It took the Seattle City Council nearly two months to break its deadlock and appoint Nick Licata council president, but the backlash was almost instantaneous: A mere two days after Licata took the president's gavel (but one day too late for my deadline last week), armchair pundit and P-I columnist Joel Connelly publicly trashed Licata aide Lisa Herbold, calling Licata's office a "sieve" through which The Stranger receives all its city news. (Sorry, Joel, but Lisa ain't the only one on the second floor who "leaks" to The Stranger. And aren't staff members supposed to provide information to the public?) Speculation abounded that Jean Godden's office, still sulking about Godden's failure to win the presidency, had put Connelly onto the story, but a Godden aide staunchly denied that rumor, arguing that the former P-I columnist was no more Connelly's only source than Licata's office is The Stranger's.

One day later, the Seattle Times followed the P-I's lead, stating without evidence (in an unsigned editorial reportedly written by Joni Balter) that "some council members are concerned that Licata's staff is weak and agenda driven." Which council members? Weak how? What's wrong with having an agenda? The Times doesn't say. This is, after all, the same newspaper that belittled candidate Venus Velazquez, describing her as "young, Latina, passionate" (those Latinas! So fiery! So passionate!) while crediting white realtor (and two-time council loser) Robert Rosencrantz with "credibility" and "gravitas." That's nothing, however, compared to the vitriol the P-I unleashed on the six-member pack of council finalists, all of them female, who columnist Chi-Dooh Li actually likened to contestants in the Miss America pageant.

Council hopeful Aaron Shuman—a white male who didn't show up for the council's six-hour public-testimony-a-thon in January—says he's contemplating a lawsuit against the city of Seattle for discriminating against white, male candidates for the open council position. At least four council members said publicly that the winning candidate would likely be a woman of color, although the position ultimately went to Sally Clark, who is white.

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There are several problems with Shuman's argument. First: The last time the council appointed a council member, in 1997, all the finalists were men, and all but Richard McIver and Bruce Bentley were white. At the time, the council consisted of seven women and two men, including John Manning, who resigned. So if the council had a legitimate interest then in promoting diversity (by narrowing the list to an all-male field of finalists) that interest shouldn't suddenly be illegitimate when the group it benefits is minority women. Second, Shuman isn't qualified to serve on the council anyway. A contractor for the U.S. Air Force who lives in Kyrgyzstan, Shuman didn't even bother to update his resumé, which still says he is "seeking a full-time position in voice or data network installation, operations, and maintenance." Shuman acknowledges that "it could be reasonably argued that I wasn't chosen because other candidates were more qualified," but adds, "I'm not sure that statement applies to Robert Rosencrantz or [failed mayoral candidate] Al Runte." If antidiscrimination law starts to benefit the likes of Al Runte, I'm terrified for our city's future.

barnett@thestranger.com

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