[media-credit name=”Jorge2015″ align=”alignnone” width=”930″][/media-credit]Welcome to The Seattle Star‘s endorsements for the November 3 Seattle City Council general elections. Ballots will arrive in your mailboxes this week, signaling the countdown to Election Day. Our endorsements for the Seattle School Board, Port Commissioners, and other local ballot items will follow later this week.
For Seattle voters, the most important choices on the November ballot this year will be the city council races. Given the advent of districting, these races will be the most potentially game-changing in Seattle city politics and government in many, many years — and thus it’s well worth your time to start researching the candidates now.
Seattle’s current housing affordability crisis looms large indeed over these elections — and thus our endorsements have been largely determined by the candidates’ positions on that critical civic issue. Among the hot local topics this year related to that crisis are linkage fees and inclusionary zoning, which are both intended to make real-estate developers provide affordable housing by requiring them to either designate a portion of new units as affordable or contribute to the city’s affordable housing fund. Some current council candidates support these policies, while others don’t — and there lies a world of civic difference among this year’s candidates.
Most importantly, with several outstanding candidates, this year’s city council elections promise to finally bring what Seattle’s been absurdly lacking for several election cycles now: a progressive council for a progressive city.
On to our endorsements. Remember: these endorsements are inevitably subjective. Do your own research, make up your own mind, cast your own ballot.
District 1 West Seattle, Delridge, South Park
District 2 Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Rainier Valley
This race presents the most obvious choice for progressive Seattle voters this year. Lisa Herbold is the legislative aide to departing council member Nick Licata, and she has held that position since 1998. Suffice to say she knows a thing or two about how Seattle’s city government actually works — and her politics are as solidly progressive as those of her longtime boss and mentor. According to Licata, “Lisa Herbold is the most qualified candidate that I could imagine — few know how important she has been to Seattle and its residents since 1998.”
Along with Herbold’s peerless legislative experience in Seattle City Hall, she’s been a resident of Highland Park for 15 years, and therefore knows District 1 as well as she knows Seattle city politics and government. Yes, affordable housing will be among her top priorities as a council member, and yes, she strongly deserves your vote.
District 2 is Seattle’s only majority-minority district, which means that 70 percent of its residents are non-white — and many are also members of Seattle’s underclass, since many of them earn less than $25,000 a year. While incumbent Bruce Harrell has done well representing people of color on the council, recent events demonstrate that he still needs a genuine electoral challenge. Tammy Morales, a Latina, is a longtime District 2 resident and community activist who’s now ready for the big-city demands of Seattle City Hall.
Among her priorities on the council will be increasing community policing and police accountability, a profoundly volatile topic for District 4, where people of color have long borne the brunt of the Seattle Police Department’s infamous dysfunctionality. Morales is also a sustainable food activist, which bodes well for Beacon Hill’s potential to become a national neighborhood leader in the urban farming movement, given the recent establishment of the Beacon Hill Food Forest.
Among Harrell’s liabilities, as with certain other current council candidates, is his financial support from certain prominent developers and landlords — such as Carl Haglund, the notorious South Seattle slumlord known most recently for subjecting immigrant tenants to the economic evictions that have become all too common throughout Seattle in recent years. Harrell’s ultimate complicity in such metastasizing gentrification qualifies him for the same direction as the council’s other Establishment incumbents: out the door. Vote Morales.
Another clearly obvious choice for progressive Seattle voters this year. Incumbent Kshama Sawant is the best thing to happen to Seattle’s city government in several election cycles, and she overwhelmingly deserves re-election. (Obviously, we also don’t take corporate cash.) During her first term, among her other accomplishments, Sawant was a key leader in the successful grassroots campaign to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. She currently supports the maximum linkage fee, and when re-elected, she’ll focus on achieving rent control, municipal broadband, and a city income tax in Seattle, among other genuinely progressive goals.
Certain local wealthy donors in District 3 are actively organizing to unseat Sawant. Those donors overwhelmingly support her challenger, Pamela Banks, the current president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. While both Banks and Sawant are women of color, among the key differences between the two candidates, Banks has fewer total donors contributing to her campaign than Sawant, while raising nearly the same amount of money — much of it from real-estate and finance moguls. Also, Banks has publicly opposed the $15 minimum wage, rent control, and linkage fees. Essentially, Sawant is grassroots while Banks is Big Bank. Caveat emptor, indeed.
As for the absurd allegation by rabid Kshama-bashers that Sawant is “divisive”: oh, bish-bosh. Sawant’s not the one who created the current gaping divide between Seattle’s haves and our have-nots — she’s among the ones currently trying to solve that problem. Vote Sawant.
This is a swing district, and a very polarized one: an odd-duck mix of urban and suburban voters from economically diverse neighborhoods, all within a rapidly growing city. Much of the future growth (and, yes, gentrification) expected in District 4 will be due to the three Link light rail stations scheduled to open within the next six years in the U District and in Roosevelt.
