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End of year, end of Council presidency, thanks for a great two years

The Council Presidency is over for me, long live the Council Presidency for someone else. In addition to chairing the Council’s Monday morning informal Briefings meeting and the afternoon Full Council session, the Council President serves as the head of the Legislative Department (Council, City Clerk, Central Staff, Legislative Operations, Archives and Records). You represent the Council welcoming dignitaries and you do the managerial work of department budget review and human resources juggling. It’s both an honor and a basic “herding cats” requirement for an 80-person department. And you do it in addition to your regular committee assignments and the work on policy initiatives.

At the end of the Full Council meeting this past Monday I made a few comments to close out the year. The notes below are pretty close to what I said in the meeting. I probably self-edited for length because after 68 agenda items and a wedding proposal, it seemed we’d been in Chambers for four or five days already.

 It’s been a great honor working as Council President on behalf of the whole. Organizing, structuring, facilitating, mediating – really never a dull moment. I hope I’ve represented you all well when called upon to do so.

 I looked back at what I said when I became Council President two years ago. In the remarks I said:

 “My goals as Council President are relatively simple:

  • That City Council continues to be a place of diligence and well-done decision-making;
  • That we be the place that emphasizes informed debate and respectful disagreement;
  • That we are connected to Seattle’s neighborhoods, families, and businesses taking on issues that matter;
  • That we collaborate aggressively with partners inside our city and in our region to ensure progressive action at other levels of government, and a widened circle of prosperity.”

I like to think we did pretty well hitting those marks in this two year cycle. I’m proud of what this Council has accomplished, including efforts seeded and growing now. A list of 2012-2013 high points would have to include:

  • Funding homeless services to both expand services where needed and make up for lost federal and state funds (A priority for all members)
  • Beginning to build a universal preschool plan (Lead by Councilmember Burgess)
  • Road to Housing expansion (Lead by Councilmember O’Brien)
  • Job Assistance legislation to help formerly incarcerated people get a fresh start (Lead by Councilmember Harrell)
  • Greenway policies to further safety for walkers and bikers (Lead by Councilmember Bagshaw)
  • Sending a successful library levy to voters (Triumphed by Councilmembers Conlin and Godden)
  • Making marijuana legalization work with rational zoning (Lead by Councilmember Licata and me)
  • Improving 3rd Ave. and supporting the Center City public safety initiative (Supported by Councilmembers Rasmussen and Bagshaw)
  • Passage of the seawall bond measure (a priority for all councilmembers)
  • Establishment of the City’s first Economic Development Commission (started by Councilmember Conlin and brought across the finish line by me)
  • Competing for and receiving a grant from the Allen Foundation to establish the city’s first Financial Empowerment Centers (Championed by me)
  • Adopting new zoning and equitable development requirements for the Yesler Terrace and South Lake Union neighborhoods (A priority for all)

This Council has made a difference in the welfare of our city. I should also note that each of the efforts I just identified was in collaboration with Mayor McGinn and his staff, contrary to a narrative put forward by a few that disagreements on a few issues prevented progress on other challenges. That narrative does a disservice to Mayor McGinn and the hard working staff in the city. Though it’s been an up and down four years between us, I thank Mayor McGinn for his ardent advocacy on behalf of our city and working to get Seattle urbanism right.

I want to thank Central Staff, the Legislative Operations crew, and the Clerks for a great couple of years. And I sincerely wish the best for the departing Ben Noble, the head of the Council’s policy shop, and Mike Fong, policy advisor extraordinaire, in their new adventures heading the Budget office and serving as deputy for the Office of Policy and Innovation respectively. We’ll miss you, but that you’re putting your talents to work in other parts of the city means you’re still at work for good of the city, and I can live with that.

Lastly, thank you to Richard Conlin for 16 years of service to Seattle through your work on this Council. Richard’s grasp of issues, commitment to progressive values, and dedication to fair decision-making are second to none.

I was fortunate to have succeeded Richard as both Council President and as chair of the economic development and intergovernmental relations committee. I got to witness and experience firsthand some of his visionary accomplishments.

I could go on about the Zero Waste Strategy that saved us from opening a new transfer station; pushing for better funding for parks and libraries; healthy fiscal skepticism about the reclaimed water business; tree policy development; the Seattle Food Action Plan; sowing the seeds for the Economic Development Commission and restaurant permit streamlining; about starting Seattle for Washington to improve Seattle’s collaborative cred across the state; about the Capitol Hill Light Rail station development plan and so much more from a 16 year career.

Thank you, Richard. You’ve been a great role-model for public service and you’ve made Seattle a better place.

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