One Question

The campaign for district elections just got another $25,000 loan from North Seattle businesswoman Faye Garneau, who is almost singlehandedly bankrolling the effort to turn the City Council, whose nine members are all currently elected citywide, into a hybrid system, with seven council members elected by geographical districts and two council members elected at large. 

Garneau's loan, which she says she expects the campaign to repay, plus a more than $16,000 contribution, amounts to more than three-quarters of the campaign's entire fundraising so far. Another businesswoman, Fremont Dock owner Suzie Burke, has given the campaign $5,400; taken together, the two women's contributions account for 88 percent of the approximaetly $53,000 the campaign has raised. The supposedly grassroots campaign is, financially at least, a top-down effort being funded by two North Seattle businesswomen. 

Garneau has spent big on previous elections—including $3,500 to the 2011 anti-tunnel campaign (Elizabeth Campbell's Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel, as opposed to the greenies at the McGinn-affiliated Protect Seattle Now camp); $13,000 to the anti-car-tab campaign; and $5,000 to 2005's anti-monorail effort—but never on this scale. Seattle voters, remember, have rejected districts three times, most recently in 2003.

So we wanted to know: Why is Garneau, the president of the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association, investing so much in the latest campaign for this seemingly quixotic cause?

Garneau's response: 

I do believe that we need to change the way we govern and run our city to make us match all the other large cities of our size. There are only three of us left in the country that elect at large.

It’s just just more efficient to have people elected from districts who would know what the priorities of the people in that district are and could inform the other district council members that we have a bridge problem in this district, or a police precinct problem in this district. It shouldn’t take ten years of monitoring the Magnolia Bridge before we get around to repairing it, and it shouldn’t take ten years to find a site for the North Precinct police station. 

Originally the north precinct station was one of five, and it was built on a wetland. When the rains come, the basement floods, and in the basement are the lockers for the police officers where they keep their personal possessions when on duty and their uniforms when they’re off. We’ve been studying the police station for 10 years now and we still haven't come up with a plan.

One of the other examples would be the Northgate plan. I served on the original Northgate committee 20 years ago. For heaven’s sake, that seems like an awful long time to decide what can be buit around the Northgate shopping center. 

This has nothing to do, personally, with the current council members. But right now, you've got to go everywhere in this city and try to know what the problems are in every section of the city. That's a horrendous job. People need a representative from one district who knows that the bridge is going to fall down in South Park and we'd better fix it. 

So are you planning to run for the North Seattle seat if this measure passes? 

[Laughing] You have to be kidding! I wouldn’t be running for office. I’m too old! 

The districts campaign has until early July to gather 50,000 signatures. 

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