Richard Schwartz went viral last week after being ignored by the City Council.
Richard Schwartz went viral last week after being ignored by the City Council. Screenshot via Seattle Channel

Update: The post has been corrected. Please read this update before you share it.

Last week a Seattle native found himself in the news after a 29-second video of a Seattle City Council meeting went viral online. In the video, a man named Richard Schwartz is seen quietly upbraiding City Council representatives for scrolling through their phones and generally ignoring their constituent during a public comment session. This incident was covered by some local media, and afterward at least once City Councilmember apologized for her disinterest.

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If, however, you've ever been to a Seattle Seattle Council meeting, the man in the video may have looked familiar. He, it turns out, is somewhat of a frequent flyer at these meetings, where he has a habit of using his time to address his personal grievances instead of address whatever is on the day's agenda.

In a video of a City Council meeting in 2017 uncovered by the sleuths on Reddit, Schwartz uses his allotted time to say that he's made over 70 attempts to reach council members in the past year. "All I got out of that effort is one brief response by one of Burgess's staffers," he says from the podium.

Harrell, at first calm and polite, responds. And, it turns out, they know each other. "As a former teacher of mine personally at Garfield High School," Harrell says, "I have the utmost respect for you, but I'd ask that you reserve your comments to this agenda," which, at the time, was Seattle City Light. Harrell then offers to meet with Schwartz after the meeting. He's respectful as he can be, but Schwartz responds by saying that his issue is with how the City Council operates and then starts to quote from Barack Obama's State of the Union.

At this point, the encounter turns awkward. Harrell, increasingly annoyed, conscripts several other council members to meet with Schwartz afterward to address his concerns, but Schwartz refuses to relinquish the podium. Harrell then raises his voice, his patience for his old teacher finally ending.

Twitter user Spekulation uncovered more video....


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Richard Schwartz is clearly a passionate, engaged citizen with a lot of opinions about how the Seattle City Council is run. That's great! He's also annoying, speaks off topic, and refuses to go along with rules that are designed to make these meetings productive. He's a concerned citizen trope, and every public meeting has someone just like him. He's the Nuisance. It's a role, and he's playing it quite well.

I'm sure it is immensely frustrating for Schwartz, who could not be reached for comment, to be routinely ignored by his elected representatives, but this additional footage makes it pretty clear why exactly they were ignoring him. And yet, thanks to every media organization that turns Schwartz into a hero, this thorn in the City Council's side probably won't be ignored for much longer. That's democracy for you, I guess.