Ex-Mayor Suggests Redistricting Map is “Retribution” Against “Older, Wealthier, Whiter” Magnolia; Election Reform Campaigns Lack Local Funding

Screen shot of Seattle Redistricting Commission's virtual meeting
Seattle Redistricting Commissioner Greg Nickels (upper row, middle) called splitting Magnolia a form of “retribution” against wealthy, older white people.

1.The Seattle Redistricting Commission officially adopted a new map for Seattle City Council districts Tuesday, though not without some wind-related drama: As commissioner (and former mayor) Greg Nickels was preparing to make his final case against the decision to divide Magnolia across two districts, his power (along with that of more than 10,000 other West Seattle residents) went out and the meeting had to be delayed for several minutes.

Most commissioners agreed two weeks ago on a compromise that will split Magnolia along the ridge that divides west-facing view houses from the city-facing half of the peninsula, which includes some of the city’s densest rental housing. (This probably says more about Seattle than it does about Magnolia). The new map, which is based on a proposal from the grassroots group Redistricting Justice for Seattle, eliminates the need to split Fremont into three council districts while keeping neighborhoods like the Chinatown International District whole.

“Retribution [against] Magnolia because it is an older, wealthier and whiter community—I think that’s not something that the redistricting commission ought to be engaged in. And in a larger sense, as we talk about race and social justice, I think that reconciliation is going to be a much more successful strategy than retribution ” —Redistricting commissioner and former mayor Greg Nickels

Nickels, however, never wavered from his insistence that dividing Magnolia effectively disenfranchised the neighborhood. On Tuesday, Nickels said he considered the map “retribution” by woke commissioners against a “community interest that’s very strong and ought to be acknowledged and respected our plan.”

“Retribution [against] Magnolia because it is an older, wealthier and whiter community—I think that’s not something that the redistricting commission ought to be engaged in,” Nickels said.

“I don’t think that individual commissioners are engaging in that, but I want to make it clear that I think that that’s just an inappropriate social policy for redistricting to take on. And in a larger sense, as we talk about race and social justice, I think that reconciliation is going to be a much more successful strategy than retribution.”

The map passed 4-1, with Nickels voting no.

Pie charts showing that the vast majority of funding for both ranked choice and approval voting came in the form of large contributions.

2. In the runup to Election Day, money continued to pour into the campaigns for both ranked-choice voting (a system that would allow voters to rank local primary election candidates in order of preference) and approval voting (a system that lets voters pick as many candidates as they like). As of late Tuesday afternoon, the two campaigns each had roughly $600,000, with Seattle Approves about $17,000 ahead of Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle.

Most of that money, for both campaigns, comes not from grassroots-level donations from voters but in the form of a few giant checks from advocacy groups (RCV) and wealthy individuals outside the state. Most of Seattle Approves’ money, for example, comes from just two sources: Crypto exchange billionaire (update, maybe not) Sam Bankman-Fried and his company, FTX, and the California-based Center for Election Science, which is funded by the Open Philanthropy Project. More thatn $450,000 of the $614,000 Seattle Approves has reported raising so far came from these two sources.

The ranked-choice voting campaign, meanwhile, has received almost half a million dollars from the local and national branches of FairVote, an RCV advocacy group that’s funded by a number of large philanthropic organizations, including the MacArthur Foundation and the Soros Fund. According to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, almost 98 percent of Ranked Choice For Seattle’s funding came from 27 large contributors, and the campaign had only 141 donations under $700. Just over 98 percent of Seattle Approves’ funding came from 22 large donors, and the campaign received just 75 contributions below $700. At least 86 percent of the RCV campaign’s funding came from outside city limits; for approval voting, that number was 90 percent.

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