Richard McIver, long the only African American on the Seattle City Council and an advocate for Rainier Valley and underdeveloped parts of the city, died Saturday night at Swedish Medical Center. He was 71.
“He was extremely generous with his wisdom, and he was sort of our moral compass,” said City Councilmember Jean Godden, who considered Mr. McIver a mentor.
She is among those who remember him responding to neighborhood-rejuvenation efforts with the suggestion that the council instead focus on parts of the city that had not yet been “juvenated.”
Mr. McIver’s sharp questions and vibrant, sometimes unpublishable sense of humor earned him the respect and goodwill of colleagues and at least one adversary.
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Paul Elliott, his former chief of staff, remembers Mr. McIver going for drinks on Election Day in 2001 with his opponent, Grant Cogswell.
They drank at the Four Seas bar in the International District, which
Mr. McIver considered his second office, Elliott said.
Because monorail supporter Cogswell had given up his car, “Richard drove his opponent to the polls, waited out in front while his opponent voted against him, then picked up Grant’s girlfriend and drove them to their election-night party,” Elliott said.
During the 2005 campaign, Mr. McIver became known for saying, “Don’t mistake cool for fool,” after opponents equated his laid-back style with a lack of energy.
A graduate of Western Washington University, Mr. McIver worked for the Washington Association of Community Economic Development and at the Tacoma Housing Authority before being appointed to the City Council.
He was selected in 1997 from 114 candidates to complete the term of John Manning, a former Seattle police officer who resigned after pleading guilty to domestic violence. Mr. McIver was then elected to three four-year terms.
He did not run for re-election in 2009, saying, “I want to go home and sit down.”
His decision came after a period of difficult personal problems. Mr. McIver had recently undergone colon surgery, after other health problems. In 2007, he was arrested after his wife reported he assaulted her. The charges were later dropped.
In 2008, he used city money to pay a $1,000 fine from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission for violating the city’s conflict-of-interest law. Mr. McIver ended up paying the fine himself.
Mr. McIver was a key figure in the creation of the
$50 million Rainier Valley Community Development Fund that since 2006 has loaned more than
$10.8 million to 19 small businesses and real-estate developers.
He became interim executive director of the fund after leaving the City Council.
“He flunked retirement,” his wife, Marlaina Kiner-McIver, joked Sunday.
The couple had invited friends and family to a dual celebration on April 13. It would have been their 39th wedding anniversary, and they were celebrating Mr. McIver’s regaining his ability to walk after suffering strokes almost three years ago.
“He was thinking about what he could do next,” his wife said.
Mr. McIver, who had other health problems, had been hospitalized recently for low blood pressure.
Godden said Mr. McIver never forgot being stopped by police in 1999 during the World Trade Organization unrest
“He said he was a city councilman, and the policeman didn’t believe him and made him spread-eagle against the car. He never forgot that, not so much because of the indignity to him, but that others did not believe an African American might be a city councilmember,” Godden said.
Bruce Harrell, a city councilmember who was in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity with Mr. McIver and for two decades lived two houses away from his family, recalls the elder councilman’s advice when a homeless-advocacy group camped out in front of their houses a few years ago.
“He said, ‘Bruce, you have to understand something. They don’t have money to do newspaper advertisements or billboards. This is how they’re advocating for what they want, and we have to respect that.’ ”
Mr. McIver also is survived by his daughter, Mimi McIver, and grandson Michael, both of Texas. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @AllisonSeattle.