We are still 21 months away from electing the first Seattle City Council members by districts, but efforts are already underway to organize around the new political space. The heightened interest in the city’s civic affairs is encouraging, but sustaining that interest through 2015 and beyond could be a challenge. After all, what’s the point of districts if residents within those districts aren’t making themselves heard?
The District 3 council member will represent a dynamic swath of central Seattle that will combine two neighborhood anchors — Capitol Hill and Central District — with several smaller outliers, like Madrona, Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi.
“We’re the most dangerously informed and opinionated district,” said Akilah Stewart, one of the first prominent voices on a D3 Facebook group and organizer of the first off-line meeting at her house to plan for a real-world organizing forum. “It’s exciting that we’re at a time when there will be a big convulsion in Seattle politics”
Just days after the November election, The Stranger’s Dominic Holden created a Facebook group to act as a digital gathering space for all District 3 residents. Since then the group has grown to over 700 members and has become relatively active in discussing Seattle politics at a D3 level.
Members have even begun organizing a forum for elected officials to talk directly to those under the new political umbrella.
You can join the conversation at facebook.com/groups/SeattleDistrict3/
Currently the group is more concerned with organizing residents rather than vetting possible candidates, although newly minted council member Kshama Sawant would be the front runner were the election to happen today.
Aside from the Facebook group, there are few other public organizing efforts happening around the district. Many of the existing community groups in the area told CDN council districts are well off the radar though there are signs other entities like development companies and business organizations are already planning ahead.
Michael Wells, director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, said his group has not yet focused on reaching out to other neighborhood chambers within the district.
“I don’t think a whole lot of things will change, officials must still must legislate around the whole city,” he said. “Even in zoning, there’s a tremendous conversation through the whole city having to do with zoning of new buildings.”
One question raised in the wake of passing district elections is what becomes of city’s 13 neighborhood councils? Some have proposed that the number of neighborhood councils be reduced to seven to mirror the new district boundaries. Without redistricting there are several residential pockets that would be separated from their neighborhood councils when it comes to their representation on city council.
Of the small gathering at the January 13th East District Council meeting, most seemed to be in favor of keeping the current neighborhood council boundaries.
During the meeting Greater Duamish Council chair Alexis Gallegos said she recognized keeping the current neighborhood district boundaries could dilute neighborhood’s influence on City Council, but that the 13 districts should still be preserved.
“We voted on council districts, so we have to be OK on that. But I don’t have to be OK with someone taking over my neighborhood,” she said.
If you’re ready to get ahead in your politicking, District 3 “frontrunner” Sawant will be in the area Thursday night at this month’s East Precinct Advisory Council meeting speaking about “her vision for the issues most impacting working people, youth and the poor in our communities.”