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About the Seattle City Council

The Council is committed to ensuring that Seattle is safe, livable and sustainable. These nine Councilmembers are elected to four-year terms in nonpartisan elections and represent the entire City, elected by all Seattle voters.

The City Council approves the City's budget, develops laws and policies that promote the health and safety of Seattle's residents and oversees the City's police, fire, parks, libraries, and electric, water, solid waste, and drainage utilities.

The public is encouraged to join Councilmembers at all full Council and committee meetings and comment on current legislation by signing up before the start of each meeting.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1. How do I find out about City Council meetings?

  • Check the Council Meeting Calendar.
  • Sign up for Agendas or call 206-684-8888 to receive agendas by e-mail or via U.S. Postal mail.
  • Watch meetings live over the internet via streaming video on the Council Live! page or by tuning into cable TV channel 21.
  • Listen to meetings live from Council Chambers at 206-684-8566.

All meetings are held in Council Chambers unless otherwise noted. The public is encouraged to attend Council meetings, hear the debate, and offer public comment on issues. Written testimony is always welcome. The Council Chamber and offices, all located on the 2nd floor, are physically accessible from the 1st floor by an elevator.

Briefing Meeting - At Briefing meetings, information is presented to Councilmembers by departments or other agencies, and Councilmembers discuss issues before them in an informal setting.

Full Council Meeting - At Full Council meetings, the Council formally acts on matters referred from its committees.

Council Committees - The Council has nine standing committees that meet regularly every other week. For a list of committees and their meeting schedules, visit the Committees & Agendas page.

Committees of the Whole (COW) - COWs consider transitory issues of high importance. Some issues that have been considered in COWs are the Monorail, the Budget, Northgate redevelopment and ballot measures. COWs are called by the Council President as issues arise.

2. When is a public hearing required on a matter?

Adoption of the City Budget - one of the most important products of the work of City Council - always requires public hearings to be scheduled on two or more days. Beyond that, the requirements for formal hearings are scattered in local, state, and federal law across a wide variety of issues. Council members often hold hearings on proposed legislation even when it is not required. In those cases notice is distributed widely to media and others in the community. Notice of public hearings and all Council meetings are posted on the Council Calendar.

3. Where can I get tapes of City Council meetings?

For a video tape of Council meeting, go to Seattle Channel's web site for complete directions on viewing, copying and ordering. You can also call Seattle Channel at 206-684-8824 (to bypass the schedule information, press # and leave a message). For an audio tape of a Council meeting, contact the City Clerk's Office at 206-684-8344.

4. How can I find out about legislation?

Visit the City Clerk's Legislative Database.

You can search the database by entering any of the following information about the ordinance, council bill, resolution, or clerk file you are looking for:

  • Title Words
  • Number
  • Index Words

If you find you need assistance, you may call the City Clerk's office at 206-684-8344.

5. What do Councilmembers do?

The City Council approves the City's budget, develops laws and policies that promote the health and safety of Seattle's residents and oversees the City's police, fire, parks, libraries, and electric, water, solid waste, and drainage utilities.

Most legislation is proposed by City departments in order to conduct departmental business. Some legislation comes from the Council members, who are responding to needs expressed by citizens. Council members work with their office staff and with the Legislative Department's Central Staff to research issues, generally developing alternatives before deciding on legislation. Council member's offices also help citizens who are having difficulty getting a response to a problem from a City department.

6. Which Councilmember represents me?

Councilmembers are non-partisan and are elected at large to serve four-year, overlapping terms through citywide elections held in odd-numbered years. So each one of your Council members represents you. Since each Council member chairs at least one committee, and participates as vice chair or member of several other committees, citizens go to the Council member(s) whose committee(s) considers the type(s) of issue about which the citizen is currently concerned. A list of Council Committees and their membership is available on this site on the Committees & Agendas page.

In 2013, Seattle voters passed a measure amending our city's charter to establish City Council districts. In 2015, voters will elect seven out of the nine City Council members by district. The remaining two positions will be elected "at-large" (city-wide) in positions 8 and 9. Read more about it on our Seattle City Council Districts page.

7. Who is the Council President?

Tim Burgess has been elected by his Council colleagues to serve as Council President for 2014-2015. In this capacity, Burgess is the official head of the Legislative Department. The Council President coordinates the work of the Council, including establishment of committees and appointment of committee chairs and members. The Council President also presides over meetings of the Full Council. When the Mayor is absent from the City or incapacitated, the Council President assumes the duties and responsibilities of the Mayor.

8. Whom do I call with a complaint?

For Legislative Department Issues:
Citizens concerned with policy, legislation under consideration, or budget should directly contact the chair and/or members of the Council committee under which that issue falls.

