When the Seattle City Council completed the process of appointing Sally Clark as its newest member, chosen from 98 diverse applicants, the political silence was deafening. While Clark, 39, deserves all the accolades that council members gave her on Friday, Jan. 28—she's smart, funny, extremely congenial, has solid campaign experience, and is very knowledgeable about local government—no one discussed how she'll fit in politically, which is to say very well.
Since the early 1990s, the consensus at City Hall has been that business and big nonprofit institutions should be coddled and subsidized to increase economic activity. That supposedly leads to greater tax revenue that can be used to patch the city's safety net, which is continually shredded by the federal government. This is the thread that connects the effort to cleanse the streets in the early 1990s with the infamous, anti-homeless laws, the opening of Pine Street by Westlake Park to vehicular traffic, the building of the Pacific Place parking garage for Nordstrom, and Mayor Greg Nickels' current crusade to help billionaire Paul Allen turn the South Lake Union neighborhood into a biotech playground. No council member better epitomizes this point of view than Jan Drago, who took office in 1994.
Occasionally, Seattleites get antsy about just how deep into the business community's pockets its political representatives have crawled. The neighborhood movement struck back against downtown gigantism in 1996 with the election of Charlie Chong to the council. The following year, Nick Licata and Peter Steinbrueck brought their populist, public-interest politics to City Hall. In 1999, agitation over skyrocketing rents during the dot-com boom ushered Judy Nicastro into office. Despite these anomalies, the council's business-first priority has prevailed.
And Clark doesn't appear likely to alter that. She has worked for a couple of mainstream Seattle politicians—former City Council member Tina Podlodowski and King County Council member Bob Ferguson—as well as for the city's Department of Neighborhoods. Currently, she is the Director of Community Resources at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. It's not the résumé of someone who will stir up trouble. She supports the city's massive investment in South Lake Union because she believes it is a good way to help shape the development occurring there.
Yes, Sally Clark will fit right in at City Hall.