Guest Commentary: We’re all super-busy keeping track of the new University of Washington president, layoffs at Twitter, Dell’s blockbuster acquisition of EMC (including local subsidiary Isilon) and worries about the Seahawks offense. Not too many of us are paying attention to an even bigger drama—the elections in November that will fundamentally shape Seattle’s future for the next 30 years.
Tech workers are smart, and smart people vote, especially this time around. This year’s Seattle City Council elections are hot, heavy and historic. For the first time, we will elect all nine Council members at once and seven of them will be elected by district, creating lots of uncertainty (and opportunity).
This new system means that each of us votes for only three seats (our “district” and the two at-large seats) as opposed to nine. Because voter turnout is low (30% isn’t unusual), and the districts are small, your vote matters more this year than ever before. A small number of votes in each Seattle neighborhood will decide who gets elected, what kind of a team we have to represent us at City Hall, and what kind of things can — and can’t — get done.
We all work hard for diversity and firmly believe that teams that bring different experiences to the table make better decisions, but even under the old system — and before Seattle went into hypergrowth — our City Council had a hard time shipping code that could make the city work. We want to be sure that the members of the new Council are committed to working together with every constituency in the city to get things done.
Fifty percent of our region’s jobs are directly or indirectly related to just four organizations: Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and the University of Washington. This is a vulnerable place for a region to be—and very unusual among cities of our size.
We need Seattle to become a place where great new companies are built, to complement our strong but narrow base of current employers. For that to be true, we need to remain a magnet for talented people and growth-seeking investors from around the world. That means we need a Council that is both business AND people friendly — not one that threatens to seize Boeing’s assets or latches onto failed anti-growth policies like the ones that have turned San Francisco into the most unaffordable city in the country.
We need a Council that will make sure people of all income levels can live, work and raise their families here. The tech community needs that. All of Seattle needs that. The culture of Seattle is the culture of technology and innovation as much as it is the culture of art and counterculture. The two are not in opposition and the tech community can be a key part of the solution, not scapegoated as the problem. We need Councilmembers that get that, and electing them is all of our responsibility.
Choosing candidates who represent your values is a deeply personal choice and one of our most precious rights and deepest responsibilities as citizens. If you only vote in one election this year, make it the one that will shape our city for years to come and vote for the City Council you want to lead Seattle.
Heather Redman and Chris DeVore are Seattle-based investors and entrepreneurs involved with the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, sponsored by The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Go here to see the candidates endorsed by the group.
Heather Redman is an executive at Indix Corporation, an angel and early stage fund investor and board member. Her civic involvement includes serving on the boards of the WTIA, the Seattle Chamber, Forterra and the Finance Committee of CASE. Founder’s Co-op partner Chris DeVore is the managing director of Techstars Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @CrashDev and read more at his CrashDev site.