KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Seattle city council making fatal mistake appointing Woo

Jan 14, 2024, 6:01 PM | Updated: 7:22 pm

Seattle city council Woo...

Tanya Woo, a candidate for Seattle City Council's Position 8 seat, which is currently vacated. (Photo courtesy of Tanya Woo's campaign for Seattle City Council)

(Photo courtesy of Tanya Woo's campaign for Seattle City Council)

What’s perceived to be a more moderate Seattle City Council was voted into office with the expectation that they’ll actually listen to the public. But it’s already set for a huge mistake: Appointing community activist Tanya Woo. It’s the quickest way to signal to voters they weren’t honest during their campaigns.

The council must appoint a replacement for Teresa Mosqueda, who was recently elected to the King County Council. She’ll no doubt bring her extremism countywide, a perfect example of how the toxicity of Seattle politics always spreads. She’ll now have as much power on the county council to dismantle the King County Sheriff’s Office as she did on the city council, where she did her best to destroy the Seattle Police Department. She must be replaced by a moderate who values public safety.

Woo, a community activist, ran unsuccessfully against District 2 incumbent Tammy Morales this past November. She focused her campaign on homelessness and drug use, which has devastated the International District, which she hoped to represent. But she lost her election. Nevertheless, freshman city councilmember Bob Kettle, who ousted incumbent Andrew Lewis, opted to nominate Woo anyway. He had 72 potential names to choose from.

More from Rantz: Seattle Police lost 96 more officers in 2023, over 600 since defund

The problem with Woo

There’s reason to believe she has the support to get the seat. In addition to Kettle’s support, newly-elected Cathy Moore and Maritza Rivera mentioned they would have nominated Woo, too, but you can only nominate the individual once. Rob Saka, another council newbie, eluded to his support of Woo. This would be a slap in the face to voters — and not just in District 2.

If chosen, Woo would be seated next to the very person who just narrowly defeated her to sit on the council. If Woo couldn’t win her district, should she be chosen to fill a citywide council position? It seems like either a choice to rebuke the voters for choosing Morales or gifting someone a seat under the justification that she didn’t lose by much. While those positions could be seen as understandable, they’re the wrong ones.

It is certainly true that Morales is a divisive, toxic, dangerous radical who stands in the way of the city’s progress. She’s an enemy to Seattle Police and a tax-happy partisan who loathes business. She now fills the void left with the departure of socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant, who chose not to run for re-election. The city is better off without Morales on the Council. But her constituents declined to retire her, and just signaled they didn’t want Woo. Why in the world would the council choose to seat her weeks after voters said no?

What happened to listening to the voters?

Kettle’s decision to nominate Woo is most disappointing and troubling.

The Navy veteran defeated incumbent Andrew Lewis on a campaign that focused almost entirely on public safety — the intersection of homelessness, drug use, and crime. But the theme of those issues was around a simple notion: Kettle would actually listen to the people he represents. Lewis, who campaigned to support police before supporting the defund movement after his election, ignored his district. His permissive attitude on crime and homelessness turned the district into a pigsty, despite the cries from the community. He lost as a result, with Kettle representing a new era where the will of the voters is supposed to be upheld. So why would he go with Woo?

Like Morales, Kettle won a very narrow victory. Perhaps he identifies with her position, having almost lost to someone who should have been defeated by double digits. But would he be okay with Lewis being nominated under the silly notion that the incumbent didn’t lose by that much? And how can his new constituents trust Kettle if his first act is to say we should ignore the voters in a different district?

Kettle isn’t the only one who should defend his choice. Councilmember Moore’s selection is just as problematic.

Harm reduction candidate?

Moore, a former King County judge, selected homeless advocate and Civic Hotel owner Neha Nariya. A recent report says her hotel is part of a homelessness project with the city that offers harm reduction-based housing. In a message to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, Nariya said she didn’t know if that report is accurate.

Harm reduction is precisely why the crisis has exploded. Rather than focus on treatment, harm reduction aims to mitigate the risks of substance abuse by enabling addicts to continue to use, but to use more “safely” by providing the addict with clean drug paraphernalia. It keeps them hooked on the drugs, particularly when they’re given subsidized housing without any conditions that they stop using and take treatment offered to them. Civic Hotel was also mentioned in a scathing report about the city’s failures on homelessness.

If Moore is comfortable with a harm reduction approach to ending homelessness, voters won’t get what they’re hoping for. If Nariya is a believer in harm reduction, despite ample evidence showing it does not work, she shouldn’t be on the council. Nariya did not answer when initially asked by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH if she supported a harm reduction strategy.

The new councilmembers made a promise

The newly-elected moderate council members campaigned on a platform of listening to the voters. They’re all in the same position as Kettle.

With a Woo selection, they would be choosing to ignore us in their first major council action. That’s not signaling to voters that they will represent the change we demanded and expected. With dozens of quality candidates to choose from, it’s a slap in the face to go with a recent campaign loser. Plus, newly elected Rob Saka said one criteria for a new council colleague is that he wouldn’t be seen as “the enemy.” What does he think Morales’ reaction would be if he and his colleagues chose Woo? She’s already going to be a problem on the council. Why would they invite even more trouble from her?

Given that Woo was the first choice for Moore and Rivera, their own selections should be ignored. If there were no other quality candidates, Woo advocates could better make the case. But when it comes to the issues Seattleites value most, they have quality names. Based on their selection comments, council president Sara Nelson and councilmember Joy Hollingsworth actually tried to pick selections that reflect the will of the voters.

Nelson went with Seattle Police Captain Steve Strand and Hollingsworth chose veterans advocate Linh Thai. On paper, both appear strong potential candidates and in line with voter expectations. Of the two, Strand sends the strongest message that the city is ready to take crime seriously and repair the relationship with Seattle police. The city has lost over 600 officers since the defund movement. We’re at emergency staffing levels. Putting a cop on the council — one who can win citywide election, and open doors with both the police and service providers he’s worked with —  sends the best message. It also happens to align with the message the newly-elected council members pitched when running their campaigns.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: Seattle city council making fatal mistake appointing Woo