In 2010 the City Council launched a project to change the relationship between Seattle and the rest of the State. We call this strategy ‘Seattle for Washington’. Our goal is to reach out to local governments and state legislators around the state to emphasize the importance of Seattle to Washington – and to emphasize that we care about what happens in other areas of our state. By building relationships and opening dialogue, we hope to reduce conflict and create opportunities for positive and constructive working relationships.
Too often in the past, Seattle has just tried to get what we want from the legislature. Sometimes we have been successful by forging coalitions on particular issues, but often we have found ourselves treated with indifference or even hostility. Changing that requires building relationships. It also requires that we not only ask for support for our priorities, but are open to lending our support to others, even if we are not particularly interested in their issue. It’s a two-way street.
We implemented the ‘Seattle for Washington’ strategy by identifying nine areas of the state where we wanted better communication with local governments and legislators. Each Councilmember was assigned a specific area, and asked to take a couple of days during the year to travel to that area to meet with the local officials.
I was assigned to the Spokane area, and spent two days there, meeting with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Mayor Mary Verner, Council President Joe Shogan, and Councilmembers Richard Rush, John Snyder, and Amber Waldref. We talked about the role of government as an agent of economic development, using local food production and food-related business development to strengthen urban-rural connections, and working together on fiscal issues and preserving critical state revenue distributions to local governments.
Councilmembers traveled to Olympia as a group on two days during the legislative session, splitting up into pairs to meet with key legislators. Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Jean Godden have been active as Board members of the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), carrying our message to other cities, and Councilmember Rasmussen and I attended the AWC annual convention.
Our ‘Seattle for Washington’ work helped generate a very productive relationship with the legislature in 2011, and garnered significant legislative successes. My hope is that we are making a long-range commitment to this effort – the more we work at it, the more benefits we can expect, for Seattle – and for Washington.
PS Credit for the phrase ‘Seattle for Washington’ goes to Stephanie Pure, who came up with it when we were talking about how to improve Seattle’s relationships with the legislature. Thanks, Stephanie!