Election ’11: Occupy the Ballot
Welcome to the Eat The State! endorsements for the November 8 elections. This year, our local election season has coincided nicely with a national political event of truly promising proportions: the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement that has unfolded in Seattle and nationwide in recent weeks. Many of the same themes that are driving the Occupy movement nationwide also apply here in Seattle and King County.
In Seattle, we just witnessed another sad example of how the power of Big Money can trump the needs and wants of the electorate: the multi-billion-dollar deep-bore tunnel project that was railroaded into reality with minimal input from Seattle citizens and voters. (Never mind the special election on August 16, in which tunnel opponents were outspent during the campaign by tunnel supporters by a massive money margin, and the Powers That Be had already publicly pledged to ignore any “no” vote.)
The tunnel, although a done deal, still casts a long shadow over this year’s local races for public office, especially those for Seattle City Council. All the council incumbents on the November 8 ballot staunchly supported the tunnel, despite considerable opposition from their constituents in the months leading up to the August 16 election. In our opinion, this is one strong reason among many that these incumbents should all lose their jobs this year, to say nothing of those tunnel supporters on council up for re-election in 2013.
On to our endorsements. Our usual caveats, as always, apply: These endorsements represent our shamelessly biased opinion; do your own research; make up your own mind. (Also, as always: we do not make endorsements for uncontested races.) Meanwhile, while Occupy Seattle continues to make its presence felt downtown, we’d like to suggest another way local citizens can aim to reclaim democracy from the power of Big Money: occupy the ballot.
King County Director of Elections: This is a rather uncontroversial race, and thus an easy choice. Incumbent Sherril Huff has shown herself to be competent and highly qualified, and the transition to all-mail voting in King County has been a success under her watch. Opponent Mark Greene has good ideas about how to improve this office, but he’s offered no strong reasons why Huff should be replaced. Sherril Huff.
King County Council, District No. 6: Long-time incumbent Jane Hague has got to go. She’s yet another local career politico (going back as far as her stint as manager of King County Elections from 1986 to 1993) whose only noteworthy civic accomplishments during her recent time in office have been her 2007 DUI arrest (which she tried to cover up) and the accusations against her that same year by the state Public Disclosure Commission of multiple violations of campaign-finance laws.
Her challenger this year, Richard Mitchell, is clearly one of the most outstanding and progressive candidates in this year’s local election season. A lawyer with degrees in architecture and urban planning and an eye for social justice, he’s currently first vice president of the King County Bar Association and a regent of Seattle University.
Among the progressive stances he’s taken publicly, he supported this year’s $20 car-tab fee that was aimed at preventing a drastic 17 percent cut in Metro bus service. He also supports marijuana legalization and marriage equality. Long story short, if elected, he would be a much-needed liberal voice on council for the increasingly liberal Eastside. Richard Mitchell.
King County Council, District No. 8: Incumbent Joe McDermott, a competent though uninspiring Democratic Party insider, is facing a challenge from long-time King County administrator Diana Toledo. Both candidates in this race have strengths, experience and very few obvious minuses. Before his election to council last year, McDermott spent ten years in the state legislature; Toledo has worked for King County for 15 years. McDermott supported the $20 car-tab fee while Toledo opposed it; McDermott supported the deep-bore tunnel while Toledo opposed it. A tough call, so we’re endorsing the incumbent in this case based on his overall performance and lack of major marks against him, tunnel support notwithstanding. Joe McDermott.
Port of Seattle Commissioner, Position No. 2: Here’s another race in which the incumbent deserves re-election, mostly for keeping her promises to rid the Port of Seattle of its infamous closed-door governance practices and to establish monthly meetings for the Port’s audit committee. Gael Tarleton.
Port of Seattle Commissioner, Position No. 5: It’s a longstanding ETS! tradition to advise our readers to skip races in which both candidates are neither outstandingly loathsome nor particularly inspiring. Here’s a perfect example, in which incumbent Bill Bryant is being challenged by Democratic Party activist Dean Willard, a former T-Mobile vice president. Here it is: Skip it.
Seattle City Council, Position No. 1: Ah, Jean Godden.
