City Live From Steinbrueck’s Announcement
posted by February 27 at 20:19 PMon
Surrounded by friends, fellow architects, and his three siblings—David, Lisa, and Matthew—City Council member Peter Steinbrueck announced at an American Institute of Architects gathering tonight at the Hotel 1000 downtown that he will not seek reelection to the city council (as first reported in the Stranger.) Instead, he will focus on working to defeat the new elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct supported by Gov. Christine Gregoire and most of the state legislature, and to promote the surface/transit option, which has gained momentum as opposition to a new elevated viaduct and a politically moribund tunnel has grown.
The otherwise rather staid room erupted into gasps when Steinbrueck made his announcement at the end of a 45-minute talk about his accomplishments as an activist and council member, part of the AIA’s Lifeworks lecture series. (Steinbrueck spent many years as a civic activist, fighting privatization of the Pike Place Market, logging in the Cedar River watershed, and homelessness, among other causes.) “I feel like this era’s come to an end,” a visibly emotional Steinbrueck said, turning away briefly as he battled tears. “A new era is beginning, and it’s going to be focused on defeating the rebuild of the viaduct, first of all. … I want to put all my time and effort toward an environmentally responsible, sustainable solution for the waterfront that is not auto-dependent. … that godawful thing has simply got to come down.” (Later in his comments, Steinbrueck quoted an article about the viaduct in the latest Economist, which alluded to a “mudwrestling match” between the ‘bulky’ Nickels and the ‘honey-haired’ Gregoire.)
Steinbrueck has won his last two elections with overwhelming margins, making him a credible potential spokesman for the anti-viaduct cause; in 2003, he defeated his opponent with 82 percent of the vote.
Earlier Tuesday, Steinbrueck told me that he hopes to build a large coalition between the various environmental and urban-planning groups that currently oppose the new elevated viaduct, one of two options on the ballot March 13. Those include pro-surface/transit groups like the People’s Waterfront Coalition, Friends of Seattle, and the Sierra Club, as well as more mainstream environmental groups like Transportation Choices and Futurewise, which both support the mayor’s tunnel. “Until we get the election behind us, we can’t really jell into a larger, more powerful civic coalition,” Steinbrueck said.
Steinbrueck’s departure from the council leaves an open seat; the last time that happened was in 1999, when Heidi Wills, Judy Nicastro, and Jim Compton were all elected in open races. Tomorrow morning, Venus Velazquez—who was in the room for Steinbrueck’s announcement—will announce she plans to run for the seat Steinbrueck is vacating. The remaining three candidates—Shea Anderson, Tim Burgess, and Bruce Harrell— have declared their candidacies against Jean Godden, David Della, and no one, respectively. Candidates can switch seats at any time before the June filing deadline, however, and Steinbrueck’s surprise departure is sure to inspire a frenzy of filings for his open position.
Steinbrueck has frequently been mentioned as a potential candidate for mayor, and a successful campaign on the waterfront would put him in a comfortable position to oppose incumbent Greg Nickels (whose own relentless support for the tunnel has badly damaged his political credibility) in 2009. Steinbrueck says that although it would be “counterintuitive to say that I’m leaving office to run for mayor,” he’s “certainly keeping the door open for higher office,” including Congress.