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Steinbrueck for mayor?

Can the architect-activist and former City Councilmember shed his rep as a rebel and lead the city?
Peter Steinbrueck announcing his candidacy at - where else? - the Market.

Peter Steinbrueck announcing his candidacy at - where else? - the Market. Dan Lamont

Promo for Steinbrueck's Fisherman Terminal talk

Promo for Steinbrueck's Fisherman Terminal talk Photo: Steinbrueck campaign

Even in his mid-50s, Peter Steinbrueck looks too young and too diminutive to be mayoral material, especially in this venue on a recent Friday evening. To be seen and heard, the candidate is standing on a chair in The Highliner pub at Fisherman's Terminal. There are some grizzled faces in an otherwise mixed crowd of 100 or more. There are a few notables in attendance: fisherman/activist Pete Knutson, "Kindergarten" author Robert Fulghum, Port Commissioner Tom Albro, the only one wearing a suit and tie.

Introducing himself, Steinbrueck lets the people know he's a man of many parts, a guy who's studied urban planning at Harvard, but whose carpentry hobby makes him familiar with the weight of a tool belt around his non-middle-aged waist.

Candidate Steinbrueck is indeed a man of contrasts. He's relatively young with a ton of experience (10 years on the City Council). He's future-focused but sometimes painted as a "nostalgia" candidate who fights for historic preservation. He's an outsider green activist and architect who became an insider; since leaving elective office he’s been consulting for the Port of Seattle and Washington Department of Transportation.

But the one thing everyone sees in Steinbrueck is passion. Agree or disagree with him, there's no denying that he loves Seattle. He has dedicated much of his more than half century on earth to the city and its possibilities.

He came by his passion honestly. His father, Victor Steinbrueck, is the University of Washington architecture professor who designed the Space Needle and led the original fight to save the Pike Place Market in the late 1960s and early '70s. Peter followed in his father’s footsteps by "saving" the Market again, this time from the clutches of a New York investment group in the late 1980s.

The Pike Place connection is embedded in Peter's campaign imagery, which features the famous Market clock as a backdrop. Peter has navigated the civic waters differently from his famous father, however. Where Victor was the perpetual activist, Peter has sought to bring his vision into the mainstream of city business. Where his father made indelible sketches of the city in books like “Seattle Cityscape” and “Market Sketchbook,” Peter has drawn real legislation. Where Victor made enemies, Peter has been, though sometimes prickly, more politic.

When the younger Steinbrueck left the City Council in 2007, it was on an upbeat note. He points out that in three citywide campaigns, he increased his share of the vote each time, winding up with 83 percent in his final run. He made it clear then that he wasn't retiring. "I do not plan to 'retire' in any way from civic life (ever!)," he said. He likened his decade on the council to the whitewater of Wild Waves. Now, after a break, a divorce and the Harvard fellowship, he's ready to run the political rapids.

The waters weren't too harrowing at Fisherman's Terminal, in part because they are so familiar. The marina was itself embroiled in the kind of conflict that seems like the centerpiece of Steinbrueck's current campaign: the fight for "working" Seattle.

The city is growing, Steinbrueck told the crowd. Expect another 100,000 people in the next 15 years or so. Growth "has to be accommodated, but in an intentional way, not an ad hoc way."

The maritime industry is often overlooked, but it's been a huge source of job growth for the region, even during the Great Recession (3% per year in hard times). And it creates family-wage jobs. Steinbrueck claims support from the Longshore, Warehouse and Sailors unions, and a personal connection to the industry: His brother David is a Bristol Bay fisherman.

Fisherman's Terminal is an example of the eternal tug-of-war between new versus old, in this case fish guts versus gentrification. Nearly a decade ago, there was a struggle to preserve the Terminal as a working homeport for the fishing fleet instead of turning it into an agglomeration of condos and luxury yachts, a development plan pushed by the Port. The people who work here know that what they do is both valuable and lucrative, and that it is part of the city's very foundation. In the 1860s, Washington fishermen lobbied the Lincoln administration to open Russian (now Alaskan) waters to area fishermen. The sawmills and coal mines are mostly gone, but not all the healthy runs of fish.

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Posted Mon, Apr 1, 6:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Nice April Fool's Day piece.


Posted Mon, Apr 1, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Extremely important than an urban Planner be elected Mayor this election.
Steinbrueck is the only candidate qualified to deal with the SLU mess, the proposed sports stadium, the Public Market Expansion, the Waterfront Tunnel and Seawall, the planning for a new Waterfront, Metro bus planning, light rail expansions and the like. STEINBRUECK for MAYOR!


Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Extremely important that an urban planner not get elected anytime.

We need someone who uses common sense, and good judgment, and understands how to work for a dollar.

Posted Mon, Apr 1, 9:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Good article, about a good man. Peter may well be the sleeper candidate in this race, as he has a distinctive issue (opposing the SoDo arena in that location) and a distinctive base (neighborhoods worried about harmful growth). Has he run for mayor in 2009, he probably would be mayor today.

The key question is how much he has evolved as a politician. On the city council, Peter and Nick Licata were the odd men out on many issue, and so he earned a reputation as a moralistic scold with a fondness for lost causes. The year at Harvard and other factors have changed him significantly. For one thing, he is not so much a density-worshipping urbanist as a more inclusive regionalist. I suspect he will campaign as the old Peter, since that gives him a political base, but would be a new and improved Peter as mayor.

Posted Mon, Apr 1, 10:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Steinbrueck's biggest challenge may be that he's the only one in the field who's not currently holding elective office. Despite our antipathy to politicians, it's easier to run if you have a 'live' base, and Steinbrueck will have to rebuild his. Maybe that's why Crosscut puts a question-mark on his candidacy--but as for leadership, I see little of the curmudgeon and nay-sayer in him, and an appealing leadership style that is much less confrontational than we've had in recent years. Like all of the candidates, he'll need to present a concrete program for governance, and that's what I will be looking for.


