What is accountable government?
Accountable government is government that takes responsibility for the job it does. Accountable officials are officials who take responsibility for the job they do, and acknowledge their mistakes when they screw up.
What we're doing right
Seattle has a strong City Charter and Ethics Code and a long tradition of conscientious public service. Most City officials – from the cop walking the beat to the clerk who processes permit applications – do their jobs well and take responsibility when they make mistakes. Unfortunately, as you go up the ladder to the department heads, the City Attorney, the City Council, and the Mayor, accountability diminishes.
What we can do better
Councilmembers have been engaged in a variety of unethical behaviors. One CM packs a "community meeting" with paid advocates who are instructed to shush the critics. Another passes her correspondence to a gossip blogger who uses it to embarrass a constituent. A third hosts political rallies on the taxpayer dime. These are just a few of the ethical breeches I've documented on my blog. When citizens complain about this behavior, they're ignored by the Council. When they file complaints with the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission, the complaints are dismissed. It's time for a change.
What I'll do to help
I will push to create a new Culture of Accountability and Ethical Behavior at City Hall. I'll do this primarily by modeling ethical behavior myself. But I won't hesitate to speak my mind if I see other Councilmembers violating the letter or the spirit of our laws.
► Seattle Ethics and Elections Review I will review Seattle Ethics and Elections Commissions decisions to determine whether they are aligned with the goal of maintaining a reasonable standard of ethical behavior at City Hall. If I find they are not, I will work with the Mayor and Commissioners to determine what changes need to be made, either to the Ethics Code or the Commission itself. My suspicion is that the Code is fine and it lacks only the will to enforce it.
► City Ombudsman Using existing City staff, I will create an aggressive Citizen Ombudsman office to help Seattleites who are having trouble getting the answers they need from City officials. If I can't get support for this plan from the other Councilmembers, I'll detail my own staff to do the job.
► No New Taxes. Mayor Murray has proposed a record-breaking nine tax levies in his term. The last one to be approved (Proposition 1 in 2016) raised $290 million for affordable housing. When I queried some of the beneficiaries of Prop 1, I got stonewalled, and the City refused to help me get answers. This is typical: Taxpayers are asked to fund programs and then kept in the dark about where the money goes. Until Seattle agrees to daylight it's contracting and spending practices, I will oppose all new taxes.
► The Promise List I have made a list of commitments to myself and the citizens of Seattle. This is my personal list, and I don't seek to impose it on anyone else. I would be interested in seeing what promises other CMs might make, and I will invite them to make their own lists and share them with their constitutes and co-workers.