Government and politics of Seattle

Seattle City Hall

Seattle, Washington is a charter city, with a Mayor-Council form of government, unlike many of its neighbors that use the Council-Manager form. Seattle's mayor and two of the nine city council members are elected at large, rather than by geographic subdivisions. The remaining seven council positions are elected based on the City's seven council districts. The only other elected offices are the City Attorney and Municipal Court Judges. All offices are non-partisan. Seattle is a predominantly liberal city and tends to elect left-leaning politicians to office. Ed Murray is the current mayor of Seattle, serving since 2014.


The city government provides more utilities than many cities; either running the whole operation, such as the water and electricity services, or handling the billing and administration, but contracting out the rest of the operations, like trash and recycling collections.


Seattle's politics lean famously to the left compared to the U.S. as a whole. In this regard, it sits with a small set of similar U.S. cities (such as Madison, Wisconsin, Berkeley, California, and Cambridge and Boston in Massachusetts) where the dominant politics tend to range from center-left to social democratic. Seattle politics are generally dominated by the liberal wing (in the U.S. sense of the word "liberal") of the Democratic Party; in some local elections, Greens (and even, on at least one occasion, a member of the Freedom Socialist Party) have fared better than Republicans. There exist pockets of conservatism, especially in the north and in affluent neighborhoods such as Broadmoor, as well as scattered libertarians, but for the most part Seattle is primarily a Democratic city, as exemplified by Congressman Jim McDermott, who represents the Seventh Congressional District of Washington, made up of most of Seattle and also including semi-rural Vashon Island. McDermott has been reelected to his seat in every election since 1988, when he replaced fellow liberal Democrat Mike Lowry, who had held the seat since 1979.

Crime and criminal justice

As with most U.S. cities, the county judicial system handles felony crimes — the Seattle Municipal Court deals with parking tickets, traffic infractions, and misdemeanors. Seattle does not have its own jail, contracting out inmates it convicts to either the King County Jail (which is located downtown), the Yakima County Jail, or (for short-term holdings) the Renton City Jail.[1] After reaching its highest murder rate in 1994 with 69 homicides, Seattle's murder rate declined to a 40-year low with 24 homicides in 2004.[2] By 2006, Seattle's murder rate had increased, with thirty murders that year.[3] Auto theft is another matter: Seattle has until recently ranked in the top ten "hot spots" for auto theft; the Seattle Police Department has responded by nearly doubling the number of auto theft detail detectives, and started a "bait car" program in 2004.[4]

Seattle has suffered two mass-murders in recent history: the 1983 Wah Mee massacre (13 people killed in the Wah Mee gambling club)[5] and the March 25, 2006 Capitol Hill massacre when 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff killed six at a rave afterparty.[6] Later in 2006, an attempted spree killing by Naveed Afzal Haq left one dead at the Jewish Federation building.[7]

In 2016, a prostitution scandal involving Seattle City Councilors was uncovered by the King County investigators.

Official nickname, flower, slogan, and song

In 1981, Seattle held a contest to come up with a new official nickname to replace "the Queen City." "Queen City" had been devised by real estate promoters and used since 1869,[8] but was also the nickname of: Cincinnati;[9] Denver;[10] Regina, Saskatchewan;[11] Buffalo;[12] Bangor, Maine;[13] Helena, Montana;[14] Burlington, Vermont,[15] Charlotte, North Carolina,[16] and several other cities.The winner of this contest, selected in 1982, was "the Emerald City". Submitted by Californian Sarah Sterling-Franklin, it referred to the lush, thickly forested surroundings of Seattle that were the result of frequent rain.[17] Seattle has also been known in the past as "the Jet City"—though this nickname, related to Boeing, was entirely unofficial.[17] It has also been known as the "Portal to the Pacific", a phrase enscribed on the arches of the tunnel leading westward into the city from the Interstate 90 floating bridge over Lake Washington.

Seattle's official flower has been the dahlia since 1913. Its official song has been "Seattle the Peerless City" since 1909. In 1942, its official slogan was "The City of Flowers"; 48 years later, in 1990, it was "The City of Goodwill", for the Goodwill Games held that year in Seattle.[18] On October 20, 2006, the Space Needle was adorned with the new slogan "Metronatural." The slogan is a result of a 16-month, $200,000 effort by the Seattle Convention and Visitor's Bureau.[19] The official bird of Seattle is the great blue heron, named by the City Council in 2003.[20]

Seattle mayors of note

Sister cities

Seattle, Washington, USA, has 21 sister cities through Sister Cities International.[25]

