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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

February 2, 2015 at 10:58 AM

O’Brien will face challenger in Seattle City Council district race

Mike O’Brien won’t win re-election without a fight.

When the current Seattle City Council member announced last week that he would seek the council’s 6th District seat, he was the only candidate in the race. Not anymore.

Catherine Weatbrook, a Ballard community leader who co-chairs the City Neighborhood Council -– the elected, citizen-led advisory group that coordinates city funding of neighborhood programs –- has registered a 6th District campaign.

The district includes the Fremont neighborhood, where O’Brien lives, as well as Phinney Ridge, Ballard, Loyal Heights and part of Greenwood.

Weatbrook, 47, who works as a facilities manager for a group of nonprofits, says her campaign will focus on issues related to urban design and transportation.

“We’re having growing pains in Ballard,” she said. “What’s been built has exceeded our expectations and we haven’t had the transportation to match it.”

The Seattle native, a Ballard resident since 1994, says the city should make sure that new buildings are constructed “on a human scale.”

“It has nothing to do with style,” Weatbrook said. “It has to do with walkable and bikeable communities where people are willing to walk around because they feel safe. It has to do with not walking next to a blank wall or an empty storefront.”

Blocks work better when buildings vary in how they approach the sidewalk and when they boast an interesting retail mix, she says.

Weatbrook says she’s not taking sides in the long-running quarrel between pro-growth interests and homeowners who are determined to protect Seattle’s low-density neighborhoods from further development. The city’s problems are complicated, she says.

“It’d be too simple to call me pro- or anti-development,” Weatbrook said.

O’Brien, who chairs the council’s land-use committee, recently attempted to strike a compromise as he pieced together new regulations for the construction of micro-apartments.

Better known for his environmental and social-justice advocacy, he sponsored Seattle’s plastic bag ban, helped created a program that allows homeless people to live in their vehicles on church parking lots and pushed for campaign finance reform.

His political career began with the Sierra Club. Weatbrook also hasbeen active in the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth and the Crown Hill Business Association.

“While I think Mike is a nice guy and I have a lot of respect for him, I don’t see him in the community,” Weatbrook said. “I don’t see him connected to the district. That doesn’t mean he can’t become that. But I think I have a long record of being connected to the district.”


Comments | More in Local government, Politics Northwest, Seattle City Council | Topics: 2015 Seattle City Council elections, 6th Seattle City Council District, Ballard


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