Group says council districts would better represent Everett

EVERETT — A campaign has been launched to put an initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, would divide the city of Everett into districts for City Council elections.

Megan Dunn, an advocate for the districts and chairwoman of the Everett Districts Now campaign, said they’d need about 8,000 signatures to qualify.

“We would not have to do this, we would not have to gather 8,000 signatures, we would not have to raise $70,000, if the City Council had put this on the ballot and let the voters decide,” Dunn said.

“It’s very clear that the residents of Everett want to see this happen so we’re moving forward,” she said.

Dunn, who lives in the Lowell neighborhood, has advocated a districting plan since 2015 as a way of increasing representation from the southern parts of the city, which have more racially and economically diverse populations. Right now, only one city councilman, Jeff Moore, lives in south Everett, and four of them plus Mayor Ray Stephanson live north of downtown.

It would also help combat a perception that north Everett neighborhoods receive a disproportionate amount of resources, including public safety and sewer improvements, she said.

The proposed ballot initiative would have five of the seven council seats elected from five geographical districts of approximately 20,000 residents each. The other two council seats would remain at-large positions.

The campaign hired Richard Morrill to draw up the proposed district maps. Morrill also drew up the city of Seattle’s district maps, and is a retired University of Washington professor of geography.

That was similar to a proposal brought before the city’s Charter Review Commission in 2016. The commission ultimately voted not to include it on the general election ballot that year.

In February, the City Council’s General Government Subcommittee decided not to push for a districting plan, opting instead for a number of other outreach initiatives designed to bolster voter participation citywide.

The proposed ballot language includes provisions for redistricting every 10 years if new Census data causes shifts in population density in the neighborhoods.

Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan, who is running for mayor, is an early endorser of the measure.

Despite the City Council’s good intentions, it’s not representative of a rapidly diversifying population, he said.

“You want people on the City Council saying, ‘Hey, I’m from this neighborhood and I’m fighting for this neighborhood,’ ” he said. Sullivan lives in the Port Gardner neighborhood.

Other local backers of the campaign include the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County, the Snohomish County Chapter of the NAACP, Everett Firefighters Local 46 and City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher.

A kickoff event for the campaign is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Snohomish County Public Utility District building, 2320 California St.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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