PubliQuestion and Answer: Jordan Royer

By Erica C. Barnett June 30, 2009


The third in a series of Q&As with the candidates for Seattle City Council. (Position 2 challenger David Ginsberg here; Position 8 candidate David Miller here).

Today we talk with Jordan Royer, a former staffer for Mayor Greg Nickels who worked on a nightlife license proposal that was reviled among bar and club owners, and the son of former mayor Charley Royer. As I reported last week, Royer recently wrote a letter to prominent members of the nightlife community apologizing for his role in Nickels' legislation, and has (so far unsuccessfully) sought their support. He currently works for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

PubliCola: You're best known in city hall circles for working to pass the mayor's nightlife license, which would have placed onerous new restrictions on bars and clubs (requiring club owners to patrol the area around their clubs after closing, allowing the city to fine bars that produced noise "clearly audible" inside neighboring residences; and allowing the city to shut clubs down after a single notice of violation, among other things). How do you differentiate yourself as a candidate from the person who supported all those draconian proposals as a mayoral staffer?

Royer: I am a true believer in how they handle these issues in San Francisco (where an appointed Entertainment Commission oversees permits and mediates disputes between club and bar owners and neighborhood residents). That model made a lot of sense to me. But the mayor didn't want to do that. ... I lost my argument. Some people have since said that I should have quit (in that case). Well, that's just ridiculous. I'm not going to quit over that. ... I fought like hell to make it work. But the thing is, nobody voted for me. They voted for the mayor, and it was his decision to make.

PubliCola: You've reached out to the music community and tried to convince them to support you despite your work on the nightlife license. Have they been receptive?

Royer: We'll see. Words aren't worth anything, I understand that. (This issue) won't go away until I can prove it with deeds.

PubliCola: Given that you're disavowing the mayor on a major political issue, how well do you expect to be able to work with him on the council?

Royer: I will be a strong competitor. They respect strong competitors (in the mayor's office). I'm not going to sit around whining that I can't get the information (from the mayor—a common complaint of city council members). I know how to get information.

PubliCola: You've talked a lot on the campaign trail about the fact that no one at City Hall knows much about the Port of Seattle. How is the port relevant to the job of city council member?

Royer: In the shipping industry, we are in a crisis. Every company is losing people. There's 500  cargo ships tied up around the world right now doing nothing ... It's like the engine just stopped. There are 60,000 jobs on our waterfront in Seattle. Those are jobs that don't require a college education and have an average salary of $75,000 a year. Those jobs aren't going to be replaced. I'm going to be a real advocate for working with the Port at the city so we can be competitive (with other ports, like the Port of Vancouver)... What the city council can do is make sure everyone knows Seattle is a  great place to do business. We've rested on our laurels. We've been really successful merely because of our (geographical) position. Now everyone needs to get together and figure out how we can make Seattle competitive in the future.

PubliCola: Tell me a little bit about what you want to focus on, legislatively, on the council.

Royer: First, I want to make sure our utilities departments are functioning as efficiently as possible. There's an old saying in the utility departments, especially (Seattle Public Utilities): "It's not real taxpayer money, it's ratepayer money." We need to solve that. The second thing is housing—the ability to build density in our city. We have to have compact urban development, affordable housing, different types of housing, and density around transit hubs. ... People freaked out about the (Transit Oriented Development bill, which would have set goals for density around light rail stops) because the state was getting involved in zoning. The thought that we would have a debate about whether density around transit hubs is a good thing is preposterous.

PubliCola: All the other candidates say they support density around transit stops and in urban centers. But do you support incresaing density within the neighborhoods themselves?

Royer: The thing I really have a problem with is people who build those massive houses for two people. ... We do have a problem with NIMBYism in this city.  I actually like townhouses. The problem with townhouses in this city is the way we define them. There are too many requirements—the parking requiremetns, the requirement for private open space. Why can't it be community open space? Why can't we have maximum parking requirements instead of minimums?

PubliCola: Where do you stand on the proposed deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct? Do you think the city should have to pay for cost overruns (as fellow Position 8 candidate Robert Rosencrantz has suggested, and as a bill passed by the state legislature this year stipulates)?

Royer: (Snorts) There's no way that's going to happen. Gimme a break. It's not enforceable. Everyone knows that. I support the mayor on the tunel. I think it's absolutely necessary. The other options would be devastating to the Port. ... It drives me nuts when people say if we weren't spending our money on a tunnel we could spend it on more police officers. That's just not true.
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