Citizen Involvement in Government: Jean Godden on City Charter Review

The Charter Review Committee in 1971 consisted of over 60 members, including Jean Godden representing the Lake City Community Council.  The Steering Committee consisted of Bennett Feigenbaum, Councilmember Ted Best, Pat Emerson of the League of Women Voters and Thomas Keefe.  The committee met for many weeks regarding the charter and its responsiveness to the citizens of Seattle.  A major subject of discussion was the issue of elected versus appointed city officials, such as the City Comptroller and the Corporation Counsel. Also under discussion was electing Councilmembers by district and abolishing the Board of Public Works from the Charter.  The Charter Review Committee met periodically with Councilmembers in committee meetings to facilitate public discussion on issues being considered by the Review Committee.

On July 26, 1971, the City Council met as a Committee of the Whole to consider issues and recommendations from the Charter Review Committee.   The afternoon meeting recessed and continued to the evening, meeting into the night for over three hours. It was chaired by Councilmember Jeanette Williams.

The last person to speak was Jean Godden.  Her comments can be heard here.

Clerk:  File 270243.

Councilmember Williams:  All right, let’s read the file, find out how many people are speaking on this and see if we can cut this down.

Clerk:  This is a proposal of the Seattle Charter Review Committee for a charter amendment to establish a permanent Charter Review Committee.

Councilmember Williams:  All right now, do you have a spokesperson on this?

Committee Chair Feigenbaum:  Jean Godden will be speaking on behalf of the committee on this issue.

Councilmember Williams:  Now, can we keep it down?  I think the saturation point hits and there’s a point…

Jean Godden:  Yes, I realized when I would be speaking last that I would find everyone hot and I might not even remember my own name.  I am Jean Godden and this is incorrect. I don’t know how it became this way, but we are not asking for a charter amendment, we are asking for an ordinance, in keeping with our own feelings that the City Charter should not be cluttered up with a lot of details.  We felt that this would be better created by an ordinance.  We would just like to ask City Council that there be such a Charter Review Committee, one that would continue to look at the charter from time to time and see if it does need amending to be more responsive to the people.

After studying the city charter for four months, our committee concluded that there should be a periodic look at this.  The last time that a large citizens’ group - and I must say when they say broadly based, they do mean that in order to sit on a committee of this type you do have to be broadly based after a while.  [Laughter]

Councilmember Williams:  Try a Council seat.

Jean Godden:  In the nature of ad hoc bodies, we decided that we actually felt that the very group to do this review is one very much like our group, or one that is concentrated very similarly to it, one that would have a very large geographic background and a lot of viewpoints.  In fact, it was very surprising to us with the broad number of backgrounds, and I’m not being facetious, that we brought to this committee, that there was anything at all that could be agreed upon by this particular committee.  Since about the only thing we seem to have in common was citizen involvement in government, particularly under this two thirds rule that we have, it was very gratifying that this particular resolution was passed by this committee without any opposition.    It was a unanimous thing and we do hope that the City Council will consider it.

[question regarding freeholders]

Councilmember Williams:  At this point, I have a few names left here. Is there anyone else who really has a burning desire to speak?  It is now five minutes after eleven.

The entire Committee of the Whole meeting can be heard here. Related documents include Committee of the Whole Minutes (Record Series 4600-02) and Clerk/Comptroller Files 270243 and 270389.

Citation:  Committee of the Whole Meeting, July 26, 1971. Event ID 680, Seattle City Council Legislative Department Audio Recordings, 4601-03.