Ask Rusty Williams why he's running for City Council Position No. 8, and he'll probably choose between two answers: first, there's the politically savvy response, as expressed in, "To improve the city and have a better relationship with the mayor;" then there's the reply he's been told to keep under wraps, that his candidacy was triggered by the death of his mother, former City Councilmember Jeanette Williams, in Oct. 2008.
Williams considers his mother one of the greatest councilmembers ever -- she served for 20 years -- and he credits her with instilling in him a passion for a host of issues that are reflected in his present candidacy: parks and open spaces, zoning/land use, mass transit. "We should have had mass transit decades ago," he says. (His mother thought the same.)
And when he looks at the current City Council, he picks up with a dual image. "I see a lot of intelligence, but I don't see a lot of common sense." An example? The Mercer Street solution. How, he wonders, when the city is looking at a $40 million debt, can it invest in the project? Especially when roads all over the city are crumbling and "the 14th Street Bridge is a mess?"
Of course, these transportation matters, and so much of what gets the municipal green light, all come down to how much there is of one thing: money. And Williams has a suggestion to find a little more: replace the sales tax with an income tax. Yes, he knows it's not a popular idea. But he finds the current sales tax -- 9.5 percent for most purchases -- to be regressive, with everyone, regardless of income, charged the same. He suggests that putting up a positive political front, one aided by lobbyists and lawyers, could make it a reality. And the profits could help to alleviate monetary shortfalls, like the $34 million deficit that caused the local school system to lay off 172 teachers. "We need some more tax reform," he says.
And to make Seattle livable again. To do this, he puts his attention on job creation, opening pathways to entrepreneurship and even something as simple as rewarding people for bring reusable bags to stores -- as opposed to charging for them. Ideas, he thinks, that speak to his commitment to people.
Not to mention ones his mother might support.
You may not know the name Bobby Forch, but chances are, if you're a contractor you do. That's because over the past three years, as Seattle's Contracting Manager, Forch has helped bring about a 40 percent increase in the number of minority and women-owned contractors who do business with the city. It's all part of the Forch plan to be an advocate for job creation.
And while the New York Times may proclaim that job losses aren't as bad as they used to be, Forch sees this economy as "the worst in a generation." People, he says, still need work. His plan to help? Place a Small Business Division within the city's Office of Economic Development, the better to spur on job creation. Looking toward the waterfront, he sees an opportunity to protect industrial bases along the water's edge and shore up fishing industry jobs. And he'd like to cut the employee head tax that leads businesses to site offices outside the boundaries of the Emerald City.
A resident of the Central District, he sees something else lost: hope and, more importantly, life. His city block, he says, is dotted with the memories of "young people who have lost their lives" through violence, a fact that's easy for other city-dwellers to ignore. "I'm talking about it because I'm living it," he says. As such, he can't help but throw his weight behind the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. Sure, more needs to be done and he doesn't profess to have all the answers, "but it's a start."
He sees part of the problem of youth violence, in the C.D. and beyond, as being linked to job losses and the economy. He fully supports measures to improve the environment -- mention the tree canopy or cleaning up the waste stream, and he's with you -- but his core focus is the creation of safe communities. His and everyone else's, from Capitol Hill, whose gay and lesbian residents have experienced an uptick in violence, right on over to Nickelsville, which he thinks deserves a permanent site. But on public land? "If that's what it takes, yes."
To provide for people is "critical." Which is why Forch thinks those people he's helped find contracts know him. He's hoping, come the primary, more people will know his name, too.
Once, when David Miller was lobbying City Council to place the parks levy on the ballot, there was a commotion outside City Hall: about a dozen people, dressed in black, banged pots and pans. It was Women in Black, seeking money for a women's shelter. When a member handed him a flyer with their request -- they needed $35,000, he remembers -- he wondered how long they'd been at it. And why no one had helped them meet with public officials to try to find the money that, as one person termed it, was basically "budget lint."
Does that mean Miller, a Seattle resident for almost 17 years, wants to run for City Council Position No. 8 because he supports affordable housing? Well, partially. In truth, running for a public office is something Miller says he's wanted to do for a very long time. And while no one belief brings him to throw his hat in the ring, he finds community issues at the core of his platform: parks, trees, density and urban growth, neighborhoods, citizen participation in government. So affordable housing, as expressed in his support of a permanent site for Nickelsville on public land, proves part of that mix.
But what also drives him is the opportunity for Seattle to experience "one of the most productive, progressive, intelligent councils in a long time." A past president of the Maple Leaf Community Council, he knows that City Council pulls the purse strings and that the council has more control than it tends to make use of. In other words: "Council is where the buck stops."
And where the collaboration begins, because he knows he'll have to work with the mayor, whomever that may be. He says he's witnessed the political firestorms that can roil City Hall, when there's tension, say, between the mayor and a social service agency. He believes "Seattle's most efficient/effective programs can be saved without tax increases," by measuring how well a program meets its goals. This would constitute asking hard questions. But on the council, you can get the right questions asked, he says. That's important, when the city's responsibility is public safety.
And also might allow it to work toward putting some of that budget lint to work for the people.
If you've been around Seattle a long time, it's hard not to notice that the "R" in council candidate Jordan Royer's yard signs looks exactly like the "R" that once stood atop Seattle's old Rainier Brewery.
It's a signal of sorts that Royer is one of those increasingly rare things in Seattle