"I think it is a cheap shot and an inaccurate shot," says City Council member Bruce Harrell, referring to recent comments from the Seattle Times and its editorial columnist Joni Balter that claim Harrell and three other council members opposed an aggressive-solicitation bill because they are large men. The Seattle Times argues that Harrell—along with council members Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata, and Mike O'Brien—don't understand safety risks for smaller people and women. "All four of the opponents of the legislation have a strong belief in public safety," Harrell says. And he adds that one of the people who voted against the bill, Tom Rasmussen, isn't a big guy. (Nor, for that matter, is Nick Licata.)
On Tuesday, the Seattle Times editorial page took aim at Harrell, claiming:
He could not get his mind around the danger people smaller in stature, older or less mobile feel in compromised situations. He repeatedly said no one has ever panhandled him at a cash machine. Harrell is large man, a former University of Washington football player. His inability to feel the vulnerabilities of others marks a bad moment for him.
"I have a small 77-year-old Japanese grandmother and a 12-year-old daughter, and, on a daily basis, I look at life through their lens," Harrell says.
The Seattle Times earlier this week said that some people who complained about public safety were "women in high heels or elderly folks who move slower who give up on downtown because they are asked for money so aggressively." And Balter said today on KUOW, "I would actually like to challenge the four no-votes, the men, to walk down Second Avenue with me in high heels and holding a baby."
Harrell calls this "a political attempt to confuse the argument by demonizing the opponents of the legislation." He adds that it's "poor form."