Seattle’s transition to a district-based City Council will mean an extremely busy 2015 campaign season. It will also mean shifts and changes in some of the old ways of getting things done. One framework in the city seemingly due for a shift is the East District Neighborhood Council.
“If it’s in campaign season you’ll ask [candidates] ‘hey can we get spotted unicorns’ and they’ll say ‘you bet we’ll get a boxcar full of them.’ If you can get outside of the election zone, it’s nice to have them come,” said Department of Neighborhoods district coordinator Tim Durkan, the city rep charged with organizing the East group. Durkan, we should note, is also a CHS contributor. But having candidates show up at this particular council’s meetings is one thing. Sorting out how existing community bodies fit into the new system is another.
Lindy Wishard, chair of the East group and a member of the Madison Valley Community Council & Merchants Association said that it will be important to connect at some point with the eventual District 3 rep.
“We have some very conservative neighborhoods and we have some very liberal neighborhoods and we have everything in between,” she said. “I think it’s important for whoever gets voted in to be aware of all areas of the district.”
Wishard added that advising the District 3 council member could be part of the future charter of the neighborhood council.
Others raised the question of relevance of Neighborhood District Councils as conduits of information between constituents and City Hall in the era of mass digital connectivity and instant communication.
2015’s seven district and two citywide races in the city are beginning to take shape:
- Kshama Sawant and her Socialist Alternative ground game will be a formidable opponent in District 3.
- Sawant will be opposed in District 3 by LGBTQ activist and Democratic fundraiser Rod Hearne and women’s rights advocate Morgan Beach.
- Current Council members Nick Licata (here) and Tom Rasmussen (here) are not running. Mike O’Brien (here) is in District 6 along with Bruce Harrell in 2, Jean Godden in 4, Sally Bagshaw in 7, and Tim Burgess in one at large position and Sally Clark in the other.
- One name running against clark: the Central District’s Bill Bradburd, chair of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition, a slow growth activist and staunch opponent of microhousing.
One of the main responsibilities for the East District Neighborhood Council is making local recommendations for how various city grant programs are to be deployed on the streets of Capitol Hill and nearby neighborhoods. But at the group’s meeting earlier this month, Durkan said the process for people to apply for funds like the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund, a $2 million chunk of Seattle’s city budget that is designated for neighborhood improvements to streets and parks, we’re drawing enough interest in the current structure.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve had a lack of applications, nobody’s turned in applications to get this money,” Durkan told the group. The application window ends February 9th.
Durkan said that the decision has already been made for grant applications and vetting of the grants to go through the District 3 leadership in the future.
In the meantime, the neighborhood group doesn’t seem eager to help the new District 3 candidates meet with voters. The east group isn’t organizing a District 3 forum and the neighborhood council structure isn’t working on a citywide forum either, it was announced at the meeting.
“I would prefer hearing from them after they get elected,” said Christine O’Donnell from the Yesler Terrace Community Council.
With the district elections still almost 11 months away, there’s still time for other groups to step forward.