Seattle boards play divisive game
By Jean Godden
Boards and commission -- there are more than 70 of them -- are a mixed bag in Seattle.
Some, like the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority Council, have a quasi-judicial role, regulating appearances in historic districts. Others like the Seattle Fire Code Advisory Board, are staffed entirely with professionals.
Then there are boards like the Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees and Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission that wield power, far beyond just giving advice. The Library trustees run the Seattle Library and hire the City Librarian. For its part, the Ethics and Election Commission exacts fines for ethics violations.
The city has five separate transportation advisory boards. Among them are the Seattle Freight Advisory Board, the School Traffic Safety Board, Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, and the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board. Members of these boards are unpaid volunteers appointed by the mayor and city council. They're assisted in their advisory role by well-paid SDOT employees, who arrange meetings, do research and take care of staffing details.
The city has recently seen two of its many boards -- the Seattle Human Rights Commission and the Seattle LGBTQ Commission -- step into a highly divisive role. At the Oct. 5 meeting, eight of the Human Rights Commissioners met and, although a minority, voted to send the mayor and city council a letter, calling for Durkan to resign immediately or be removed from office. The letter cited the mayor's actions related to police brutality, homelessness, income inequity and city governance.
On Oct. 23, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission joined the Human Rights group also calling for the mayor to step down immediately. This, too, was done by letter after a vote taken by a minority of the members on the 21-member commission. There were six positive votes, five negative and one abstention. The letter cited Durkan's alleged failure to "uphold and protect human rights of the people of Seattle."
Earlier the State Supreme Court had unanimously dismissed a recall effort targeting the mayor. The Court found that the charges put forward were factually and legally insufficient and did not rise to a level that would allow the citizens' initiative to remove the mayor.
News that the LGBTQ Commission would then decide to call for the mayor's resignation is highly distressing. The move was a sadly ironic since for decades Mayor Durkan has been a champion of LGBTQ issues. She worked tirelessly for civil rights and marriage equality. She herself was the first openly gay person appointed a U.S. Attorney. While serving as mayor, she has backed housing and shelter for LGBTQ seniors and youth.
Since the commissioners stepped outside their advisory roles, there has been a considerable backlash. A letter signed by 195 LGBTQ members stated they disagreed with the commission's stand, adding that the commission should have conducted more research and should not have assumed a role speaking on behalf of others.
An op-ed column in the Seattle Times authored by former Human Rights Commissioner Charlene Strong echoed that sentiment. Strong wrote, "The words of a few do not represent the community at large or the reality of who Jenny Durkan is and her commitment to fighting all these years."
It is at the very least distressing to learn that an activist minority on the two commissions has taken such ill-considered positions during difficult times. The activists took that action hiding behind a commission name and while utterly failing to acknowledge or to make comment on the outrageous and obscene homophobic and misogynistic threats to the mayor.
The commissioners' actions are nothing less than an embarrassment and a misuse of city resources.
Jean, can you disclose your connections to the Mayor and her community? How do you know each other?
"Since the commissioners stepped outside their advisory roles, there has been a considerable backlash." This is a provably false statement. The Commissions provided recommendations (well within their advisory role). A single letter from her LGBTQ supporters is not blacklash. Based on the social media accounts of both Commissions, there is overwhelming support for the courses of action spelled out in each Commission's letter. .
"... while utterly failing to acknowledge or to make comment on the outrageous and obscene homophobic and misogynistic threats to the mayor." It is interesting that your analysis did not address the substantive points in both letters. All our analysis appears to be subjective (and conventional) counterpoints for the Mayor. I hoped for journalistic integrity. I found none in this piece.
On "The commissioners' actions are nothing less than an embarrassment and a misuse of city resources.", commissioners are community volunteers. Which city resources are you talking about?
Putting forward here that the real embarrassment is this transparent attempt by friends and supporters of the Mayor to put forward highly subjective and highly biased pieces like these without addressing the substance of the recommendations provided by the Commissions.
Nice try at an invalidation strategy though. Kudos.
The LGBTQ Commission in fact does express how the majority of Seattle's queer community feels about the mayor. You seem surprised, but most of us voted for Nikkita Oliver and Cary Moon. Durkan is no friend of ours just because she's queer.