The Smartest People in Seattle Politics

They’re Obsessed with Smart Policy, Not Power


what about Sawant?? Changed debate on minimum wage, took out conlin.

or Faye Garneau, didn't she just lead a huge change to districts or something?

a change you guys endorsed?

she made some smart decisions going with 7-2, and having a map, and this shifted the outcome by twenty points from 46% in favor last time, to 66% in favor this time. Wouldn't we say this is smart, too, and not just "feisty"?
@1) Sawant's entry is posted now, along with several others that didn't show up at first. There was a snafu on our back-end.

Seattle Districts Now and Faye Gargneau would be a good addition to this piece, too, I agree.
Great list. Sahar Fathi, Rahwa Habti, Randy Engstrom and Ben Schiendelman are among my favorites.
You know what would be a fantastic follow up to this?

Who would be the top ten best prospects from each of the 7 districts for City Council. You guys will probably need to reach out to contacts in each of the seven for feedback on this, but it would be a very neat series.
I'd add Jamila Johnson and Josh Castle to the list.
McGinn beat himself not Nick Hanauer.
It's all in what your perspective is. Others would have whole different lists of people so let's not do the whole extreme hyperbole thing like what happened during the election cycle. In the end it was Stranger excoriating anyone who did not agree with particular writers (because they are not entirely reporters at this point).
Roger Valdez is the developers' lap dog. He is the one name that absolutely does NOT belong on this list.
Dom - why Faye Garneau? Are you giving her credit for building the coalition behind districts, or does having a quarter million dollars of your own money to throw into a race make you "smart?"
@9 Faye funded it lead it and hired the manager Wasserman and was integral to the key decisions:

-7-2 NOT 9, which lost before.
-show the map.
This helped get Times and this helped preclude a strong oppo campaign. Agreed that having money like Romney doesn't make you smart. But winning a huge campaign that changes the council for 50 years after it basically lost three times in earlier tries -- by making key strategic decisions? That is what makes her smart. And no one is saying she acted alone, it was a diverse coalition.
An online list without a single link to their work samples, websites ....
Lifelong AIDS Alliance in Cap Hill...

and @11, totally speaking the truth. I am sure all of the businesses and people really could have used the increased traffic to their sites and projects. It's not as if non-profits and businesses are struggling or anything.

Come on Stranger...sounds like you need a community outreach coordinator. holler.
10 thanks for clarifying, the public story so far is about the money.
Don't let Hanauer off the hook. He pushed charter schools, which is a union busting tactic and one that is intended to silence the voices of the voters. Not cool.

Hanauer also funded TWO PACS. BOTH PACs were dishonest. One PAC used women of domestic violence as pawns and the other distorted the views of Sue Peters.

Hanauer wrote a book called "Gardens of Democracy" and one of the pillars is "Society becomes how you behave". Do we really want dishonesty? Do we really want to use victims of domestic violence as pawns?

Hanauer can do better and he needs to be held to a higher standard.
And winning may or may not be smart. In the long run, the smartest people have traditionally burned at the stake.
Forgot Merf Ehman
You forgot the Budget & Policy Center. Remy Trupin and crew -don't get much smarter than that.
Half of these are good choices - not bad!
Just for the record (and responding to districts issue comments), here's a list of the most active Seattle Districts Now core group (as best my memory and notes serve me, in rough order of length of time engaged): John Fox, Toby Thaler, Bill Bradburd, Suzie Burke, Faye Garneau, Eugene Wasserman, Zander Bachelder, John McSweeney, Cleve Stockmeyer, David Miller, Donna Hartmann-Miller, James Bush, Geov Parrish, Roger Pence, Yusef Cabdi, Glenn Avery, Julius Caesar Robinson, Sarah Moseley, Charles Redmond.

In case you're counting, I get 3 R-ish, 7 D-ish, and the rest independent to leftish (or unknown to me). And most core group work was volunteer.
Jessica Finn Coven at Climate Solutions -- spear heading an effort to strengthen the environmental, labor and environmental justice communities behind smart, sustainable climate and clean energy policy. Also on the boards of WCV and SAGE.
Danielle Askini, the Executive Director of the Gender Justice League, has made great strides for the Trans* community here in Seattle and nationally. She was the driving force behind this year's Trans Pride parade and celebration, as well as many other trans* initiatives. She should be included in this list as a potent social justice advocate and evangelist!
Every one of them pushes higher regressive taxes. We've already got worst state/local taxing regime in terms of taxes targeting the lower middle class and poor in the country. Fuck you all, and fuck those whores for the rich corporations and individuals here.
Somehow, the notion of a snafu on Slog's back end (@2) makes me giggle.
The Pomegranate Center. They DO innovative community dialogue & development that so many others just talk about. Also, ACT Theatre. ACT supports incredible theatre, including The Hansberry Project, Central Heating Lab, the Young Playwrights Project, as well as some awesome mainstage shows.
Roger "housing is like bananas" Valdez?

