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Seattle City Council | Three races, five picks for the primary
One open seat and one or two potentially vigorous contests for City Council mean Seattle voters have a real opportunity this election season to change the focus and marching orders at City Hall.
Council elections can be referendums on the mood of a city, and for the August primary, there is palpable angst over crime and crowding. A more-activist council may be able to make improvements on these issues and more. For Position 1, The Times endorses Jean Godden, a first-term incumbent who took over an energy committee no one else wanted; and Robert Sondheim, a businessman and relative political newcomer with a community-action track record solid enough to advance him to the general election.
Another candidate, Lauren Briel, offers a refreshing effervescence and grasp of the issues. She is not quite ready to serve but she cares deeply about improving the city, so this young, 20-something should come back another time to run for public office.
Godden has the biggest name familiarity through work in an earlier life as a newspaper columnist at both Seattle dailies. On the council, she has worked hard on energy issues. Her efforts to reduce City Light rates resonate among those worried about a city growing increasingly unaffordable for low- and middle-income residents. That said, the size of the rate cuts has been criticized by energy experts who worry about insufficient money for necessary infrastructure investments.
Godden opposes council reconfirmation of the police chief every four years. Not appropriate, too political, she says. She has that right.
Godden told a Seattle Times online/SCAN-TV audience that Mayor Greg Nickels' proposed $4 billion tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct was actually her idea. Really? Why brag about something only 30 percent of the voters like?
Sondheim would have much to learn to serve on the council, but he has demonstrated a willingness to work hard on tough issues. He was president of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Pike-Pine Neighbors Coalition. He operates the friendly, comfortable Rosebud Restaurant & Bar in the neighborhood.
Position 3 is the open seat being vacated by Peter Steinbrueck. This race has a few high-quality candidates. The two best are Bruce Harrell, a lawyer who specializes in helping small businesses, employees and nonprofit groups and has served as chief counsel for U.S. West; and Venus Velázquez, an engaging public-relations expert and finalist for a council appointment in 2006.
Velázquez is energetic and well-versed on the issues. She considers herself a dealmaker, which is something the council could well use.
Harrell is a compelling candidate. He offers sensible answers on a range of questions and displays a wise reluctance to have the council reconfirm the police chief every four years.
Incumbent City Council member Sally Clark receives The Times' sole endorsement in the race for Position 9. Appointed in January 2006 from among 98 applicants after Councilman Jim Compton resigned, Clark won election in her own right the following November. She is seeking her first full term this election.
A former legislative aide to Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski, Clark heads the council's Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee, where she is working on updating Seattle's neighborhood plans, of no small interest to this city of neighborhoods.
She has maintained a lower profile on the council than her veteran colleagues, but shows the intelligence and grasp of politics that should serve Seattle well over the next four years.
Clark's opponents — Judy Fenton, Stan Lippman and Robert J. Brown — are not a match for her experience. In addition to her council staff job, Clark previously worked for Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods and was community-resources director for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
Clark says she wants a full term on the council to work on "safe, sustainable, affordable neighborhoods." That obviously includes downtown and Belltown, where the level of street violence has become unacceptable.
She has the skills to be a leader. Now is the time to fulfill that promise.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company