Following up on Carl’s post yesterday, calling for a downtown legislative district, I’d like to join him in raising my voice in favor of also changing the way Seattle elects city council members.
Right now, all nine city council members are elected at-large, running in, and allegedly representing, the city as a whole, the result being, as Carl points out, that we are all represented by “everyone and no one.” It has also resulted in a relative lack of diversity on the council, not just in terms of race and gender, but in style and ideology. Combine the at-large system with the contrived way in which challengers jockey with each other to face off against the weakest opponents, and we tend to fill the council with citywide compromises.
On the other hand, there are obvious disadvantages to moving to district elections, which might inevitably create rifts in the council along neighborhood lines at the expense of the greater city good. If only there were a system that incorporated the best of both worlds.
Of course, there is, and a lot of other cities use it: a hybrid system in which some council members are elected by district, and others are elected at-large. And that’s exactly what I propose for Seattle in order to elect a council that is both responsive to the divergent needs of its constituent communities, while reflecting the larger needs of the city as a whole.
Specifically, I’d propose electing five council members by districts—central, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest—and four at large. And if anybody wants to put up the money to put such a charter amendment on the ballot, I’d wager you’d have a damn good chance of getting this passed at the polls.