Council president Bruce Harrell on Thursday announced the city will take its full 20 days to fill the vacant city council position and is opening it up the application process to the public.
The city council will need to fill its at-large position 8 seat left open by Tim Burgess, who was sworn in as mayor earlier this week. The temporary council member will fill in until November 28, when election results are certified and either Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda takes over. The council has a deadline of October 6 to determine the new council member, who will get paid about $59 an hour, according to the city.
Grassroots organizers called Transparent Seattle—which includes Gender Justice League director Danni Askini and Peoples Party members—have been demanding a public application process and community forums. Many of them have been urging more funding for sexual abuse survivors given the allegations against former mayor Ed Murray that forced him to resign last week.
"In the spirit of true democracy, the process I have outlined below allows for an open, transparent appointment process with public input and still comply with the short deadline prescribed in the City Charter," Harrell said in a released statement Thursday.
Here's the timeline:
- Interested candidates for the position have until October 1 to apply.
- The city will then post all applications publicly on October 3.
- Between October 2 and October 5, the city will hold two optional community forums that are "intended to be led by community groups" to allow members of the public to ask applicants questions. Council members can also meet with candidates of their choice.
- The city council will hold a special full council meeting for public comment on October 4.
- The city council will have an executive session October 5.
- And finally, council members will make their choice at a special full council meeting October 6. If they don't meet that deadline, they would have to meet every day on the issue until they decide.
Harrell in a memo sent to staffers on Thursday said he consulted with council members, the city attorney's office, city clerk, and central staff on the proposed schedule and would introduce it in council with a resolution. Taking the full 20 days to determine Burgess's replacement leaves the city short a council member during the early part of the budget process and cuts the temporary council member's term to about seven weeks.
"While I do believe we can have an abbreviated process, given the fact that the vacancy is for a short period, I also believe the process should be transparent and the public should have a meaningful role to work with us as we make our final decision," Harrell wrote. "I do not believe the prescribed 20 days will compromise any council member's ability to carefully examine the 2018 endorsed budget."
With an open public process, high-profile community leaders may be looking to apply. Nikkita Oliver says she won't.
I have some people to talk to first - you know, partner, staff, board of directors etc. :-) Barring that - I'm in.— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) September 21, 2017
Former council member Nick Licata, who sent a letter of interest to council members on Sunday, told PubliCola he'll throw his name in the hat. Sally Clark—whose name had been rumored as a potential candidate for the seat at City Hall—said she has no plan to apply.
"We're glad that the process is open and we're glad that city council has listened to the organizers," said Dae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr., spokesperson for Transparent Seattle, but added he thought it wouldn't be a full victory unless the community forums are mandatory for council members and applicants. "The public needs to have accessibility with these applicants in order to make this process as democratic as possible."
Potential names council members could choose from floated around earlier—most of them former council members—and Harrell in the memo still said the new councilor should be able to "hit the ground running" and understand city government operations, as well as "demonstrate a commitment to social justice" and be able to communicate with diverse populations. It's unclear what other qualifications council members will look for in an applicant, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if they choose to go with someone who's already had experience in the city.
Updated September 21, 2017, at 6:09pm with a statement from Nikkita Oliver. More statements and info were added earlier.