Okay, okay, okay. In the past, we’ve quite snarkily criticized this noted two-term incumbent before over her policy decisions as well as her lack of qualifications for elected public office beyond her experience as a former gossip columnist for both The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. While we’re now even more frustrated with her record after eight years in office, don’t get us wrong: we do very sincerely admire the knowledge of Seattle history and politics she’s acquired over the years. In fact, we seriously believe she’d make a great popular Seattle historian, to rival the likes of the legendary Emmett Watson. But as an elected official, she, too, simply has got to go–now more than ever.
This year, Godden’s facing a very serious challenge from city transportation manager Bobby Forch, who previously ran for council in 2009. Forch has many progressive strengths, enough that we almost chose to endorse him for the August primary. Among those strengths, he was the first city council candidate this year to talk openly about police accountability, he was critical of Tim Burgess’s draconian anti-panhandling ordinance and, while currently a tunnel supporter (after originally opposing it), he has acknowledged the tunnel’s drawbacks, and thus could be a crucial advocate on council for mitigating those drawbacks as the tunnel project proceeds.
Forch would have been our pick for this position in August had not long-time local transit activist Michael Taylor-Judd also run in the primary. In fact, after his primary defeat, Taylor-Judd immediately endorsed Forch, which makes the latter an even more obvious choice for our endorsement. Bobby Forch.
Seattle City Council, Position No. 3: In 2007, we dismissed Bruce Harrell as a political lightweight whose only apparent appeal to the average Seattle voter was his time spent playing football for the University of Washington Huskies. He’s proven himself to be more substantial in office since then, but his support for the tunnel still trumps his relatively minor accomplishments on council. He has a very formidable and truly progressive challenger in Brad Meacham, a former financial journalist and two-time Municipal League chairman. Meacham not only passionately challenged the tunnel this past year, he made that opposition a key part of his campaign platform.
Aside from his (now apparently moot) opposition to the tunnel, Meacham wants to draft legislation to turn council races from citywide positions to district positions (a longstanding proposal in Seattle politics that would make it easier for candidates to doorbell and fundraise). He also wants to advocate in office for public financing legislation for council races.
Finally, since personality inevitably counts in politics, it’s a plus that Meacham has a gregarious, “plays well with others” demeanor to go along with his consistently progressive politics, a trait that will be crucial in maintaining a strong presence in Seattle’s notoriously passive-aggressive city government. Brad Meacham.
Seattle City Council, Position No. 5: Challenger Dale Pusey is a complete political unknown whose performance at candidate forums has so far been quite unimpressive. But he still makes a worthy protest vote against tunnel-supporting incumbent Tom Rasmussen, whose epic fundraising over the summer was enough to scare the more serious early challenger Sandy Cioffi into dropping out of this race before the primary. Rasmussen’s gotta go, but Big Money clearly wants him re-elected. Dale Pusey.
Seattle City Council, Position No. 7: Incumbent Tim Burgess has a lot of marks against him for progressive Seattle voters besides his support for the tunnel, most notably his sponsoring of last year’s draconian anti-panhandling bill. He faces a credible challenge this year from community activist David Schraer. Among Schraer’s strengths, he supports the recent efforts from City Hall to reduce the impact of car culture in Seattle by making our city more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. David Schraer.
Seattle City Council, Position No. 9: Incumbent Sally Clark’s greatest accomplishment on council so far has been her reputation as a do-nothing doyenne of “Seattle Nice” who has yet to take a significant stand against a misguided majority on the council. She’s also supported the deep-bore tunnel and she voted to pass last year’s anti-panhandling bill. She also had the gall to describe herself as “the leading voice for affordable housing” in her primary voters’ pamphlet statement–a very flimsy claim apparently based on her work with new market rate housing in a new project south of Pioneer Square.
Challenger Dian Ferguson is the former head of local public-access channel SCAN-TV. Personality-wise, she’s the very assertive antithesis of Clark, and she’s spoken openly of her frustration with the “Seattle Way” of perpetual process and indecision. (Full disclosure: ETS! co-editor Geov Parrish is currently involved with Ferguson’s campaign.) Our one caveat against her is her support for the tunnel (on the grounds that even before August it was a done deal; she also stated her preferred option had been a viaduct rebuild). She’d be a vast improvement over Clark, who’s shown no sign after five years on council that she’ll ever grow a political spine. Dian Ferguson.
