City Hall

Extra Fizz: Burgess Profile in Seattle Times, John Fox Edition

By Josh Feit April 5, 2010


When I linked the Seattle Times article on Seattle City Council Member Tim Burgess this morning, I noted that  Seattle Displacement Coalition leader John Fox's voice was missing from the piece. Fox's absence was notable because the story linked Burgess to controversial former Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran. It was Fox and his Displacement Coalition that battled Sidran back in the '90s and when Sidran ran for mayor (and lost) in 2001.

Fox has been one of the voices actively challenging Burgess' panhandling ordinance. I called Fox to get his take on Burgess, whom Heffter's article spun as Sidran-lite.

Fox said it was "too early to tell" if Burgess was the new Sidran, but calling Burgess a "neo-liberal" said, Burgess does seem like a "throwback ideologically" to Sidran with his "get-tough-on-the-poor, the homeless, and the street community" stance.  He also called Burgess a "slick, smart politician" who was "witty and accessible and doesn't hesitate to communicate with us." (Sidran was famous for being gregarious and enjoying debate.)

Fox said Burgess may be a "slightly tempered" version of Sidran, pointing out that Burgess has amended his controversial panhandling legislation several times, something Sidran did not do. "Sidran just charged ahead," Fox said.

Burgess has, for example, gotten rid of the outright location bans on panhandling that were originally in play. But Fox says while those changes make the proposal "slightly less onerous," he still thinks it's a creepy power grab for the police. The latest version of the bill replaces language that would ban all panhandling within 15 feet of an ATM (which seemed legally dubious anyway) with a restriction of asking people for money while they're actually using an ATM. By broadening the definition of "aggressive panhandling" (which is already illegal), the proposal gives the Seattle Police Department more authority to issue citations, and in turn, to issue arrest warrants when people don't pay.

Original Post:

In this morning's Seattle Times, reporter Emily Heffter has a concise piece about emerging Seattle City Council frontman, Council Member Tim Burgess.

There's not a lot new in her article—except for a quote from Council Member Nick Licata about abstract early 20th Century artist Wassily Kandinksy–but what's noteworthy about Heffter's story is that Burgess, emerging as a law-and-order guy in hippie-dippie Seattle doesn't—as opposed to Seattle's previous tough-on-crime guy, Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran—seem to elicit the same kind of animosity from the left.

The article doesn't quote Seattle Displacement Coalition leader John Fox (we've got a call out to him), so maybe that explains it, but liberal stalwart Nick Licata and tireless homeless advocate Tim Harris are both quoted and come on pretty mellow about the guy.

Mayor Mike McGinn (Burgess is noted as a potential McGinn challenger in 2013) is the tersest—or bitchiest—telling Heffter: "He prioritizes different issues ... Or maybe it's where he gets his cues from," referring to downtown business interests.

Heffter's story is worth reading.
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