Urban Politics #19: Nick Licata To Challenge Jan Drago

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • Nick Licata To Challenge Jan Drago
  • Will Rice Run Again?
  • Hud Inspector General’s Delayed Report
  • Poor Polling Results
  • Glenn Hotel’s Hygiene Center

Nick Licata To Challenge Jan Drago

I will be challenging incumbent City Council Member Jan Drago this fall. My PDC forms should be filed this Wednesday. I will also attempt to continue publishing Urban Politics (UP) on either a weekly or bi-weekly basis during the campaign. A separate emailing will be sent intermittently to UP subscribers with information concerning the campaign under the title “Licata Campaign Notes” (LCN).

In this manner, those preferring Urban Politics without reference to my campaign can delete the LCN’s without opening them. If you do not wish to receive the campaign notes, please notify me and I’ll delete you from the LCN list. Initially everyone on the UP list will receive both the UP and the LCN bulletins. New subscribers will automatically receive LCN’s unless they ask not to be placed on the LCN list.

The first LCN will explain why I’ve decided to challenge an incumbent rather than running for an open seat. As the campaign heats up LCN’s will inform you about upcoming campaign events and my positions on particular issues. Although it takes more work to operate two lists, I’m taking this approach to respect those readers who may not want to be involved in my campaign. Obviously I’d like to have all of your active support because only through such involvement will I be able to counter what is expected to be a very well funded opposition. Also, some recipients of UP are government employees and although it is not illegal (from my reading of the PDC rules) to receive email campaign notices, I do not wish to place anyone in an awkward position. That might happen if campaign items were commingled with the Urban Politics content.

I invite you to read the first LCN bulletin to find out about my campaign for Seattle City Council.

Will Rice Run Again?

Much speculation as to why Mayor Norm Rice is waiting to announce a run for his 3rd term. Easiest answer is he doesn’t have to until he wants to. His position is similar to Mike Lowry’s in 93. Lowry would not be rushed into announcing his run for Governor. If there’s no one out there gaining ground against you, why rush? At this rate, unless Jane Noland or Peter Steinbrueck (another possible candidate) become a serious threat, Rice could wait until August 1st, the final deadline for filing as a candidate. Then again there is the …

Hud Inspector General’s Delayed Report

The Mayor may just be waiting for a HUD Inspector General’s ruling before he decides to run again. HUD’s Inspector General is the dept’s auditing and investigation branch and acts like an independent auditor. It has both a civil audit and a criminal investigation underway regarding the city’s providing a $24 mill. HUD loan to private developers to refurbish the Fredrick and Nelson Building. Its decision was originally expected to be released in early February it’s now expected in May.

It didn’t help the Mayor’s contention that there was no misuse of the funds when Deputy City Attorney, Mike Rosenberger admitted in a related Superior Court case that there was a “nexus” between the HUD loan and the new privately owned Systems Parking building. Essentially he admitted that there was a financial link between the two projects. The city had previously submitted legal briefs to the court denying any such link. Pine Street Developer’s project involving the FandN building, the old Nordstrom building and the Systems Parking garage involves some pretty sophisticated accounting. The city provided the $24 HUD loan to Pine Street to redevelop the FandN building. Pine St. then gave the FandN building to Nordstroms in exchange for receiving their current building across the street. Problem is Nordstroms’ building is assessed at $14 million and the FandN building is assessed at $26 million. Pine St. Developers were thus short about $12 million.

Pine Street then had to provide some additional compensation to attract private investors to their project. That’s where the city helped them again. The city agreed to lease the parking garage from Pine St. but rather than paying annual lease payments over the 30 year life of the lease, they agreed to pay $73 million up front. The money came from the city issuing councilmanic bounds, which would be paid back from parking garage revenues after being deposited into the city’s general fund. Citizen activist Jordan Brower and the Seattle Displacement Coalition have been arguing that without the HUD loan available for remodeling the FandN building, the developers could not get Nordstroms to exchange their current building for the FandN building. The resulting shortfall then necessitated the use of councilmanic bonds to fund the garage, so in essence there is a financial link between the HUD loan and the construction of the privately owned parking garage.

