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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Seattle City Council candidate David Ginsberg
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Seattle City Council candidate David Ginsberg
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

"I want to see four new faces on the City Council," says David Ginsberg.

Ginsberg is a candidate for Position 2 on the Seattle City Council, the seat now occupied by Council President Richard Conlin. Conlin is running for reelection, as is incumbent Council member Nick Licata. Incumbents Jan Drago and Richard McIver have announced that they are stepping down.

"The incumbents have been in office 10 years, 12 in Richard's case," Ginsberg continues. "They campaigned on issues of affordability, transportation, gang violence, livability. Ten years later, we're still talking about the same issues. What have they done?"

"I just don't see a sense of urgency," he says.

The primary election is scheduled for August 18, and the general election for November 3. To date, only Ginsberg has filed to challenge Conlin, and only one other candidate, Jessie Israel, is running against Nick Licata. Candidates have until June 5 to formally file for office, at which time they must declare for a particular seat. New candidates generally prefer to file for one of the open seats, rather than take on an incumbent.

This is Ginsberg's first run for public office, but he understands the challenges of running against an established incumbent. "I'm fully aware this is the most difficult seat. People tell me I'll need to raise $350,000 to be a viable candidate," he told SGN, "but I think the voters deserve a choice."

"We'll run a scrappy little campaign," he promises. "People give us their hard-earned money, we want to make sure the money is spent wisely."

Ginsberg is a Seattle native, grew up in Magnolia, and now lives in the High Point neighborhood with his partner, Mike Schultz, and their children Anthony and Anya.

"At this point it's all really good," he says of the children, who are about to turn 7. "They still listen, and they still think we're cool." "I love the city," Ginsberg says. "I worry that by the time my kids are old enough to start out on their own, will they be able to afford to buy a house here?"

Ginsberg is also a long-time political activist. A Democratic PCO, he was an active Obama campaigner. When he lived in San Francisco prior to 2003, he was encouraged to run for the Board of Supervisors. He declined. "I was feeling too young, just not ready," he says. "I'm ready now."

Ginsberg has spent the past six years working for Washington Mutual as a solutions architect. "I was able to deliver complex projects on time and under budget," he says. "It would be good to have that on the council."

"I want to see us get things done. I want to make sure the city works," he declares.

"The budget is tough," Ginsberg says, noting that Mayor Greg Nickels has had to freeze the salaries of City executives and furlough hourly workers. "We'll have to postpone some projects. Postpone some purchases. Replace equipment more slowly."

Asked to identify an area where he thinks the City Council spent money unwisely, Ginsberg immediately shoots back, "The Mercer mess. Spending $1 billion on a project that's not the greatest urgency."

"Choosing South Lake Union for the first street car line was not the best use of resources," he adds. "There's, what, 10% ridership? Our vision should be more focused on the long term." While he was initially skeptical of Mayor Nickels' proposal for the streetcar, Ginsberg's opponent, Council President Conlin, has supported it.

"I want to see us move toward a sustainable city," Ginsberg says. "People work in Seattle but can't afford to live here. It's like there are two Seattles. People work here but live in South King County."

"We need to refocus the economy on locally owned businesses," Ginsberg believes. "We should develop vibrant neighborhood business districts."

"Local business owners and their employees can feel good about their relationship to the community," he says. "That's different from fast food chains. They can also be 'walkable jobs' that save on energy costs."

"There will be growth," Ginsberg believes. "We need to find a way to fit all the people who want to live here. How do we do it without destroying the character of the neighborhood? In some places that means row houses, in others high-rises."

When asked to name a Seattle neighborhood that works well, Ginsberg names his own. "High Point," he says. "We love the whole concept of the neighborhood. It's a mixed-income development. That's a much better approach to low-income housing. And we love the green-built aspects."

"It's a great community," he continues. "The weekend we moved in, we knew everyone."

The High Point development features a mixture of market rate and low-income housing, a variety of architectural styles, and innovative ecologically sensitive features. Controversial when it was being built, it has since won the Urban Land Institute's Global Award for Excellence.

"While I'm Gay, I don't see myself as the Gay candidate," Ginsberg concludes. "People might say 'well, does Seattle really need a third Gay Council member?' I don't think that's the right question to ask."

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