1. Isn't It Weird That ... Immigrant rights group OneAmerica, which supported districting legislation last year that would have allowed minority communities that could demonstrate discrimination at the polls to require local election authorities to switch from at-large to district elections, is opposing Seattle Charter Amendment 19, which would turn Seattle's currently at-large city council into a hybrid system with two at-large positions and seven district positions?
As OneAmerica noted in a Halloween newsletter (titled "Boo!"), the hybrid system—funded almost entirely by a single North Seattle neighborhood activist and business owner, Faye Garneau—crowds communities of color, immigrants, and refugees into a single district in Southeast Seattle (District 2 on the map above), which would be 72 percent people of color.
The remaining six districts would have white majorities. As OneAmerica put it in their email, the proposed amendment "will likely result in the underrepresentation of these communities. Not good."
Want some other reasons to vote against districts? Here you go:
• If you're a renter (more than one in two people in Seattle are), you probably won't live in the same neighborhood forever, and your interests are probably more issue-focused than neighborhood-specific. Even if you're a homeowner, many of your interests probably extend beyond your own backyard. District elections assume that all residents' interests are based on their geographic location. Issues like affordable housing, human and social services funding, homelessness, funding for parks, libraries, and community centers, and public safety are citywide, not geographic.
• The city council is organized into committees based on issues. If "your" council member isn't on the committee that deals with an issue you're concerned with, they have no incentive to push for it, despite the fact that, geographically speaking, they represent you—another problem with defining interests based solely on where you happen to live, as opposed to what your personal interests—as a renter, as a homeowner, as a member of the LGBT community, as a poor person, as a chicken keeper, whatever—actually are.
• Currently, every Seattle resident has nine council members who are accountable to them. Under districts, they'll have three council members (one in their district plus the two at-large positions) who might listen, plus six more who have no political motivation to do so. And if you think district elections are more competitive, you need look no further than the state legislature and the county council, where (except in Democrat-Republican swing districts, which Seattle decidedly is not) getting elected virtually guarantees lifetime incumbency.
2. And an Isn't It Weird That Classic: Isn't it weird that McGinn reneged on his pledge not to take money from city employees?
The Seattle Times' picked up on something PubliCola first reported back in June: The top employer of Mayor Mike McGinn contributors is city employees. The number, of course, is higher now, at $36,000."If elected mayor, I will immediately work to stop the practice of city employees contributing to the campaigns of the elected officials who manage them or write their budgets."
One crucial nuance the Times missed, though: As we noted in our original report on this, when McGinn was running for election back in 2009, he unequivocally pledged that he wouldn't take money from city employees, saying:
"Raising money from city employees and almost doubling the number of strategic advisers means that city government is increasingly dominated by political considerations. That’s not right. The job of public servants is to serve the public, not form the core of a mayor’s re-election campaign.
"It’s also not fair to employees. Imagine receiving a call from the mayor, or one of his campaign staffers, asking for a political contribution. And what effect do political contributions have on the mayor’s management of employees.
"If elected mayor, I will immediately work to stop the practice of city employees contributing to the campaigns of the elected officials who manage them or write their budgets."
3. Finally, Isn't It Weird That ... While Democrats here in supposedly-blue Washington State can't seem to get Republicans to agree to a state transportation funding package, Republicans in other states—from Maine to Mississippi—are pushing for transit-oriented development, smart growth, and more funding for transit?
At a forum sponsored by Keep Washington Rolling (the business-, enviro-, and labor-backed group pushing for a comprehensive transportation revenue package) this afternoon, three conservative Republicans—James Robert Smith of Meridian, Mississippi (my hometown, represent!), Maine state representative Dick Campbell, and New Orleans property developer Eddie Boettner—spoke in favor of 21st century transportation and infrastructure investments.
"You are looking at three fiscally conservative Republicans," Smith said. "We all believe that transportation choices are the right investment for those who make up our communities." Smith pointed to downtown Meridian, where formerly vacant apartment buildings have been converted into market-rate condos, an Amtrak train station linking the 42,000-resident city to New Orleans and New York has been renovated, and a new restaurant and retail district has emerged from the ashes of a downtown decimated by strip malls and WalMarts.
Washington state's Republicans could take a lesson from their fellow conservatives back East and down South, who seem more than capable of working with Democrats to come up with common-sense solutions to seemingly intractable development and transportation problems.