Posted Mon, Apr 1, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

The short answer to your sub-headline is "no."

On every issue that distinguishes him from the pack, Peter Steinbrueck is wrong. It's wrong to oppose increased development in South Lake Union. It's wrong to oppose investment in a comprehensive mass transit system and set up a false choice between buses and trains. He's wrong to oppose the arena plan, which is a good deal for the city.

He's against a lot of things and not in favor of anything as far as I can tell, except Lesser Seattle's whitewashed version of the city and how it used to be. There was a certain charm to this kind of thinking 20 years ago, I guess, but I want a mayor who looks to the future.

I want McGinnn's agenda (with perhaps more skepticism toward the police) but in someone with better political skills. Right now, our choice is either a good agenda with mediocre implementation, or someone who doesn't have a clue but who can play the game (to do the wrong things.) Bring back Greg Nickels, maybe. Or get Ed Murray to realize he's running for Mayor and doesn't have to appease Republicans anymore. But not Steinbrueck. Never Steinbrueck.


Posted Mon, Apr 1, 11:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Oh, you want "McGinn's agenda," do you?

With "McGinn's agenda," the future of Seattle lies somewhere between Hong Kong and Calcutta, with the rich in fortified compounds (except when they're living the high life in Hansen's port-killing, job-killing "entertainment zone") and the poor in festering "transit-oriented" tenements, bicycles choking all traffic to a standstill, drones and surveillance cameras watching our every move, cops shooting homeless people, and everyone patting themselves on the back congratulating themselves how "hip" and "trendy" and "urban" and "creative class" they all are, and how "vibrant" it all is.

I'd live in a soddy on the Dakota prairie, where the buffalo roam, before I'd subject myself to that. If I thought Steinbrueck had the chops to start reversing that trend, I'd support him. But he doesn't, and I won't.


Posted Mon, Apr 1, 5:31 p.m. Inappropriate

It's wrong to oppose increased development in South Lake Union.

Where did Steinbrueck say this? It's not in the article and I've never heard him say that. It's wrong to say something about a candidate without proof he or she said it.

As for the arena, boy am I tired of "it's a good deal." That's all good and well but is it what our city needs and needs right now?


Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

"Cascadian?" As in Cascade Neighborhood? Just guessing here, but since Nickels, McGinn, Allen, Bezos, DPD and Sally Clark's re-zoning have effectively destroyed what was once the Cascade Neighborhood, shouldn't you be calling yourselfr "New Cascadian?" I get the impression you haven't been there (or here) very long.


Posted Mon, Apr 1, 11:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Steinbrueck is the only hired lobbyist running for mayor. You can't get much more "insider" than when you dedicate your career to advancing the interests of wealthy clients in City Hall and Olympia. Steinbrueck is "pro-density" unless a wealthy client, like the Mirabella Housing Project, pays him to be "anti-density." (He remains "pro-density" in most other parts of the city besides South Lake Union). Steinbrueck now claims that he is in favor of the Sonics coming back to Seattle but acknowledges that he was paid by the Port of Seattle to testify against the arena. As a hired lobbyist for WSDOT, who will Steinbrueck stand with during the upcoming fights between Seattle and WSDOT over funding our major transportation projects? It is difficult to nail down exactly where Steinbrueck stands on different issues and what he actually "believes." However, the chances are pretty good that if you hire him as your lobbyist and pay him enough money he will find a way to rationalize changing his position. Vote for anyone but Steinbrueck in 2013. Seattle can do better.


Posted Mon, Apr 1, 1:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't care who paid Steinbrueck to oppose a third (!!!) effing stadium in SODO or the massive developer giveaways Hallivulcan was demanding in SLU - I'm glad he found clients who willing to pay him to do the right thing (as opposed to all of the paid lobbyists on the other side who outnumbered him by at least 10 to 1).

He has my enthusiastic vote.

Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Not to be too picky here, but there's a reason it's officially called the Stadium Overlay District. You might want to read up on SMC 23.74.002:


OTOH, "SODO" is an affectation conjured up and executed by the merchants of that area. They could have called it HIA (Hodgepodge Industrial Area) or POSPP (Port of Seattle's Personal Playground), but neither would have sounded very attractive to the owners of all those fast food joints on 4th Ave S.

You do know what SODO stands for, right? "SOuth of the DOme." Remember the Dome (aka "Spellman's Folly")? It's gone now. Like a lot of other things we used to have in Seattle.

I'd give Steinbrueck more props for opposing the SLU give-aways if he'd done it on his own time and dime, instead of being paid to do it. Further, the Port has always been the big bully on the block. The fact they paid Steinbrueck to lobby for them is not a surprise; the fact he accepted the fool's errand shows poor judgment on his part.


Posted Wed, Apr 3, 11:46 a.m. Inappropriate

"On the city council, Peter and Nick Licata were the odd men out on many issue, and so he earned a reputation as a moralistic scold with a fondness for lost causes."

Steinbrueck did not lose all his causes. E.g., he successfully rolled Conlin et al on the Interbay zoning fight, slowing down the Port and others' grandiose yupification schemes for industrial land.


Posted Fri, Apr 5, 8:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Why, exactly, should the Seattle mayor, have to "lead on education." Granted, the city may have last-resort takeover authority, but the onus should be on the electorate to elect a competent school board, whose feet should be held to the fire to appoint competent administrators and MANAGE the freakin' school district properly. Education. The next Seattle mayor has plenty to catch up on, anyway...

Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:33 p.m. Inappropriate

No. Not. Never.

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