City Up in the 43rd
posted by June 20 at 14:30 PMon
I spent the better part of yesterday’s golden after-work hours in a dusty room at the gorgeous University Heights Community Center (formerly an elementary school) listening to candidates for the Port Commission and City Council (sorry, school board candidates) talk about why they deserve the endorsement of the 43rd District Democrats. Here are some highlights from the most competitive race, the one for the open seat being vacated by Peter Steinbrueck.
• Most focused platform: Scott Feldman, who appears to be running on two issues, and two issues only. He supports a surface-transit solution for the viaduct, and he wants to keep the Sonics in Seattle. “We can keep the Sonics here with a public-private partnership to generate revenue for Seattle.” Hmm, subsidize the Sonics with public money-wonder why no one’s thought of that?
• Most quotable candidate: Oddball ex-professor Al Runte (who previously ran for mayor). On developers: “The most wealthy aren’t paying their fair share, and I’m going to go down to see those people in their offices downtown with billions of dollars in their pockets, and I’m going to make them pay their fair share. I’m a Hubert Humphrey Democrat. I believe in taking from the rich and giving to the poor. I really believe that.” On the viaduct: “Who here has seen the Golden Gate Bridge? Why didn’t we, the people of Seattle, go to the best designers in the world and say, build us the most beautiful [elevated] solution imaginable? The Seattle City Council has authorized another $8 million for a study by a bunch of corporate folks who will probably just come back with eight more plans.”
• Weirdest rhetorical tic: Bruce Harrell, who consistently referred to himself in the third person. “Six years ago, six women came to my office in tears. They said they weren’t being treated fairly, weren’t getting paid as much as men. They came to Bruce Harrell to help them. And I got them a $65 million settlement for all women across America in that situation. That’s what Bruce Harrell does. He gets things done.”
• Best ideas, most disappointingly phrased: Venus Velazquez, who voiced support for making Third Avenue bus-only through downtown 24 hours a day and making it easier for single-family homeowners to build cottage housing on their property. Unfortunately, Velazquez couched both ideas in terms appealing to anti-density, anti-transit sensibilities. “Not mass transit, bus rapid transit,” Velazquez said, then repeated “bus rapid transit” three times. “We can get people out of their cars slowly.” On cottage housing, Velazquez noted that it would serve “families and the elderly” and preserve single-family neighborhoods by “not building up”—code for “don’t worry, no apartments.” Both are good ideas—-buses run more smoothly when they have dedicated lanes, and cottage housing is a good way to add density to single-family neighborhoods—but I wish Velazquez was a little more unabashedly pro-density and pro-rapid transit; cottages and buses are interim solutions, not the solutions, to our housing and transit problems.
• Notable no-show: John Manning.
• Notable change: Three of four candidates present voiced at least tentative support for surface/transit (with Harrell’s support the shakiest; he wants to look at new tunnel-boring technologies), a marked change from the last council elections, when virtually every candidate supported digging a tunnel.
Two further things that occurred to me while sitting through this, my millionth council candidate forum:
• “I grew up in Seattle” is not a legitimate reason to run for public office. You need to have ideas and an agenda beyond your “love for this beautiful city.” There are plenty of issues out there. Really. Go learn about some of them before you run.
• People should only be allowed to run for office in the city a certain number of times—say, five—before they have to start paying increasingly prohibitive fees. I’m not paying taxes so that you can work our your mental-health issues in public. If the people say no five times, let’s assume the people have spoken, shall we?