Magnolia Considers Suing Over New District Boundaries, Mayor Donates Auction Item to Exclusive Private School

1. Update on November 22, 2022: According to an email distributed by the Magnolia Community Council, the group “has made the difficult decision to no longer pursue an appeal” because the cost of doing so would be “prohibitive.” The group “will start planning for how we will come together to work effectively and efficiently for one community made up of two Council Districts,” the email said.

Rumors were flying this week that the Magnolia Community Council planned to file a legal challenge to a new Seattle City Council district map that divides the peninsula into two council districts. Representatives of businesses and homeowners in Magnolia argued that the map the Seattle Redistricting Commission ultimately adopted was inequitable because it “split” the neighborhood, moving the wealthier, whiter western half of Magnolia into District 6, currently represented by Dan Strauss.

An email that went out on the community council’s mailing list this week sought donations for a “legal defense fund” to request a review of the new map from a King County Superior Court judge, on the grounds that the redistricting commission did not follow rules laid out in the city charter for the 10-year redistricting process. “Our goal is to request a judge to order the Commission to follow the Charter and vote for a map that keeps Magnolia whole,” the email says.

The community council’s website praises comments made by former mayor Greg Nickels, the only redistricting commission member to vote against the map. In his statement, as PubliCola reported, Nickels called the map “retribution  [against] Magnolia because it is an older, wealthier and whiter community.”

Demographically, the neighborhood consists of two distinct, and very different areas. The west side, with its expansive views of Puget Sound, fits the stereotype of Magnolia as a suburban enclave: almost exclusively single-family and owner-occupied, with median home values as high as $1.7 million.

The eastern half of the peninsula, which includes thousands of renters in dense apartment blocks, will remain part of District 7, which includes other renter-heavy neighborhoods like Lower Queen Anne, Belltown, and downtown. According to Census data, the eastern part of Magnolia encompasses some of the city’s densest Census tracts, including several where more than 80 percent of residents are renters; overall, the part of Magnolia that will stay in District 7 includes almost 5,000 rental units.

The Magnolia Community Council did not respond to a request for comment on its plans to mount a legal challenge, nor on its fundraising efforts.

2. Mayor Bruce Harrell offered “lunch with the Mayor” for five students, complete with a photo opp and a tour of City Hall by mayoral staff, as an auction item to benefit the exclusive Lakeside School’s parents’ association earlier this month. Proceeds from the annual ROAR (Raising Our Allocation Resources) auction pay for “classroom enrichment, faculty and staff development, and financial aid,” according to Lakeside’s website.

Annual tuition at Lakeside School is more than $40,000 a year, although families that receive financial assistance pay, on average, just over $9,800 a year, according to the school’s website. The average income for families that receive financial aid is $163,730 a year.

In response to questions about the auction, mayoral spokesman Jamie Housen said Harrell has “regularly volunteered his time for these kinds of charity auctions, including to support students at Garfield and Cleveland High Schools, the Wing Luke Museum, and the Rainier Chamber. … In this case, he was asked to support a charity auction to raise money in support of students, including financial aid for underrepresented students. One of Mayor Harrell’s children is a Lakeside alumnus and his daughter-in-law currently works at the school.”

Other items available at the auction, which has now closed, included a Lake Washington Boat Adventure with “El Capitan Jefe,” an inside look at the filming of KING TV’s long-running Evening show, and weekends at several vacation houses. Lunch with the mayor sold for $225.

6 thoughts on “Magnolia Considers Suing Over New District Boundaries, Mayor Donates Auction Item to Exclusive Private School”

  1. Magnolia has always been a diverse community. By splitting it up, you in essence , create definite discrimination. Home owners are an important part of any community, but renters support the economy just as much.

  2. What continues to shock me with the City of Seattle is that the City Ethics and Elections Commission know no bounds as long as “disclosure” is made, and often not even when no disclosure is made. To barter on the value of the public trust and to offer things of value that would not exist outside the service to the public makes Mayor Harrell’s in-kind contribution for the fundraiser tone deaf and wildly inappropriate. I’m not sure if a similar donation would be ok if done at a tax-funded place of education, or what kinds of fundraising restrictions laws might have on tax-funded places of education. To have a City Official, and his close family, forget what is public and what is private in the halls of tax-funded places of the public good, makes me shudder. He knows not what he does and it looks like group-think and lip-service all around.

  3. Very interesting, regarding Magnolia. Did a text search of the city charter and didn’t find any mention of “a map that keeps Magnolia whole,” nor any mention of the right for Magnolia to their own feudal fief which comes with their very own city council member. It seems to me that “older, wealthier and whiter community” is the one seeking retribution by its desire to sue. How dare the Redistricting Commission seek a more equitable solution, and not see the Magnolia community’s naked grab for power is their rightful claim? They are “older, wealthier and whiter,” after all.

    1. Of course Magnolia doesn’t get special treatment in the Charter, it’s more likely the lawsuit alleges this provision was violated:

      “District boundaries shall be drawn to produce compact and contiguous districts that are not gerrymandered. The population of the largest district shall exceed the population of the smallest by no more than one percent. To the extent practical, district boundaries shall follow existing District boundaries, recognized waterways and geographic boundaries, and Seattle communities and neighborhoods. In drawing the plan, neither the Commission nor the districting master shall consider the residence of any person.”

    1. While the Mayor, as an individual, should be able to support anything he likes, using his power to donate “a tour of City Hall by mayoral staff” is an abuse of power and gifting of tax-payer resources.

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