Longtime Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, an ardent progressive who led the council’s ultra-liberal wing for many years, is bowing out.
In office since 1998, Licata won’t seek re-election this year, he announced Wednesday at City Hall, saying he wants to continue to work against inequality not only in Seattle but in other cities.
“I’ve been lucky to have an exciting life filled with challenges taken on voluntarily, not out of hardship. Perhaps the greatest challenge we all face is the need to improve the lives of Americans who are seeing their future increasingly impeded by the outrageous growing concentration of wealth, and I would add power, in this nation,” Licata said.
“No one city can resolve this problem. But Seattle has done much in attempting to do so. I would like to play more of an active role in that effort. And see what I can do to have Seattle’s accomplishments duplicated elsewhere. I hope after my current term ends this year that I may have that opportunity in some capacity. So, I will not seek re-election,” he added.
“It’s a risky path to take. But I know I could not pursue this effort while remaining on the City Council and still do justice to performing the duties of a council member.”
Licata spent the past several months mulling yet another council run. The Greenwood resident could have campaigned to represent his neighborhood and others in the new 6th District as the council moves to geographic representation for seven of its nine seats.
The district, also home to current Councilmember Mike O’Brien, also includes Fremont, Ballard, Loyal Heights and Blue Ridge. O’Brien has not yet registered to run but will now be expected to seek the 6th District seat.
Licata also could have declared his candidacy for of the council’s two remaining at-large positions. But that would have likely meant squaring off against either Council President Tim Burgess or Councilmember Sally Clark.
A former insurance broker who once lived in a commune on Capitol Hill and who founded the Seattle Sun, an alternative, community newspaper published in the 1970s and 1980s, Licata has championed social services while opposing public funding for professional sports stadiums.
He was supplanted as the council’s most liberal member with the 2012 election of socialist Kshama Sawant.
Licata traveled to New York City last month to lead the second annual national meeting of an organization he started in 2012; Local Progress describes itself as “the only network for progressive municipal elected officials from around the country.”
While there, he took part in a massive street demonstration protesting the decision by a Staten Island grand jury to not indict a police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.
“From visiting cities across the country, I’ve seen that we all share common issues. I have been intrigued by the challenge of creating a national network of elected officials and community activists to share and spread progressive and responsive legislation to tackle them,” Licata said.
The council member praised Seattle’s legislative record as he revealed his plan to leave City Hall.
“We have been in the national forefront in passing paid sick leave, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, beginning pre-school care program for all children, banning plastic bags, providing public space for homeless encampments, requiring police surveillance protocols, enforcing wage theft protections, protecting immigrant rights and requiring safer renters’ housing conditions,” Licata said.