Corr runs to overcome weak City Council mode
City Council candidates Casey Corr was for three years a full-time assistant to Mayor Greg Nickels and admits he has to remind people he is his own man.
"I'm my own guy," said Corr in an interview last week. "I think I'm highly qualified in this race."
Corr wants to oust seven-year incumbent council member Richard Conlin, up for re-election this year. Conlin has been a popular target, with at least three opponents unofficially declaring their intentions to run against him. Corr said that despite his close association with the mayor, he is not running as part of some Nickels agenda to take over City Council.
"If I had wanted to go against the guy who votes against the mayor most often, I'd run against Nick Licata," said Corr.
Corr, 50, made a name for himself in two careers in Seattle: first as a journalist, then as a policy aide in the Nickels administration. But he says he's been interested in a political career for a long time. He left the Seattle Times in the wake of the newspaper strike that ended in January 2001, and told Nickels he wanted to run for office. According to Corr, Nickels asked him for help running for mayor first.
Corr said he's running because he's tired of seeing a weak City Council. The council needs leadership, said Corr, and Conlin - who votes for Nickels' proposals more often than not - doesn't provide any.
"The City Council doesn't have their own agenda," he said.
Corr places a high priority on education in his campaign for City Council, saying he wants the Seattle School Board to be more effective in running the district and handling its financial affairs. He would support a lawsuit against the Washington Legislature for not fulfilling its constitutionally-mandated duty to fully fund public schools.
But Corr isn't interested in running for the school board. Instead, he would rather use the more visible position of City Council member as a bully pulpit for education and other issues that don't directly involve the council. He thinks the city and school district can work together.
"With the [Families and Education] levy and a better focus of resources, I think the city can help end the crisis in our schools," he said.
Corr is also an ardent supporter of the tunnel option to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a project that could cost more than $4 billion and for which the Legislature has pledged just $2 billion. Meanwhile, Corr accused City Council of doing nothing to find a way to fund the difference.
"City leaders seem to have stalled out on where we are going to get another $2 billion on the tunnel," said Corr. "We've got to hustle for these dollars."
When asked about the less expensive rebuild option, Corr echoes the sentiments of his former boss, who considers the Viaduct an eyesore that cuts Seattle off from the central waterfront. No city in the United States would build a double-decker highway next to the water, said Corr.
What Corr thinks he can provide, and what City Council dearly lacks, according to him, is strong leadership. He wants to see the council play a more active role not only in passing legislation, but in creating laws.
Corr said he was appalled at the council's recent passage of a resolution, introduced by Licata and co-sponsored by Conlin, asking the mayor to submit a request to add 25 more police officers to the city's payroll. Council members should have drafted the bill themselves, said Corr, the son of the late Eugene Corr, retired federal marshal who, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, led an internal revolt to end Seattle police corruption.
"I will make police staffing one of my issues," he said.
Corr also blames neighborhood disillusion with the Nickels administration on the lack of a strong City Council. He said the criticism of his former boss that Nickels ignored the needs and wishes of some neighborhoods is a valid one. But he sees a power vacuum in City Council, a body that, if it doesn't resist the mayor, ought to at least show initiative on some issues so Seattle residents don't think it's only the mayor's office that has new ideas.
"A good deal of the frustration out there is that there is so much power in the mayor's office, but no strong council," said Corr.
He places much of the blame for that on Conlin, who Corr accused of having a penchant for holding meeting after meeting on issues, rather than solving problems. He says "The Seattle Way," is a code phrase for extensive public process, without making decisions.
"There needs to be a beginning and an end to process," he said.
Improving the city's economy is another cornerstone of Corr's platform. He considers himself a pro-business candidate.
"The maritime and manufacturing industries are not amber industries - industries to be wrapped in amber and treated like antiques," said Corr.
Adam Richter can be reached at 783.1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org