Council districts: Protect neighborhoods from downtown's power

Guest Opinion: Charter Amendment 19 will improve representation and open up new opportunities.
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Soon Seattle will elect its city council members by district. So, ah, how exactly is that going to work?

Guest Opinion: Charter Amendment 19 will improve representation and open up new opportunities.

The campaign for district elections of city council members originated with a group of people across the political and economic spectrum, from different communities, and with many different interests. Some are attorneys, some are active Democrats, mixed in with a couple of Republicans and a conservative or two. We are all “neighborhood activists” united in the belief that Charter Amendment 19 will bring more democracy by ensuring our city council is closer to the people and achieves more diversity than our present ‘at-large’ system.

University of Washington Professor Emeritus Richard Morrill created the seven districts of equal population of about 88,000 each. These districts follow our traditional neighborhoods. None of the districts' populations may vary by more than 1 percent in population in accordance with state and federal law. After each census, the district boundaries will be adjusted if necessary. The districts follow our traditional neighborhoods.  

A yes vote on Charter Amendment 19 simply means that Seattle City Council candidates will have to live in the district they are elected to represent before and during any term of office. It also means that they will have to account for their votes and priorities to the people they will represent. This guarantees that there is equal representation for neighborhoods and downtown interests at City Hall.

Charter Amendment 19 creates a balanced approach to Seattle’s governance. When approved we move from a current at-large system to the election of seven council members from districts with two at-large council members. All are and will be working with the mayor to realize and prioritize the needs of the districts as well as the entire city.

Every neighborhood will have a voice in the citywide prioritization.

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. Currently a council member is expected to represent all of the more than 617,000 people in our city. They are accountable to everyone but rarely held accountable by anyone.

We are a large city composed of small communities. All neighborhoods in our city have different needs. Some neighborhoods need sidewalks, and some need more human services. All need road and park maintenance, police and fire service and other basic services. But all neighborhoods deserve a fair share of city services — and districts are a better approach to achieve this goal.

Our downtown and port areas are extremely important to our neighborhoods as well as to our county’s well-being. They provide economic development and the family wage jobs we need as a successful city. Electing seven of our council members in the traditional neighborhood districts will enable the council and mayor to do a better job balancing the needs of the entire city.

Charter Amendment 19 will allow more diverse candidates to run for city council. It opens doors for younger candidates, candidates from the business community, those without political resumes, candidates who are not so well-connected, increasing the opportunity for citizens to run for office. And it does without requiring a penny in new taxes!

Some 45,000 people signed petitions in a six-week period to put Charter Amendment 19 on the ballot. Charter Amendment 19 is supported by King County Democratic and Republican organizations and hundreds of citizens of this city. Go to our website,, and look up your neighborhood district.

Join us and vote yes on Charter Amendment 19. It’s just common sense!


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