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Challenger to Bruce Harrell’s council seat: ‘I’m willing to work with anybody’

Ari Hoffman (second from right) standing with security personnel hired to monitor his Bikur Cholm Cemetery. (Courtesy photo)

Seattle City Council is poised for some massive turnover in 2019, with candidates emerging to challenge incumbents. That could very well include Council President Bruce Harrell.

RELATED: Seattle rejects claim from Jewish cemetery damaged by homeless

Local business owner Ari Hoffman helps run a pair of Jewish cemeteries in Seattle. He now has his eye on Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s seat, District 2, which is up for grabs next year, along with six others on the council.

“It was item after item, and finally it started impacting my work, my business, my home, my children, [and] the cemeteries,” he told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “People kept saying to me, why don’t you get in the race?”

To top it all off, Hoffman has run directly into problems with the City Council on multiple occasions. Earlier in 2018, he submitted a damage claim to the city for nearly $230,000 for homeless-related damages to one of the cemeteries, citing negligence on the part of the city regarding homeless RVs. The claim was eventually rejected by the city.

During that saga, Hoffman’s request to meet with council members directly were initially turned down.

“One of the things that really set me off about the Seattle City Council, is that none of them ever want to meet — to get a meeting with Bruce Harrell when the whole thing was going on with the cemeteries, his office said ‘we refuse to meet with you.’ What public official would ever do something like that?”

Public pressure from the Jewish community on social media soon led to a reversal, and Hoffman was given a meeting with Councilmember Harrell. For Hoffman, he describes himself as “willing to talk with anybody.”

In a more recent incident in November, Hoffman and a number of other local business owners were instructed by the city to remove homemade “no parking” signs used to discourage RVs. The city’s argument was that the signs were a “public nuisance.”

RELATED: SDOT tells business owners to remove no-parking signs for homeless

To that, Hoffman believes that the City Council has lost touch with what it is to be a business owner in Seattle.

If you look at Seattle City Council, we’re dealing with a bunch of council members who have never been in the private sector, or have been on council forever. They have forgotten what it’s like to be in the private sector, and they don’t understand what the actual people, the citizens of Seattle, are going through today.

A conservative voice in a liberal city?

Politically, Hoffman sits decidedly right of center, but despite the fact that he will be running in a notably liberal district, he’s seen support from both sides of the aisle.

“What was fascinating to me was how many people from the left in Seattle were coming up to me saying enough is enough, can you do something about this?” he described. “So many people were coming up to me and saying we need common sense, practical, compassionate solutions.”

He may have his work cut out for him running against an experienced incumbent like Harrell, but it certainly won’t be for lack of a clear message.

“What I really hope is that more people like me who have a story to tell, who are fed up, normal citizens, step up, and say enough is enough.”

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