Former Seattle Mayor: ‘We have nowhere to go but up’

Jan 19, 2023, 3:24 PM
Greg Nickles...
Greg Nickles (center) was Seattle Mayor from 2002-2010. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Former Seattle Mayor and City Councilmember Greg Nickles said, “we have nowhere to go but up,” when it comes to local government.

In an interview with KIRO Newsradio’s Heather Bosch, Nickles said the announcement of Councilmember Kshama Sawant and three others not running, “creates a very exciting opportunity” regarding re-shaping the council.

Sawant announced Thursday she will not run again after a decade on the council. Instead, the avowed socialist and often controversial councilmember said she is going to start a workers’ movement she hopes will evolve into a third national political party.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant not running for re-election

“I’ve been somewhat discouraged by the current council. I don’t think that our city has stepped up the way it’s needed to,” Nickles explained. “Now that might be true in every city, given the pandemic. Nobody came through that well. And it may be that we came through it as well as anyone else.”

The council has been called dysfunctional of late and the former mayor was asked if Sawant was the cause.

“I would not point to a single member as being the problem,” he said. “During my time as mayor, we had a councilmember, Nick Lacata, who was considerably to the left of the rest of the council. But he added value. He added a perspective that wasn’t otherwise represented. And that was a positive for the council.”

Nickles, Seattle’s Democratic mayor from 2002 to 2010, said the current council is a group that hasn’t necessarily coalesced. “So I wouldn’t put it all on one particular member.”

He believes there has been a lot of dissatisfaction with the council. “They haven’t really seemed to have their hands on the pulse of the city.”

Nickles said the mayor and city council set the tone when it comes to addressing the significant issues Seattle faces. “If they support our institutions, things can go well,” he said. “If they don’t agree with one another or if they can’t set a direction that the public understands, that causes confusion and chaos, and that’s never a good thing.”

The former mayor said he knows a woman who is a refugee from Ukraine who told him that she doesn’t feel safe in the city anymore. “To me, that is just job No. 1, to keep this public safe. And I think we’ve failed to do that.”

Nickles said that creating a good city council is about “human dynamics. How do people get along? How do they work with one another? Not necessarily whether they agree, but how well they mesh.

“This could be a very exciting time to restore the city council to the excellent reputation it had,” he continued. “A council could either be greater than the sum of the parts or less. And you always hope that it’ll be greater than the sum of the parts and that people will find ways to work together, work through differences, and do positive things for the city.”

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Nickles said to improve the current situation, there will have to be good debate between the upcoming candidates.

“We’re going to need really good people to run, and hopefully, we as voters will pick the ones that can get us through this and put us back where we’re used to, which is one of America’s highest functioning and finest cities,” he said.

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Former Seattle Mayor: ‘We have nowhere to go but up’