"Two island natives, many different viewsHouston Wade charts a course of political activism. "
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:57 PM
"It was a stop sign that got Houston Wade going down the road towards a city council race.Specifically, it was the stop signs that the city put on Wyatt Way at the intersection with Grow Avenue, where Wade lives.The city is slowing down traffic in the wrong spots, he said. Wyatt is a major arterial between the ferry and the south end of the island. Why stop traffic there, when there's never anybody on Grow?Wade began to ask himself who was making decisions for the island. The answer to that question, plus a strong interest in politics, propelled the young islander to run for the central area city council seat being vacated by Merrill Robison.I'm fascinated by government and the way it works at all levels - local, national and international. It all connects, he said.The 20-year-old Wade has lived on the island virtually his whole life. He graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1999, then went to California for college.But while taking a year off to earn his California residency, he had a bicycle accident, and had to come back home to recover.He went to Olympic College, took computer classes, then went out to seek his fortune in the high-tech world just in time for that to collapse. He currently works as a barista at the Town & Country espresso stand, and takes classes at Seattle Central Community College.Wade is skeptical about the roundabout planned for the intersection of Madison Avenue and High School Road, fearing that it would endanger pedestrians. He questions both the need and the process by which the decision was made.I walked through that intersection every day for 10 years and never felt unsafe, he said. And the vast majority of the island was against it. We need to utilize input from the community in a more effective way.He generally favors preserving farmland where possible, but is less convinced of the need for more active recreation space, saying he thinks the island has enough baseball fields. He was not aware of the proposed bond issue to buy land for open space, and expressed no opinion on its merits.Tough fixesWade admits that most of the island's problems defy easy solution.For example, he is concerned that the spread of sewer systems will promote large-scale development, which he terms bad for the island. But he also thinks sewers do a better job than septic systems from an environmental perspective, and thinks that at some future time, sewers will be needed everywhere on the island.He has few specific ideas on how to provide more affordable housing on the island, saying that property values will continue to rise because of the island's desirability.It's a nice quiet neighborhood basically within walking distance of downtown Seattle, he said. The only way property values would go down is if the ferry system were eliminated.In his spare time, Wade contributes to Internet political sites. His most recent piece dealt with how oil-industry lobbyists managed to secure a significant tax break for the industry at a time of record profitability.He worries about the connection between campaign contributions and political favors, even at the local level.If somebody contributes $100 to my campaign, it will be hard to tell them later on that I can't do what they ask, he said.He realizes that his opponents will be better funded.I'm up against two guys with a lot of money and I'm a poor college student, he said. One of my opponents - Bill Knobloch - said he expects to raise and spend more than $3,500 on his campaign. That's mind-boggling - I won't come close.Wade thinks he can overcome some of that money gap through personal contacts.Where I work, I see half the people on the island, he said. And since I've lived here all my life, I have friends, and friends of friends, so I think I have a chance.Wade realizes that his youth separates him from his opponents, but he sees it as a potential advantage.I'm younger and have less experience, but I'm more energetic and have my whole life ahead, he said. I'm excited. "