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Rob Johnson won’t seek reelection; Seattle City Council poised for major shakeup

Seven out of nine Seattle City Councilmembers are up for reelection in 2019 (AP)

An announcement from Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson that he won’t seek reelection in 2019 is just the latest in what’s expected to be a huge shakeup on the council next year.

In total, seven out of the nine total city council members are up for reelection in 2019. Rumors have swirled all year that both Sally Bagshaw and Kshama Sawant have been mulling the possibility of not running again, while Bruce Harrell and Mike O’Brien both could face tough challenges in their respective districts. Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena Gonzalez’s terms expire in Dec. 2021.

Bagshaw recently caught flak for inquiring about how other cities provide opiates to drug users as part of a safe injection site program.

Also facing reelection are Lisa Herbold and Debora Juarez. Juarez and Herbold joined Bagshaw and Harrell in a joint statement in 2017, expressing their support for former Mayor Ed Murray remaining in office through the end of his term, following multiple allegations of sexual abuse. Murray later resigned.

It’s been a tough term for the Seattle’s City Council, overall. The city’s homeless problem has persisted in the wake of tens of millions of dollars in investments, the new union contract with the Seattle Police Department has hit a standstill, and the controversial head tax saga earlier in 2018 saw confidence in the city council hit a low among voters.

The Stranger reported on a secret poll conducted following the repeal of the head tax, that found favorability ratings for the council sitting around 40 percent, while job performance sat somewhere in the 20s or 30s.

The embarrassing saga of the head tax was cast in an even poorer light after the most recent midterm election, when San Francisco voted 60 percent in favor to approve its own tax on large businesses to combat homelessness, with the support of many of the region’s biggest tech companies.

In October 2015, the same year the council members up for reelection were elected, Seattle and King County jointly declared homelessness in the region an emergency.

Three years later, the latest data on homelessness published in January 2018 claimed that Seattle and King County’s homeless population sits just over 12,000, a four percent increase over 2017. The portion of homeless who are unsheltered also increased from 2017, from 47 percent to 52 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, reports of homeless people attacking touristsharassing local businesses, and squatting on private property are no longer a rarity.

With Johnson already stepping aside, two more council members possibly considering the same, and a handful of tough challenges for the remaining four, the Seattle City Council could be in for a turnover the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.

Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote in a news release on Thursday, “Councilmember Johnson has been a steadfast voice for a more vibrant, inclusive, and affordable Seattle. Working together, we have made major investments in transit, transportation, education, and affordable housing.”

RELATED: WA GOP Chairman fears Legislature could warp into the Seattle City Council

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