Push for City Council districts: ‘We don’t trust the process’

Everett council members plan a ballot measure. An outside group calls their involvement flawed.

EVERETT — Two separate efforts are under way to pitch Everett City Council districts to voters in 2018.

One is from the council; the other from outside its ranks.

They aren’t likely to come together.

Frustrations continue between some councilmembers and the group called Everett Districts Now. The group wants to create five geographic districts that would each elect a council position. Two other seats would remain at-large. They say their plan would increase representation in less-affluent parts of town.

But they don’t have enough petition signatures to push a public vote yet.

The council, meanwhile, is on track to create its own ballot measure on districts, through a yet-to-be appointed committee. The makeup of that committee has proven contentious, though, even among the council. That was the subject of a Dec. 6 public meeting.

Some on the council want to bring Everett Districts Now into the fold. Councilman Paul Roberts says the group should share its research with the committee and perhaps become some of its members. Councilman Jeff Moore suggested the council adopt a timeline to show good faith.

“This isn’t an us and them anymore,” he said.

In response, the group says the committee is fatally flawed, because most of the members would be appointed by the council. They say they can’t trust those who have dismissed their work in the past.

“We aren’t asking for this commission, and we don’t trust the process,” said Megan Dunn, a leader with Everett Districts Now.

This summer, a majority of the council declined to place the group’s plan on the ballot.

Brenda Stonecipher and Judy Tuohy were the dissenting votes. At the recent meeting, Stonecipher said she still supports letting the public vote on the group’s plan — something the council can make happen, regardless of signature count — rather than appointing a committee.

“We have clearly a dog in this fight because it affects our jobs as council members, and I think it makes it very difficult for us to be unbiased,” she said. “And therefore it’s difficult for the people who we would appoint to be unbiased.”

Tuohy said the committee should be appointed independently of the council.

The meeting also brought an announcement that Everett Districts Now might tweak its plan. The group is talking about whether to stick with the original petition and seek signatures to qualify for the next general election, or to pursue a second petition with reworked language, said Greg Lineberry, a leader with the effort.

One revision being floated would keep at-large elections in place until 2023. At that point, the district boundaries could be redrawn based on 2020 U.S. Census data and public hearings in each district, he said.

Expect news in the coming weeks, he said. Details also are forthcoming on a meeting next month to gather public input.

After hearing the group’s comments, Moore reiterated his view that a districting measure should be led by public officials.

“We made it really clear: Join us,” he said.

No action was taken at the meeting. Additional council discussion has not been scheduled.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rikkiking.

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