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Friday, August 17, 2007

Notes from Last Night’s City Council Candidate Debate

posted by on August 17 at 15:39 PM

In a rare one-on-one debate last night between City Council incumbent David Della and challenger Tim Burgess, held at the Calvary Church at 70th and NW 23rd in Ballard, Burgess said something I haven’t heard many candidates dare to say: He thought the recent police accountability scandal showed that our system works. I’ve been saying the same thing—and nobody seems to agree—so Burgess’s response jumped out at me.

After the debate (more city candidates should do one-on-ones, by the way … good on the 36th District Democrats, who hosted), I asked Burgess to explain what he meant. “The [job of the] OPA is to be the civilian eyes on the police department and on allegations of misconduct,” he said. “And the [OPA] review board wrote a report. And it was made public. That’s a good thing. In that sense, the controversy about how discipline is handled by the chief came to light. From my perspective that is an indication, at least at that level, the system of civilian oversight is working. Beyond that the question becomes how can we make it better. How do we introduce measures for more transparency and more accountability? Those are legitimate questions.”

So, does Burgess support the idea that City Council should have reconfirmation authority over the chief? Burgess said he did not. “I’m leery of that,” he said. “I’m leery of making it political.”

Isn’t the mayor’s solo authority also politicized—which explains why the mayor isn’t getting tough with the chief? Burgess nodded, but said that with nine council members it would be worse. “Public officeholders have multiple agendas,” he said. He was suspicious that their decision making process about the chief would be “less than objective and independent.”

So, what does Burgess recommend? First, he says the council should require the chief to document his conclusions and findings on OPA investigations (such as when he overturns them.)

Burgess also says the council already has the authority to make the chief come before the council to answer questions about things like how he’s administering discipline. I told Burgess that in fact, Council Members Nick Licata and Burgess’s opponent David Della have asked the chief to do just that, and the chief has been vague about his commitment to appear (says he has to check to see if that was kosher with the union.) Burgess said, “Well, he should [meet with council],” and added that the council also has subpoena power and could use it to call the chief before them if he refuses to do so voluntarily.

“The city charter grants council subpoena power,” he says. “It’s rarely used and I’m not suggesting it needs to be, but that authority is there.”

Burgess himself was a police officer from 1971 to 1978.

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Della's ads claiming he reduced electricity costs after refusing the city light committee after beating Wills by running the rate hike heidi campaign make him the lowest, slimiest of all local pols.

Posted by whatever | August 17, 2007 3:48 PM

I've endorsed Tim Burgess for reasons that have to do with Burgess' qualifications for service on the council, as well as what I view as Della's demonstrated shortcomings in his single term. While I won't join whatever@1 in labeling Della as the lowest and slimiest of all local pols, I do want to say this: David Della, his consultant Michael Grossman, and Della's supporters should immediately cease and desist from their false, misleading, and cowardly whispering campaign designed to dupe LGBT Seattleites and those who care about LGBT issues into believing that Tim Burgess is somehow a supporter of the religious right, or that Burgess does not support equal marriage rights for LGBT citizens. In my mind, there is very little distinction - ethically - between using falsehoods to rile up rednecks about gay issues in political campaigns, and using falsehoods to rile up gay voters about gay issues in political campaigns. Della and Grossman are engaging in the latter; shame on them. I call on them to stop.

P.S. I am not posting on behalf of Tim Burgess or with his knowledge.

Posted by Jeff Albertson | August 17, 2007 4:20 PM

OK name one that's worse! :)

Posted by whatever | August 17, 2007 5:45 PM

David Della's an ineffectual hypocrite whom I cannot support, so I've been taking a look at what Tim Burgess has to say.

I sent Burgess an e-mail asking him about to explain something he had written in that Times article that Della's people have been circulating. This is the part of the Burgess piece that worried me:

"Admittedly, we struggle with a lot of pressing issues. We don't like abortion. We value the sacredness of marriage between a woman and man. We recognize that not everyone agrees with us and we know the law isn't a good mechanism to resolve these issues, but moral persuasion is."

In his quick e-mail response (in which he included his personal cell phone number in case I wanted further clarification on his positions), he said:

"I have strong support in the LGBT community—Tina Podlodowski, Rep. Joe McDermott, Tim Bradbury, and others. I support marriage equality. I’m also proud of the women in leadership who are working hard for my campaign. I would never deny a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions and I am pro-choice. All of these folks know me; they know my heart and my values. They know where I stand and they are standing with me."

So he does support gay rights and abortion rights. Plus, he seems smart, likable, and pro-green. I'm thinking we should give the guy a chance. Della's had his chance, and he blew it.

Posted by JvA from Beacon Hill | August 17, 2007 5:56 PM

Our police accountability system is broken. It could work, maybe, with better leadership from the Chief and Mayor. But since they seem incapable of disciplining officers who violate citizens' civil rights, or even explaining to the public why maintaining a credible professional police force requires such a thing, the City Council absolutely needs to step up on this issue.

Burgess's comments show he won't do that. He sees no problem and no reason for City Council leadership right now.