really, no one from seattle districts now?

they reformed elections in seattle, not mike O'Brien. they raised the percentage in favor of districts from 46 to 66%, and now today the seattle times is explaining this small d change in simple words, so they are the ones who brought policy to the table and made change. it's faye, also gene wasserman, also john fox, also about two dozens other activists, lawyers and volunteers including mainly long term democratic party activists and a few independents and republicans, all building on prior efforts including those of some who in 2003 spent more than a year getting signatures. to call out the smartest people in seattle politics and ignore the ones who just changed how we elect councilmembers for a generation seems a bit off. O'Brien's public finance thing didn't pass. the districts thing passed. part of being smart in politics is you know, getting things enacted, and creating real change, not just talk or failing to change things. this upstart campaign surprised everyone and will produce long lasting impacts for likely 20 to 50 years. fortunately, they kept at it despite prior losses, they learned, they modified and adjusted the proposal and explained it better. this plus sawant are the amazing surprise victories this year and they're both damn smart.
Most of the folks on this list are really smart because they have managed to come up with suggestions (and in many cases, implemented them) even though they don't cost much money. I like Ben Schiendelman, but most of his ideas won't happen unless Seattle gets a lot, lot bigger (or wins the lottery). He has some great ideas, but I'm more impressed with David Lawson. Consider this proposal:…
If this (or something like this) happens soon after light rail gets to Northgate, it changes everything from a transit standpoint. Suddenly you can get from one spot to another much faster, even if you don't live close to a train station.
@19 -- Thanks for that list. Adding members of that group (John Fox, etc.) to a list that includes Roger Valdez and Ben Schiendelman makes for an interesting list of political players in this city. Those folks might be of the same political party, but they have totally different opinions on land use in this city. In short, guys like Roger and Ben want to see more apartments, to you know, try and get the price of rent down. Folks like those on the list? Not so much.
@8 -- Identity politics is interesting. Generally speaking, in this country, the Republicans play that game way more than the Democrats (in other countries it is the main game they play). It is common for Republicans to say, essentially, that the other guy over there "just isn't one of us". He likes sushi, but we like ham. He likes chardonnay, but we like Bud. Amongst Democrats, this isn't done much.

But in this city, it happens all the time. Somehow, a "developer" means a rich guy that could care less about what happens in his wake. Burn the land and put up a fancy resort for rich people. Well, no, not exactly. But somehow ruin the fabric of the precious single family neighborhood and replace it with ugly condos that screw up traffic (and worse) screw up parking? Horrors! Go back to where you came from (probably California) evildoer!

To put it more succinctly -- Bullshit! Tell me how Valdez is wrong. Tell me how we should better balance the needs of people who just want an affordable place to live versus the people who want to preserve the look of their neighborhood. But please, spare me your stupid labels, and your stupid insinuations, and argue the man on the merits of his arguments.
Sarah Sense-Wilson is a Native American mother who has been fighting racism and lack of inclusion in Seattle schools for years. She is a leader in the move to save Seattle Indian Heritage High, and has also helped unite all the various Native Groups working for the same goals, so they can work together and communicate.
She has the brains to know how to get Non-Indians to actually hear what Natives have to say. She has the respect of the community, which is hard to earn and harder to keep.
Well, the obvious omission from this list is Mike McGinn. He didn't win reelection, but there's no denying he's affected the city in big and positive ways, along with the new mayor's agenda. Just because voters are easily manipulated doesn't diminish his accomplishments OR his future work, of which there will be, I suspect, a lot. He just lost an election, he didn't die.
Smart politics! What a concept. The people in Seattle get what they vote for, if they vote at all. Kudos to Kshama Sawant! Hope that the old school, old money manipulators that have run this city for years have a new way to look at how the voters think.
'Closing achievement gaps in schools.'


