A lot of people want to be a Seattle city council member for just one and a half months.
The city received 16 applications for the interim city council position left open by Tim Burgess, who became mayor earlier this month. That includes former council member Nick Licata, as well as former city council, Port of Seattle, or mayoral candidates, as well as city employees. There will be a community-led forum today, Tuesday at 5:30pm, and a public hearing Wednesday at 5pm. Council members must approve the interim council member by Friday, or else meet every day until it's decided.
Still, some questions remain on how that decision will play out. Council members just received names on Monday and resumes on Tuesday, and they will have only a few days to meet the deadline. The resolution on the appointment process states that the council expects applicants to make it to at least one of the community forums—that might limit the pool already, since council president pro-tem Rob Johnson said some told him they have nighttime conflicts. (One applicant, he said, was turning 88 years old tomorrow and was having a birthday party.)
Here's what we do know about the qualifications: Besides attending a forum, the resolution also says the person should demonstrate an understanding of government operations and budgeting and legislative processes, knowledge of public policy issues, a commitment to social justice, and an ability to communicate across diverse populations.
If familiarity with the budget becomes an important aspect of weeding out applicants, only former council member Nick Licata seems to fit that bill. (Some council members have specifically mentioned familiarity with the city budget process as an important quality to have.) Lisa Herbold, who was a former legislative aide to Licata, is the only council member who already said she supports Licata but will attend the forum to decide whether she'll be interviewing anyone else.
"I think that the community-led process has the potential to ensure that a council member...embodies values that are important to the public, but it's equally important to me that a council member be able to engage in a meaningful way," Herbold told PubliCola. "As somebody who worked here myself for 18 years before becoming a council member, I have only felt like I’ve gotten my sea legs within the last six months of being a council member. Even for the most engaged member of the public or city staffer, it’s a steep learning curve."
Johnson, as council president pro-tem during Bruce Harrell's absence, said he spoke to 11 of the 16 candidates on Monday and said two have so far asked for interviews—Licata and Abel Pacheco, who was a city council District 4 candidate (Johnson's seat) in 2015. Sally Bagshaw, who during a council briefing along with Johnson said the interim council member should understand the city budget process, said she won't make any decisions until she looked through all the candidates.
"Of course, Nick is somebody I've known and worked with, and I know that he'd do a good job," she told PubliCola.
The community-led forum tonight will be hosted by six organizations: Transit Riders Union, Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites, Housing for All Coalition, Block the Bunker, Neighborhood Action Coalition, and the Tenants Union. Housing for All Coalition members spoke at the council meeting on Monday and delivered a letter to the council with a list of demands on affordable housing and homelessness. The interim council member will fill Burgess's at-large seat until November 28, when either Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda will take over.
Applicants answered a city questionnaire, and a handful of them responded "yes" to whether they were familiar with the budget process: Kirsten Harris-Talley, Brendan Kolding, Licata, Jennifer Perevodchikov, and Robert Radford. Council member Lorena González told PubliCola that the finalist should "understand the importance of the budget" and have the skills to tackle it, but that it doesn't necessarily mean the person needed a history on the council.
"If this council is really committed to having a process that includes a community-driven component, then we need to have that process play itself out before we begin choosing and deliberating a potential nominee," González said.
And not all council members may be attending Friday's vote. Lorena González is scheduled to be out of town Friday; Harrell, who was absent Monday, will be participating in the vote through a telephone connection, according to his office. The city will need five of them (a council majority) to agree on a candidate to fill Burgess's seat.
All applications are public. Here's what we know about the applicants so far (job history based on their resumes):
Ray Armitstead: Ran for Port of Seattle Position 4 commissioner this year. No resume or financial interest included by the Sunday deadline. He says he ran a hotel in the 1980s where he took in homeless people for $3 a night.
Richard Baron: Owner of a company called Responsive Management Systems and a former psychologist and social worker. He says he has experience developing budgets and social advocacy, and showed a commitment to social justice.
Tiniell Cato: An independent contractor who ran for mayor this year, previously owned a consulting firm and hair company. She refused to sign the city's disclosure form that would've allowed the city to conduct a reference check with her employers. (One of her references included Alex Tsimerman, who is also an applicant and a former mayoral candidate who frequents council chambers.)
Kirsten Harris-Talley: Program director for Progress Alliance of Washington and a former program manager of Cardea. She responded "yes" to nearly every question on the city's questionnaire, including experience managing budgets and familiarity with the city legislative and budgeting processes. (She's never been in elected office and was never a former a city employee.)
Lewis Jones: Ran for mayor this year. He went to the University of Washington and was a former commercial fisherman. He says he would "support all federal laws as our duty" and that he would review Seattle's sanctuary city status for immigrants who commit crimes.
Brendan Kolding: Sergeant in the Seattle Police Department, a former adjunct professor of criminal justice and political science. He's worked on policy development at SPD throughout the city's time with the U.S. Department of Justice settlement, the consent decree (since 2012). He responded "yes" to nearly every question. (He doesn't have experience developing a budget and has never served in elected office.)
Nick Licata: He was a council member from 1998 to 2015, has been through the budget process 18 times and says he was chair or vice-chair of the budget committee for a third of that time.
Kaylee McClure: Radiochemistry contractor for TerraPower and recent UW graduate.
Brianna McDonald: Owner of Keiretsu Forum Northwest, former Wedgwood Community Council transportation chair and president. She says she understands public policy, worked in social advocacy and in a managerial position.
Doug Nellis: No resume included but a list of "35 things in 35 days" he would push for. (It included banning "the wave" from public sports arenas.) He says he was a precinct committee officer for the 43rd District Democrats and an area caucus chair for the 2008 presidential caucus.
ChrisTiana ObeySumner: Housing navigator for Harborview Medical Center, a master's grad in education and nonprofit work, a commissioner on the city's Commission for People with disAbilities and Seattle Renters Commission. ObeySumner has a master's in education and wants to move more toward legislative work to amplify "the voices of the multitudes who may be too close to the ground to be heard or seen."
Abel Pacheco Jr.: Director of strategic engagement for Washington MESA (within the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity), ran for city council in 2015. He has a master's in public administration and is fluent in Spanish. He has experience developing a budget, demonstrated social justice work, and has served on a Seattle board or commission. He included references from former mayor Norm Rice and King County Democrats chair Bailey Stober.
Jennifer Perevodchikov: Attorney practicing family law at her own law firm, a former university instructor. She says she has knowledge of the budget process and public policy issues, and shows a commitment to social justice.
Robert Radford: On the King County Board of Equalization and Assessment. He includes Norm Rice, King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and former Seattle council member Dolores Sibonga as references. He also responded "yes" to most of the city's qualification questions.
Alex Tsimerman: Ran for mayor this year. He was banned from City Hall for a year in July; city clark Monica Simmons said he will be escorted by staff but can still participate as a council candidate. He also refused to sign the city's disclosure form and used Cato as a reference.
Wes Tygerson: Line crew chief for Seattle City Light. He says he understands city government operations and the legislative process and has managerial experience.
Updated 9:45am on October 4, 2017, to correct a typo in Pacheco's job description. He works for Washington MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement), not MECA. I apologize for the errror.