Michael Maddux is the best candidate in this race. A paralegal, parks activist, and past advocate for homeless LGBTQ youth, Maddux is well-informed about his home district and the challenges that face District 4 as it anticipates rapid urban growth in the coming decade, with specific policy proposals for how to manage and guide that growth intelligently and sustainably. He’s also the only renter among this year’s council candidates, which bodes well for his potential City Hall representation of that citywide constituency.
While Maddux’s opponent Rob Johnson is also a strong candidate overall, he has taken significant financial contributions from independent expenditure groups, including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-funded People for Rob, and the Washington Restaurant Association PAC, which opposed the city’s $15 minimum wage. He’s also pulled in money from real-estate developers. Big Money donations such as these should always be troubling for voters concerned with economic justice. Vote Maddux.
North Seattle stands to benefit greatly from the city’s new district council system, since its various neighborhoods have long been especially neglected by downtown’s dominance of City Hall’s priorities. The longtime lack of sidewalks and storm drainage along District 5’s many suburban streets is merely the tip of the iceberg of that neglect.
Attorney Debora Juarez, who has lived in District 5 for more than 25 years, brings an impressive public service résumé to her first run for municipal public office in Seattle. A member of the Blackfeet Nation who grew up on the Puyallup Indian Reservation, she has served as a public defender, a King County Superior Court judge, and a Native American affairs legal and policy advisor for Washington State Governors Mike Lowry and Gary Locke. Among the many notable endorsements Juarez has already received are those from five of the six District 5 candidates who did not make it through the August primary — including Mercedes Elizalde, The Seattle Star‘s primary endorsee, which makes Juarez our obvious November endorsee.
Another obvious progressive choice, and yet another incumbent who has clearly earned re-election. With Nick Licata departing, Mike O’Brien will be the senior progressive on the council if re-elected. He now seeks another full term with a strong council track record on environmental and social justice issues. Along with joining the anti-Shell kayaktivists on Elliott Bay earlier this year, O’Brien has been a brazen fighter against developer greed and gentrification, leading the early drive to make linkage fees and inclusionary zoning a reality in Seattle, among other genuinely progressive initiatives.
His challenger this year, Catherine Weatbrook, is a credible candidate who agrees with him on several critical issues, yet she offers no compelling reasons why the incumbent should be removed from office. Vote O’Brien and let his outstanding work continue.
Establishment incumbent Sally Bagshaw won the August primary with 10,000 votes more than her November opponent and is a well-funded developers’ darling — and is therefore essentially an unopposed candidate this year. Like Bruce Harrell, she also needs a serious electoral challenge — preferably from the left.
We can think of no better protest vote for District 7 than Seattle’s all-time most famous rabble-rouser. Anna Louise Strong, if elected, will eagerly throw the money-changers from the circa-2015 temple of Seattle City Hall. And since China has increasingly dominated Seattle’s economy and culture in recent years, Strong’s longtime friendly relationship with China will be an obvious plus on the council. She’s even partied with Chairman Mao — and she’ll surely assist the re-elected Kshama Sawant with the latter’s nefarious commie plot to banish every Seattle tech-sector millionaire to a draconian gulag out on the Olympic Peninsula. The struggle is eternal, indeed.
You already know Sally Bagshaw will soar to re-election on wings made of money. Vote Strong.
Jon Grant is the former executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State and would obviously be an avid champion for affordable housing on the council, with very specific policy proposals informed by his experience as an organizer and tenants’ advocate. He supports rent control, caps on move-in fees, and using the city’s bonding authority to buy existing affordable housing before developers can convert it into luxury condos.
Along with affordable housing, Grant plans to focus on police accountability, which will be a vitally important priority for the council’s at-large representatives. If elected, he would insist that Seattle’s Office of Professional Accountability add more civilian personnel in order to investigate police misconduct with greater impartiality.
Grant is challenging the truly execrable incumbent Tim Burgess, the one council candidate this year who most deserves a crushing defeat. Among his many transgressions since his 2007 election to council, Burgess was the author and chief advocate of the city’s infamous 2010 aggressive-solicitation bill, which was obviously intended to criminalize homelessness. This race thus presents a stark contrast between a serial gentrification enabler and a proven champion of local economic justice. Vote Grant.
Bill Bradburd is chair of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition and is widely respected within Seattle’s progressive activist community. Given how he’s worked closely with neighborhood activists citywide for more than a decade, Bradburd is uniquely qualified among this year’s council candidates to serve as an at-large council member. And his progressive credentials are unquestionable: as a leader in Seattle Districts Now, he helped bring districted city council elections to Seattle, and he supports the creation of a municipal public bank here.
Recognizing the role that years of uncritical City Hall deference to developers has played in creating Seattle’s current housing affordability crisis, Bradburd also intends to make developers start paying their fair share for their participation in our city’s current economic boom. Regarding Seattle’s current growth surge, Bradburd says: “Growth and change is something we should plan and shape together, not something that simply happens to us.” We strongly agree. Vote Bradburd.