The Stranger's Election Control Board
The Stranger Election Control Board cracked down on the candidates this year—busting them for weak answers, fake records of accomplishment, and lame positions on everything from strip clubs to the viaduct.
The Stranger Election Control Board cracked down on the candidates this year—busting them for weak answers, fake records of accomplishment, and lame positions on everything from strip clubs to the viaduct.
But unlike the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the SECB looooves booze. That's why we invited this year's cast of candidates to meet with us in bars around the city. We served up shots in hopes of loosening the candidates' tongues, and did shots ourselves in hopes of making the candidates look prettier. It worked. After a few shots Paige Miller was riding the bull as effortlessly as she spouted it at Cowgirls Inc., Mayor Nickels was giving us the what for as he hogged our nachos at College Inn Pub, and at the Stratus Lounge poor Casey Corr came down with a bad case of WAS, or weasel alcohol syndrome, which prevented him from answering our questions. Robert Rosencrantz, perched on a bar stool at R Place, refused to touch the stuff. Who was it that said "never trust a man who doesn't drink"? We can't remember either.
The Stranger Election Control Board is Erica C. Barnett, Josh Feit, Amy Jenniges, Tim Keck, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, and Annie Wagner. The SECB does not make endorsements in uncontested races.
We took the city council candidates in Postion 2 (the Conlin race) to Cowgirls Inc.; we took Position 4 (the Drago race) to the private club on the top floor of the Columbia Tower, The Stratus Lounge (no jeans allowed!); we took Position 8 (the McIver race) to R Place. Mayor Nickels joined us (and our guest, de facto Nickels opponent, John Fox) at the College Inn Pub. And Ron Sims drank with us at Bill's. We ordered shots all around in hopes that the booze would get the candidates yapping. And boy! (Who knew Casey Corr had so many different positions on any given issue?) We can't be sure it was the booze, but the candidates sure were saying some pretty drunky stuff—leading us to believe that Blood Alcohol Levels were certainly spiking at some high percentages. Judge for yourselves.
Vote for Greg Nickels
Greg spread a lot of "Seattle Way" bullshit around when he ran in 2001, and some folks fell for the nice-guy rhetoric. Dopes. We actually looked at Nickels's record as a Democratic brawler on the partisan King County Council, and endorsed him precisely because we anticipated (and wanted) him to bring a hardball style to city government. In our Nickels endorsement in 2001, we wrote, "Nickels's ability to stare down county Republicans in bristly partisan battles has prepared Nickels for the ugly political combat that's on tap at city hall. Nickels will bring the kind of horsepower to city hall that's been missing for years."
We wanted someone to grab Seattle's sack and yank hard and that's just what Nickels did—when he's done with politics, Greg's got a future in CBT. (Google it, kids.) Team Nickels took control of the city bureaucracy and put together a focused agenda. His agenda annoyed neighborhood NIMBYs, but it put Seattle on the right course to become a dense, environmentally savvy, urban center. Raising height limits in places like South Lake Union and Capitol Hill; jumpstarting development after years of gridlock at Northgate; and working to lower parking requirements in business districts citywide were controversial moves that may have cost Nickels a few endorsements, but they took the city in the right direction.
While we're fans of Nickels's big-city vision, we've had to call bullshit on Nickels a few times. We busted him on the South Lake Union trolley plan, the Vulcan giveaway at Westlake Avenue Park, his cave to Harbor Properties, the KeyArena plan, and his exaggerated numbers about the wonders of biotech. But his biggest shortcoming is not forcing neighborhoods to accept more density. A whopping 75 percent of Seattle's residential land is zoned single-family and unless that changes, his urban-center density plan will backfire. Instead of driving housing prices down through increased development, he will drive them up by creating unaffordable yuppie enclaves. Nickels's agenda needs to be fine-tuned, and that's why we want a watchdog council that would include dissidents like Richard Conlin and Linda Averill, and not sniveling, WAS-suffering, Team Nickels butt-boys like Casey Corr.
