April 28, 2007
Charlie Chong

I never knew Charlie Chong. His years on the Council were before I moved here. But the tributes and obituaries make me wish I had gotten to know him:

Chong was rarely reluctant to express those opinions. At a 1994 public meeting in West Seattle on a proposal to concentrate new residents and jobs in 37 "urban villages" across the city, Chong told members of the City Council, "We talk; you don't listen. We listen; you tell us lies." He drew a standing ovation from the opponents of the plan.
Anthony Welcher sent this personal tribute to Chong:
I was Charlie's treasurer as a wee 21 year old in 1997. I am an active Republican and serving in the current administration, but owe a great deal to Charlie's practicality so long ago - at least it feels like it! In some ways he was like a father to me. In 1997, Charlie was there the day my father died. He sat there with me while the police and medics were at the house to ensure that sure I was ok. He always thought about others first. There was something very special about him.

When I was working to learn how to fight what made me feel uncomfortable, Charlie was there to educate me. He believed in representing people. He believed in fiscal responsibility and ensuring that all people's perspectives were heard. I've walked away with those values and have always applied them in every job I've had since.

I hadn't seen Charlie since I moved to DC in early2001. When I was home recently I went by his house in my old neighborhood of West Seattle and knocked - there he was, with the flu in his charming Charlie way saying, don't come in, I don't want to get you sick. Charlie always thought of others first.

He was a good Catholic and a proud member of Holy Rosary. Mary, his wife, is a sweetheart too. His effort to serve the city in retirement was truly a blessing to all Seattleites. We don't always see public servants who believe in the job first and what they can get out of it second. I can't say Seattle would have been substantively different if Charlie had become mayor, but in my heart, I believe we would all be better for it.

He believed in people, in Seattle, and in me. He was an inspiration and tonight I am praying for him, Mary and all those he touched through out his life.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at April 28, 2007 11:02 AM | Email This
Comments
1. Right after contending that Charlie Chong paved the way for the likes of Nick Licata and Peter Steinbrueck, the times obit of Charlie said this:

"Mr. Chong began his political career in 1996, running against a City Hall that some perceived as focused on glitzy downtown projects at the expense of the average citizen."

Mention was made of used snowplows. Charlie was in favor of buying them, but the establishment wasn't. It wanted Cadillacs when Fords would do.

I really wonder what ol' Charlie would have thought of stupid ideas like Greg Nickels' Big Dig Mini-Me Wannabe or the surface street option touted by his putative political heir, Peter Steinbrueck? I know that right after the Nisqually Quake, he was vocal in defense of the viaduct against what he saw was a land grab by developors who sought more dense, high-rise urban village type development, something he fought for years.

Charlie was no conservative; he was an urban populist who argued in favor of and on behalf of neighborhoods and the lunchbucket citizen. He thought city government should fix potholes, not create monuments to its own vanity. My kinda guy!

So, it's mind boggling to hear those who favor that type of development awarded his mantle. Not hardly! Charlie belongs to a former time when political incorrectness was a virtue at City Hall, not a vice.

Charlie represented the type of citizen Seattle is currently doing it's damndest to drive out of town: the middle-class wage earner. Without guys like him, this town will eventually morph into a high rise, urban village...gated community. Charlie and his riff-raff constituents needn't apply.

Posted by: Piper Scott on April 28, 2007 12:25 PM
2. Anybody who is against the Seattle political establishment can't help but love Charlie, as he was independent and didn't care who he pissed off along the way. Seattle's government has been lacking a Chong-like voice of dissent, and I only hope one emerges sooner rather than later. As for Charlie, rest in peace to a fine man.

Posted by: TMW on April 28, 2007 10:26 PM
3. I would have loved to have seen Charlie Chong be elected mayor, when he ran. He was the one glimmer of hope for the government of Seattle. Hopefully, his ideas and character will not be forgotten. May he rest in peace..

Posted by: KS on April 28, 2007 10:58 PM
4. Charlie was a truth teller. He peeled back the bark and that never sits well with people in power - at any level. It was difficult to put him into a category. So much of our political discouse these days is 'what side are you on'..... And that dynamic doesn't really serve anybody at the local level. He asked basic questions.

Urban villages - nice for a conversation in graduate planning class; fine business model for developer proposals - trouble is - nobody wants to really live in them. Charlie called it. When councilmembers evaded truth - he called them on it.

Populism gets a bad rap from elistists in power but nothing beats it at the local level. People are starved for common sense; truth in taxing and sane plans that make the public money spent of value to all.

They broke the mold on him - RIP Charlie Chong

Posted by: streetfighter on April 29, 2007 01:32 PM
5. #1 writes: "I really wonder what ol' Charlie would have thought of stupid ideas like Greg Nickels' Big Dig Mini-Me Wannabe or the surface street option touted by his putative political heir, Peter Steinbrueck?"
++++++++++

You can find some of Charlie's last public writing at his web site,

www.charliechong.com

Follow the "Previous ..." link. Interesting they are about the Viaduct issue.

There were later published letter-to-editor or opinion pieces which we didn't get posted. I took the "porch-front" photo.

I have had the great fortune to know the man since 1994, and supported all his campaigns. I was co-Treasurer on his last campaign for Mayor in 2001.

I have only worked in any official capacity for one other person, who was a candidate, since then (that person won election), which tells you how much I valued Charlie as a person and representative.

Farewell Charlie ... life's much harder without your counsel.

Posted by: FreeRangeAuthor on April 30, 2007 12:27 AM
6. I met Charlie once several years ago. He was a great guy, not afraid to be the lone dissenting voice on anything.

Posted by: Cato on April 30, 2007 10:56 AM
7. I worked with Charlie on the Admiral Community Council in the 90's, shortly after his victorous fight with Mayor Royer over the College Street Ravine. The Ravine, a quiet, peaceful oasis in the middle of the city, is a monument to Charlie's wisdom, vision and feistiness. Charlie, always a gentleman, showed that the average resident could and should become involved in local politics, that working with, and sometimes against, City Hall was part of being a good neighbor.

Posted by: RS on May 3, 2007 12:46 PM
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