ON the Seattle City Council, Richard Conlin has earned another term and Mike O’Brien has not.
O’Brien, the former Sierra Club chairman, has strayed beyond the leftward boundary of the reasonable too many times. In 2011 he proposed a city income tax. He also proposed an outright ban on plastic shopping bags.
Of the nine members, O’Brien was only one against the Highway 99 tunnel. Recently he was one of two members — Nick Licata was the other — not to call for the closure of the long-running and illegal “Nickelsville” encampment.
Challenger Albert Shen, 46, is a progressive of more caution. Shen likes the idea of sick leave, but says the city’s ordinance was imposed without consideration for small and minority businesses.
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He would have opposed the deal with arena promoter Chris Hansen, which O’Brien helped negotiate, because of its use of public financing and conflict with the Port of Seattle.
While O’Brien would spend public housing money in pricey South Lake Union, Shen would take it to the South End to build many more units.
Shen owns an engineering firm that has worked at Sea-Tac Airport.
He is vice chairman of the Seattle Community Colleges Board of Trustees, appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, and was a participant in President Obama’s White House Business Council. He would be a welcome new face on the City Council.
Conlin has been on the council 16 years and has his fingerprints on many things. One notable vote was against the sick-leave ordinance. While agreeing that sick leave “should be a basic right,” he says, the actual ordinance may come at the expense of some employees’ raises.
He opposed the Sodo arena plan because the location would conflict with maritime and industrial jobs.
As chairman of the council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee, Conlin supports subsidies for low-income housing and the innovative plan for Yesler Terrace, while realizing that the city must rely heavily on the private market.
On the issue of police reforms, Conlin says the council is committed to provide oversight and funding to implement changes required by the Department of Justice.
Challenger Brian Carver, manager of Kindle direct publishing for Amazon.com, brings to the campaign a youthful spirit and progressive voice. Economics teacher Kshama Sawant argues passionately for social justice but is too hard-left for Seattle.
Neither has created a compelling case to unseat this seasoned incumbent.