Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
This website is for archival purposes only, and is no longer updated.


Urban Politics #261: Poet Populist & Saving Art in Neighborhoods

2 Comments (Leave Comment)

By City Councilmember Nick Licata. With assistance from my legislative assistant Frank Video.

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.






Are you mentally prepared to vote this November? Why not practice by voting for the Seattle Poet Populist? Instead of relying upon officials to anoint a poet laureate, scores of Seattle citizens cast their vote to elect a poet populist to represent Seattle for a one-year term. This year’s nominating organizations and their poet-nominees include:
A.K. ‘Mimi’ Allin nominated by the Washington Poets Association;
Daemond Arrindell – Seattle Poetry Slam;
Elizabeth Austen – Cheap Wine and Poetry;
Karen Finneyfrock – Arts Corps;
Mike Hickey – It’s About Time Reading Series;
Thomas Hubbard – PoetsWest;
Jared Leising – 826 Seattle;
Roseanne Estelle McAleese – Youth Speaks Seattle;
Tatyana Mishel – Rose Alley Press;
Arne Pihl – Vital 5 Productions;
Chelsey Richardson – Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas;
Judith Roche – Jack Straw Productions; and
Ruth Yarrow – Haiku Northwest.

Check out the Seattle Poet Populist web site. You can cast your vote there as well as discover all sorts of information about the program, including past nominating organizations, nominees, and Poets Populist.

One vote per person, of course.  Voting ends Tuesday, November 4th (which is National Election Day. Not a coincidence). The winning poet is awarded a cash prize of $500, commissioned to write one poem for the people of the city, and encouraged to pursue a program of public appearances including being invited to perform readings at the Central Library in downtown Seattle and at Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill.

The Poet Populist is a program of Luna Park with project support from The Shunpike and funding from the City of Seattle. Additional support is provided by Richard Hugo House, Seattle Arts & Lectures, Seattle Public Library, and Seattle Weekly.


The role of Poet Populist for Seattle originated in 1999 as a follow-up to my 1998 Neighborhood Arts Conference. I sponsored the February 13th, 1999 Seattle Neighborhood Arts Celebration (SNAC) in conjunction with that day’s city-wide celebration of Neighborhood Appreciation Day. 23 poets and performers performed in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall in the Benaroya Symphony Hall for over 500 attendees.  A dozen neighborhood arts groups exhibited in the lobby. Attendees to the SNAC as well as the general public cast ballots and elected Seattle’s first Poet Populist, Barnard Harris, Jr.

Since 1998, I’ve sponsored another poetry program, this one for the Seattle City Council, called Words’ Worth. Check it out here.



Last year, I attended an extraordinary meeting at the Capitol Hill Arts Center (CHAC – recently replaced by Velocity Dance) on the issue of lost arts space on Capitol Hill. The event that triggered the meeting was the sale of a long-time arts bastion there, Odd Fellows Hall, which resulted in many arts and cultural groups losing the inexpensive space that had kept them active, some for decades. Over 200 people jammed into CHAC that night to voice concern and outrage. I later invited the organizers of that CHAC meeting to suggest a remedy. They proposed an arts overlay district. Thus, CODAC was formed by me and Councilmember Sally Clark.

Yesterday CODAC, a group of 15 volunteer citizens representing the arts, development, finance, and property ownership, presented its preliminary recommendations to a joint meeting of my committee, the Culture, Civil Rights, Health, and Personnel Committee, and Councilmember Clark’s Planning, Land Use, and Neighborhoods Committee. Read the full set of recommendations, as well as a wealth of related research from around the country and Canada.

CODAC’s charge is to develop recommendations the Council and Executive can pursue that would promote and preserve arts and cultural spaces and activities in neighborhoods.  The group has been examining possible remedies through the lens of an overlay district, which would function as a special arts and culture-friendly area offering incentives and regulations not offered outside the district. Any neighborhood would in theory be able to request being designated an arts district. Seattle has a number of overlay districts that stipulate conditions meant to foster certain activities or functions.

For instance, The Pike/Pine Overlay District attempts to balance residential and commercial uses. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is presently working to amend that district to better protect and preserve the character of Pike/Pine. Councilmember Rasmussen and I will work to assure there is symmetry between our two efforts.

The Northgate Overlay District promotes pedestrians and commercial development, protects the residential neighborhood’s residential character, and supports Northgate as a regional high-capacity transportation center.

And the Sand Point Overlay District favors recreation, education, arts, cultural and community activities; increased public access to the shoreline and open space; opportunities for affordable housing and community and social services, with a special priority for homeless families; and opportunities for low-impact economic development.

However, no existing overlay district addresses in a comprehensive way the increasing loss of affordable spaces in Seattle for experiencing art and culture, the very art and culture that transforms certain neighborhoods into places people want to live in and visit.

CODAC was asked to develop a set of recommendations in time for possible consideration in the Council’s budget deliberations beginning in October. Consequently, the group had only 4 meetings over the past 6 weeks during which to get to know one another, deliberate on possible solutions, organize their priorities, and prepare their presentation to Council. Based upon the preliminary recommendations presented yesterday, I believe CODAC has done an excellent job at articulating pertinent issues and relating possible solutions to other policy areas impacting arts and culture. But, I also believe their recommendations need more work. I will ask my colleagues to allow them to do so and, if allowed to continue, I anticipate they will deliver a final set of recommendations to Council this spring.

One of CODAC’s recommendations is for the City to establish a full-time arts liaison that would serve as a sort of translator between the arts community and developers in order to keep existing spaces or to create new spaces for arts and culture. I noted that the City’s 1999 Arts Task Force recommendations (you can find them under ‘Resources’ on the CODAC web site) also called for an arts liaison. That was 9 years ago. The more things change, the more things seem to stay the same. Randy Engstrom acknowledged that he and his fellow CODAC members realize some of the best solutions are not necessarily new, they simply haven’t been acted upon.

I pledge to act upon CODAC’s final recommendations when they come to Council and I will do my best to convince my fellow Councilmembers to join me.

In the mean time, I encourage you to stay informed on CODAC’s progress by visiting their web site from time to time. If you have comments, please send them to my Legislative Assistant Frank Video at or call him at (206) 684-8849.

Keep in touch…

Share Button


RSS feed for comments on this post |

Comment from Alvin Witcher
Time June 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

Thanks for your article. It is extremely unfortunate that over the last years, the travel industry has had to fight terrorism, SARS, tsunamis, flu virus, swine flu, and also the first ever entire global economic depression. Through everthing the industry has proven to be powerful, resilient and dynamic, acquiring new methods to deal with hardship. There are constantly fresh difficulties and opportunity to which the industry must all over again adapt and respond.

Comment from Curt Hackbarth
Time May 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

I have been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

Leave a comment

You need to login to post comments!