Surprise applicant Howard Wright talks about City Council

Crosscut archive image.

Howard S. Wright III. The Wright family built the Space Needle.

Howard S. Wright III, whose family developed the Space Needle, has applied to fill Sally Clark’s vacant council seat until next fall. He is known primarily as a business leader in Seattle, but recently co-chaired Mayor Ed Murray’s committee to hammer out the city’s $15 minimum wage ordinance. He called Crosscut shortly after we and other media reported on his application.

The council will select one of the dozens of applicants to fill Clark's place until the fall elections.

On why he’s running: 

I see a lot of issues with transportation and affordable housing. I’d like to help get these done. I think I have a unique perspective to bring and I’d like to serve the city. But, I’m also not interested in running for a four-year term.

On his involvement with the $15 minimum wage committee: 

I enjoyed the experience and the outcome and the fact that we were able to forge a relationship between the business and labor community. As a businessman, I’m not at all uncomfortable with the goal of $15. I’m keenly interested in a good relationship between earners and employers. The greater this income gap grows, the more I worry about the stability of middle class and the fabric of this country coming apart. We had a good process in Seattle and implemented a plan that does $15 in a measured way.

On backlash from the business community:

In any robust discussion, there are going to be people on both ends of the spectrum. I have some mutual friends and colleagues who didn’t accept that $15 was coming. If you don’t believe $15 is coming, I can’t help that. But from my perspective, it was going to happen one way or the other. I wanted to answer: How can we do it in the right way?

On affordable housing:

Affordable housing is tricky one. I say, let’s get to it in a measured way. I think you have to look at incentives and fees and encourage developers to build affordable properties – make it so future property owners will want to build affordable housing. I also believe affordable housing needs to be uniform across the city.

On whether he can start fast for short-term appointment to the City Council:

I’m a fast learner and a quick study. I was pretty involved in city hall during $15, spending 12 hours a day there for four months. I also think I bring a fresh perspective from the business community. What do we have in Seattle that’s unique? A progressive business community. We have a remarkable number of 500 fortune companies that are best places to work.

On labor controversy at the Space Needle:

It is my understanding that the Space Needle and its employees are in negotiations. Plus, I’m not on the board, I don’t attend meetings, except for annual gatherings. I’m not directly involved with operations.

On Councilmember Kshama Sawant:

I would be disappointed if Councilmember Kshama Sawant did not bring it up the Space Needle [in the event he’s a finalist]. I have no problem with her. I respect her style and think she has a very unique way of getting things done.


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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.