A few months ago, I wrote that Seattle should elect our city council by districts. Hey, maybe I’d know who represented me instead of it being everyone and no one. But as the legislative session started, I wondered why all of the Seattle legislators seem so willing to go along with the cost overruns provision of the tunnel. not to mention their support of this project that will increase traffic on surface streets downtown and eliminate the downtown exits (making my bus ride through the free ride area longer, as well as making it tougher to drive around). Surely the people who represent Downtown should join the mayor and should lead the effort to oppose the tunnel, or at least the cost overruns.
But if you look at the districts, it turns out nobody really represents downtown. The urban core is split into 3 districts. So the 36the represents the Northern part of Belltown, but its legislators represent Ballard, so it’s sort of understandable that they’d support the tunnel (even though I’m not sure it’s as good for Ballard as advertised; if people want to go from Ballard to Downtown, a tunnel sans exits doesn’t exactly help).
The 37th represents Pioneer square and SoDo, and while there’s no real reason for the legislators from the 37th to support the tunnel, their district sprawls pretty far South. So I can understand why they wouldn’t think of downtown issues as their issues.
The space between Belltown and Pioneer Square is represented by Capitol Hill legislators in the 43rd District. Those legislators should worry about what losing capacity on 99 will do to I-5 (I do too,and I’m a big supporter of Surface/Transit/I-5). If done right, S/T/I-5 could get significant numbers of people out of their cars. But if done wrong (basically not investing in transit or improvements to I-5), it could clog I-5, and push a lot of cars to the surface streets. And if we’re honest, the anti Seattle legislature could easily not do things right. I understand their pushing the extra cars on the surface to downtown as opposed to further East.
So I sort of get why no legislator has taken the lead in opposing the tunnel and the cost overruns provision. The most logical people to oppose them also represent neighborhoods with the most potential downside to the tunnel alternatives. And the other districts that will be hurt by a tunnel also represent a significant portion of non-downtown Seattle.
And while the tunnel is the most conspicuous issue, there are quite a few issues in the legislature that effect downtown residents, and where nobody really takes the lead. So there isn’t a legislator who’s taking the lead on the state parts of McGinn’s nightlife initiatives. And while we’ve got some good legislators on public transportation, density, and biking, it’s decidedly a mixed bag.
This could be improved by anchoring a district in the urban core. It seems to me that most of the people who live in the large chunk of blocks where you pay for parking (pdf), or at least most of the contiguous ones, share a common set of needs from the legislature that people in largely single family homes further from the urban core don’t.
And I know that any redistricting is going to make legislative seats that is cut some neighborhoods, or cities in strange ways; there are only so many ways to cut up the map. Still, there are 2 districts that represent Greenlake (43rd and 36th), and those same 2 districts also represent Belltown. So there is room for improvement. Combining the parts of the 36th, 43rd, and 37th districts that constitute the urban core would give downtown residents a voice in Olympia we don’t have now.
This post has been corrected because I mislabeled one of the districts.