Nickels's opponents are crazier than a box full of Baptists. They include Wedgwood's Al Runte—a pompous former UW history prof who hasn't thought through the issues; and Christal Wood, a "populist" who isn't very popular—she only has 42 contributors. Their main gripe is that Greg has ignored the neighborhoods. Nope, fuckwits. At a time when revenues have been declining—the city faced a $25 million gap last year—Nickels has actually prioritized spending on neighborhood projects ($159 million slated last year for over 190 neighborhood projects.) Indeed, the irony is that Nickels, who joined with neighbors in Greenwood to fight against big-box development, is one of the most pro-neighborhood politicians in the city—just not in the ineffective, cringing, get-nothing-done "Seattle Way."
Seattle is becoming a big city and Greg is a big city mayor. He's not afraid to pound on the council, he's not afraid to take on neighborhood know-nothings, and, with his work on global warming, he took on the president of the United States and won. Nickels is the mayor Seattle needs. Vote Greg.
Vote for Richard Conlin
It's easy to read our endorsement of Richard Conlin as an admission that we were wrong on the monorail, and that Conlin —a diehard monorail opponent who wanted to kill the system—was right. But the Stranger Election Control Board isn't endorsing Richard Conlin's position on the monorail. We still believe that elevated rapid transit is key to our city's transportation future. And we still believe Conlin was an outright obstructionist on the project—so much so that the editor of this paper wanted to go on the record with this: "I hate Richard Conlin's guts."
But we're endorsing Conlin anyway. On a number of critical issues Conlin has been an independent, reasoned voice of dissent on a council that likes to complain about the mayor's agenda but doesn't offer up competing ideas of its own. Conlin has a track record of coming up with his own proposals—despite his maddening penchant for process.
In his two terms on the council, Conlin has advocated for neighborhood and environmental interests. He crafted a compromise plan for the expansion of Northgate Mall that gave oversight authority to neighbors who felt shut out of the mayor's developer-friendly proposal. He worked on behalf of Roosevelt residents who wanted light rail to run through their neighborhood. And he pushed to complete the Burke-Gilman Trail's missing link through Ballard despite histrionic opposition from business owners.
In other cases, Conlin's steady hand has guided the council to put the brakes on bad ideas and come up with smart compromise solutions. He's been a relentless advocate for health and human services, fighting to restore funding for the sick and needy during the city's annual budget negotiations. He was one of only two council members who raised questions about the mayor's proposal to give a $4.5 million subsidy to Nucor Steel, ultimately reducing the subsidy by hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was the lone council member who took seriously the People's Waterfront Coalition's proposal to replace the viaduct with fixes to downtown surface streets. And he won the support of the music community by fighting the draconian Teen Dance Ordinance and working to secure funding for the Vera Project.
Conlin's got two opponents. Consultant Darlene Madenwald has no political experience and seemed ill prepared to answer the SECB's questions. Nice lady, though, but she smokes like a chimney. Conlin's other opponent, Port Commissioner Paige Miller, was late for our interview at Cowgirls Inc., the booze & boobs bar in Pioneer Square. Richard and Darlene refused to do the shots of Jack Daniels we got 'em (Savage drained 'em), but the tardy Miller didn't know that. So we set empty shot glasses sitting in front of Richard and Darlene and bullied Miller into doing her shot. The lightly toasted Miller told us she gets things done without being crippled by process. But if that's true, the SECB wonders why it took her 14 years to get cities around Sea-Tac Airport to agree on a plan for the third runway—and why it was Conlin's preferred plan to save the waterfront trolley, not Miller's, that ultimately moved forward. (Miller continues to take credit for "coming up with a plan" to save the trolley, but fails to mention that her plan was trashed in favor of a proposal that costs millions less than hers.) On other issues, Miller has consistently favored big businesses and developers over ordinary citizens. Vote for Conlin.
Vote for Dwight Pelz
The SECB supports Dwight "Drinky Crow" Pelz, a brawling Democratic county council member who's been active in progressive Seattle politics since the 1970s. He can also drink every member of the SECB under the table.
Incumbent Richard McIver had two good terms, standing up for minorities and the disadvantaged, and he worked hard to secure fair compensation for businesses displaced by light rail in the Rainier Valley. But the SECB believes the council needs a fighter during four more years of Nickels.
