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Why Is Albert Shen Running for City Council?

He's Got Plenty of Ambition and Lots of Cash, but Little Vision

Why Is Albert Shen Running for City Council?

Kelly O

ALBERT SHEN Extremely eager.

Albert Shen is a skilled political climber. He earned the governor's appointment in 2009 to the Seattle Community Colleges board. Meanwhile, he has served as a board member for the Puget Sound Susan G. Komen Foundation, proving his loyalty to women's issues, and last year, he joined the Obama campaign's national finance committee, raising more than $100,000 for the president's reelection and earning his stripes in the Democratic Party.

It seems natural that Shen, 46, would now run for election to city hall. "It's what I want to do; it's what I want to accomplish," he says.

Although Shen initially planned to run for mayor, he's settled on the Seattle City Council, taking on Mike O'Brien, one of four council members defending their seats this fall. O'Brien is the council's most liberal member, a freshman who has sponsored successful, although controversial, bills to reform elections, ban plastic shopping bags, and create an opt-out registry for yellow pages (the yellow-pages companies sued the city, requiring the city to pay out a $50,000 settlement, but a registry was ultimately implemented). Still, Shen says, "It's not about him," adding there is "no particular reason" he ran against O'Brien.

That line of defense makes it difficult to discern what Shen would do differently than his opponent.

When pressed on agenda specifics, Shen says he intends to bring his expertise managing storm-water runoff as an engineering consult to the council when it begins a cleanup of the polluted Duwamish River. (A virtuous goal—although O'Brien's environmental bona fides as the former director of the state's Sierra Club chapter suggest he would also be a strong advocate for river cleanup.)

Shen argues that Seattle needs him because the council is currently all white.

"The council has no ethnic diversity right now, and with my background as an Asian American... I want to bring that diverse perspective to the city council, and I think that's been lost recently," Shen says.

The council actually does have a member of color: Bruce Harrell, who is half Japanese and half African American. When I tell Shen, he says, "I stand corrected on that."

That one slipup alone may not be worth reporting—everybody misspeaks from time to time, even if gaffes by aspiring politicians are magnified. But it's worth mentioning because, for all Shen's ambition and strategic ascent in politics, it seems characteristic of his candidacy. By the end of our hour-long interview, Shen showed he was unfamiliar with several pressing city issues and was unversed in policy debates before the council. Although Shen proclaims noble civic intentions "to serve the public in some capacity," he still presents a mystery about what he would do if voters boost him higher up that political ladder.

Shen penned an op-ed in the Seattle Times last December in which he lamented that "streetcar construction sprawls throughout the city," even though a scant few miles of track hug the urban core. He also blasted the city leaders for "finding solutions that beg for a problem to solve." Hoping to find some air between him and the council, I ask Shen what he meant.

Shen cites the city's decision to spend its affordable housing funds in South Lake Union, funds that will be gained by letting developers build taller towers in the neighborhood instead of less expensive areas like Rainier Valley and the International District where they "can build more affordable housing per dollar."

While that's a valid point, Shen couldn't identify the counterargument—that affordable housing should be kept where the jobs are, in South Lake Union.

In general, Shen's politics vacillate between out of touch and impractical.

For instance, he opposes the legalization of marijuana. "I have personally seen the abuse of marijuana and what it has done to kids and families," he says. (Seattle voted overwhelmingly for a state law to legalize marijuana last fall.)

Regarding bike lanes, a subject the city council has more influence over, Shen opposes nearly all of them: They get in the way of vehicles, particularly freight traffic, he says. He adds that they should be limited to streets where they can be separated from cars with pylons and locations where "it is safe for them." It seems backward to build bike lanes only in places that it's already safest for bikes while neglecting the roadways where they run a larger risk of getting hit.

Shen also says he is a "little wary" of a bill that would limit employers from asking applicants about their criminal history until they are tentatively hired, a measure with most of the council's backing designed to reduce recidivism.

While Shen appears somewhat disengaged and conservatively out of step with Seattle's council—and voters—he is flush with cash. The latest city records show he has raised $93,000, nearly double the $47,000 raised by O'Brien, meaning Shen may climb this ladder, too. recommended

 

Comments (19) RSS

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1
"unfamiliar with several pressing city issues"

But it was okay when McGinn and O'Brien ran, so I guess this judgement is rather subjective.
Posted by hmmmmm on June 5, 2013 at 11:41 AM · Report this
2
How dare a young Asian man run against one of Dom's pals in City Hall! Dom is right to question his legitimacy. We don't do things like run against incumbents here in Seattle, Mr. Shen.
Posted by J.R. on June 5, 2013 at 11:47 AM · Report this
3
@1…McGinn & O'Brien can be charged with many things, but being unaware of City issues isn't one of them.
Posted by Timothy http://www.moreperfect.org on June 5, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 4
Considering Dominic, in a previous post, already labeled Mr. Shen "a tool" in a shrill and obviously not flattering way, and knowing as we all do that Dominic has a metaphorical hard-on for Mr. O'Brien, I'm not sure that we should accept his characterization of their conversation or of Mr. Shen's positions on the issues as being all too accurate.

