Four-term goat advocate and Madrona resident Richard Conlin makes over $100,000 a year. But on our many recent trips to City Hall's second floor, the council member wasn't in his office. Even his staff seemed to be missing most of the time. Perhaps Conlin's accomplishment-packed days of busily carrying water for downtown business lobbyists, fomenting petty fights with the mayor, and expediting new state highways while scotching local transit projects were behind him. What happened to that spunky greenwashing Conlin who legalized backyard goats and taught us how to love chickens?
After putting out the call on Tuesday—has anyone seen a Richard Dreyfus lookalike from Madame Tussauds?—nobody seemed to know where he'd been.
Who will speak for the freeways? How will the underdogs at the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce find a voice without the booming chords of Conlin? That transit master plan isn't going to freeze its own funding, you know.
Some had spotted Conlin on Tuesday at the 43rd District Democrats meeting politicking—not quite passing bills, but a good sign.
So we called Conlin's office yesterday afternoon to speak with his voicemail when a woman unexpectedly answered the phone, said Conlin was in his office—his vital signs were strong—and that she would put us through. Conlin, it turns out, isn't dead at all. He explained that, now that it's late March, the City Council is just getting going on its work for the New Year and he wanted to talk about it.
The Stranger: So do you still work for the city?
Richard Conlin: Ha ha ha. Yes. You would be most welcome to look at my blog posts and see the things that we are working on, a workplan for the committee, and we have a lot of existing stuff we are doing.
TS: You know that blogging isn't actual work, right?
Conlin: Blogging isn't actually work. It describes what we're actually working on.
TS: Like as your new position as chair of COBE (Committee on the Built Environment)?
Conlin: COBE? Oh, man, you're so out of touch. It's now called the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee.
TS: How could I have missed that? Have you introduced any bills?
Conlin: We will have the Othello and Rainier rezones and the regulatory reform package—a complicated set of changes to the land use code that will provide for more flexibility in development areas—on our next agenda.
TS: It seems awfully quiet on the second floor these days.
Conlin: The council is basically just getting into its work this year. The major thing we will be doing in the next few weeks is the library levy we have been working on and we plan to vote on that on April 9. We're looking at about $17 million the first year, as part of a seven-year levy. That's a little over $50 per year for a median household. We've been working on it for a couple years with the library board to increase the collection budget, the hours for branches, expanding electronic media and materials, and building maintenance.
TS: Is anybody, like, wondering what you do all day?
Conlin: Nobody that I know.
TS: Have you been, like, on a really long vacation?
Conlin: Not recently. Let's see—I was away for a week in February.
TS: Do you miss being the council president?
Conlin: I enjoyed being council president, and now I am ready to do something else.
TS: What about constantly kicking the mayor's ass—do you miss that?
Conlin: That wasn't the intention. We are working well with the mayor on lots of different issues.
TS: Your main job used to be disagreeing with the mayor on everything.
Conlin: I don't know—except for disagreement on the tunnel—I'm not sure if there is anything else I would describe that way.
TS: MOHAI, panhandling penalties, expanding the 520 bridge without light rail, freezing his Transit Master Plan budget ring any bells?
Conlin: We are now in agreement in 520, jointly agreeing with memorandum of understating [with the state]. That's an important achievement.
TS: As for the tunnel issue, the council supported it, but never made a plan for mitigating the 65,000 vehicles that wouldn't use it, spilling onto city streets. Does the council have any plan or money for that problem?
Conlin: We continue to work with state, but this is not a council effort. This is something the city is all on board with—SDOT and the mayor and the council. I think the change in tolling numbers [the state found it must charge less for tolls, thereby lowering diversion to city streets] is going to make things significantly easier.
TS: What were your biggest accomplishments?
Conlin: There is a pretty long list of things I accomplished during the presidency—the most important was creating in the council a real sense of working together and putting together common agenda. If you look at my blog posts...
TS: Nobody reads blog posts. Do you miss me?
Conlin: Ha ha ha ha. No comment.