City Council’s O’Brien on quest for campaign finance reform


Upon entering Seattle City Hall, self-relocated council member Mike O’Brien has opted to give up his comfy office appointed to city council members. Instead, O’Brien re-organized the office in order to allow himself closer proximity to his aids and constituents.

The move personifies O’Brien. His boyish, short to mid-length haircut sprinkled with gray adds to his casual blazer and overall laid back demeanor.

O’Brien first ran for a place in office at the start of 2010, raising what he thought was an ample $140,000.

“It turns out that it’s kind of one of the lower amounts in recent years for a winning candidate to raise,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien started his career as a  community leader at the Sierra Club for over 9 years of voluntary work with the club before becoming the chair of its Washington state chapter.

Elected to city council in 2010, his laid back demeanor has allowed him to be passionate about his work without coming off as hot headed or otherwise unlikely to compromise. During his first term in city council, he pushed for and won many progressive measures with environmental benefits, including a popular grocery shopping bag ban.

O’Brien ran a grassroots campaign in his successful bid for city council. Largely run by volunteers, O’Brien became known for his ragged personal style, plastered onto him like a Seattleite badge of honor.

O’Brien spoke of an ethical conflict he, as a campaign finance reform advocate, experienced while running for office.

“Asking the very same people who have important policy with financial implications before the council to write a check to my campaign just creates a glaring conflict of interest,” said O’Brien. “How far do you compromise your values when you accept money from people whose values differ from you?”

O’Brien keeps fighting for campaign finance reform, and remains confident in his chances despite the council’s choice to not even hear the debate on public financing of political campaigns when O’Brien attempted to introduce talks last year.

However, O’Brien believes the time is right and is optimistic that the city council will be more open to the proposition on his upcoming attempt.

O’Brien believes Tim Burgess and the other members of the council who didn’t back his last public campaign finance proposal are more likely to accept his proposal now that the threat of a crowded ballot is no longer a legitimate.

During O’Brien’s last attempt there were several issues on the ballot, including one concerning a preschool initiative that was before voters in November. A crowded ballot is what Burgess was worried would happen by having the two initiatives, both concerning finance, on the ballot at the same time. Burgess was concerned this would create confusion or hurt the chances of the preschool initiative passing. Although now with the preschool initiative passed and out of the way, it would no longer pose a problem.

“I have some optimism that we can get another shot at it” finished O’Brien.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s