Seattle voters narrowly reject city manager plan on March 9, 1926.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 5/07/2002
  • Essay 3767

On March 9, 1926, Seattle voters narrowly reject a Municipal League plan for a business manager to run city government. The voters approve a slate of freeholders to draw up a new city charter.

After defeat of a city manager charter amendment in March 1925, the Municipal League launched an educational campaign to replace the weak mayor -- strong council system. The League used a private corporation as an example of a board of directors selecting a president to run a company.

Parallel to this effort, a Freeholders Charter Revision Committee drafted its own plan, which would enlarge the council elected by district. The committee ran a slate of freeholders who would draw up a new charter.

Both measures appeared on the ballot at the same time as the contest for mayor between Bertha Landes (1868-1943) and the incumbent Edwin J. "Doc" Brown. Corruption in the police department under Brown, private v. public ownership of utilities, and the politicizing of city government all figured in the campaigns. Voters may have been confused, believing that they had to vote for either the city manager or the freeholders.

The city manager proposal was defeated by 111 votes, 36709 to 36,598. The freeholder slate passed by 4,000 votes. The panel proceeded to draw up a charter to be voted upon the following November.


Richard C. Berner, Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom To Bust (Seattle: Charles Press, 1991), 77-94.

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