Today is the deadline for the Seattle City Council to pick its new member for the vacant seat, left open by Tim Burgess when he became mayor last month. Council members will hold a 2pm special meeting this afternoon—and the big question is whether any of the 16 candidates actually have the majority vote.
Of the 16 applicants for the temporary at-large seat, former council member Nick Licata is the only one who's had experience with the city budgeting process that had been listed as an important qualification among some council members. But rumor around City Hall is that there's an "anyone but Nick Licata" sentiment among some council members, who met on Thursday for an executive session to talk about the appointment.
That leaves some doubt as to whether council members will be able to agree on a council appointee in time for this afternoon. The city needs five council members to agree on someone. If they don't, they'll have to meet every day about the appointment until they can—and it would leave the temporary council member virtually out of the initial budget process. Their first deadline for proposed 2018 budget is on Monday.
At two public meetings this week—a community-led forum Tuesday and a public hearing Wednesday—a few other applicants stood out as possibilities. Abel Pacheco garnered many supporters to speak on his behalf to council members Wednesday, and he would be a more favorable candidate for the business community; Kirsten Harris-Talley, program director for Progress Alliance of Washington, was another applicant thought to be well-qualified. ChrisTiana ObeySumner, who's on two city commissions and is a housing navigator for Harborview, was a favorite among community organizers.
Council members have kept quiet about who they're favoring, or what concerns there have been about Licata specifically. His 18 years on the council make him skilled with the budget, and he has values and voting records that closely align with socialist Kshama Sawant—that could be a turnoff for those who don't want to see some of former mayor Ed Murray's work on the budget unravel, or make a decision that would hurt ties with the business community. (But for the record, the Chamber said it's not true that it's been discouraging council members from picking Licata.) Another factor is whether council members would be overlooking more diverse candidates, who are also qualified and could be empowered to run in the future.
Licata told PubliCola he met with Maud Daudon, CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, who he said had concerns about taxes and "better measurements for effectively spending social services."
"I thought it was a good conversation," Licata wrote. "However, for each of my past five elections, they have either tried to find a candidate to run against me or poured money to support my opponent. I think it is in their interest to have someone fill the seat who would not present a danger to their budget priorities."
Alicia Teel, spokesperson for the Chamber, didn't elaborate on the conversation but told PubliCola it went well. She said the Chamber hasn't been discouraging council members from Licata, and that its only interest is making sure the council has an efficient budget process.
"We haven't expressed an opinion on the interim council member," Teel said. "This is a city council process and we're waiting to see how it plays out."
Updated 11:45am on October 6, 2017 to include comment from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.