Nick Licata: A Thinker for the Common People?

The independent-thinking councilman has stood up to the mayor, his colleagues, and the S.L.U.T.

Nick Licata has never been a go-along, get-along guy; he's often the lone voice of dissent when his City Council colleagues are willing to sign off on questionable public policy. But lately he's become even more public about his opposition to what's coming out of City Hall. Over the past few months, Licata has challenged the mayor and council on a proposal for surveillance cameras in city parks and on the $200 million plan to spiff up Mercer Street that's being sold as a solution to the Mercer Mess. "Essentially the Mercer Project is an urban-renewal project, not a transportation project," Licata wrote recently in an online newsletter. "Investors in South Lake Union will benefit from this project far more than those driving through this corridor." He's also disagreed with the majority on the Multifamily Tax Exemption for developers (see "Rent Struck" in the July 16 SW) and on expanding the South Lake Union streetcar. In fact, he's been attending council member Jan Drago's community forums to pass out his own cost-benefit analysis of the streetcar-versus-bus question. "The cost of operating the South Lake Union Streetcar is about 50 percent higher than the average Metro bus," reads Licata's handout. "Jan and I are polite," Licata insists, adding that he feels compelled to provide additional information because the presentation at the forums focuses solely on the benefits of the streetcar and "isn't a complete picture." Moreover, he claims that his recent spate of vociferousness is motivated by the fact that he "wasn't getting any traction making compromises." "I'd rather lose the vote than be on the wrong side and not get anything out of it," he says. "I just think the best thing I can do right now is speak out clearly and offer positive alternatives." Seems like something beyond your average policy squabbles. So is Licata considering a mayoral run? "I think about everything," he says matter-of-factly in a Meet the Press–quality non-denial denial. "Mayor Nickels does have a vision for Seattle, but it ignores, for the lack of a better term, the needs of the common people," Licata adds. "[Nickels] is a solid Democrat, good on liberal issues, but he's too much into the shiny and new and doesn't realize how this impacts good citizens. There needs to be a different vision." Sure sounds like the beginnings of a stump speech, but Licata insists there are others beside himself who could bring that alternate vision. Richard Conlin? Peter Steinbrueck? Both are rumored to be considering a run in 2009, but Licata could steal their thunder if he made his intentions known now. Still, it would mean the council would lose its most consistent contrarian, perhaps too much a tradeoff for a risky run against a two-term incumbent.

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