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Plan to carve city council into districts likely headed for ballot

Gabriel Spitzer

Seattle voters will likely get a chance to consider a new way to elect the city council. Supporters of a district-elections amendment delivered 10 boxes of petitions to the city clerk, containing 46,633 signatures – more than enough to grab a place on the November ballot.

Their plan would carve the city into seven districts, which would each elect its own council representative, while two members would still run citywide. Currently all nine are elected at-large.

Former council candidate David Bloom said the new model would force elected officials to be more responsive to neighborhood concerns.

“The residents of Broadview and Lake City, who do they talk top when their neighborhood is flooding? Who [do] the people in Southeast Seattle talk to, who represents them, when they see their low-income housing disappear?” said Bloom.

Supporters also say running in a district would be much cheaper and more manageable than running citywide, opening up the process to more grassroots candidates.

But neighborhood empowerment could also become parochialism. Skeptics have questioned whether district elections would elevate local concerns over citywide priorities, or pit neighborhoods against one another.

Another measure to introduce council districts failed in 2003. This time around, backers say they’ve addressed some of the major concerns: They’ve already published their district map, eliminating any uncertainty around the boundaries, and they’ve kept those two at-large seats, hoping to temper fears of government being dominated by ward politics.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
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