Perhaps The Stranger, if it wants to be seen as truly objective in its coverage (a good assumption?), should find another reporter to cover this particular race. Or simply acknowledge fully that the paper will be in the bag for Mr. O'Brien no matter what.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on June 5, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
south downtown 5
"It seems backward to build bike lanes only in places that it's already safest for bikes while neglecting the roadways where they run a larger risk of getting hit."

right, Dominic. The whole greenways and bikeways movement is a fucking mistake.

Posted by south downtown on June 5, 2013 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Baconcat 6
"The council has no ethnic diversity right now, and with my background as an Asian American... I want to bring that diverse perspective to the city council, and I think that's been lost recently," Shen says.

The council actually does have a member of color: Bruce Harrell, who is half Japanese and half African American. When I tell Shen, he says, "I stand corrected on that."


Good job.
Posted by Baconcat on June 5, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 7
I think money likes this guy because he's so dumb. They can make him do anything in office.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on June 5, 2013 at 3:50 PM · Report this
inquiastador 8
Shen is simply looking for an "in" and he felt O'Brien was the weakest to challenge. He cannot win, even this early I can call that, because no one knows who he is or why he is a viable alternative to the incumbent. he can spend all the money he wants but he needs to work a few more years to stake out his positions before he gets elected. Mark it, Dude.
Now, If someone would have the fortitude to challenge Sally Clark, that would be news worth covering.
Posted by inquiastador on June 5, 2013 at 10:06 PM · Report this
9
@4: Dominic's "characterization of their conversation"-including all the direct quotes-is absolutely accurate. I was there.
Posted by Guest Author on June 6, 2013 at 1:34 PM · Report this
10
Doesn't supporting our first president of color, finding a cure for breast cancer, and providing higher education to working families and single mothers in Seattle deserve a little more respect than a passing mention in your lead? Don't those issues count just as much as bike lanes and the yellow pages to those of us in Seattle? But I see from your previous articles that you are a bike rider. I get it...

It also pains also me that you are playing the subtle game of pitting one person of color against another. "Isn't there already a person of color on the city council? So why do we need you?" It's classic tokenism and you've just demonstrated the kind of oppressive attitude that trivializes the contributions of leaders of color and their communities. One person of color on the Seattle City Council is neither representative of our Seattle community, nor "diverse."
Posted by zbsea on June 6, 2013 at 10:29 PM · Report this
Andy 11
@9, You can make any interview come out to be what you want it to be. That's why there's such a thing as a hit piece or a fluff piece. There's no such thing as an accurate or not accurate characterization, since it's all based in opinion. You think the characterization was "accurate" because you happen to agree with Dom. It's allowed that some others feel differently.
Posted by Andy on June 7, 2013 at 8:33 AM · Report this
Mickymse 12
@10, this is hardly a "subtle game." Unless Shen disputes the quote, he didn't say he wants to bring more diversity to the Council or that he has an additional contribution to bring. Shen says that there is NO diversity on the Council, which suggests he has little familiarity with who is actually on City Council and the issues they are working on -- as Harrell is not only running for Mayor, but has taken some significant stands on issues highlighting the concerns of people of color in Seattle.
Posted by Mickymse on June 7, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
13
I´d appreciate a bit more information about his work at the Community Colleges.

His analysis of development spending and the undue priority Seattle is a rich city that should spend its money on more broadly distributed social goods like universally available childcare; ESL, math tutoring; low-intensity personal training and nutritional mentoring
Posted by alfresco on June 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
14
@11: "There's no such thing as an accurate or not accurate characterization." That is an inaccurate characterization of reality.
Posted by Guest Author on June 11, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this
15
Poor Seattleites should vote for the Socialist Workers' Party candidates for mayor ( a woman) and King County Council Position 6, and the Socialist Alternative Party candidate for City Council Position 2. --- http://www.themilitant.com ,and http://votesawant.org
Posted by 5th Columnist on June 11, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Report this
16
Oops!The Socialist Workers' Party candidate isn't running for King County Council's Sixth Position,he's (Edwin Fruit is his name)running for SEATTLE City Council's Position 6 (but there is a SWP candidate for a King County Port Commissioner seat.) --- http://www.themilitant.com
Posted by 5th Columnist on June 11, 2013 at 6:27 PM · Report this
17
It is deeply offensive that you try to pass of his work with the corrupt cancer establishment as "loyalty to women's issues."

The real legacy of cancer profiteers like Komen has been to actively prevent countless cancer cures from saving lives. The bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed and the cancer industry is a shining example of that.

Cancer cures have been around for a long time:
1-
www.vimeo.com/25279346 Cancer: The Forbidden Cures (doesn't really start until 22 minutes into it)
2-
www.vimeo.com/24821365 Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business (if you know anyone dying of cancer have them watch this!!)
Posted by katm http://www.Ihatefascism.com on June 12, 2013 at 9:33 AM · Report this
Texas10R 18
"It seems natural that Shen, 46, would now run for election to city hall.

'It's what I want to do; it's what I want to accomplish,' he says."

Worst reason to run for City Council –– EVER.
Posted by Texas10R on June 16, 2013 at 3:48 PM · Report this
19
This guy is a tool...he doesn't care about issues or people, just wants some power. Obviously doesn't know a thing about the council or the issues. Seattle, don't let the money talk, let this b.s. walk!
Posted by rockgrrl70 on June 16, 2013 at 8:50 PM · Report this

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