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Everett council rejects placing districting on ballot, backers eye loophole

EVERETT — The City Council last week voted 5 to 2 against placing an initiative asking to reshape council elections using geographic districts on this November’s ballot.
While all seven council-members said they recognize the topic has broad public support, some council members are concerned by how
the district maps were drawn and also whether the topic should undergo a larger public process first.
Councilwomen Brenda Stonecipher and Judy Tuohy gave the two “yes” votes.
Others, such as Councilmen Paul Roberts and Scott Murphy, called for further review. “We’re not ‘there’ yet,” Roberts said.
Some council members, such as Cassie Franklin, were uneasy how the five district boundaries were drawn
by an outside expert working for the grassroots group. Councilman Jeff Moore said city demographics, instead of segmenting the city by population like the group’s map does, should be used to draw district boundaries.
Initiative supporters said post-meeting they had predicted how the council vote would go but will continue to fight on with their effort. They believe they still have a shot at getting on the November ballot because of vagueness
in city charter law which appears to force a petition
onto the ballot if enough signatures are submitted to the city. Group leaders contend this city deadline is Sept. 20.
“There’s an egregious lack of clarity” in the charter, said Garrett Havens, a campaign strategy consultant for the group Everett Districts Now. 
Stonecipher said post-meeting that the charter law issue could become “a legal quagmire” this fall.
The group says the map was drawn according to state law to have five contiguous districts with an equal number of people in each. The map lines would change after each census.
The effort as of last week has more than 3,000 petition signatures, far short of the 8,100 signatures which needed to be submitted by Aug. 1 to the county elections
office. Last week’s council meeting was pushed up to
July 31 in order to feasibly meet the Aug. 1 deadline.
The initiative asks to have five of the seven council seats elected from geographic areas versus using citywide elections.
The council chambers was packed and 35 or so people gave public comments largely favoring districts.
“How many more people do you need to hear from?” supporter Brenda Bolanos-Ivory said. “Put it on the ballot and you’ll hear from thousands.” 
A few dissenting voices from the public asked to wait on districts and one said districts won’t create equality in representation the way that supporters have idealized. 
Another speaker said these district boundaries would still leave underrepresented areas such as her Delta neighborhood underrepresented. The proposed district across north Everett combines Delta with the affluent Northwest Neighborhood where four of the seven council members live. A supporter countered that the Casino Road area, which would be in a proposed southern district, would finally have a voice on council.


 

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