Councilmember O'Brien left office on December 31, 2019. This website is for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

John T Williams Memorial Totem Pole


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Yesterday I participated in the ceremonial raising of the John T Williams Memorial Totem Pole at Seattle Center.

It was incredible to see how the raising of this totem pole brought so many communities together. From my spot on the stage, I could see people from Seattle’s native community, homeless community and friends and loved ones of John T Williams. I could see representatives from businesses that have been instrumental in providing support and funds for this important project. I could also see representatives from our Seattle Police Department, from Seattle Center, from our Parks Department. Of course, there were elected officials there, too, including myself, Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and Mayor Mike McGinn.

It was a moving sight from where I sat on stage. I hope we recognize this event as opportunity to lay the foundation for greater collaboration. Tackling some of our city’s greatest challenges around public safety, social services, equity and justice requires relationship building, community building and partnership. It’s through partnership and working together that we will make our streets safer and ensure everyone has a roof over their head at night.

Collaboration is evident in this pole.  It is inspiring to see how two years ago, Rick and the Williams family along with their friends and supporters went from a vision of this pole, to publicly carving it on the waterfront, to marching with almost 100 people from Pier 57 to Seattle Center, to raising the pole in honor of John T Williams. The entire totem pole project is an example of how greatness can come from tragedy when we come together in tough times around shared values and vision.

The sad reality is we cannot bring John T Williams back, but the pole will serve to remind us of the power of unity in bringing about a safer Seattle. The pole will also serve as an important preservation of Seattle’s history and an acknowledgement of the city’s first people who have lived here on this land for thousands of years.

It was an honor to share in the ceremony and celebration yesterday, and I look forward to working with the communities that came together for the event over the coming years so we can live up to the vision of peace and justice that this pole represents.

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