It's business as usual folks

Unless you were an anti or pro-monorail zealot, there wasn't much to get excited about in the recent election. Given the paucity of progressive or populist candidates or issues on the ballot, this election was a sorry statement on our ability collectively define our city's political future in any meaningful way.

When we refer to progressives and populists here, we mean that large segment of our community that's getting little or no real representation down at city hall - neighborhoods and working people, communities of color, low-income people and the homeless, senior citizens, and small businesses. Together these constituents form our city's majority, and they are basically disenfranchised by the "corporate liberal" crowd that now dominates city hall.

Our city leaders may be reasonably liberal on social justice issues like affirmative action, but when it comes to land use, density, allocation of resources and the real issues that affect the distribution of wealth in our city, they're trickle-down free marketeers all the way. What's good for Paul Allen is good for the rest of us.

With the success of the incumbents in the mayoral and council races (not to mention the defeat of Initiative 912 to repeal the gas tax), we can expect to see our precious, limited transportation dollars go to budget-busting ego-driven mega-projects. Rather than maintenance for our neglected city streets and bridges, we'll see a tunnel built to replace the viaduct and a reconfiguration of Mercer that will do nothing for congestion.

The mayor

As soon as he got elected to his first term in 2001, Greg Nickels started running for his second term. He amassed a war chest of over $600,000, mostly from corporate donors. Readers of our column know we've criticized the mayor for his runaway growth agenda, his habit of taking credit for the contributions of others (particularly in Southeast Seattle), his violations of city ethics laws, and his bullying tactics toward his opponents.

Considering that Nickels' opponent Al Runte had no name recognition, no funding, no ad campaign and precious few yard signs, it is remarkable that 35% of those casting ballots voted against the mayor. The fact that no credible candidate came forward to challenge Nickels points to the overwhelming financial barriers to would-be candidates.

Council position 2

Despite our frequent disappointment with Richard Conlin, we were glad to see him triumph over Paige Miller, former port commissioner. Conlin has been attacked for being too "process-oriented," but what his critics really mean is that they don't want their agendas disrupted or delayed by too much democracy.

In a forum, Miller and Conlin were asked whether they supported setting up a task force on gentrification to come up with ways of preventing displacement of low income people in developing neighborhoods. Miller said no, while Conlin said yes, a group of people thinks better than any one person, and elected officials need to hear from those who are dealing with the reality of a situation on the ground.

Council position 4

Casey Corr lost in his bid to unseat Jan Drago largely because he never could shake his image as the mayor's water boy. However, as the campaign went on, Corr expressed a willingness to demand that big business share in the costs of Nickels' corporate agenda in South Lake Union and downtown.

He also said he would hold our police department and Seattle Housing Authority more accountable. Whether Corr would have kept those promises will not be known, but we're going to get four more years of Drago's obsequious, pro-big business agenda.

Council position 6

While other council races weren't particularly inspiring, we were more than pleased to see Nick Licata re-elected. At least his win will guarantee a consistent pro-neighborhood voice on the council. He's progressive, but he also speaks the voice of populism - even the traditional conservatism of a small, sensible government and more democracy at the community level with civil liberties for all.

Too bad this election didn't install more like him on the council. Licata's is the one clear voice speaking up against the extravagance of replacing the viaduct with a tunnel. And he will continue to remind the mayor and council of that backlog of more than $500,000,000 worth of transportation infrastructure repairs and maintenance in our neighborhoods.

Council position 8

Richard McIver or Dwight Pelz... quite frankly it was pick your poison. Both the incumbent McIver and challenger Pelz showed no interest in curtailing subsidies to downtown developers and virtually ignored neighborhood issues during their campaigns. With McIver's re-election, however, we will continue to have someone on the council willing to closely scrutinize police conduct.

McIver has himself been a victim of police harassment and has proven a strong advocate for communities of color on this issue. But it's unlikely that communities of color will get any support from McIver in their efforts to save Yesler Terrace.

He largely rubberstamps everything brought to him by Seattle Housing Authority and will offer nothing new in the way of solutions for our city's transportation nightmare.

At least McIver did champion the $50 million fund to mitigate the impacts of Sound Transit: too little, too late, but it was something.

This election, on the face of it, appears to be a ringing endorsement of the status quo. However, we firmly believe that had there been challengers to Drago and McIver and even the mayor, who stepped up early and spoke for economic justice, communities of color and the neighborhoods and against corporate dominance down at city hall, the outcome of these races could have been appreciably different. On these matters Pelz and Corr were just too much like the unimaginative incumbents they were challenging.

Until the community fields candidates to represent these issues and ideas, we will only get "business as usual" at city hall.

Outside City Hall is a monthly commentary from the Seattle Displacement Coalition.

John V. Fox and Carolee Colter may be reached by writing to

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