Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw listens to a constituent during office hours at the Magnolia Community Center on Thursday, May 12. Photo by Joe Veyera
Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw listens to a constituent during office hours at the Magnolia Community Center on Thursday, May 12. Photo by Joe Veyera

With the district system approved by Seattle voters in 2013, and elections for each of the nine city council seats (seven determined by geographical area and two at-large) this past November, neighborhood issues have taken on a new focus at City Hall.

For Sally Bagshaw, the new process meant a shift from representing the entire city, to being the councilmember from District 7, which encompasses Queen Anne, Magnolia, Interbay, Belltown, and Downtown.

As part of that adjustment Bagshaw — who was first elected in 2009 — is now meeting with local residents in their communities as a way to be more accessible to her new district.

And after holding office hours at the Belltown Community Center late last month, she was at the Magnolia Community Center (2550 34th Ave. W.) on Thursday afternoon to hear from constituents about the issues at the forefront of neighborhood conversations.

“[They were] lovely people that came, with very specific concerns,” Bagshaw said of her hour-long session, “and there are things that we can follow up on, and I’m delighted to be here.”

Among those who took part was Albert Berger, a Belltown resident. Berger voiced his concerns about the expansion of protected bike lines in the Belltown residential area.

An emeritus professor at the University of Washington, Berger said he was happy with the response he received from the councilmember.

“I think it went terrific,” he said. “I think she’s very engaged with these kinds of issues, and I felt I was listened to.”

Meanwhile, Bagshaw said afterwards that she was impressed by what Berger had to say.

“If there is a citizen’s advisory committee, seriously I would recommend him,” she said, “because he’s obviously done his homework, and he’s interested, and he’s exactly the kind of person we’d like to have on. I’d rather have some naysayers that are asking questions, than people who are rubber-stamping.”

Also on hand to meet with the councilmember was Dave Gering, executive director of the Manufacturing Industrial Council.

Gering, who has known Bagshaw for almost 30 years dating back to her time in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, mentioned Bagshaw’s stance on the Occidential street vacation in SODO, and called it “a very good, courageous decision.”

“Their vote was a really key decision on behalf of the family-wage job base of this city … Sometimes it’s really hard for our elected officials to sort of focus on that in a big picture way and say, ‘OK, what are we doing to preserve our fundamental prosperity?’ In our view, that’s what the council did.”

In an interview with the Queen Anne & Magnolia News prior to her office hours, Bagshaw defended her arena vote, a stance that has come under scrutiny from local sports fans.

While she had voted yes on the original memorandum of understanding four years ago, dim prospects for a franchise made the street vacation a tough sell.

“He doesn’t have a team, and we’ve been told by everybody from New York on down he’s not going to get a team,” Bagshaw said. “So the sense about wanting that street vacation in advance of having a team is that if he starts building and the team doesn’t show up, then he’s got his entertainment district like what they have in Los Angeles, and that’s the last thing we wanted.”

Instead, the councilmember believes there’s an opportunity with the current arena in the city.

“I really do believe that we still have an opportunity at Seattle Center. We may have to completely reconfigure KeyArena, but we can,” Bagshaw said, referencing the report produced by architecture firm AECOM.

Bagshaw said it’s time to take a look at the Seattle Center Master Plan, which came out almost a decade ago.

But at the forefront of the minds from community members, Bagshaw said, is issues of safety and homelessness.

Along with the $47 million earmarked by the city to fight homelessness, Bagshaw cited other sources that could be used for housing, human services, and mental health care, like King County’s Best Starts for Kids initiative, a Medicaid 1115 Transformation waiver at the state level that would see revenue flow through to the county, and then the city, and even Sound Transit 3, if passed.

“We’ve got more money then we ever had,” she said. “We just need to be very strategic about how we spend it.”

In all, Gering had praise for the public office hours.

“We had a really good discussion, and it’s nice that she’s providing this kind of opportunity for people to come talk to her,” he said. “I think it’s a real benefit of the whole district-based council system.”

For more information on Bagshaw's office, or to set up a meeting time at a future office hours session, visit www.seattle.gov/council/bagshaw.

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