City Council Position 2: PubliCola Picks Richard Conlin

By PublicolaPicks October 19, 2009


Three-term city council member Richard Conlin gets a bad rap for being a proponent of “process”—a word that can translate as “endless discussion.” However, in Conlin’s case, process gets things done.

As chair of the council’s neighborhoods committee at a time when neighborhood groups didn’t want any new density period, Conlin successfully pushed through 38 neighborhood plans, increasing density throughout Seattle. He laid the groundwork for levies that paid for more libraries, community centers, and street repairs. More recently, he spearheaded a zero-waste strategy that has resulted in near-universal recycling and food waste composting in the city. He pushed for legislation creating new protections for trees in Seattle. And he put the 2008 parks levy on the ballot over Mayor Greg Nickels’ objections; the levy went on to win with 59 percent of the vote.

Under Conlin’s leadership as council president, the city council has become more unified than it has been in years. Make fun of him for legalizing backyard goats if you like, but his food security policy is one of the most innovative in the nation.

And while it did lose on the ballot (thanks to a multi-million-dollar campaign by the plastic industry), Conlin stood up for his green bag fee, defying a mob of opponents who claimed the 20-cent fee would hurt low-income people.

Conlin has an ambitious agenda for his fourth term. A Sound Transit board member, he wants to finish building light rail to Northgate and Redmond; finish the Superfund cleanup of the Duwamish River; and build “a great park on the [downtown] waterfront.

Conlin’s opponent, first-time candidate David Ginsberg, seems like a nice guy, but he hasn’t made the case that Conlin needs to go. He talks about his “impatience” to “take action,” but when pressed for specifics, acknowledges that his political agenda is pretty much in line with Conlin’s. (He’s running on a “sustainability” platform against the council’s leading environmentalist. Are you kidding?) Given that he has no experience holding elected office, his one campaign issue—the need to eliminate “process” and move forward quickly on things like expanding light rail and increasing residential density in neighborhoods—seems a little naïve.

In short: Ginsberg hasn’t made a convincing case, and Conlin has had a great third term. We think he deserves a fourth.

PubliCola picks Richard Conlin.
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