Seattle School Board
Just as with the Seattle City Council races, here, too, we find a dreadful (albeit well-funded) batch of incumbents worthy of the plankwalk. Steve Sundquist, Peter Maier, Sherry Carr, and Harium Martin-Morris are all noteworthy for having voted for pay raises and repeated contract extensions for disgraced Seattle Public Schools superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, despite the absence of actual positive results from her “Strategic Plan for Excellence,” a major contracting scandal within SPS, and a damning state audit earlier this year. Bad incumbent, no endorsement.
Director, District No. 1 (North Seattle): In addition to his uncritical support for Goodloe-Johnson, Peter Maier said and did nothing after finding out about the misuse of $1.8 million in school funds, which resulted in a major contracting scandal within the school district and led to Goodloe-Johnson’s firing. Sharon Peaslee, a parent of two SPS students, is the only candidate in any of the school board races this year with a reasonable, detailed agenda for what she wants to accomplish. Sharon Peaslee.
Director, District No. 2 (Green Lake): Challenger Kate Martin, much like Sharon Peaslee, has very clear ideas (if not a detailed agenda) for what she’d do if elected. Kate Martin.
Director, District No. 3 (Northeast Seattle, U District, North Capitol Hill): Michelle Buetow has very personal reasons for wanting to reform SPS by joining the school board: she’s also a parent of two SPS students who’s had a long involvement in activism aimed at improving specific SPS policies. Michelle Buetow.
Director, District No. 6 (West Seattle): Like our other school board endorsements, Marty McLaren has very clear and specific ideas about what she’d do if elected. Marty McLaren.
State of Washington
Initiative Measure No. 1125: This is a tricky one. Co-sponsored by the infamous Tim Eyman and Bellevue businessman (and local political power-player) Kemper Freeman, I-1125 would place serious restrictions on road and bridge tolling, including an outright ban on variable-rate tolling. Its worst drawback is that it would effectively derail plans to build light rail across I-90. Its only possible appeal for us lies in its potential to halt the deep-bore tunnel project. Nevertheless, that’s a remote possibility far outweighed by its potential negative impacts on infrastructure improvement plans elsewhere across the state. No on I-1125.
Initiative Measure No. 1163: This measure is identical to I-1029, which was passed by voters in 2008 and mandated specific training and certification requirements for home health care workers. The legislature overturned that measure due to the state budget crisis that emerged soon after its passage. I-1163′s intentions are good, but it’s essentially unfunded: the additional training and background checks it requires would cost taxpayers $80 million over the next two years–a costly proposal while the state budget crisis continues. No on I-1163.
Initiative Measure No. 1183: This measure is yet another attempt by Costco and other big-box retailers to privatize hard-liquor sales in Washington state while also potentially dominating that market. It would close all state-run liquor stores and allow grocery stores over 10,000 square feet in size to sell hard liquor. The resounding defeat of both of last year’s competing pro-privatization initiatives should have demonstrated that privatization of alcohol is something desired mostly by Costco–not by state voters, who have more important things to worry about than the relative inconvenience of buying their booze at a state-run store. No on I-1183.
Senate Joint Resolution No. 8205 & No. 8026: These two measures concern harmless “housekeeping” amendments to the Washington State Constitution. The first concerns the length of time a voter must reside in Washington to vote for the U.S. president and vice-president. The second concerns the stabilization of the state’s “rainy day” fund. Yes on both.
City of Seattle
Proposition No. 1: This is yet another renewal of the Seattle school levy. The levy has been criticized in recent years over how the funds have been misspent, but that’s largely been the fault of bad decisions by the Seattle School Board, and that’s a problem better solved by voting out bad incumbents on the board–not by denying always-needed funding to the school district. Yes on Prop. 1.
Seattle Transportation Benefit District, Proposition No. 1: This is the $60 car-tab fee that, if this measure is approved, Seattle residents will pay in addition to the $20 car-tab fee approved by the King County Council this past August. It will fund transportation improvements within the city including pothole repairs, new sidewalks, and increased pedestrian safety measures. While some have accused this measure of being a regressive burden on Seattle’s poor commuters, we feel it’s a necessary step toward making Seattle less car-dependent and more transit- and pedestrian-friendly. Yes on the $60 car-tab fee. –Jeff Stevens