Our Public Policy team works with elected officials across Western Washington at the local, state, and national level. We hope this series helps you get better acquainted with the elected officials working to stop hunger. Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to our Advocacy Alerts and stay up to date on the latest hunger research and policy.
SPOTLIGHT: COUNCILMAN O’BRIEN
Born and raised in Seattle, Mike O’Brien has a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of the Puget Sound and values the city’s progressive values and spirit of independence. Before running for office, O’Brien was as a community activist organizing with the Sierra Club, where he has volunteered for nine years and served as the chair of the Washington State chapter. After seeing how change could be made from the outside, he decided that he wanted to start making changes from the inside so he ran for the Seattle City Council and was elected in 2009. Representing Seattle’s 6th district, which stretches from Green Lake to Golden Gardens, O’Brien says, “I wanted to make sure citizens’ voices could be heard. I knew that by empowering community expertise I could be part of real social change.”
Councilman O’Brien says that since serving on the Seattle City Council, he has “come to recognize what an amazing group of people we have in our city,” but that “unfortunately, not everyone has access to the same opportunities and as a city we are not reaching our full potential until everyone has access to equal opportunities.” While Councilman O’Brien came to office with an environmental focus, he says his priorities have shifted and now include affordable housing, homelessness, and transportation. Councilman O’Brien believes that all of these things intersect with hunger, from climate change impacting the food supply to economic inequalities and homelessness limiting access to adequate nutrition.
In fact, Councilman O’Brien believes that the biggest challenge in addressing hunger in Seattle is income inequality. “It is distressing that as a city this wealthy we cannot feed everyone,” says O’Brien. He believes that the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour and more affordable housing units would help combat poverty and hunger in the city. O’Brien says, “When people have a living wage, people have financial access to food,” adding, “Robust housing policies and continued economic work will certainly address the poverty and hunger that too many of the citizens of Seattle are facing.”
Before serving on the Seattle City Council, O’Brien worked in financial management, serving for 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer at the local law firm of Stokes Lawrence. Councilman O’Brien lives with his wife, two sons, and chickens in Fremont.