They further contend that the City purposefully withheld information this shortfall and the existence of the parking garage deal from HUD. They had asked City Council Member Jan Drago, as head of the Economic Development Committee to investigate, which they say is required by Federal law, but she turned down their request. It’s doubtful HUD would have allowed the loan in the first place, according to them, if the City’s money was involved. If the report comes back clean then Rice only has to worry about …

Poor Polling Results

Recent polling shows that Rice is vulnerable and has low approval ratings. There is definitely a rising tide of discontent with the status quo. A politico who saw the polling said that this is the year of the outsider.

But time is running out to match the formidable Rice cash machine. Are the challengers willing and capable of spending $150,000 in just the primary to make a credible showing against Rice?

In his ’93 re-election bid Rice spent $375,000, more than twice as much as all other city incumbents. He received some 470 donations of $350. His challenger, David Stern, received only 27 such contributions.

Unless money starts pouring into the coffers of his contenders or the HUD investigation comes out bad, it appears that Rice’s road to his next term is wide open. With no where else to go, he seems likely to take it.

Glenn Hotel’s Hygiene Center

City Council should decide on Monday (4/7) once and for all if the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) should open up a public hygiene center in the hotel. Although LIHI already has the necessary city permits, the decision hinges on the city honoring its prior commitments to fund it, which was a line item in Rice’s ’94 budget.

LIHI had thought that they had an agreement both with the city and the downtown neighborhood businesses after meeting with David Gilmore, President of the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) in ’93 and ’94, and holding meetings and distributing flyers to neighboring businesses.

LIHI purchased the hotel for low income housing (which is not being challenged) and announced their intention to install a hygiene center in the basement of the building which would be available to all the public, including bicyclists, youth hostel residents and the homeless. Subsequently the prior owner sued the city and LIHI in the fall ’95 accusing them of not filing an EIS and inadequate community notification for establishing the center. An EIS would have been required if the entire basement (4,000 sq. ft.) had been set aside for a hygiene center. But according to LIHI staff person, Ishbel Dickens, only 2,300 sq. ft. is to be used for the center, the remainder was to be set aside for locker space for residents upstairs. The center would have security cameras, at all times have at least one staff member would be present and 3 staff would be available at peak periods. As a men only facility, LIHI expects about 200 to 150 users a day, from 5 AM to 9 PM.

An out of court settlement reached by all parties laid out a time frame for locating a new hygiene center site and identifying a nonprofit operator for it. An hoc group of service providers identified 20 other locations for such a center and the DSA found one site in the Regrade. The city nixed all but 5 in the Regrade. Then representatives for the Regrade community noted that they were taking on a disproportionate number of public facilities. A map produced by city staff, identifying the locations of public toilets and hygiene services showed that they were concentrated in Pioneer Sq. and the Regrade. These peripheral downtown business areas were indeed carrying more than their fair share.

All interested parties appear now to have accepted the Josephinum Hotel, at 2nd and Steward, for a women’s hygiene center. The problem is where to locate a men’s hygiene center. Since the Mayor withdrew his support for a men’s hygiene center at the Glenn Hotel the City Council is now trying to find a solution. Council Member Cheryl Chow proposed public toilets for both genders at the Glenn including a men’s hygiene facilities along with public facilities to be located at the St. Regis (Stewart and 2nd) and the First United Methodist Church, 5th and Columbia. Her motion was tabled. Council Member Jan Drago did not want any public toilets or a hygiene center at the Glenn Hotel. She has proposed a couple of toilets at the St. Regis.

Representatives from LIHI and DSA were meeting this weekend to see if they could reach a compromise but few were holding out much hope.

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