The first forum for applicants to temporarily fill Tim Burgess’ seat on City Council on Tuesday night made one thing clear: some of these people should not hold office.
Council troll Alex Tsimerman—who is currently banned from City Hall as a member of the public but is still allowed in as an applicant—shouted over other speakers and/or moderator Nicole Vallestero Keenan about “democratic fascism” every couple minutes, inside a sparsely attended Bertha Knight Landes Room in City Hall. In this theme he was joined by ally and fellow applicant Tiniell Cato, whose mayoral campaign we wrote about previously.
Yet Tsimerman’s keening madness was a cute sideshow compared to fellow applicant Lewis Jones.
Jones began the night by saying that one of his major concerns is public education about the flu, and then said something about Welch’s grape juice while moderator Keenan tried to convince him that his time was up. As the night bore on, Lewis assured the audience that he would integrate “colored people” into the police force to help with “black-on-black crime.” Finally, Lewis announced that “I support President Trump…and do not support the anarchy that everybody wants,” adding that it’s common knowledge that “people with Muslim names” are a major driver of “catastrophes in the United States.” The audience hissed and moaned.
The real winner of the night was Keenan, whose interpersonal jujitsu somehow managed to keep the forum on track despite Tsimerman’s raving and Jones’ racist mumbling and both men’s constitutional inability to cease speech once they’d begun excreting it. At one point, Keenan read a question whose premise asserted that raising taxes should be a “last resort.” Tsimerman compulsively shouted, “Read another question! This is a stupid question!” Keenan replied, “We agree, Alex.” Everyone laughed.
Beyond Tsimerman and Jones’ clown performances, the most noteworthy applicants of the night were perhaps ChrisTiana ObeySumner, who sits on the Seattle Renters’ and disAbilities commissions, and Kirsten Harris-Talley. ObeySumner spoke repeatedly about “intersectionality” and the dangers of oversimplifying social problems into one frame or cause. Harris-Talley criticized the city for developing density in poor neighborhoods. “The communities that are often marginalized are seeing upzoning,” she said, while wealthy, “insular communities are able to stave off” upzones and growth.
As we reported, Harris-Talley was one of many activists who last year pressured Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to indefinitely delay construction of a new, unprecedentedly expensive north Seattle police precinct. “The money from the bunker could be used to recruit police officers from the communities they actually serve,” Harris-Talley told the Council in August 2016. “Seattle is not at war with its citizens. Quite simply, this bunker sends the wrong message.”
Former Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata is also an applicant. Reserved and factual, Licata spoke like a man who expects to actually have to do the job he’s applying for. He emphasized that the interim councilmember will only hold office for about two months, meaning that applicants should be judged in the context of weedy budget deliberations “rather than the grand scheme,” he said. Licata added that he would try to “challenge the neoliberal attitude” of privatizing public goods, and wants to raise more revenue via traffic tickets.
Harris-Talley won a straw poll voted on by audience members as they exited the forum, with 98 votes. ObeySumner was a close second, with 74 votes. Licata was a distant third with 44. (The voting was weighted first-second-third choice, meaning that there were many more votes than voters.) The forum was precipitated and administered by Transparent Seattle.
This post has been updated.