Seattle City Council will take a full 20 days to consider and select its newest, interim member, rather than rushing an appointment through before budget season starts. The new member will fill Position 8, formerly held by Tim Burgess until he was appointed mayor on Monday.
“While I do believe we can have an abbreviated process,” Council President Bruce Harrell said in a memo outlining his plan, “I also believe the process should be transparent and the public should have a meaningful role to work with us as we make our final decision.”
According to the memo, the City Clerk will accept applications from Monday, September 25 through Sunday, October 1 at 5 p.m. The following week, there will be two public forums and meeting with public testimony, and then a final vote at a special Full Council meeting at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 6.
The context for this crisis is, of course, the sudden resignation of mayor Ed Murray, which triggered a game of musical chairs at City Hall. On Thursday, Council President Bruce Harrell announced that the final chair in that musical game—the Council seat vacated by Tim Burgess, now acting mayor—will be filled through a full 20-day application process. That interim councilmember will serve until the general election results are certified at the end of November, when they’ll be replaced by either Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda.
Following Murray’s resignation, multiple Councilmembers said they wanted to appoint an interim Councilmember by next week. The Council has entered budget season, arguably the most important and technical work it does all year, and they wanted to settle the appointment question quickly.
However, Councilmember Kshama Sawant and many members of the public pushed back against that plan, saying that the Council needs to take the time to go through a transparant and accountable public process. “I would urge that the council open it up for application,” said Sawant during Council Briefing on Monday. “The biggest hurdle is not getting the administrative work done in the budget…The main issue is, what kind of voice will we have on city council?” Sawant urged her colleagues to prioritize loyalty to the working class over technical competence when selecting an interim councilmember.
Robert Gavino is with Transparent Seattle Coalition, which formed after Murray resigned to demand a full and open appointment process. “We know our organizing has been a big factor in President Harrell’s proposal,” said Gavino, pointing to similarities between the language and details in Harrell’s memo and what Transparent Seattle has been asking for. Those similarities include a full 20-day selection process, public forums for applicants, and public comment. But while Harrell’s new plan is a big improvement, says Gavino, the forums should be mandatory for applicants instead of optional.
As we reported, former Councilmember Nick Licata told council staff he’s interested in being considered for the position. Hayat Norimine reports that other former Councilmembers who might apply include John Okamoto and Tom Rasmussen, as well as former state legislator and mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell. Former Councilmember Sally Clark tells us she is “not planning” to apply. Former Peoples Party mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver initially declined to comment on whether she’d apply, but then Thursday evening said she will not. “I can do the most good for our communities right now investing in building the Seattle Peoples Party and continuing to invest in our youth,” tweeted Oliver.
Danni Askini says she’ll probably also apply. The director of the Gender Justice League said that she wants to make sure that city budget negotiations adequately fund services for survivors of sexual violence, among other vulnerable groups.
“As a survivor [of sexual violence], the most important thing right now,” said Askini, is that whoever is appointed interim councilmember go on the record about what specific goals they have in the budget. “I want to see the city put its money where its mouth is” when it comes to supporting survivors, said Askini, rather than just spouting vague platitudes about how doing so is important.
In the wake of Murray’s resignation after multiple men alleged he sexually abused them decades ago, the subject of sexual violence is the subject of much lip service at City Hall. Many, including the Weekly’s editorial board, criticized the Council for its slow and spineless response to the allegations against Murray. Now that he’s gone and budget season is here, it remains to be seen whether that lip service will be matched with public dollars, or whether city leaders will try to put this unpleasant episode behind them.
This post has been updated.