Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson to resign in April

Mar 21, 2019, 7:09 AM | Updated: 1:25 pm

35th Avenue, Rob Johnson, death threat...

(Seattle Channel)

(Seattle Channel)

Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson will resign from his position next month, making his final day on the dais April 5. That will kick off a 20-day period, during which the council will look be tasked with temporarily filling his seat.

In a Thursday morning blog post, Johnson wrote:

It has been a distinct honor and privilege to work in this capacity, representing the many different people and the great diversity of opinions that give Northeast Seattle its vibrancy.

I depart City Hall feeling immensely proud of working alongside my talented, dedicated staff to accomplish nearly all that I set out to do when I decided to run for this position.

Such accomplishments that Johnson notes include Mandatory Housing Affordability (upzoning) legislation; three city budgets; and supporting the establishment of a safe consumption site for addicts (no site has officially been built). He also said he is proud that voters approved the Sound Transit 3 levy and housing levy during his tenure.

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During the 20-day replacement period, the council will appoint a member in Johnson’s place. His replacement cannot seek election in the current race. Whoever is appointed has to be from Johnson’s District 4.

Possible candidates can apply to fill the vacancy at On April 5, the city will make those applications public, giving citizens a chance to review them. A series of selection meetings and presentations will follow, culminating in a final council vote at a 2 p.m. meeting on Monday, April 22.

“Given the need for our new Councilmember to ‘hit the ground running’ and this fall’s election seven months away, I believe we should appoint an experienced ‘caretaker,” Council President Bruce Harrell said in a memo.

District 4 covers a range of neighborhoods from Eastlake to northeast Seattle, including the University District, Roosevelt, Ravenna, Sand Point, parts of Fremont and Wallingford, and Laurelhurst.

Rob Johnson resignation

News of Johnson’s early exit was initially reported by KING 5. The City Council’s media contact said that Johnson will not be granting interviews on the topic. His office said that he was lobbying in Olympia Thursday.

Johnson announced in November 2018 that he would not seek reelection on the November 2019 ballot. It’s an election season with seven of the nine council positions up for vote. There are currently nine candidates running for the District 4 spot alone. Candidate Alex Pedersen boasts taking in the most democracy vouchers.

Pedersen has made ethics a core part of his run for Johnson’s seat. He wants the city’s ethics commission to reform rules allowing council members to accept jobs while still in office. This is seemingly in response to Johnson accepting a position with Seattle’s new NHL team as a transportation adviser. Johnson accepted the job around November 2018, shortly after he announced that he would not seek reelection.

In his Thursday morning blog post, Johnson stated:

While I am very excited for the next chapter of my career with NHL Seattle, I have been so inspired by those I’ve gotten to know and work with over the years; to the neighborhood leaders, small business owners, housing advocates and City of Seattle department leaders and their staff members – thank you for your engagement, for sharing your talents and thoughts, and for all you do for your communities.

Shortly after Johnson announced his plans to resign, Pedersen issued this statement:

Not only is there a strong precedent to appoint a ‘caretaker’ who takes the high road and rejects backroom deals by agreeing not to run for the seat … the City Council has a special moral and financial obligation to respect the democratic process already underway. The City Council must know that there has been a growing lack of trust between the people and parts of their city government and handing this vital job to an inexperienced candidate will cause more damage to the democratic process and our public institutions. I hope we can all agree this is the time for accountability, transparency, and results, not backroom deals and amateur hour.

Johnson has also faced controversy in his home district. A move to take away parking in favor of bike lanes formed the “Save 35th Ave NE Seattle” group which evolved an opposition to the council member. Tensions only heightened when public records appeared to show that Johnson pushed for the bike lanes, and taking away parking, despite being informed that 68 percent of residents in his district were opposed to the project.

In his blog announcing his decision to resign, Johnson said he was “proud to have eliminated parking requirements in areas of frequent transit to help us meet our climate change and affordability goals.”

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Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson to resign in April