Nazir Harb Michel’s drive to get into public service started in 2015, when Donald Trump announced that he was running for the presidency.
Harb Michel is half-Mexican, half-Lebanese, and a practicing Muslim. The Trump campaign called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and promoted Islamophobic ideas and policies, so Harb Michel felt the need to stand up for his community and push back against this hate. He did this by studying Islamophobia and linguistics at Georgetown University for his doctorate. He also has a masters in public affairs from Princeton University and a second masters in political science from Georgetown.
Now, Harb Michel is running for city council in hopes of making Sammamish a safer and more welcoming community to those who are different, especially as the city has become more ethnically diverse over the last two decades. He wants to help build a community where everyone can feel like their voice is heard and learn from each other’s diverse backgrounds.
“I know I am different in many ways,” Harb Michel said. “I’m not retired. I’m not wealthy. I have three young kids in school. I’m not sure that is the case for many of the members of city council. I think the differences that I represent are healthy differences, and I think that it would make me better to empathize with most of the people who live and work here.”
After the 2016 election, Harb Michel finished up his post-doctorate and moved back to Washington with his family. Since then, he has been working as a senior researcher at Remitly, a company that aids immigrant communities with financial tools. During the 2020 election, he actively participated in phone banking for Joe Biden. Harb Michel is currently serving on the 41st Legislative District Democrats executive committee and is a representative of the King County Democrats.
He believes there are a lot of big issues facing Sammamish, and things that need to be fixed.
One issue that Harb Michel plans to focus on is transparency between city council and the community. He thinks the current city council has not made it easy for members of the community to attend meetings and has made a lot of decisions without the public’s input.
“We need to be transparent. We need to be fiscally responsible. We need to make decisions that are strictly based on facts, and I don’t think that’s what is happening at the moment,” Harb Michel said.
He is also passionate about building relationships between people in the community. These plans include partnering with the Central Washington University satellite campus to lend classroom space to members of the community who want to teach free classes about their culture, languages and history.
Affordable housing is also a big priority for Harb Michel. He believes that with affordable housing, neighborhoods and community members will be able to better connect. While he does not have specific housing plans in mind, Harb Michel wants “the city council to make decisions based on data and to follow the county and state guidelines with respect to growth and development.”
“It makes no sense to me that the people who work in our grocery shops, the mailman, and the police can’t afford to live here,” said Harb Michel.
He points out that the current city council has placed and repealed a number of moratoriums on construction — a dynamic that is at odds with the state’s Growth Management Act.
“City council should be a really simple thing. It’s a place where people who care about the city should be able to get together and are in conversation with the residents of our city,” Harb Michel said. “I don’t think that is what’s happening. I would hopefully bring back a sense of normal decency and good working relationships in city council.”
Nazir Harb Michel is running for Sammamish City Council, Position 3, against Mayor Karen Moran. The Sammamish Independent reached out to Mayor Moran multiple times for an interview as part of our candidate profile series, and received no response.