The Seattle City Council inauguration was held on January 4, 2016. All nine Seattle City Councilmembers took their oaths of office in the traditional ceremony. Newly elected Councilmembers Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Rob Johnson, and Debora Juarez joined returning re-elected Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant in taking their seats at the Council dais.
Family, friends, colleagues and community members filled the Seattle City Council chambers to celebrate the new and returning local government leadership. Each elected official was sworn in by someone of their choice and gave brief remarks.
Councilmember Debora Juarez took her ceremonial oath of office at the ceremony, becoming the first enrolled Native American to serve on the Seattle City Council. Councilmember Juarez is a member of the Blackfeet Nation.
“The Blackfeet name is ‘Nah Too Yii Mis’Stuckie,’ which means ‘Holy Mountain Woman,’” Juarez said. “I am proud to represent the City of Seattle and am equally proud to represent District 5.”
Juarez added, “Today is historic. It is not historic because I’m Native American, or because I’m Latina. It’s historic because I am America. This is democracy. I am a product of 1970s War on Poverty programs, I am a product of affirmative action, I am a product of growing up poor, but knowing that education was the equalizer.”
Councilmember Kshama Sawant said in her oath: “Socialism is rising. Across the U.S. and globally, young people and workers are rejecting corporate politics and capitalism. They are fed up with the deep inequality, brutal racism, and environmental destruction under this system.”
Sawant continued, “Nationally, Bernie Sanders is running a trailblazing campaign as a Democratic Socialist, calling for a political revolution against the billionaire class.”
She further explained, “A socialist society would put people before profits, the environment before big oil. A society in which the resources of the major corporations are taken into democratic public ownership, rationally planned for the needs of society as a whole…We have not won everything. But as our victory on the $15/hour minimum wage showed: if we fight, we can win.”
Sawant said she was offering an alternative to business as usual.
“I take the dangers of Republican right-wing politics very seriously. However, they are only one part of the problem. Over decades, Seattle has been dominated by a Democratic Party establishment which has presided over an ever-growing housing crisis in this city, increasing income inequality, the largest gender pay gap in the country, and an unaccountable police force. It is time for something new. Working people need our own political party that unambiguously fights for our needs.”
Sawant thanked the community for their support, and emphasized: “Thousands of people contributed 10 dollars, 20, 50, and together we set a new record for fundraising in a Seattle City Council race, without taking a penny in corporate money. In this beautiful city, blighted by income and racial inequality, 2016 should be the year we take on the greed of the few, to meet the needs of the many.”
Councilmember Rob Johnson, “As the fastest growing major city in the country, the problems to solve and the hurdles to overcome are many as we work to keep pace with those who currently call Seattle their home and those who want to call Seattle their home. The time for making two year decisions has passed, and we must commit ourselves, as leaders of this city, to planning for 2065, not 2018.”
Johnson added, “I envision our neighborhoods and urban villages alike as communities where all have the opportunity to live, work, and play – regardless of socio-economic status. Where better planning, design and architectural innovation ensure new development improves quality of life and enhances the character of all our neighborhoods.”
Following their oaths, Councilmembers elected Councilmember Bruce Harrell to the position of Council President. Harrell has served as Seattle City Councilmember since 2008 and most recently chaired the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. The Council President is the presiding officer of the Council, sets the Full Council agenda, assigns legislation to committees and is the primary point of contact for external agencies. When the Mayor is absent from the City or incapacitated, the Council President assumes the duties and responsibilities of the Mayor.
Monday’s historic oath of office ceremony ushered in first district-based representation system since 1910. Seven of the Councilmembers will now each represent a geographical district, while two Councilmembers will each represent the entire city:
- District 1 (West Seattle, South Park): Councilmember Lisa Herbold
- District 2 (Southeast Seattle): Council President Bruce Harrell
- District 3 (Central Area, Capitol Hill): Councilmember Kshama Sawant
- District 4 (Ravenna, Wallingford): Councilmember Rob Johnson
- District 5 (North Seattle): Councilmember Debora Juarez
- District 6 (Fremont, Ballard): Councilmember Mike O’Brien
- District 7 (Downtown, Magnolia): Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
- At-Large (city-wide): Councilmember Tim Burgess
- At-Large (city-wide): Councilmember Lorena González
“Today marks a milestone in Seattle’s history as we commence a council term characterized by district representation,” Johnson said.
Click here for an interactive tool to help find which Council district you live in.
Monday’s inaugural ceremony also marked a series of notable firsts in Seattle local government history:
- First Enrolled Native American Councilmember – Debora Juarez
- First Latina Councilmembers – Lorena González and Debora Juarez
- First Japanese American/African American Council President and first African American Council President since Council President Sam Smith in 1986-1989 – Bruce Harrell
- First Female Majority City Council since 1998 – Sally Bagshaw, Lorena González Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez, and Kshama Sawant
Councilmembers also took their first votes in their 2016-2017 term and assigned committee chairs. Each Councilmember is responsible for heading a Council committee and managing legislation related to that committee’s focus:
- Council President Bruce Harrell, Chair: Education, Equity and Governance
- Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair: Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance
- Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Chair: Human Services and Public Health
- Councilmember Lorena González, Chair: Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans
- Councilmember Lisa Herbold: Chair: Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts
- Councilmember Rob Johnson, Chair: Planning, Land Use and Zoning
- Councilmember Debora Juarez, Chair: Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront
- Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Chair: Sustainability and Transportation
- Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Chair: Energy and Environment
The ceremony was broadcast live on the Seattle Channel and can be viewed beginning Tuesday.