Nick Licata has never been a go-along, get-along guy. His strength on city council has often been the lone voice of dissent when the rest of his colleagues are willing to sign off on questionable public policy. But lately he's become even more strident and more public about his opposition to what's coming out of City Hall.
Over the past few months he's challenged the mayor and the council on a proposal for surveillance cameras in city parks and on the $200 million plan to reconfigure Mercer Street. "Essentially the Mercer Project is an urban renewal project, not a transportation project," Licata wrote recently in an online newsletter. "Investors in South Lake Union will benefit from this project far more than those driving through this corridor."
He's also disagreed with the majority on the multifamily tax exemption and on expanding the South Lake Union streetcar. In fact, he's attending council member Jan Drago's streetcar community forums to pass out his own materials-- a one-pager comparing the cost/benefit of streetcars versus busses and electric trolley buses. "The cost of operating the South Lake Union Streetcar is about 50 percent higher than the average Metro bus," reads Licata's handout.
"Jan and I are polite," Licata insists, adding that he felt compelled to provide additional information because the presentation at the forums focuses solely on the benefits of the streetcar and "isn't a complete picture."
He says that in general his recent ramped-up opposition is because he "wasn't getting any traction making compromises." "I'd rather lose the vote than be on the wrong side and not get anything out of it," he says. "I just think the best thing I can do right now is speak out clearly and offer positive alternatives."
Sounds like something beyond your average policy squabbles. Is Licata considering a mayoral run?
"I think about everything," he says matter-of-fact, a Meet-the-Press quality non-denial denial.
"Mayor Nickels does have a vision for Seattle, but it ignores, for the lack of a better term, the needs of the common people," Licata says. "[Nickels] is a solid Democrat, good on liberal issues, but he's too much into the shiny and new and doesn't realized how this impacts good citizens. There needs to be a different vision."
Sure sounds like the beginnings of a stump speech, but Licata insists there are others beside himself who could bring that alternate vision. Richard Conlin? Peter Steinbrueck? Both are rumored to be considering a run in 2009, but Licata could steal their thunder if he got out there now.
Still, it would mean the council would lose its lone contrarian, perhaps too much of a tradeoff for a risky run against a two-term incumbent.