Sally Bagshaw breakfasts with some doubters

A downtown-backed Seattle City Councilmember impresses a group of neighborhood leaders, getting on their wave length by promising openness and independent stances.
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Sally Bagshaw

A downtown-backed Seattle City Councilmember impresses a group of neighborhood leaders, getting on their wave length by promising openness and independent stances.

After a few weeks' service as a Seattle City Councilwoman, Sally Bagshaw spent last Saturday morning in the company of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition, an informal group of leaders from the city's neighborhoods and communities — a group largely shut out during the Greg Nickels years but who care intensely about their immediate communities.

Bagshaw, whose career includes a stint as former chief civil deputy in the King County Prosecutor's office (and a former member of the Crosscut Public Media board), easily won election to the council last November, defeating David Bloom. She chairs the council's Parks and Seattle Center committee. Most of the discussion dealt with related issues. She appeared to be on the same wave length as the neighborhood folk.

Bagshaw said she flatly opposed the proposed Dale Chihuly museum at the Seattle Center. She also opposed, she said, current policy resulting in cutting down trees in city neighborhoods. She appeared surprised to learn that the most recent parks levy extended acquisition of parkland in the city but still left the city without money for badly needed maintenance of both old and new parks. She said she intended to act immediately to save many deteriorating facilities.

Several participants said they regretted the council tradition in recent years of settling issues with perhaps only one dissenting vote — most often, that of Councilmember Nick Licata (and former member Peter Steinbrueck). This reflected an unhealthy complacency and go-along, get-along culture which had let Mayor Greg Nickels, in particular, run the city as he pleased. Legislative checks had been missing. Bagshaw said she intended to weigh issues independently and to cast her vote on the basis of what she considered the public interest, irrespective of positions taken by politically powerful interests. (This will be tested in the dispute over the Chihuly museum, which has powerful downtown and tourism-industry backers.) She hoped the present council would cast fewer unanimous or near-unanimous votes.

She also gave a promising answer on the question of the many pending and expensive capital projects in the city (i.e., the Mercer Project, Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, Highway 520 project, seawall repair, and Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed extensions of light rail to westside neighborhoods and of streetcar lines). These projects no longer could be dealt with in isolation, one by one, she said, but should be considered together and prioritized. The city should fund only those projects considered essential and within its financial capability. The seawall work, in particular, should be set aside until it was considered in conjunction with viaduct-replacement work.

Bagshaw addressed knowledgeably several other public-safety and transportation-related issues. One attendee spoke at length with her regarding what he saw as unchecked crime, and inadequate policing, in the International District. Impressively, Bagshaw took careful notes and promised to get back, one by one, to attendees on policies and projects which concerned them. (It would be a tough order, I thought, to continue this kind of one-by-one response to individual citizens. But it demonstrated Bagshaw's wholly constructive intentions).

During the past campaign, I feared that Bagshaw would turnout to be a Jan-Drago-Lite on the council, generally voting on behalf of the same local big-hitters with whom Nickels and Drago had been closely allied over the previous eight years. Her performance last Saturday, however, gave me great hope that she could be a change agent. Based on what she said, and on her overall demeanor, she left an impression that she would be her own person and a common-sense, hard-working problem solver with a people-first orientation. That approach will be badly needed as we traverse what it appears will be roller-coaster, now-you-see-him, now-you-don't McGinn years lying ahead. Good luck, Sally Bagshaw.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Ted Van Dyk

Ted Van Dyk

Ted Van Dyk has been active in national policy and politics since 1961, serving in the White House and State Department and as policy director of several Democratic presidential campaigns. He is author of Heroes, Hacks and Fools and numerous essays in national publications. You can reach him in care of