Of the four seats up on the Seattle City Council, only one challenger makes a convincing case. Albert Shen is the better choice over incumbent Mike O’Brien in Position 8.
Shen serves on the Seattle Community Colleges Board of Trustees, having been appointed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire. Unlike O’Brien, Shen opposes putting a publicly subsidized basketball arena in Sodo, in part because of the effects increased traffic will have on businesses in that area, including at the Port of Seattle. He would not have voted against the Highway 99 tunnel, as O’Brien did, nor would he have proposed a city income tax. He has a good sense of what a progressive city needs to do to keep its commercial life healthy.
Like O’Brien, Shen is a Democrat (though the seats are nonpartisan). He was a fundraiser last year for President Obama, and in this race has outraised the incumbent.
In the other three Nov. 5 races, the incumbents are the strongest candidates, though, disappointingly, they did not draw stronger challenges.
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In Position 2, 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin fits the mold of a progressive who also brings a holistic, critical sense of balance to City Hall. As chairman of the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee, Conlin supports subsidies for low-income housing — while realizing that the city must mostly rely on the private market. He wisely opposed the proposed basketball arena in Sodo.
Conlin’s challenger, Kshama Sawant, is an Occupy activist and socialist who advocates a $15 minimum wage and “taxing the rich.” She has accused Conlin of supporting corporate interests over the working class, a charge that has not convinced most of the unions, more of which back Conlin.
In Position 6, Nick Licata has been a bridge between Seattle’s labor and business communities. Though on a liberal end of a liberal council, Licata lends an important voice to the living-wage movement. Instead of an arbitrary increase to $15, he supports enforcing the paid sick-leave law, helping low-income workers secure affordable housing and ending wage theft. Like Conlin, Licata voted against the Sodo location for the proposed arena. Expect him to be a strong critic of the deal.
Challenger Edwin Fruit has raised no money to compete and points supporters to a socialist newsweekly, The Militant.
In Position 4, Sally Bagshaw, first elected in 2009, has been quiet but productive. Once the lead attorney for King County Metro, she remains a champion of public transit and public parks. She should raise her profile when the new parks levy heads to the ballot next year.
Bagshaw’s opponent, Sam Bellomio, is an Occupy activist who has been temporarily banned from City Council chambers for crude behavior.
Vote for Shen, Conlin, Licata and Bagshaw.