A discussion with city council candidate Richard Conlin

Richard Conlin

Richard Conlin Photo by Opinion

Richard Conlin is the Democratic Party-endorsed candidate for Seattle City Council Position 2, a position that he has held for 16 years. For spatial reasons, not all of the interview has been published.


Josh Waugh: So, why are you running for Seattle City Council?

Richard Conlin: Well, I’m running because the work that I’ve done in Seattle creates the kind of sustainable city that is fair and just for all of our people, provides transit that’s going to serve everybody, brings affordable housing to the people of Seattle, and I’ve got the track record of making things like that happen, and I’m looking forward to doing more of it.


JW: What do you think the role of the City Council is, in terms of governance within city limits?

RC: Well, we have an unusual governing structure in that we have a strong-council, strong-mayor system. So the council not only does the budget and makes the laws, but we also provide a balance, not unlike Congress and the executive [branch] in our federal government, to the mayor. So our job is to make policy for the city, to figure out what are the things that we can do that are creative, innovative, and responsive, and to move those forward by making appropriations and writing laws appropriately.


JW: What plans do you have to enact change, if you are re-elected?

RC: Well, the first thing that I’m working on, or the thing that is the most critical part for me is that we continue to get light rail moving. We now have three light rail lines underway in the city. I serve on the Sound Transit board, and I’ve been doing a lot of troubleshooting and making sure that things actually can work. And then be able to combine that with affordable housing. A great example of what I’ve been able to do is the Capitol Hill development agreement. And the Capitol Hill station development agreement, was we worked with the community, with Sound Transit, and with the city to create a plan for the property that Sound Transit currently owns at the Capitol Hill station. And that plan will provide for additional housing, of which 36 percent is going to be affordable, which actually meets our comprehensive plan goals for affordable housing. It’s also going to provide community amenities like a farmer’s market, a plaza, and an opportunity for an LGBT community center. And so, lots of things that we can do.


JW: What are some issues within the city that you believe need to be addressed?

RC: Well, the most critical issue within the city besides what we’ve talked a lot about, housing and transportation are obviously the two top issues that need to be worked on, but we also need to make sure that our education system works well. We are working on the universal preschool program, pre-K program, in the City Council, that would provide access to pre-K education for all 3- and 4-year-olds. We hope to put that in place sometime in the near future. One of the things that I’m most involved in is the environmental work. We have a big task to clean up the Duwamish, it is a Superfund site. It is very tough, but it’s also an opportunity: It’s an opportunity to create industrial jobs, it’s an opportunity to bring the people of that community into, give them jobs and bring them the opportunities to not only have a clean environment but also to have a better life for themselves. And to make the Duwamish into more of a center for the city.


JW: How do you plan on working with other City Council members to get things done — if re-elected?

RC: Well I have a track record, again, that is pretty successful in working with City Council members. I was twice chosen as council president by my colleagues, which is pretty unusual, to be selected twice in a row. But they trusted me in the times when we had the most difficult situation: We had big transportation projects, we had big decisions, we had a new mayor, and we had the recession. And those were the times when I really needed to bring my skills to bear and help build coalitions and consensus on the council. And ultimately, [we had to] build a new relationship with the mayor, which had some bumps, but we are actually doing pretty well right now.


JW: What have you enjoyed the most about serving in City Council?

RC: That’s easy. The thing that’s the most fun on the City Council is when people in the community come to me with an idea for how to make their community better, and I find a way in which I can actually help them out and help them realize their dream, figure out what city lever there is: If it’s funding or if it’s a policy change, will actually make things better for them. That’s the most satisfying thing.


Reach Opinion Editor Josh Waugh at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @joshawaugh

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