Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess’ retirement next year leaves a stark void on the council. Seattle sorely needs a successor of his caliber.
TIM Burgess’ reputation as the Seattle City Council’s conservative is laughable, and says more about the insular Seattle political bubble than about Burgess. On any other city council in the state, Burgess would be the progressive one, compiling a record of smart, compassionate investments in human services and accountability for police.
Burgess, who announced his retirement last week, has for a decade stood for outcome-focused policies, and not just those that sound good at a political rally. He will leave office when his term expires next year.
His most visible legacy will probably be the city’s prekindergarten program, which Burgess insisted adhere to vigorous performance measures. Behind the scenes, he helped shore up Seattle’s underfunded pension system and pushed through a unique ammunition tax to fund groundbreaking research on gunshot victims.
As the only former police officer on the council, Burgess played an indispensable role in restoring credibility to the Seattle Police Department. Typical of his wonkish approach, Burgess helped Chief Kathleen O’Toole with a much-needed change in top command staff.
As the City Council veered to far-left identity politics in recent years, Burgess often stood alone — not because his positions were conservative, but because he asked what the city was really trying to accomplish.
Without his advocacy and voice of reason, the council probably would have authorized homeless camping in public parks this year, doubling down on a Tent City policy that national experts said was badly misguided.
Burgess also pushed back on efforts by the council’s super-left wing to micromanage businesses and challenged his council colleagues when they were so ready to spend lavishly on their own support staff.
A common compliment about Burgess is that he’s “the only adult on the council.” That’s an insult to several of his smart colleagues; Debora Juarez in particular has shown a moderate, much-needed independent point of view.
Looking back, Burgess was willing to vote for policies that actually produced quality results, and not necessarily the ones favored by increasingly uncivil crowds that have packed the council chambers.
Burgess’ replacement will be elected next November, in the first election under Seattle’s publicly funded campaign voucher system.
One quirk of that goofy system creates an incentive for candidates to step forward for Burgess’ citywide council seat early — like, now.
Burgess’ retirement leaves a void. Seattle sorely needs a successor of his caliber.