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Council elections using districts, EMS levy on Everett ballots

EVERETT — Residents are voting on three city ballot measures, two of which are about changing the City Council to use district elections. The third measure asks to reset the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy to 50 cents.
Voters are being asked two questions about using districts to shake up the city’s elected body: Should Everett do it, and how?
Proposition 1 is a simple yes-no question on the matter. A city survey this summer found majority support for introducing geographically elected seats on council. 
Proposition 2 asks the public to choose whether the seven-member council should be reshaped using either five or four district seats. The mayor’s position
would remain a citywide election.
The council’s current makeup has five council members living in North Everett and two in South Everett. That will stay the same after the only City Council election on 2018’s ballot because both candidates live south of 41st Street. 
The group Everett Districts Now, which started and led the effort, has pushed for geographic districting
because it puts some council elections in the hands of neighbors. It believes this could help get underrepresented people elected on the council and remove the cost barrier to mounting a citywide election campaign.
Everett Districts Now wants five districts. The citizen group argues that a four-three split could still allow a majority concentration of council members to be elected from the same area, while five districts busts up the map well enough to avoid this chance.
On the opposing side is a group against the idea called No Everett Districts.
The group argues that using districts reduces the public’s choices and that could end up excluding the city’s
best-qualified candidates from being able to run for any available seat.
It also is concerned that people elected on neighborhood issues might not fight beyond their home area even though the council body is meant to represent the entire city.
On this, Everett Districts Now says that having a local council member would be more aware about localized issues and be more hands-on about them.
South Everett also has a much larger voter population already, the vote no group argues.
Data shows that two-thirds of the votes in the 2015 general election were from people living south of 41st Street. There were about 15,000 registered voters in North Everett compared to 34,000 registered voters in South Everett in 2015.
The north-south divide is a key piece in the districts conversation.
With so many council members living in North Everett right now, Everett Districts Now argues that this leaves some people without effective representation. The elected officials from North Everett mostly live in the wealthier neighborhoods of the area.
This disenfranchisement that would be fixed using districts, it argues.
Three of the five districts Everett Districts Now put on a suggested map are in South Everett.
If approved, the first district elections would be in 2021, and turnover would be gradual. District maps would be drawn in 2020 with data from the U.S. Census, and the districts would be evenly spread by population. A volunteer nine-member districts commission would also be created, and council would select most of the commission’s members.
EMS levy
The EMS levy rate has slid down to 40 cents per $1,000, and Proposition 3 asks to reset it back to the maximum 50 cents per $1,000 in property value.
The city has been plunging money into EMS operations from its general fund for day-to-day operations. City officials say that the budget can’t keep filling this shortfall, and without taxes paying for EMS then money-saving changes will be necessary. 
Combined with a planned 1 percent city property tax increase, the amount of city taxes levied to a resident with a $422,239 home would be $1,071 in 2019 if the EMS measure passes, or about $68 more than this year for the city portion. The same example homeowner lives in a $385,000 home and paid $1,003 for the city portion of his or her property tax bill this year at a rate of $2.60 per $1,000 in property taxes. This amount doesn’t include state, school district, Port of Everett or Sound Transit 3 taxes.
Next year’s city rate would be $2.54 per $1,000 in value. The rate is lower because property taxes are levied across the overall value of properties in the city, and values have gone up.
Ballots are due Nov. 6.

Everett districts information events
The organization behind the effort to restructure the council will hold a Q-and-A session Thursday, Oct. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Black Lab Gallery, 1618 Hewitt Ave. featuring musical guests Buddy Kye and Eric Scott. The event is open to all ages.
More information on districting is available from the city online at www.everettwa.gov/1856/Districting

  

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