We Can’t Let Our Democracy Be Taken Away During The City Council Selection Process  

by Dae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr.

Seattle has had three Mayors in less than a week. By December, Seattle will have had at least four mayors in 2017 alone. Ever since the long-overdue resignation of former mayor Ed Murray, city council (a handful of whom supported Murray until the bitter end, including current interim Mayor Tim Burgess) have been playing musical chairs with their seats while trying to figure out how to rearrange power structures in place.

It seemed like the chaos had finally finished after Council agreed upon appointing City Council District 8 Rep Tim Burgess. The only thing left for council to do is to vote in an interim for Burgess’ vacant city council seat. A seat that almost seems meaningless as we only have 10 weeks to go before either Teresa Mosqueda or Jon Grant takes over the seat. (The winner of the Position 8 race will take over immediately after ballots get certified. Same goes for Mayoral race.)

Behind Tim Burgess’s new job, this is the second-most important temp job in the city. The interim will have 1 of the 9 votes to approve a budget of almost 5 billion dollars. A budget that will be proposed by new mayor Tim Burgess next Monday, September 25th. This budget will likely contain many contentious items, such as funding for alternatives to a new youth jail as laid out in an Executive Order issued by then mayor Bruce Harrell, and one of the most expensive police stations in the country, colloquially known as the “bunker”.

This budget will determine if the city has changed its mind about the incarceration of youth. This is a budget that will shape Seattle’s next course of action dealing with the State of Emergency declared by former Mayor Ed Murray and the homelessness crisis we face.

Will Seattle build more affordable housing to accommodate its rapidly increasing population? Will Seattle continue to sweep houseless Seattleites from one corner of the city to another? Will Seattle continue to allow its police to operate without citizen accountability? The position 8 interim appointee will have a massive impact on that decision.

According to the City Charter, the council has at least 20 days to appoint an interim Council member.

Transparent Seattle is a newly-formed coalition of residents and neighbors who are concerned with the lack of transparency in the selection process for the City Council position 8 seat.

During Bruce Harrell’s short mayoral stint, Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Sally Bagshaw said they preferred to hurry the appointment process along. That process will determine the fate of disenfranchised communities that already face a daily threat of displacement and an unjust and racist criminal justice system. Thus, this decision shall not be taken lightly by the council or the community. Transparent Seattle’s goal is an open, democratic, and public process. We demand City Council end any plans of a rushed appointment process that is unaccountable to the people.

Transportation, education, affordable housing, the North Precinct police bunker, and additional resources for survivors of sexual assault are all on the table. How can City Council not invite the people of Seattle to be a major part of this process with all of these life-altering decisions on the line? Budgets are more than a collection of revenues and expenditures; they are moral documents. Seattle deserves an open, transparent appointment process with public input to ensure someone who has the people’s trust will vote in good faith on the budget.

First, we demand the City of Seattle allow the maximum 20 days, per the Seattle City Charter, to solicit applications and vet potential appointees. Rushing this process, as councilmembers Johnson and Bagshaw would like, closes opportunity for our communities to respond.

Second, the people of Seattle deserve to meet and ask questions of the potential interim councilmember. Transparent Seattle and its supporters demand a public forum hosted by the City in which community members can learn about the potential appointees.

Third, after the public forum, City Council must hold an open council meeting at a time accessible to working folks, with a public comment period so Seattleites can voice on record their opinions and concerns.

All we are demanding are basic democratic rights as residents of Seattle. We call on the council to meet these modest requests from their constituents. True democracy happens when elected officials, especially City Council members, authentically represent the voice of the people they serve.

Transparent Seattle has created a petition to demand City Council to ensure a public process in finding the interim City Council member for Position 8 that can be signed here.

You can follow Transparent Seattle on Twitter using hashtag #TransparenSEA

Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/TransparentSeattle

Dae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr is the campaign coordinator of the Seattle Peoples Party.

Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Canadian Pacific