You may be well-served by having a chat with GW about no children being left behind.
Frank Emfbo should definitely be on this list
I like this list. In particular, I like how many of the people on this list have opposed each other in the past. It's a good break from the presumptive narrative that one side of a debate must be good, smart, worthy and kind, and the other side evil, stupid, worthless and mean. There can be smart and worthy people on both sides.
WOW--I am really impressed by what the people on this kick-ass list are doing for Seattle! Kudos, and keep it up!!
What? Not one mention of Mary Martin and her husband, Edwin Fruit?
Roger Valdez? Are you fucking kidding me? That's just irresponsible journalism.
I suppose I’m not surprised that StandUP-America did not make this list. Despite the repeated attempts to slander both our group and it’s members, we have yet to actually be spoken to regarding our policies and intentions. Instead we are scoffed at for “not understanding how the system works,” when in reality, we simply do not accept how the process currently works. We do not accept this political process because – IT IS NOT WORKING.

Before StandUP-America entered the local scene, the Seattle City and King County Council meetings were virtually void of criticism. While the public spoke amongst themselves in droves regarding the failures of our representatives, this conversation never made it to the council chambers. StandUP-America has changed the conversation between the People and their representatives from the false and empty “subservience” of slave and master to the powerful and effect-driven tone of employer and employee.

In short, we pay their salaries – they must answer our questions in public and on record regardless if our topic is on the agenda for that day.

StandUP-America approaches the problem directly, not by inspiring rap lyrics, not by dragging through the torn and broken channels of process within our current system – but by effecting new ways of change. We demanded that the King County Council allow a time for open public comment and after a year and half they acquiesced. For the first time, the public actually has true freedom of speech when addressing the representatives they hired (this is yet to be the case in the city chambers but we are working on it). We won a 100 million dollar lawsuit on behalf of 22,000 caregivers who were denied adequate compensation from the State. We were the first to publicly address the outrageous salaries awarded to council members and Mayor. We were the first to point out that city hall meets during work hours, giving no chance for the working class to participate within the process. We began the conversation about Housing Authority corruption, including but not limited to the tax-funded $200,000 salary given to the Housing Authority director, while 22,000 people are on a wait list to receive housing.

StandUP-America was the first to address and try to fix the problems in the system from the OUTSIDE, remaining citizens, rather than attempt to reinforce the “members only” mindset of local politics.

I understand that “smart” means the best of what’s usually done. But a genius changes that whole spectrum. They operate within a realm currently ideologically inaccessible by the majority and remain there until everybody can catch up with them. If this were a list of political “genius,” I would be more upset – but if you wish your list be an accurate reflection of where common opinion should lie, it would help if you stretched your mind a little bit.

From StandUP-America.
You have to pay taxes to pay salaries.
Sightline is fantastic--I'm a reader and donor--but I believe that in referring to the Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill you may mean the one my organization, Washington Bikes (formerly the Bicycle Alliance of Washington), initiated. As you noted (…), we finally got it passed into law the 3rd year after unanimous yes votes in the House the first two years but no Senate vote.

Sightline provided great coverage all along the way from the bill's first introduction and certainly helped make the case that it was a commonsense idea; it's fantastic that it became part of their overall "Making Sustainability Legal" project.

You'll note many links in their articles back to our website for the background on the legislation. One of our board members, attorney Ted Inkley, drafted the bill that Rep. Cindy Ryu sponsored and we lobbied for three years, lining up a supporting coalition that ultimately reached from AAA to AARP to the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and beyond. We're now working with communities interested in adopting the ordinance and procedure the law requires that will vastly simplify efforts to slow speeds on non-arterials and make our streets friendlier for walking, biking, and living.

Barb Chamberlain
Executive Director
Washington Bikes (formerly Bicycle Alliance of Washington)

Seattle people are not smart nor progressive because they refuse to acknowledge the inherit unfairness of a state that does not fairly assess and tax property.

Everything else is puffery.
Abigail Echo-Hawk
Sean Whitcomb is a dipshit, with about 30 minutes of actually working the streets as a cop. If he wants to be a celebrity, or a politician, he needs to move on. He's done more to harm SPD than any of the knuckleheads that stepped on their dicks.
Are any of them demanding an increase of the number of city-council seats?
@44:There definitelty needs to be a wealth tax,but I'd like to see an increase in the numbe of city-council,county-council,and legislative seats (to reflect the increase in the populace .Proportional equitable representation is Constitutionally mandatory! ---
I would like to see more information published about successful immigrants in Seattle. How did the old world help them? Did they need to acquire new values to transform into a success? What failures did they feel held them back.