Think of Pelz as Nick Licata in boxing gloves with whiskey on his breath—a left-leaning pol who packs a punch. A Deaniac, Pelz has a fiercely partisan resumé. As head of the county council's transportation committee, he successfully restored Metro bus service after Initiative 695 led to massive transportation-budget cuts; fought to get Sound Transit included in the Regional Transportation Investment District; and stood up to Democratic County Executive Ron Sims on Southwest Airlines' plan to move from Sea-Tac Airport to Boeing Field. He also led the council's fight for the controversial East Lake Sammamish Trail, which will extend the Burke-Gilman Trail to Issaquah.
As liberals' most loudmouthed representative on the county council, Pelz spoke up loudly for the county's controversial Critical Areas Ordinance, which seeks to curb sprawl by limiting development in rural King County; torpedoed Republican efforts to ax the county's domestic-partner benefits; drafted a council ordinance opposing parts of the PATRIOT Act; and was a strong supporter of proposals to elect the Seattle City Council by district.
McIver's other opponent, landlord Robert Rosencrantz, has some smart things to say about the proposed Alaskan Way tunnel ("We can't always go for the most expensive option"). But his support for Mark Sidran–style civility laws and his tortured justification for running against the council's only African-American incumbent at the SECB's candidate forum last week cost him. Vote Pelz.
Vote for Linda Averill
Did The Stranger Election Control Board do a few too many $8 shots of Knob Creek when we interviewed the Position 4 candidates at the private Stratus Lounge club on the top floor of the Columbia Tower? How else to explain our endorsement of this radical proletarian bus driver whom our editor once called a "a frowning, full-of-shit socialist with a capital P personality disorder," and whose platform sounds like a page ripped from the blog of, well, a frowning, full-of-shit Freedom Socialist: free healthcare, childcare, and utilities for the poor; a $12 minimum wage ($17 minimum wage for city contractors); and, um, "Redirect the Pentagon's $400 billion budget into a mass public-works program to create union-wage jobs."
Our endorsement has nothing to do with how drunk we were (alcohol works faster when you're 75 stories up, by the way), and everything to do with our desire to see Averill join Seattle's mainstream political fray. She's good on the stump and if she would run as a Democrat—this is Seattle, Linda, and there's nothing you're saying that the Kucinich bloc of the 36th District Democrats in Ballard doesn't agree with—this perennial candidate might actually get somewhere.
Averill's smart (she uses the smoking-ban proposal to talk about the larger problem of auto and industrial pollution), independent (out of this year's 10 city council hopefuls she's one of just two who's willing to call bullshit on the mayor's efforts to put Seattle's strip clubs out of business), and she's more relaxed, playful, and funny now (she and her Metro comrades like to call the mayor's South Lake Union Trolley plan "SLUT" for short). In other words, that personality disorder seems to be clearing up.
More important, Averill's on-message obsession with taxing corporations to support the city's general fund, rather than using the general fund to support big business, would help check the council trend of prioritizing Paul Allen's needs over basic needs. If she ever made it onto the council, Averill would inject some much-needed dissident firepower into a council that does too little to protect working- and middle-class Seattleites. "When you raise building heights, you're going to increase property value. It's an opportunity to negotiate for something," Averill told us—with an implied "duh!"—as she denounced the "giveaway" tax break that Vulcan got for developing condos in South Lake Union.
Averill also has star power; she was the obvious winner at The Stranger's candidate forum last week at the Broadway Performance Hall. And we'd love to see that sort of charisma on the council. Averill should leave the Socialist bookstore ghetto and its paranoid trappings behind. (Averill won't reveal the names of her donors because she's afraid her supporters will get harassed.) She should grow up and join the mainstream dialogue where her voice will make a difference. Vote Averill.
We also dig incumbent, Jan Drago who served as council president this year and pulled the unfocused council back from the brink of irrelevancy. She's a mass-transit advocate and has an impressive record from her days as budget chair when she found ways to restore social-service funding that the mayor had cut. However, Drago's been muddled on the campaign trail and our excitement about Averill outweighs our affection for Drago.
