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Friday, July 1, 2022

Twelve Suggestions for Seattle’s New Mayor: Take a Councilmember to Lunch!

The following is a compendium of advice gleaned from experienced voices at Seattle’s city hall, as gathered by a former city councilwoman.

Dear Bruce, 

Congratulations on your second stint as mayor of Seattle. You filled in and served for just five days in 2017; now you have four years to lead the city that we care about so deeply. While we know officeholders get tons of advice, we (a half dozen City Hall alums) still couldn’t resist offering a few suggestions to help guide you to success:

  1. Schedule regular face-to-face meetings with individual councilmembers, a key to good mayor-council cooperation. Your buddy Norm Rice lunched each month with a different councilmember at a neighborhood restaurant of his/her choosing. By all accounts, it worked to cement relations.
  2. Keep the Parks Department, the human service folks, and Clean Seattle hard at work clearing city parks of illegal encampments and offering alternative shelter. This city has a great network of parks and it’s a shame to forfeit many to the crisis of homelessness. 
  3. Make public safety on city streets and sidewalks a number one priority.
  4. Continue those grocery store appearances that became popular during your campaign. It never hurts to hear what people are thinking.
  5. Work to reactivate and empower Seattle neighborhood groups. The city’s one-of-kind communities give Seattle its distinctive flavor. 
  6. Support neighborhood businesses, the ma-and-pa operations, and ethnic enclaves. Think about Little Saigon or the amazing International District, arty Columbia City, diverse Beacon Hill, or the various flavors of Rainier Beach eateries. 
  7. Meet a reporter for coffee. You can even leak a few spicey scoops; keep things from getting boring.
  8. Appoint a communication staff designed to get out news of what’s happening at City Hall. Don’t wait to only respond during a crisis or disaster.
  9. Try fun things that haven’t been done before: Maybe it’s a pedestrian-only street atop Capitol Hill or a fenced-in dog park on the failed City Hall Park grounds. What about a music festival weekend at Denny Park, a kids’ day camp at Myrtle Edwards Park, or an all-city picnic at Gas Works?
  10. Good people, competent appointees make all the difference. Appoint effective department heads and staffers who honestly empathize, listen, and interact. 
  11. Do not overlook civic support of the arts community, so badly battered during the pandemic. We must not sacrifice Seattle’s reputation as a national leader in cultural affairs.  
  12. The basics — it’s always about the basics: plowing snowy arterials, fixing potholes, replacing burned-out streetlights, tending bridges, removing graffiti, and collecting trash.

That’s only a short list of miscellaneous tips from the City Hall grads I talked with. You’re probably already savvy having served as a councilmember for 12 years. If the dozen tips seem obvious, just ignore or delete. Free advice doesn’t cost anything.

Jean Godden
Jean Godden
Jean Godden wrote columns first for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and later for the Seattle Times. In 2003, she quit to run for Seattle City Council where she served 12 years. She now writes for Westside Seattle and has been a co-host on The Bridge, aired on community radio station KMGP. You can email tips and comments to Jean at jgodden@blarg.net.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Here’s a more general question about how the City works.
    Do you think that Mayor/Council ever talk informally with Amazon? (Or other business titans.) Just conversation about stuff.
    And I mean at the highest levels: Bezos or his key lieutenants (especially the ones in real estate.)
    Obviously it’s become more difficult with Covid because every conversation is recorded. But just to get a sense of how things work… Do those elected officials (and I’m speaking very generally of course) actually talk to anybody besides their own supporters?
    Yes the optics can be tricky and cut in a lot of different ways.

  2. And obviously as I read this I don’t mean the Mayor and Council speaking in a group — obvious public meetings restrictions — but simply one-on-one individual conversations?
    I remember that Sawant was incensed that CMs would speak with Chamber of Commerce members at some resort event years ago. Are they all that crazy? 🤷🏻‍♂️

    And of course I don’t mean back in the old days but now with our young Progressive we-know-everything Council.

  3. Back in the day when Rice was mayor, Brasserie Pittsbourg was one of my three favorite restaurants. I wasn’t making much money then, so I could only go at lunchtime, and only once or maybe twice a month, if I was feeling flush. But every single time I went to lunch at BP, I saw Norm Rice there having lunch with someone, so I assumed he must have eaten there at least once a week. And that’s when I decided he was someone who had his priorities straight and knew what was what. If you work hard, you deserve to eat well. And when you find something that works, stick with it.

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