district council system anymore?" asks Jordan Royer.

Part of the reason that city residents voted in November 2013 to change the city's charter to a new election format is due to a lack of engagement at the neighborhood level. But given the new format of City Council elections, Royer wonders if the neighborhood district council system born from Seattle's "neighborhood movement" 27 years ago is even necessary. According to Royer, the district council system is not that effective in its current iteration: "Most voters don’t even know that we have a city sponsored neighborhood district council system that makes decisions on things like neighborhood matching fund grants and provides recommendations on land use and budget issues," writes Royer. Moreover, "City officials view the district councils as representing neighborhoods while at the same time viewing their decisions with a somewhat jaundiced eye, given the lack of true representation inherent in the system."

Royer concludes by arguing that the new election system for the City Council could help improve the neighborhood-level of engagement that began to evolve 27 years ago, but maybe without being formally sanctioned by the city government.

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Published on Thursday, April 24, 2014 in
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