Last night’s Drinking Liberally was quite a gathering. A large crowd showed up to meet King County Executive Ron Sims and pepper him with questions on everything from light rail to avian flu… and Sims enthusiastically threw himself into the debate. And Sims wasn’t the only candidate in attendance; both Dwight Pelz and Al Runte distinguished themselves by being the first politicians to actually make a return visit… though when I congratulated Runte on this feat, the retired history professor objected to being labeled a politician.
Sorry Al… that’s the sort of mud people are going to sling at you when you run for office.
One of my favorite moments of the night was an extended and contentious back and forth between Sims and a DL regular on the merits of Southwest Airlines controversial proposal to move to Boeing Field. Personally, I oppose the Southwest deal, mostly for my own selfish, NIMBY reasons. (I live near Boeing Field, and don’t particularly welcome the extra road or air traffic.) But what struck me most was the vigor with which Sims argued his position, not just with a constituent, but with a supporter. Sims already had this guy’s vote, and he knew it. And yet he not only dove into the debate with the passionate abandon of… well… just some guy at DL… he clearly had a great time doing it.
This was not the run-of-the-mill retail politics all candidates must master in order to win — though Sims is good at that sort of stuff too. This was an expression of joy from a man who clearly loves diving into the nitty-gritty of politics and policy.
In case you’re interested, the gist of Sims argument is that the Southwest deal would be good for consumers, while adding jobs to South Seattle. He wants to study the proposal, but would only approve it if noise abatement and traffic concerns can be adequately addressed with no public subsidy… a stance that he repeats in Bruce Ramsey’s column in today’s Seattle Times. Sims also points out the irony of him being attacked by members of the business community for considering such a free market proposal.
“I thought government’s role was to establish infrastructure so that wealth could be made by the private sector,” Sims says. “This is so anti-free enterprise.” He pauses for a moment. “I’m a Democrat,” he says. “For the first time in my political life I’m unabashedly on the free-enterprise side and being criticized by the people who are supposed to be on that side.”
Ramsey for his part, is consistent in his pro-business stance:
The Southwest offer is the real thing. And in keeping his door open to real competition, rivalry and choice, Ron Sims is on the side of the traveling public.
Agreed. While I sure hope Sims eventually shuts that door, it’s hard to blame him for opening it in the first place.