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Mayor orders end of Seattle's district councils

Neighborhoods in Seattle have weighed in on city topics for years through community councils. That's going to change.

Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive orderon Wednesday to dissolve Seattle's 13 district councils. The order takes away the city's staffing and funding of the district councils.

With no alternative in place yet, some neighborhood leaders are crying foul.

The district councils weigh in on everything from traffic circles to grants for local businesses. Mayor Murray says they are outdated, though. He says city data shows the councils often don't include input from people of color, youth, single parents, or people who are low income.

Murray: "We have to find out how we reach people who can't go at 7:00 pm to a neighborhood meeting in a community center or a church basement. And for many of our young people, that's not how they meet or socialize at all, their world has changed. But they shouldn't be cut out of the discussion."

But some people aren't convinced. Troy Meyers says this system has worked in the Central Area where he lives. He helps oversee the district councils as a member of the City Neighborhood Council, and volunteers at a police precinct.

Meyers thinks shuttering the councils will actually HURT disadvantaged residents.

Meyers: "We're the poorest area of the city and we also have a lot of significant issues that need to be addressed, and without somebody to help articulate their concerns to the city there is nobody championing them. So it is definitely going to disenfranchise people in my neighborhood and I am very worried about that."

Meyers also says the Mayor's announcement came just before the city council was to receive a report on improving, not dissolving, district councils.

Dan Sanchez, chair of the Central Area council, calls the mayor's plan ‘AstroTurf organizing’. That is, fake grass roots.

The mayor says he won't back down on this plan - that's why he signed an executive order.

If neighborhood councils still want to operate, they can, but without the financial help of the city.

So, how will the city engage with neighbors and under-served communities? That's yet to be decided. Murray has directed the city's technology and neighborhood departments to come up with ideas.