Genius Awards

Political Shortlist

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Genius Awards

Liz Dunn

Liz Dunn, 43, is our kind of developer. She's not afraid to throw steel and glass and towers into the midst of the worn brick buildings on Capitol Hill. Dunn is pro-development and pro-density in neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, and so are we. But rather than gutting existing urban shops and stores and shoehorning in awkward condo developments, Dunn's kind of development—like the Agnes Lofts at 12th Avenue and Pike Street or the 1310 East Union lofts—fits in and brings more life to the street. Dunn takes on smaller projects and watches other development on the hill closely. "I don't think you can [develop] a whole block," Dunn says. "That scale just doesn't work."

Dunn started her firm, Dunn & Hobbs, 10 years ago after transitioning out of a career as a software engineer. "I was an architect wannabe," she says.

Dunn may be modest, but her projects aren't anything less than innovative. She's considering using welded shipping containers for a new development on 11th Avenue. "I love steel," she says.

Dunn understands that there's a balance that can be struck between density and a neighborhood's history. "The new should be new and the old should be old," she says. It's the mixture of the two that's interesting." JONAH SPANGENTHAL-LEE

Cascade Bicycle Club

The Cascade Bicycle Club, which has more than 7,000 members in the region, is the most effective lobbying group on behalf of cyclists in Washington State, thanks in large part to the efforts of advocacy director David Hiller, 37. Cascade and Hiller deserve much of the credit for Seattle's comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan, which will add miles of new bike facilities around the city. But Cascade does more than just advocate for bike lanes; it also serves as the city's cycling conscience. When the city capitulated to a single property owner and eliminated a long-planned bike lane along Stone Way in Fremont (abandoning legislation Cascade fought to pass that mandated street planning to add pedestrians and bikers into the equation), Cascade rallied supporters to a highly publicized protest that drew hundreds of bikers. When the city decided quietly to extend the closure of a major trail another year, again at the behest of a single property owner, Cascade raised hell, leading the city to reopen the trail. Hiller has been in the press in the last few days, after the tragic bike accident on Eastlake Avenue, speaking about the need for bike safety; Hiller had met both cyclists who were hit—the pair just moved here from Colorado—at a Critical Mass rally. As the debate over the city's transportation priorities heats up, expect Cascade to continue to be the loudest—and most effective—advocate for bicyclists in Seattle. ERICA C. BARNETT

Sandeep Kaushik

Political consultant Sandeep Kaushik, 60, displayed his first signs of genius in 2005 when he quit The Stranger, where he'd been a political reporter for three years.

King County Executive Ron Sims recognized Kaushik's smarts and stole him away from us, hiring the dazzling Jim Beam drinker as an election strategist. After getting Sims reelected, Kaushik kept taking leaves of absence from the county to work on political campaigns: He killed Frank Blethen's estate tax repeal; he crushed the viaduct rebuild; and after officially leaving Sims's office for life as a full-time political consultant, Kaushik scored recent wins with both the county parks levy and in the King County Prosecutor race. Kaushik's candidate, Bill Sherman, came through the primary with a stunning 64 percent and is now well positioned to emerge as the first Democratic King County Prosecutor in 60 years.

Kaushik is poised to cap his rise as a political whiz with two major campaigns: He's advocating for the biggest tax increase in state history, the $17.8 billion Roads and Transit initiative (hoping to expand light rail with 50 new miles of track) and, in a prime-time spot, he's heading up spin for Darcy Burner, the Democrat who's trying to knock off GOP Eastside incumbent Congressman Dave Reichert. Kaushik already chased Burner's Democratic primary rival out of the race.

In 2000, little-known consultant Christian Sinderman emerged as a star by helping get Maria Cantwell elected. Sinderman is now the hottest political guru in the state. If Kaushik sends Burner to Congress, he'll be the new Sinderman. JOSH FEIT

 

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