Earlier this week, I was reading a local blog that is dedicated to transportation issues and noted the repetition of what is now an almost constant theme about conflict between the City Council and the Mayor.
Well, as Mark Twain once wrote, "the report of my death was an exaggeration." (Mr. Twain wrote that phrase in a note to a friend in May 1897. An image of the actual note is above.)
Journalists and political commentators all love conflict. They seek it out, they report it, they sustain it, and sometimes they even embellish it. Conflict is the coin of the realm, so to speak, for the media.
So, I thought I'd add a different perspective from inside City Hall.
Yes, there has been conflict at times over the past year, some of which has resulted from misunderstandings and poor communication. Frankly, most of these conflicts have been minor and haven't served either the Mayor or the Council. Check back through Seattle history and you'll find similar squabbles whenever a new Mayor takes office.
There has also been policy conflict on a few important issues, such as the deep-bore tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the SR 520 bridge project. These conflicts were and are real. There are substantive differences in opinion and approach between the Mayor and many Councilmembers on these matters.
Thankfully, despite what you continue to read and hear around town, there is also much collaboration between the Council and the Mayor. Here are just a few examples:
- The Mayor’s budget proposal last fall for 2011 was generally well crafted and presented. There was a productive relationship between the Mayor and the Council, including some hard work necessary to refine several parts of the budget. The result was unanimous Council adoption of the budget.
- New policies related to parking meter rates and parking enforcement and fines have been crafted by a working group that included both the Mayor's team and Council members. There are still many details and decisions to be made, but it’s been a good process that I believe has resulted in better policy decisions.
- Over the past nine months, the Council and the Mayor and his staff have worked hand-in-hand on public education issues and challenges, including very specific planning for renewal of the Family and Education Levy later this year. This work continues and I'm confident it will result in a set of solid policy recommendations for the Council to consider beginning later this month.
- Despite a flurry of reporting about who did what first or who was supposed to release what when, the Council and Mayor worked very well together on our state legislative agenda. The result is a short list of highest priorities (a first for Seattle and something our legislators have been requesting for years) for the Session that begins next Monday.
Well-functioning cities have various attributes that help them achieve their success. One of these is the ability to choose collaboration over conflict. We will better serve the people of Seattle the more we understand and practice this.