Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6 – Northwest Seattle) issued the following statement today announcing his decision against seeking re-election:
“After nearly a decade serving as a Seattle City Councilmember today I’m announcing my decision not to seek re-election in District 6.
“It has been both an honor and privilege to serve the people of one of the finest cities in the world. I want to thank the people of this city and District 6 who put their trust in me to represent their progressive values and independent spirit that is so much of what we cherish about Seattle.
“I came into office because of my convictions about climate change. And together with community I got to work establishing the City’s Climate Action Plan, pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050. And I have helped establish Seattle as a national leader on climate issues. We have reduced our waste, made our buildings more energy efficient, and gotten many more people to get around by walking, biking, and taking transit.
“The same passion and drive I have to tackle an enormous issue like climate change at the local level also led me to expand what it means to live in a sustainable world. Our planet is burning because we have a system that privileges the accumulation of wealth over the needs of our people and our planet.
“When people can’t afford to live near where they work, when they don’t have access to good jobs, when we make it a crime to be poor or suffering from addiction, when we jail our children, and when all of this disproportionately falls on people of color, we perpetuate toxicity and waste, and cause harm to this planet.
“I realized over time that it will take more than political will if are to dismantle these systems that stall progress. And when people are suffering from immediate crises, it’s harder to tackle a larger existential crisis that is climate change.
“Transforming the economy requires the whole community. And so for the last decade I have worked with community partners (some of whom are here with me today) to tackle the biggest issues our City faces.
“They helped to open my eyes, and evolve my thinking to better understand the systems we are fighting against. Together we charted the path forward on getting more affordable housing options in this City, starting with asking developers to contribute more to housing during South Lake Union’s upzone in 2013 and providing more small-scale housing in single family zones with accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
“Together, we also championed social justice causes including $15/hour minimum wage, collective bargaining rights for drivers, and more stable options for people living in vehicles and without shelter. We fought to find alternatives to incarcerating our kids and to provide good, local jobs with the Priority Hire and Green Pathways programs.
“Racial justice, housing justice and climate justice … I take pride in the strides we’ve made since I first came to office. By many measures, we are a more prosperous and equitable City than we were a decade ago. I am immensely proud of the opportunities we’ve established in my time here. But our great wealth accumulation has also caused great inequity and displacement. The challenge before us here forward as a city will be to help bridge that gap between those of us who have power to share our resources and privileges with those among us who do not.
“Paul Lambros, K.C. Golden, Jill Mangaliman and several other community partners are also focused on the values that I hope will continue to define our City even after I step back. Helping the most vulnerable in our society, creating transformative change centered around those most impacted by inequities, bold leadership in the face of enormous countervailing forces. These values are bigger than any one elected official.
“To truly serve the people of Seattle — those who are making it and many, many who are not — bold leadership will continue to be vital to the future of our city’s ability to thrive. In my remaining term and beyond, I plan to keep looking for ways to help folks find their foothold in this ever-changing city.
“City Council seats aren’t lifetime appointments. I consider today’s announcement a way to step back — and not step away — to explore other ways I can contribute to this great City and allow new voices to come to the table at City Council.
“I choose to believe this City can overcome the polarization that’s become the norm, that the majority of voters of Seattle will choose City representatives that inspire vision, and not fear.
“I have tremendous faith in democracy and in people and the opportunity that comes along with the new leadership.”