Ambition Is Bullshit

John Roderick wants to be your Seattle Claus. Beware of his nascent municipal ambition.
John Roderick wants to be your Seattle Claus. Beware of his nascent municipal ambition.

Is John Roderick serious?

Given the fact that the Seattle-based musician and erstwhile recording artist has now officially filed his candidacy for Seattle City Council, one should hope he’s now serious about municipal government, if not musical subculture.

Among a significant segment of Seattleites — namely, those of us who can honestly claim that punk rock music and culture genuinely saved our lives — Roderick is primarily known locally as the dude who once brazenly and publicly claimed that “Punk Rock is Bullshit.”

When Roderick published that ultimate hipster gambit in March 2013 as a Seattle Weekly cover feature article, he apparently thought he was being officially Smarter Than Us. Now Roderick is officially running for Seattle City Council — specifically, for the at-large Position 8.

Which conjures another crucial question: Is John Roderick’s council candidacy motivated by genuine concern for Seattle’s civic future — or by his own personal ambition?

When Roderick first announced his candidacy on April 5, he provided the local press with an introductory interview in which he revealed a campaign platform abundant with general policy proposals clearly designed to appeal to classically progressive Seattle voters. Unfortunately, that interview was also pungent with suspiciously purple prose. Exemplifying Roderick’s flowery municipal vision was the following choice rhetorical nugget:

“A nascent urbanist supercity is right behind the gauze, and we just need to pull the curtain back.”

Such rancid rhetoric reminds this local pundit pungently of the “world-class city” visions of Seattle City Councilcritters of recent years — such as now-toxic tunnel-supporting folks like Jean Godden, Tom Rasmussen, and Sally Clark. More recently, at a Position 8 candidates’ forum in Georgetown on May 14, Roderick revealed something rather significant while answering a random question from the audience: he supports yet another corporate welfare sports stadium in Seattle. Caveat emptor, indeed.

Who’s Roderick running against? First and foremost, he’s challenging the supremely execrable incumbent Tim Burgess, who’s long been notorious among local social justice activists as the most conservative current council member and a frequent friend of all things upscale — and thus a frequent enemy of local economic justice.

A much more serious and substantial candidate in the Position 8 race is Jon Grant, the former executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State. In lieu of utopian purpleist platitudes, Grant has made Seattle’s current housing affordability crisis the centerpiece of his platform and campaign. Also running is John Persak, a longtime longshoreman and local labor activist whose progressive credibility almost approaches Grant’s.

As for Citizen Roderick: Obviously, I’m skeptical. Were he to compose and publish an official position paper titled “Gentrification Is Bullshit” which explained in specific detail what he would do to fight gentrification, displacement, and economic injustice in Seattle if elected, this local pundit might be more inclined to take Roderick’s council candidacy more seriously.

Until then, Seattle remains mired in a classist crisis that demands a deeply informed civic solution — and urbanist hipster ambition can wait.

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