Seattle, Washington, is a charter city, with a mayor–council form of government, unlike many of its neighbors that use the council–manager form. The mayor of Seattle and two of the nine members of the Seattle City Council are elected at large, rather than by geographic subdivisions. The remaining seven council positions are elected based on the city's seven council districts. The only other elected offices are the city attorney and Municipal Court judges. All offices are non-partisan. Seattle is a predominantly liberal city and tends to elect left-leaning politicians to office. Ed Murray is the current mayor of Seattle, serving since 2014.
The city government provides more utilities than many cities; either running the whole operation, such as the water and electricity services, or handling the billing and administration, but contracting out the rest of the operations, like trash and recycling collections.
Seattle's politics lean famously to the left compared to the U.S. as a whole. In this regard, it sits with a small set of similar U.S. cities (such as Madison, Wisconsin, Berkeley, California, and Cambridge and Boston in Massachusetts) where the dominant politics tend to range from center-left to social democratic. Seattle politics are generally dominated by the liberal wing (in the U.S. sense of the word "liberal") of the Democratic Party; in some local elections, Greens (and even, on at least one occasion, a member of the Freedom Socialist Party) have fared better than Republicans. There exist pockets of conservatism, especially in the north and in affluent neighborhoods such as Broadmoor, as well as scattered libertarians, but for the most part Seattle is primarily a Democratic city, as exemplified by Congressman Jim McDermott, who represents the Seventh Congressional District of Washington, made up of most of Seattle and also including semi-rural Vashon Island. McDermott has been reelected to his seat in every election since 1988, when he replaced fellow liberal Democrat Mike Lowry, who had held the seat since 1979.
As with most U.S. cities, the county judicial system handles felony crimes — the Seattle Municipal Court deals with parking tickets, traffic infractions, and misdemeanors. Seattle does not have its own jail, contracting out inmates it convicts to either the King County Jail (which is located downtown), the Yakima County Jail, or (for short-term holdings) the Renton City Jail. After reaching its highest murder rate in 1994 with 69 homicides, Seattle's murder rate declined to a 40-year low with 24 homicides in 2004. By 2006, Seattle's murder rate had increased, with thirty murders that year. Auto theft is another matter: Seattle has until recently ranked in the top ten "hot spots" for auto theft; the Seattle Police Department has responded by nearly doubling the number of auto theft detail detectives, and started a "bait car" program in 2004.
Seattle has suffered two mass-murders in recent history: the 1983 Wah Mee massacre (13 people killed in the Wah Mee gambling club) and the March 25, 2006 Capitol Hill massacre when 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff killed six at a rave afterparty. Later in 2006, an attempted spree killing by Naveed Afzal Haq left one dead at the Jewish Federation building.
In 2016, a prostitution scandal involving Seattle City Councilors was uncovered by the King County investigators.
In 1981, Seattle held a contest to come up with a new official nickname to replace "the Queen City." "Queen City" had been devised by real estate promoters and used since 1869, but was also the nickname of: Cincinnati; Denver; Regina, Saskatchewan; Buffalo; Bangor, Maine; Helena, Montana; Burlington, Vermont, Charlotte, and several other cities.The winner of this contest, selected in 1982, was "the Emerald City". Submitted by Californian Sarah Sterling-Franklin, it referred to the lush, thickly forested surroundings of Seattle that were the result of frequent rain. Seattle has also been known in the past as "the Jet City"—though this nickname, related to Boeing, was entirely unofficial. It has also been known as the "Portal to the Pacific", a phrase enscribed on the arches of the tunnel leading westward into the city from the Interstate 90 floating bridge over Lake Washington.
Seattle's official flower has been the dahlia since 1913. Its official song has been "Seattle the Peerless City" since 1909. In 1942, its official slogan was "The City of Flowers"; 48 years later, in 1990, it was "The City of Goodwill", for the Goodwill Games held that year in Seattle. On October 20, 2006, the Space Needle was adorned with the new slogan "Metronatural." The slogan is a result of a 16-month, $200,000 effort by the Seattle Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The official bird of Seattle is the great blue heron, named by the City Council in 2003.Bertha Knight Landes, mayor from 1926 to 1928. She was the first woman mayor of a major American city. She is to date the only female mayor of Seattle.
Bailey Gatzert was mayor from 1875 to 1876. He was the first Jewish mayor of Seattle, and narrowly missed being the first Jewish mayor of a major American city (Moses Bloom became mayor of Iowa City, Iowa in 1873). He has been the only Jewish mayor of Seattle to date.
Arthur B. Langlie, 1938–1941, three term Governor of Washington (1941–45, 1949–57), the only Seattle mayor to become governor.
Robert Moran mayor from 1888 to 1909, was instrumental in the rebuilding after the 1889 fire that destroyed much of Downtown. A successful shipbuilder, most famous for the Battleship Nebraska built in Seattle between 1902 and 1907, Moran eventually donated what became Moran State Park, over 5000 acres (20 km2), including Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island.
Seattle, Washington, USA, has 21 sister cities through Sister Cities International.