[Editor's note: Over 47 years, the Seattle Gay News has covered thousands of stories that still resonate today. This week we look back at two of them, one from February 2006 and the other from February 2011. We also offer updates on each story.]
by [Renee] Raketty -
SGN Staff Writer
Sally Clark, the third Lesbian to serve on the Seattle City Council, was sworn in by her partner of nine years, Liz Ford, during a special ceremony on Monday, February 6. Clark wasted no time in laying out her agenda, which she called "a contract between myself and the people of Seattle."
She pledged to be the "most ardent advocate" for neighborhoods. "I will be out of the office and in the neighborhoods working and listening," said Clark.
As the chair of the Neighborhoods and Economic Development Committee, she said she will "push for living wage jobs" in Seattle. "Our communities need jobs that allow people to buy groceries, pay their rent, clothe their kids, and go to the doctor when they need to."
Clark hopes to "decrease disparities in learning" and put forward "proposals to increase the workload" of women- and minority-owned businesses, because the city is "failing to meet our rhetoric in this area," she said.
Clark also acknowledged the arduous and fast passed process, which began with over a hundred applicants seeking to fill the City Council position vacated by Jim Compton. The multilayered selection process took less than a month and resulted in Clark's selection-to the pleasant surprise of many.
"I stand before you now-as one of you have described-as the Council 'survivor.' While I was made a little uneasy about that analogy, I wish that with this appointment came immunity in the next election," Clark joked.
Clark's 11-month Council term will require her to seek election next fall and then again in 2007 before she can receive a full four-year term. Tom Rasmussen, the city's first openly Gay male councilmember, said Clark will have little time to worry about her reelection.
"We have a lot of work to do, and Sally is going to be a great member of the team," he said. "I am confident that when the people of Seattle get to know Sally, they are going to be really happy with the person we selected for the Council."
In addition to her position as the chair of the Neighborhoods and Economic Development Committee, Clark will be the vice-chair of the Housing, Human Services, and Health Committee.
Rasmussen, who chairs the Housing, Human Services, and Health Committee, said he looks forward to working with her to reduce the incidents of new HIV/AIDS infections, an area in which Clark has some expertise. Before coming to the Council, she had worked for the Chicken Soup Brigade (1994-1997)-which supplied meals to people living with HIV/AIDS-and, more recently, as the community resources director at Lifelong AIDS Alliance (2004-2006).
Clark was appointed on January 27, the same day the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill passed the Senate. The bill prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also passed away only a couple of days after Clark took office. She said the two events reminded her of the power of an individual to "make a difference in our communities and in the world."
"Passage of this bill marked a culmination of 30 years of work, much of if it championed by the late Cal Anderson, who died of AIDS-related cancer in 1995. Cal worked for the Seattle City Council before his election to the state legislature," she said. "As a young activist, I had the privilege of watching and helping Cal's work. He was a relentless pursuer of civil rights protections, but he was also simply an active, brilliant, and good-humored politician. And I will think of his legacy as I work in communities all over Washington to defeat a referendum and initiative put forward by Tim Eyman to repeal the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill this fall."
About King's passing, she said, "I am one of a growing number of Seattleites who have no personal memories of Dr. King. I was two years old when he was slain, and while I am inspired by the work and legacy of Dr. King, it was Mrs. King who I actually watched. Mrs. King carried her husband's legacy forward, and she recognized the ongoing struggle for equal treatment under the law, and she made Gay and Lesbian equality part of her work. She went so far as to support equal marriage in 2004. Mrs. King's death has called all of us to move forward-not only her husband's legacy but also her own.
"We must recognize that too many in our communities still experience discrimination."
Former Councilmember Sherry Harris became the nation's first openly Gay African-American woman elected to office in 1991 when she won a seat on the Seattle City Council. In 1995, Tina Podlodowski became the second Lesbian to be elected to the City Council. Clark, who follows in their footsteps, had worked as an aide to Podlodowski from 1997 to 1999 and again worked with Podlodowski at Lifelong AIDS Alliance, when Podlodowski became executive director.
"I just think it is a great day for the citizens of Seattle. Sally is just a terrific advocate for everyone in the City," said Podlodowski. "It is especially nice to have an openly Lesbian elected official in the state of Washington again, given everything that has happened with the passage of House Bill 2661. I think she is the only one right now."
On Monday, Clark publicly thanked Podlodowski. "I really appreciated working with you here at the City Council and also at Lifelong AIDS Alliance. I tremendously value your friendship and support," she said.
Clark also worked for King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson in 2004 and as the neighborhood development manager for southeast Seattle from 1999 to 2002. In the early 90's, Clark was the editor of the Lesbian Resource Center News (1991-1993) and the Seattle Gay News (1993-1994).
UPDATE: Sally Clark (the SGN editor in the early 1990s) served nine years as a Seattle City Councilmember before resigning in 2015 to take the position of director of regional and community relations at her alma mater, the University of Washington. Clark was the last LGBTQ member to serve on the Council.