City Region Country Year
Kuching Sarawak Malaysia
Kobe Hyogo Japan 1957[26]
Bergen Hordaland Norway 1967[27]
Tashkent Tashkent Province Uzbekistan 1973[28][29]
Beersheba Southern District Israel 1977[30]
Mazatlán Sinaloa Mexico 1979[31]
Nantes Pays de la Loire France 1980[32]
Christchurch Canterbury New Zealand 1981[33]
Mombasa Coast Province Kenya 1981[34]
Chongqing Chongqing Municipality People's Republic of China 1983[35]
Limbe Southwest District Cameroon 1984[36]
Galway Connacht Ireland 1986[37]
Reykjavík Reykjavík Iceland 1986[38]
Daejeon Chungcheongnam-do South Korea 1989[39]
Cebu City Cebu Philippines 1991[40]
Kaohsiung Kaohsiung City Taiwan 1991[41]
Pécs Baranya Hungary 1991[42]
Perugia Umbria Italy 1991[43]
Surabaya East Java Indonesia 1992[44]
Gdynia Pomeranian Voivodeship Poland 1993[45]
Sihanoukville Sihanoukville Cambodia 1993[46]
Haiphong Haiphong Vietnam 1996[47]

Sister ports

Port Region Country Year
Kobe Hyogo Japan 1957
Rotterdam South Holland Netherlands 1959


  1. Municipal Court of Seattle. "Jail Locations and Visitations". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  2. Walter F. Roche Jr (2006-09-11). "Homicides, gun violence up nationwide last year". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  3. Office of the Mayor (2007-02-07). "Major crimes down in Seattle in 2006". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  4. Jessica Blanchard (2004-11-24). "Area car-theft ranking falls". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  5. Tracy Johnson (2002-04-30). "Mak spared death for Wah Mee killings". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  6. "Capitol Hill rampage worst since Wah Mee Massacre". The Seattle Times. 2006-03-26. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  7. "One dead in hate-crime shooting at Jewish center". CNN. 2006-07-29. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  8. Greg Lange (1998-11-04). "Seattle receives epithet Queen City in 1869". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-26.
  9. "How did Cincinnati come to be known as the Queen City?". Cincinnati Frequently Asked Questions. Cincinnati Historical Society Library. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  10. Lyle W. Dorsett; Michael McCarthy (1986). The Queen City: A History of Denver. Pruett. ISBN 0-87108-704-9.
  11. "The town is named". Let's Learn About Regina. City of Regina. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  12. "Healthy Infrastructure for Queen City Livability". City of Buffalo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  13. "Business Development: Major Development Initiatives: Waterfront Redevelopment". City of Bangor. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  14. "Home Page". Queen City News. Retrieved 2007-10-27. Queen City News is a Helena, Montana newspaper.
  15. "Welcome to Burlington, Vermont". City of Burlington Police. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  16. "Welcome to Charlotte, North Carolina". City of Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  17. 1 2 "We're not in Washington Anymore". Seattlest. 2005-10-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  18. "Seattle City Symbols". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  19. Gene Johnson (2006-10-21). "Seattle Unveils Slogan: 'Metronatural'". Comcast News. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  20. Seattle City Council (2003-03-17). "Seattle Names Great Blue Heron "Official Bird"". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  21. Mildred Andrews (2003-03-02). "Landes, Bertha Knight (1868-1943)". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
  22. Lee Micklin (1998-10-30). "Jewish mayor of Seattle Bailey Gatzert is elected on August 2, 1875.". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  23. Kit Oldham (2004-01-11). "Langlie, Arthur B. (1900-1966)". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  24. Cassandra Tate (2004-09-23). "Voters re-elect businessman Robert Moran as mayor of the City of Seattle on July 8, 1889.". HistoryLink. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
  25. "Interactive City Directory: Seattle, WA". Sister Cities International. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  26. "Seattle International Sister City: Kobe, Japan". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  27. "Seattle International Sister City: Bergen, Norway". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  28. "Seattle International Sister City: Tashkent, Uzbekistan". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  29. Kesting, Piney (January–February 2016). "The Unlikely Sisterhood of Seattle and Tashkent". AramcoWorld. Aramco Services Company. 67 (1): 10–23.
  30. "Seattle International Sister City: Beer Sheva, Israel". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  31. "Seattle International Sister City: Mazatlán, Méjico". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  32. "Seattle International Sister City: Nantes, France". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  33. "Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association". Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  34. "Seattle International Sister City: Mombasa, Kenya". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  35. "Seattle-Chongqing Sister City Association". Seattle-Chongqing Sister City Association. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  36. "Seattle International Sister City: Limbe, Cameroon". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  37. "Seattle Galway Sister City Association". Irish Heritage Club of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  38. "Seattle International Sister City: Reykjavík, Iceland". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  39. "Seattle International Sister City: Taejon, Korea". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  40. "Seattle International Sister City: Cebu, Philippines". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  41. "Seattle International Sister City: Kaohsiung, Taiwan". City of Seattle. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  42. "Seattle International Sister City: Pécs, Hungary". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  43. "Seattle International Sister City: Perugia, Italy". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  44. "Seattle International Sister City: Surabaya, Indonesia". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  45. "Seattle International Sister City: Gdynia, Poland". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  46. "About Us". The Seattle-Sihanoukville Sister City Association. Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  47. "Seattle International Sister City: Haiphong, Vietnam". City of Seattle. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
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