Mailing address:
Seattle City Council
P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

Telephone: 206-684-8888
Fax: 206-684-8587
TTY: 206-233-0025
Legislative Department Directory

For Other Department Issues:
Citizens concerned with the work of other City departments should call the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-CITY [2489]. You can also complete an on-line Service Request Form to request information, file a complaint, or file a compliment.

9. Where is City Hall?

Seattle City Hall
600 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

City Hall may be entered from both Fourth and Fifth Avenues between Cherry and James.

Click here for comprehensive information on visiting City Hall.

10. How does a Council Bill become Law?

guide

This guide provides an overview of the process by which a Council Bill becomes an Ordinance, or law, in the City of Seattle. A Council Bill can be a proposal for the enactment of a new law, amendment or repeal of an existing law, or appropriation of public money. The Charter of the City of Seattle provides that every legislative act shall be by Ordinance and every Ordinance subject shall be clearly expressed in the Ordinance title. The Council also considers Resolutions, which state policy, create City department work plans, or take certain other actions that do not create new law.

1. Legislation can be initiated by any of the branches of City government: Legislative (the City Council), Executive (the Mayor), and Judicial (the Municipal Court and the City Attorney, an independent elected official). Members of the public may also forward suggested legislation for consideration through the City Council and Mayor.

2. By Council Rule, legislation submitted for Council consideration is reviewed by the Law Department. It also must include a Fiscal Note, which describes the financial impact of the proposal. Legislation sponsored by the Mayor is reviewed by the City Budget Office and the Law Department before it is submitted to Council.

3. Legislation submitted to the Council is first reviewed by the Council President and then distributed to the Councilmember who chairs the relevant committee. If the Committee Chair agrees to sponsor the legislation, it is then forwarded to the City Clerk.

4. The City Clerk reviews each piece of legislation for format, recommended sponsorship and committee referral; assigns Council Bill (“Bill”) numbers; and publishes the legislation in the weekly Introduction and Referral Calendar.

5. At the Council's regularly scheduled Full Council meeting, (Mondays at 2:00 p.m.), the Council reviews the proposed Introduction and Referral Calendar, makes any necessary amendments, and adopts it. Bills are then delivered to the appropriate committee for consideration. Urgent matters may bypass committee review and be referred directly to the Full Council.

6. During committee review, Councilmembers discuss and debate the proposed Bill. They may direct staff to conduct further research, make amendments, or hold the item for further consideration. The Council's Central Staff is available to conduct and present research findings, provide a general policy review of the Bill, and draft proposed amendments for Council committee consideration.

Certain Bills such as land use or budgetary actions require public hearings*. Bills in committee are generally considered and voted on in two committee meetings. Routine or non-controversial Bills may be voted out of committee in one meeting, and complex Bills may require additional committee meetings.

7. Bills voted out of a Council committee with a recommendation are then placed on the appropriate Full Council meeting agenda, prepared by the City Clerk.

8. At Full Council, each committee reports its recommendations as to whether the Bill should be passed or not passed. The Full Council may then discuss, debate, amend, re-refer, or hold the Bill. If the Council is prepared to take final action, a roll call vote to pass or not pass the Bill is taken. When the Council passes a Bill, the Council President signs it and returns it to the City Clerk.

9. The City Clerk then updates the Bill's official record to reflect the Full Council action. Passed Bills are forwarded to the Mayor for approval via the City Budget Office.

10. The Mayor has the authority to sign the legislation, allow it to go into law without signature, or veto it. Regardless of the action the Mayor takes, the legislation is submitted to the City Clerk within 10 calendar days. If the Mayor vetoes a Bill, the City Council reconsiders the Bill and if at least 6 Councilmembers vote to override the Mayor's veto, the Bill becomes law.

*Public participation
Public hearings are a formal opportunity for members of the public to comment on a proposed piece of legislation.

Members of the public may also address the Council on a proposed piece of legislation at a Council Committee and Full Council meeting when the legislation is on the agenda.

Councilmembers may be contacted at any time to comment on legislation, except on items that fall under the quasi-judicial rules for certain type of land use decisions.

The Office of the City Clerk fosters civic education, participation, and openness in Seattle city government through effective facilitation of the legislative process and transparent, accountable stewardship of public information and official records.

 

 

   
City of Seattle LogoSeattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave. 2nd Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
Visiting City Hall

Access to City Hall for Individuals with Disabilities
Mailing Address:
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025
Phone: 206-684-8888
Fax: 206-684-8587
TTY/TDD: 206-233-0025
Listen Line: 206-684-8566

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