Op-Ed: Racism In the Seattle City Council District 2 Election? Yes, By Default – From the Mainstream Media.

by Sharon Maeda

Long before Beacon Hill, Chinatown/International District, Columbia City, Georgetown, Hillman City, Lakewood, Mt. Baker, Rainier Beach and Seward Park became Seattle’s only majority minority district – the residents, communities and small businesses have struggled to be heard by the mainstream media; its no wonder that the vast majority of Seattle’s alternative, community, ethnic and language media are rooted in these communities.  

Everyone likes to tout the most diverse zip code in the state.  Yet, most of the media has totally ignored this only majority minority district.  These neighborhoods survived incursions of an interstate freeway, sports arenas, light rail and street car tracks.  It is the only district that had three large public housing developments and has requested more affordable housing over the decades.  It is the district that has welcomed refugees and immigrants who have risked their lives fleeing famine, wars, dictators and poverty to find a better way of life for their families.  Should not these New Americans have information they need to participate in our democracy?  Maybe coverage of the highest air pollution levels in the city, or the disproportionate incarceration of young men of color, or housing costs pushing all this great diversity right out of the city.  

So, yes.  By not covering the District 2 City Council election, the media is saying that this majority minority district really doesn’t matter.

As a former journalist, I have lamented the loss of a daily newspaper or local family ownership of a major network stations and the decline of local news and public affairs and journalism in general.  Today, I truly mourn the loss of media that is committed to providing news that people need to make decisions about who to elect to represent them…..who will be looking out for the needs and issues facing District 2.  

And, what about this specific election?  Theoretically district elections are supposed to make it easier for people of color to run and to cost significantly less.   When asked, some media have said that there’s really no race there – presumably because the incumbent received over 50% of the primary vote.  If there were NO challengers, shouldn’t the only district with majority minority voters be covered?  With the lowest voter turnout in the primary, and the highest percentage of New Americans, isn’t it at least part of the media’s responsibility to elevate the concept of democracy, elections and issues?  Furthermore, it actually has all the characteristics of a great story:  Bruce Harrell, a former Husky football star with a big personality turned corporate attorney vs. Tammy Morales, an introverted community planner and grassroots advocate who got her chops as a legislative aide.  A biracial African/Asian American incumbent vs. a Latina who converted to Judaism.  An incumbent who has nearly a quarter of a million dollar campaign fund – large enough to run citywide vs. the quixotic challenger who has less than one third the funds and has knocked on over 8,000 doors.  Okay, if the candidates are not interesting enough, what about the issues:  increase in gun violence, police accountability, gentrification, home foreclosures, and the highest level of homicides.  Seattle’s great economic boom is only pushing immigrants, low wage workers and people of color out of the city entirely.    

I don’t use these words lightly, but whether by default or not, the result is institutional racism – racism from the mainstream media that only helps to ensure low voter turnout in the district that has the most at stake in Seattle’s first district election.   

Democracy is not a spectator sport.  How can New Americans and beleaguered low wage workers participate if the media acts like there’s no election?  In fact, one could argue that a diverse district like ours should have more coverage so that New Americans and disenfranchised voters know about voter registration deadlines, primary and general elections, and the issues that separate candidates from each other. 

The people of D2 deserve better.  

Sharon Maeda is a Seattle resident. She is the former Executive Director of Pacifica Radio and once served on the global mission board of the United Methodist Church as their Deputy General Secretary.

Featured Image courtesy of Alex Garland

7 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Racism In the Seattle City Council District 2 Election? Yes, By Default – From the Mainstream Media.”

  1. Wow – Sharon, why don’t you tell the truth here? You applied for a City Council vacancy, the one created by Sally Clark, a minority. Sally Clark had won appointment over you the last time there was a vacancy. You made it to the final eight. But you weren’t chosen. Bruce Harrell praised African American Alec Stephens, the former Diversity Program Director for Sound Transit. He praised and voted for African American Sheley Secrest, an attorney, former Urban League manager and President of the NAACP. John Okamoto, a Japanese American who resides in District 2, was chosen by a majority of the Council and you were not. But Bruce Harrell didn’t vote for you, and you’ve been pissed off about it ever since. You’ve been out for blood. Maybe that’s why you continue to belittle Bruce’s accomplishments, fixating on the two years he spent as an attorney for US West, right after law school, and completely skipping the decades he spent representing unions and nonprofits, and SUING corporations for discriminating against workers. Suing giant multi-national corporations like Boeing, for discriminating against Black workers; for discriminating against women. Suing the City of Seattle for discrimination in housing. And now, on the City Council, going after the Seattle Police Department for using excessive force and profiling minorities. You, Sharon Maeda, are nothing but a two-time loser for city council appointments.

    1. Agreed. Sharon is bitter as hell and she wants to take down Bruce to extract her revenge. No one has covered the race because it is a snoozer in terms of competitiveness.

      Sharon wants more coverage so her candidate of choice gets more earned media. Why does her candidate need more coverage? Because she has failed to get support for her campaign and wants the media to give her attention she herself cannot afford to generate.

      Go away Sharon ‘sourgrapes’ Maeda.

    2. Or maybe she’s like most adults, and has actually gotten beyond those looooong ago events, and has well formed opinions. Try it!

      Great write up of an important race. Thank you, Sharon.

  2. Wonderful assessment and challenge. It is interesting, isn’t it, that the district experiencing and pursuing remedy for the most compelling issues of iur day andbthat this city faces is not getting media play. The solutions these candidates are elevating are exiting and worthy of debate and they stand to counter the ills that affect “this bastion of liberalness” we call Seattle.

  3. This non-partisan article poses excellent issues and hi-lites the typical paltry nature of Seattle’s mainstream media reporting. The anonymous attacks on the author are neither fair nor accurate. There has been a remarkable lack of media discourse in this race. While I have no particular bone to pick with the incumbent. I have also found the challenger to be an in-depth and thoughtful candidate. I think we could all be surprised about the outcome here, as I believe that the challenger’s ground game may well have eaten into the primary spread. We’re lucky to have two capable candidates, and unlucky to live in a mainstream media wasteland.