There are two other candidates in this race. Ángel Bolaños is passionate, but shy on specifics, credibility, and experience. Casey Corr, the "former" mayoral staffer whose campaign is being micromanaged by current mayoral staffers, brings a smarmy sense of entitlement to the race. He's been spotted rimming anti-mass-transit downtown property owners and taking credit for stuff he had nothing to do with (he "led the fight" to secure viaduct funding?) while disingenuously separating himself from stuff he had everything to do with (like, oh, Mayor Nickels's South Lake Union plans). And Corr told us that Kanye West was wrong about George Bush. Corr also has trouble giving straight answers. During the Control Board's Yes or No round on pending council legislation, he offered non-committal responses like "I support the goal"—rather than telling us how he'd actually vote. Our publisher got so frustrated with Corr that he asked the evasive candidate to sit out the Yes or No portion of our endorsement interview. Don't vote for the mayor's boy.
Board Member - Position 8
Write-In Peter Sherwin
Board Member - Position 9
Vote for Cleve Stockmeyer
Given the dire situation at the SMP, the SECB hoped that the folks running for two elected spots on the agency's governing board would be lining up with smart solutions to save the troubled system. Unfortunately, the crop of challengers taking on the board's two elected incumbents doesn't inspire enthusiasm. They include one former board member who quit partway through his term, two monorail foes, and an oddball magnetic-levitation proponent.
In one race, the incumbent, Cleve Stockmeyer, is a hard-working, principled monorail advocate who's earned the right to stay on the board. Stockmeyer is a longtime advocate for more transparency at an agency known for keeping secrets (like the $11 billion financing plan), and he's worked to come up with a fiscally responsible plan to save the system. He was the only board member to oppose this year's SMP budget (he felt staff salaries were too high), and he proposed several measures that would have cut the project's costs. Stockmeyer would also fight to make the monorail agency's staff more accountable to the board and wants to turn the board into a majority-elected body.
One of Stockmeyer's two opponents, cab driver-turned-monorail-board-member Dick Falkenbury, didn't show up to the SECB's interview; the other, Jim Nobles, told us he's "running to shut the agency down."
In the other race, we faced a choice between anti-monorail and anti-Semitism. Cindi "Nuremberg" Laws is the incumbent and she has, like Stockmeyer, been a proponent of transparency. (She also no doubt favors the trains running on time.) Unfortunately, Fraulein Laws's whacked-out anti-Semitic comments about her Jewish opponent, Beth Goldberg ("A Jewish candidate can get... money more easily") and Jewish downtown developers ("They are very effective if you get into their group") render her unfit for a high-profile public office—particularly at an agency, like the monorail, that's going through a period of record-low public confidence. Instead, we recommend a write-in vote: transportation wonk Peter Sherwin, a brainy monorail advocate who saved the monorail once—when the city council voted to kill it in 2000—and will bring a background in economics and a healthy skepticism to an agency in need of radical new ideas.
Position 1 - Vote for Lawrence Molloy
Position 3 - Vote for Lloyd Hara
Position 4 - Vote for Jack Jolley
The center of gravity is about to shift at the powerful but shadowy Port of Seattle.
Can you stand it!? Remember the last time the gravity shifted at the Port of Seattle? We were rolling on E and making out under a conference room table with those three Korean girls at the port's downtown office and we thought it just couldn't get any better than this! But it has!
Why is a gravity shift at the port so fucking awesome? Because the Port has the power to levy a $60 million property tax on King County residents, dude, and, like, hold on to your tits, it also exerts hella influence over the city's maritime economy, Whoa! Stop this ride, I want to get off! BUT THERE'S MORE! The Port remains in serious debt and strangely unaccountable to the public. Already, one port reformer (and blossoming civic blogger), Alec Fisken, sits on a spot on the five-person board, and his seat, thankfully, is not up for election this year. That would be too much, dude. But there are three other people you should send to join him in reshaping the ever-fascinating, never-dull port:
In the race for Position 4, badass former Microsoft executive Jack Jolley has proved himself to be the city's most articulate critic of port business as usual. Smokin'! Jolley champions more openness, lower taxes, and smart plans to make the port more competitive and efficient. His main opponent, 18-year incumbent Patricia Davis, has been denying she is the "status quo" and "establishment" candidate, even though she has been the main beneficiary of donations from the establishment-funded PAC, Citizens for a Healthy Economy. Punk-ass bitch! Vote for Jolley.
