Local Civics, Part I
From Wikipedia: The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines civics as "the study of the rights and duties of citizens and of how government works." The definition from dictionary.com is: "the study or science of the privileges and obligations of citizens."
This year in August and November we, as citizens of communities in Washington State, will receive ballots asking us to vote on candidates for "municipal" elections. If you're like I have been most of my life, you will be a little startled. "Who are these people?" If you're diligent, you will go in search of information. You may be overcome by a sense of despair as you realize how hard it is to acquire clear and honest information about the candidates, there real values, who they are as people.
So we need to start now. For me, first that means getting a bird's eye view of the electoral map of my particular registered voting location. I cannot do this for every town in Washington State, but I can offer insight into how you might gather information for your locality as I present my bird's eye view from my perch in District 2 of the City of Spokane.
Tool Number One: MyVote.wa.gov. Click. Read. Every time I go there I learn something new. This time ask yourself who your local elected officials are. Click "My Elected Officials," scroll down and click "City/Town" and "Other." For me in the City of Spokane, I see my officials are Mayor David Condon, City Council President Ben Stuckart, and District 2 Council people Lori Kinnear and Breean Beggs. Some several of these folks will be on the ballot I receive in August and November this year. Which ones?
I'm a little embarrassed to disclose the route I took to answer this question: I emailed and spoke with my City of Spokane, District 2, Council Members, both of whom were very helpful. Only later did it dawn on me the basic information must be in the City of Spokane City Charter--a document available to read on the City of Spokane website. Here it is: Section 5, Elected Officials. You can think of the Charter as the City version of the U.S. Constitution (writ small and in modern English).
The very basic facts about the City elected offices:
1) The Mayor and City Council President are elected City-wide.
2) The six Council Members are elected by the voters of each of their Districts (see map). There are two Council Members per District. One of the two Council seats in each District is up for re-election every two years.
3) The Mayor and City Council President positions are up for re-election this year (2019) and every four years along with the three City Council members who hold seat number 1 in their respective Districts. This year that's Mike Fagan (District 1-NE Spokane-who cannot run again since he's served two terms), Lori Kinnear (District 2-South Hill plus), and Karen Stratton (District 3-NW Spokane).
4) All eight of these seats are for four year terms and each seat is term limited to two terms! (That was news to me.) Of course, having served two terms as a Council person, one might run for the first of what could be two terms as Mayor or City Counsel President.
5) The three Municipal Court Judges are also City of Spokane elected officials. Like the other eight they serve four year terms. They do not appear on the 2019 ballot. Instead, they will appear in 2021 and each four years thereafter along with the Council Members occupying seat number 2 of their respective Districts. The Municipal Court Judges are elected City-wide.
Spend a few minutes today to orient yourself in your electoral map. One hint: I found it easier to get to the City Charter of the City of Spokane by googling it than navigating the City of Spokane website. You might find the same thing for the city or town in which you live.
Keep to the high ground,