Say what you will about Della, but at least he's had the courage of late to say there's a problem with how the Chief and OPA have been handling cases like those of George Patterson's and Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes. The issue isn't whether or not the Chief reports to the Council every four years. It's the fact that the Chief has allowed his own officers to lie and use unnecessary force with impunity!

Posted by Trevor | August 17, 2007 10:54 PM

@4, I dig what you're saying, but I'm confused about Tim: Why did he imply that religious people are anti-abortion and anti-gay (which I don't even think is really true, despite what Fox News wants us to think) and then turn around and say he's pro-choice?

I'm not crazy about Della's record, but I'm concerned about Tim's "all things to all people" routine. What's a voter to do?

Posted by question | August 18, 2007 12:14 AM

Note the IMPERIAL we ... in the Burgess blah blah.


Just how fucking right wing and fucking anti gay do you have to get ...

And the smarty pants gay folk call Della an asshole ... yeah, the progressive Asian guy who has supported gay marriage his whole public career.

I don't vote for ex cops, either. As a rule they have lost their perspective and touch for real people.

Norm Stamper would have been an exception.

Going to vote for Della, he is not a hipster, plain spoken and practical, but, a long time advocate against discrimination and for full equal rights.

Interesting that the Alki Foundation (Downtown Chamber people) endorsed him, Della ... you would think slick ex-copper was their type, much more downtown.

Go Dave.

(PS whatever is obviously a campaign worker for Burgess, or his wife)

Posted by Andrezel | August 18, 2007 4:35 AM

@6. I understand and share your concern. It does he -- like many other politicians -- is trying to be all things to all people.

In that column he uses squishy, fence-sitting phrases like like "We don't like abortion" (who does?) and "we're conflicted about capital punishment."

Here's the full text of his reply to my e-mail about this column (in which I only asked about abortion and marriage rights):

"I have received many questions about this column and I’m pleased to respond. The column was a plea for my party, the Democratic Party, to welcome people of faith. Some use this column to suggest that I’m unworthy of holding office in Seattle. The implication they draw is that I’m anti-gay rights or anti-choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wrote this column using the collective 'we,' however we all know that people’s beliefs vary on an individual basis, just as they do within my political circle of friends. In describing people of faith from my tradition, I have written of their theological and cultural beliefs—their opposition to social and economic injustice, their deep questions and concerns over capital punishment, their desire for racial reconciliation, their love of our country but trouble with our foreign policy, etc. I’ve also tried to write about their misgivings about gay marriage and abortion. Nothing in this column advocated specific public policy positions; in fact, I have argued that we can welcome these folks without compromising our own values or principles. My political party needs to embrace people of faith in order to win the White House next year; Senators Edwards, Clinton, and Obama keenly know this which is why they talk regularly about their own personal faith. I believe we need them here in Washington State, too, to help re-elect the governor. I have also written and spoken out quite forcefully against the extreme leadership of the religious right. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell don’t speak for most of us in the faith community, not by a long shot. But the stereotypical snapshot they have created certainly hasn’t helped foster dialog or engagement. I have strong support in the LGBT community—Tina Podlodowski, Rep. Joe McDermott, Tim Bradbury, and others. I support marriage equality. I’m also proud of the women in leadership who are working hard for my campaign. I would never deny a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions and I am pro-choice. All of these folks know me; they know my heart and my values. They know where I stand and they are standing with me."

Della's not exactly clear on all his issues, either. In his campaign material, he continually crows about his poverty-stricken childhood, his church-donated Thanksgiving turkeys, how it's a "long way from Beacon Hill to City Hall," how he used to have to ride the bus, etc. He also stresses that he's received a larger number of donations than any other council candidate (, claiming that he "has always relied on small contributors to help support his campaign because it reflects the kind of community he wants."

In his blog, I tried to ask him if his acceptance of maximum contributions from the president and director of predatory-lending outfit MoneyTree also reflects the kind of community he wants, but he's ignored the question for weeks now (and he has my e-mail address, so he could have replied privately). In contrast, Tim Burgess replied to me at length within 24 hours to four not-altogether-polite questions I asked, and sent me his personal cell phone number as well if I wanted to hear more.

I've also heard that Della was unresponsive (to the point of being rude) to some of my Beacon Hill neighbors when they met with him about Jefferson Park, our continually beleaguered Olmsted park. And that just sucks. It's a pain in the ass to try to set up a meeting with a city councilmember; the least they could do when you get there is act like they give a shit, you know?

Anyway, if you're having a hard time deciding who to support in this race and you want more details about Burgess's position on something, you could try e-mailing him about it. You might not get the response you're looking for, but you probably will at least get a response.

Posted by JvA | August 18, 2007 7:27 AM


Della is portrayed as not too bright, I do not agree.

Then, Burgess cites Jerry Falwell in a recent personal post, who is dead.

Duh, what say you Josh and Dan? Such a bright citation.

As far a religion goes - read between the lines. Unless he goes to MCC or is a Unitarian, I have NO trust.

Another little picky issue - Burgess took 300,000. from Concerned Women of America for political work in a business deal.

Yuk, would not do business with them if I had to get food stamps to survive.

Posted by JAMIE | August 18, 2007 2:24 PM

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