In the race for Position 3, vote for Lloyd Hara. Most reformers are lining up behind labor darling Peter Coates or rank-and-file maritimer Richard Berkowitz, but Hara's independent and, as a former King County Auditor with a degree in economics, he seems particularly well qualified for the job. And he rolls fine fatties.
One incumbent who does deserve to remain on the commission is Lawrence Molloy, a reformer with strong connections to the environmental and labor movements. His challenger, John Creighton, is a preppy former securities lawyer who has been trying, just like Davis, to seem more liberal than he is. Don't believe him either. Vote for Molloy or we'll kill that ram.
District 5 - Vote for Mary Bass
District 7 - Vote for Cheryl Chow
The Stranger Election Control Board thinks the city should take over the schools and appoint a fulltime professional board. "But what about accountability!" you cry. Please. The elected board members—who do this in their free time (so you can imagine what sort of social retards want this gig)—passed a 2002–2003 budget that was $12 million out of whack, went $35 million over budget in 2002, and more recently, stumbled unwittingly into an ill-conceived and unpopular school closure plan. Citizens can't keep track of an infinite number of elected officials. They could, however, hold the mayor accountable for a school board he appointed. It's how they do it in Chicago, Boston and Cleveland, and school boards are partly appointed by the mayors in New York, Oakland, and Baltimore. We should do it here too.
For now we recommend Mary Bass—who at least voted the right way on the dumb budgets—and Cheryl "Cheryl Chow" Chow, whose resumé is a perfect fit.
District 1 - Vote for Bob Ferguson
Redistricting at the county council has pitted two Democratic incumbents against one another in North Seattle. Neither Bob Ferguson nor Carolyn Edmonds disagree about the bedrock principles of their party. Where they differ is on specifics and style. Edmonds is widely seen as an establishment Democrat and a rubber stamp for County Executive Ron Sims. Ferguson, in contrast, has voted against the Democratic party line on several issues—opposing a $23 million elections headquarters backed by Ron Sims; supporting a state audit of the elections office; and, in one decision we don't like, backing a special property-tax levy for veterans' services.
Edmonds has unfairly attacked Ferguson (who takes the bus to work) as "opposing public transit" because—as Sound Transit skeptic—he opposed a vastly reduced light-rail line.
Ferguson is a hard worker and a dogged campaigner—skills that earned him the overwhelming endorsement of Seattle's grassroots Democratic Party activists in June. Seattle needs strong, independent voices on the county council. Vote for Ferguson.
Vote for Ron Sims
King County Executive Ron Sims isn't very popular these days. He's got a lot of baggage: His Southwest proposal, the Critical Areas Ordinance, and most of all, his fucked up elections department. (Ron! We've been warning you about the elections department since we busted Julie Anne Kempf in 1999. And you go and promote her?) But he's appropriately obsessed with skyrocketing health-care costs. His smart "third way" plan—which has gained national attention—would root out lower-quality health-care practices. Sims deserves another term to oversee his health-care initiative and also—yahoos be damned—to continue overseeing the smart Democratic environmental agenda for the county.
But it was after just one beer with Sims at Bill's, the SECB's favorite pizza place, that we remembered why we like him so much. He's become an unabashed lefty. Ron used to be more mainstream, but during the March 2004 gay-marriage uproar, Sims came out of the progressive closet. He drew a stern connection between the African-American civil-rights movement of the 1960s and gay rights today, and pushed the gay-marriage test case on the Washington State Supreme Court. As one of the most adamant gay-rights advocates in the state now, he directs his harshest ire at black churches, telling the SECB plainly that the black ministers in town are "homophobic." He also says he's itching to debate demagogue homophobe Reverend Ken Hutcherson. "That guy cows white people with all that 'I'm from Alabama'," Sims says mockingly. "Not me." Vote Sims.
Vote for Sue Rahr
King County elects its sheriff? Yes. It's a chick? Yes. Is she gay? No. She's married with two kids, but she is willing to buck the rank and file's approval, in the name of accountability. She took heat for punishing two officers accused of assaulting an informant, and she's reopened the investigation of discredited vice Detective Dan Ring to restore public trust. Even though she's not a dyke, vote for Rahr.
See and print The Stranger's Election Control Board Cheat Sheet.