We are all really busy in technology land, and it is hard enough to get well-educated on who to vote for in federal and state-wide elections.
The elections that will most likely have the biggest impact on your life and on which you are capable of having the biggest impact are the Seattle City Council elections coming up this summer and fall.
Ironically, this is an election that I am betting almost none of us will delve deeply enough into to make informed choices unless we make an unprecedented effort. I’m here to tell you 8 reasons why you should:
1. Seattle is going through an unprecedented period of growth and change. The city council plays a large role in determining how and where our city grows. According to the city council’s website, among other things: “The City Council approves the City’s budget, develops laws and policies that promote the health and safety of Seattle’s residents….” That’s a big scope of work.
2. Our city has what is known as a weak mayor, strong council system. That means, if you’ve been blaming (or thanking) the mayor for the construction noise next door or the paper bag fee, you are blaming or thanking the wrong person. We really have 10 people running the city (1 mayor and 9 council members) and 6 of them have to agree to get anything done.
3. We very recently went from a system where all of the council members were elected by the whole city to a system where only two of them are and the rest are elected by geographic districts. Because of this, it may take only around 15,000 votes in some cases to get elected to the council. You know people with that many Linkedin connections! Adding to the chaos, there are over 40 people running for council.
4. Each council seat is important and influential. Even one change in the council can have a huge impact on the entire council and the mayor.
5. Three sitting councilmembers have decided not to run for reelection, so we are guaranteed to have a lot of new faces, and some of them will have been elected by a very few voters as the math above shows. It is possible that we will have an entirely new council. That new council could have very little experience running something like a city, let alone one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. You have to decide whether that’s good or bad, of course.
6. Many of us, especially those of us who moved here recently, are not registered to vote. So the results of the election will be skewed toward those who have the best get-out-the-vote organizations, which tend to be more single-issue and polarizing candidates. Again—not saying that’s good or bad. It just is.
7. The issues are big, complex and impact our daily lives hugely. Just a few: affordable housing, rent control, construction moratoriums, transportation (bikes, pedestrians, parking rates, transit), pay gaps across different groups and growing distance between rich and poor, parks, broadband, education, kayaktivists, child prostitution, density, police, crime, mental health care, homelessness, elephants! Just one example of where life as we know it can change very quickly — ride-sharing very nearly bit the dust not too long ago in Seattle in part because of social justice concerns by some of the council.
8. Finally, and worth giving some belly-button-gazing moments to contemplating, despite the liberal and progressive ideals of many of us, our industry and we ourselves are viewed as one of the main problems of the city by many of those running for office.
Heather Redman is the vice president of business operations and general counsel at Seattle startup Indix. She’s an angel investor who previously worked in executive roles at Atom Entertainment, Getty Images and PhotoDisc.
Editor’s note: Today is the deadline for filing to get candidates on the ballot. More information here.