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Former Phinney resident kicks off city council campaign

Jordan Royer, who grew up in Phinney Ridge, officially kicks off his campaign for City Council Position 8 today. Royer has a background in business and politics, and is the son of former Seattle Mayor Charlie Royer (1977-89). His mother, Annie Davis, lives in Phinney Ridge and runs the Ballard-based Annie’s Nannies. Royer recently sat down with me for an hour-long interview.
Royer is running for city council because he says the council needs “people who understand all levels of government and people who understand private sector.” He believes he knows government from the inside out. “It would be very difficult for people to shine me on.”
He lived in Phinney from middle school on, and currently lives in Wedgwood with his wife and two daughters. He lived in San Francisco for eight years and worked for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, starting as a volunteer and eventually managing the northern California part of her 1998 re-election campaign. He and his wife moved back to Seattle in 1999 after their first daughter was born.
In the Paul Schell administration, Jordan worked on the “Neighborhood Action Team,” bringing together interdepartmental teams and the public to work on chronic crime issues. He also worked in the Strategic Planning Department under Mayor Greg Nickels. Just after 9/11, Jordan was Nickels’ Senior Advisor for Public Safety.
For the last two years, Jordan has been vice president of external affairs for Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, representing major shipping lines and terminal operators on the West Coast.
His number one priority as a council member would be public safety. “It goes directly to livability of the city,” he says. “We need to make it desirable for people to live here.”
He wants to see more police officers on foot, working with business owners on neighborhood crime issues. “One person can be a crime wave,” he says.
With the police department’s current beat system, the North Precinct is very big geographically. It includes the U District, Lake City, Aurora and other hot spots that keep officers busy, and too busy to respond promptly to every call that doesn’t involve imminent harm.
Royer thinks the community can help out officers by sharing information with neighbors about crime and suspicious people, and writing down the license plate numbers of cars visiting suspected drug houses. He says some city dwellers see the same problems over and over gain and get dulled to it. “What you don’t want to happen is everybody getting so frustrated they just throw their hands up.”
While living in San Francisco, he saw the city turning into a place of haves and have nots. “It sort of ate the heart out of the city,” he says. “It’s a very disenfranchised city politically right now. And I see shades of that happening here.”
Royer says another problem is that while many city programs work well, others do not. “We don’t have a good way of evaluating how good a job they’re doing,” explains. “If you can’t measure it you can’t control it. We just layer new programs on top of each other.”
Unlike mayoral candidate Michael McGinn, who lives in Greenwood (and who will be profiled on PhinneyWood in a few days), Royer does not think it’s a good idea for the city to take over running the school district. But he does think the two need to be better partners. He says the city is sometimes seen as a bully, and the good things happening in schools don’t get enough press. He says teachers tell him that the city needs to stop simply criticizing the school district.
“We need to get back to basics and bring common sense,” Royer says. “If we do the basics really well, we’ll regain the public’s trust.”
Part of regaining that trust may be a matter of style. Royer says the Schell administration was more chaotic, but that Mayor Nickels is too controlling.
Royer has high hopes that former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, as the nation’s new Drug Czar, will begin to solve the country’s drug and alcohol abuse problems on a federal level. “The way we handle drug crime in this country is idiotic,” Royer scoffs. He says most of Europe treats it as a public health issue and not a crime, which is why he’d love to see the expansion of Drug Courts, which closely monitor small-time offenders and waive criminal charges if they successfully complete treatment.
He says the federal strategy of making all drugs illegal doesn’t work. “Supply will always meet that demand,” he says adamantly. “People are willing to die to meet that demand and be incarcerated to meet that demand.”
Urban Growth is always a hot topic on a neighborhood level, especially since Phinney/Greenwood is designated as an urban village. And Royer is definitely in favor of smart planning for density. “Why do people love to go to Europe? Because it’s grown from density and trains,” he says. “We all like to walk to things. That’s why a neighborhood pub is fun and coffee shops, restaurants and hardware stores. That kind of community is safer when everyone is walking around.”
So how can City Hall help developers design prettier buildings? He says a developer will always try to maximize profit. The city needs to understand that motivation and steer the developer in the right direction. And he thinks too many individuals have veto power now, leading the city to feel hijacked by a vocal minority that may not speak for a neighborhood’s majority.
He’s a fan of nearly any kind of mass transit to help make that density viable. “Do you really want to get in your car every time you have to go somewhere?” he asks. “Frankly, if people aren’t going to support that they really can’t call themselves environmentalists.”
As someone who has lived in other cities and traveled extensively, Royer believes he has a broad view of local and international issues affecting Seattle.
“I love city issues and I love Seattle,” he says. “I’m here to stay. I want my kids to raise their kids here.”
Several readers submitted questions after the interview. Here are Royer’s written responses:
Question: ‘With the 26 neighborhood libraries serving Seattle for anyone who wants to access education and computers within their neighborhood, what will you do, if elected, to promote the value and use of The Seattle Public Library throughout Seattle?
Answer: “My wife and I have contributed to the library system over the years and our children are big users of the Wedgwood branch. I believe the city has to focus on core services and the library system is one of those services. I also have a very good friend who works at the South Park Branch who tells me all the time about what a great resource it is for new citizens and their children.”
Question: “The city’s General Fund is the revenue source for critical and essential services: police, fire, libraries, parks, and social services. Often these essential services are in competition for dollars. How would you decide which to prioritize during times of economic downturn and do you think the way the fund is apportioned now is serving Seattle best?”
Answer: “The Department of Transportation is also in the General Fund. I would prioritize those services that protect the health and safety of the citizens of Seattle first. Second, I would delay expansions or capital projects that can be put off for better times. I would prioritize programs in Parks, Libraries, and Human Services that provide assistance to our vulnerable populations. I would look for savings in open positions, early retirements or programs that are either not working or are no longer needed. We need to be serious about reforming programs that aren’t working in order to be able to fund and expand those that do.”