Mayor Axes Thirteen District Councils
OK, no blood was shed, but I’ve been waiting about 50 years to use this verb. It was in the 60’s when the-then Pope demoted something like 27 saints to non-saintly status. Our local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, blazoned the news in a huge headline: Pope Axes 27 Saints! One had visions of his immaculate papal robes drenched in blood. I was an impressionable journalism student at the time and that type of headline had not been covered yet in class.
Even though the Mayor’s act was not a violent scene, it was shocking nonetheless. The Mayor claimed the District Councils, in existence since 1987, are made up of rich, white homeowners protecting their turf and did not reflect the true demographics of the city. This was particularly unsettling as the Central Area Neighborhood District Council does have diversity in its representation. Several Central Area groups represented at the Council are African-American in membership. The current chair of the CANDC is Hispanic and is a renter, not a homeowner.
I have been attending these meetings for many years, first as a “reporter” for the Leschi News and later as an officer of the Council. I have never seen the nimbyism often expressed at the Federation (Seattle Community Council Federation). I think the diverse mix of attendees has caused us to look beyond our own backyards to the area as a whole. The focus has been on safety: better crosswalks, improved lighting, disability access. The various neighborhood groups in this Council supported us in our fight to keep the #27 bus all day, 7 days a week. We sent letters to decision makers at the USPS to keep a post office presence in the area; we sent a supportive letter for the Duwamish as that community was negotiating the cleanup of the Duwamish River. They were ultimately successful in getting some key issues addressed.
The District Council has been fortunate to have the Land Use Review Committee looking at all new large developments in our area. They have been able to negotiate some changes in design which reflect the wishes of the neighborhood, such as the cut-through to 24th Ave. at the Promenade site soon to be developed by the new owner, Vulcan. Yet to be solved is the food desert issue. When the Red Apple closes in December, there will be no place in upper Leschi to purchase fresh food. We have apprised Vulcan personnel of the problem for our elderly and disabled residents who no longer drive. A Vulcan representative will be at our November meeting and we need to see what is being proposed.
More voices are more powerful than a single voice as we learned from Council Member Sawant at our June meeting. District Council members were encouraged at their 8/11/16 meeting to flood the City Council with letters of concern and pleas to move more slowly, to develop a process of more inclusion before pulling the plug on district councils. How would a handpicked (by the Mayor) commission know what was important in Leschi?