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Restoring the Legacy: Bobby Forch

August 2, 2009

Whenever an elected official- or candidate- wants to meet or talk to me, I’m hesitant.  Not because I have no desire to hear what they have to say, but because I don’t want them to think that having a face to face, a few shared emails or phone calls is going to make me write in their favor.  I only write in my favor- and yours too.

That said, when someone wants to talk, I’m down to have the conversation.  When the email came in from Bobby Forch’s campaign manager asking to meet- I agreed.

I sat with candidate Forch for over an hour this weekend and talk about why he is running for city council, and what the experience of being a candidate has been like for him.

Mainstream media has minimized Forch as “the Black candidate”.  Can’t be denied, I mean, the guy is Black (despite what the Seattle Times thinks) and he is running for a position on council that has a legacy of Black men who have sat in it before him.

It began with Sam Smith:

From History Link

Sam Smith was the first black person to be elected to the Seattle City Council and the second black State Legislator from King County. He has been credited with helping to bridge the political and cultural gap between the white and black communities.

In 1967, he won election to the Seattle City Council and served on it until 1991, when Sherry Harris, another black politician, defeated him. During those years, he also ran unsuccessfully four times for the office of mayor.

As chairman of the Council’s Utilities Committee, he prevented or reduced increases in power, water, and garbage rates, knowing that low-income residents couldn’t afford them. He pressed for the hiring of black firefighters and police officers. In 1968, he sponsored an open housing measure and the Council passed it unanimously.

A man of urbane charm and a friendly nature, he answered his office phone with the greeting, “Hello, this is Sam,” and solved the problems of his constituents in a timely manner. No problem was too small for him to tackle. He considered himself a good neighbor to everyone in Seattle and often drove through the city, stopping to visit constituents in person.

That legacy however, has suffered.  Position 8 on the city council is currently held by Richard McIver.  Many will recall that McIver was arrested, charged and tried for allegedly assaulting his wife in an alcohol fueled arguement which quickly- allegedly- flew out of control.  The incident was dropped after Mrs. McIver refused to testify.  But the damage was done and McIver opted not to run for re-election.

Before McIver was John Manning:

From a 2003 Stranger article

Manning was elected to the city council in 1995 and had to resign after less than a year in office after getting arrested for breaking into his estranged wife’s home in December 1996. (He wound up pleading guilty to two misdemeanors.) That arrest followed an earlier domestic incident and arrest in October ’96

As you can see, the legacy is tarnished, at best.  Can Forch change that?

Having lived in Seattle’s CD for 20 years, Forch comes with a frame of reference and level of knowledge about problems facing minority communities the other candidates for position 8 could never claim.  While he would naturally bring his frame of reference to the seat, it’s much broader than Black or White.  It’s not about reppin’ “Black issues” at every committee or council meeting.  It’s about having a perspective broad enough to include the entire city.

Forch also has a unique perspective on how city government works, himself a Seattle city employee for more than 15 years.  He also has valuable perspective and experience in successfully making a way for minority and women owned businesses to compete for city contracts usually snapped up by larger fish in the pond.  Still, Forch feels compelled to serve in a new way.

He doesn’t consider himself a politician, and is easing into that title.  He is concerned about the community in which he lives, concerned about the future of the city and sustainability for all families, not just those north of the ship canal.  A first time candidate for elected office, Forch admits his team has stumbled while learning the process- a well meaning ‘supporter’ managed to offend members of the 37th District Dems after dropping at least 1 four letter word in an effort to convey Team Forch’s message- which doesn’t have any four letter words in it, btw.  Some have called that the downfall of his campaign, but if Reverend Wright couldn’t bring down Obama it’s laughable that an excited utterance of “fuck” would ruin Forch’s chances.

While Forch has struggled for mainstream respect, the respect and recognition he receives in the community is very real- and that’s where the ballots are.  Still, the Forch team has held their own and landed impressive endorsements from the King County Dems, the 11th, 36th and 46th District Dems, as well as a host of community leaders and grass roots soldiers, including King County Councilmember Larry Gossett and former State Rep. Dawn Mason.

Forch is confident he will win- which is good, as he has just as much a chance as any other candidate.

From my perspective, Forch has a possible secret weapon the other Candidates (and their camps) seem to play down; post Obama, it’s not clear what the electoral map looks like for Seattle.  Trends of past years have showed that only certain areas of the town vote, which are the areas of town most candidates have been kissing up to campaigning in.

In years past voting was a challenge for some for transportation reason, or conflicting work schedules.  This election, because of the last presidential election, thousands more Seattle residents are registered to vote, and ballots are coming via mail now- no need to run an extra errand to vote- sit on the couch, in the car, at the dining room table, fill it out and stick it in the mail- postage is paid.  So who is going to vote?  No one really knows the answer to that until the ballots have been cast and counted.  Until then, it’s anyone’s game.

The beginning of August brings the final sprint towards the deadline for votes to be counted (your ballot must be postmarked by Aug. 18th for the primary election) and it’s anyone’s guess who will cross the finish line first.

What do I think of Bobby Forch?  If I don’t give a difninitive opinion, I’m going to hear it from ya’ll.  Work with me as I balance on the fine line of giving my 2 cents while also being careful to not appear to be endorsing- or not.

Bobby Forch is a good person, a loving husband and a father who has a tight bond with his 14 year old son (as evidenced by the calls ;))  He spent his first career as a flight attendant, traveling and seeing the world- an experience that creates character and perspective many would be envious of.  He is focused, optimistic, honest and real. I watched people from all ethnic and socio economic backgrounds stop what they were doing to have a world- young and old, Black and White.  He didn’t have an agenda for our conversation past having an honest conversation, which we did.  No topic was off limits and he didn’t shy away from the tough questions- he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s willing to stick his neck out there to ensure the conversations are had and the difficult work is done, and if he came riding in on some moral high horse, I missed the hoof prints.  He has a realistic perspective on what city government should and should not do, and he cares deeply about handling social justice issues across the city responsibly, not conveniently. Totally refreshing.

Should Bobby Forch be chosen to restore the legacy?  The voters will decide.

I’m sure you’ll get it right.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2009 10:39 pm

    I am sure that Mr.Forch is a great candidate for Seattle City Council.I am learning more about him, thank posted this,however we need a little history about Black Men elected to the City Council. Sam Smith Was first Black person elected he served for many years,then Norm Rice was elected and served two terms and the became Mayor of Seattle. Manning elected an resigning was a short sentence in the history of Black people being elected to City Council

  2. The Spook Who Sat By The Door permalink
    August 4, 2009 3:49 am

    I haven’t thought about Sam Smith in years. My family lived on the same block as his in the 70s-80s. As a kid, I didn’t know much about local politics, but I knew enough to realize the significance of him being the first black person on the city council. I also knew that he had a lot of respect within the community. I didn’t know him personally, but he always had a friendly smile and wave when we passed. Looking back, it’s remarkable that he held the position for so long and to my recollection didn’t have any personal or political indiscretions to tarnish his reputation.

    Getting close to the primary – I guess it’s time to start paying more attention to the political junk mail. Oh well, summer had to end sooner or later…

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