We Tell You How to Vote
August 21 Primary Election Endorsements
Thanks to Mayor Nickels's reactionary proposal to hold clubs responsible for anything that goes on outside their buildings—to, in fact, hold clubs responsible for anything that goes wrong in Seattle at all—we're paranoid at The Stranger that Nickels's creeping crackdown may expand to nightlife-friendly newspapers. Will our paper be held responsible for anything that happens outside our offices? (No more afternoon editorial "brainstorming" sessions across the street in Cal Anderson Park?) A more acute concern: Will our editorial board be held responsible for anything that goes on down at City Hall?
So the Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) took extra security measures when interviewing this year's candidates. We beefed up the SECB by adding a bouncer named Whitey to our ranks. And with Whitey's help, we frisked and searched the candidates (are these your meds we have, Stan?), did in-depth background checks (Republican Port Commission candidate Bill Bryant cut a $500 check to evil Port Commissioner Pat Davis and gave $1,500 to Dino Rossi), and checked IDs (as if Sally Clark's name wasn't dull enough already, her middle name is Jane. Jean Godden's middle name? Wilma!).
Whitey wasn't there the day we interviewed bitter know-it-all Stan Lippmann, and so despite telltale signs like Lippmann's ricocheting eyes and ill-fitting suit (his jacket was four sizes too big), he made it inside our office, where he ultimately had to be restrained and 86'd.
Indeed, with so much at stake in Seattle in 2007—Will wayward Seattle cops continue to get away with Tasering people just because they're black? Will anyone be able to afford an apartment? Will nightlife opponents get away with turning Belltown into Bellevue? Will there ever be rapid mass transit in Seattle?—we 86'd just about everyone who came in, winnowing the contenders to make an exclusive list of people we trusted to take on Seattle's defining issues.
You had to be an excellent candidate to make it behind the SECB's velvet rope and not get bounced. Fortunately, there were a few excellent progressive go-getters queuing up for office: Joe Szwaja for City Council Position 1, Keith Scully for King County Prosecutor, and Gael Tarleton for Port of Seattle.
We've ID'd them for you. Now all you need to do is vote for them.
The Stranger Election Control Board does not make endorsements in uncontested races.
The SECB is: Erica C. Barnett, Josh Feit, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Tim Keck, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, Ari Spool, Annie Wagner, and Josh "Whitey" Myrick.
Seattle City Council Position 1
Vote for Joe Szwaja
High-school teacher Joe Szwaja is a former city-council member from delusional Madison, Wisconsin, which gives you a pretty good idea of his political leanings. He's a proud member of the Green Party. It's an affiliation that didn't endear him to local Democratic groups during Seattle's important Democratic legislative district meetings (the de facto neighborhood-endorsement meetings in Seattle's weird election system). Some LDs wouldn't even allow Szwaja to speak. But his Green status endeared him to us; running for local offices like city council (rather than fucking president) is the way for progressive parties like the Greens to get a legitimate footing.
If the Democrats had heard Szwaja out, they would have found that he's in command of the issues, he's a progressive, and he means business. From police accountability, to climate change, to the future of City Light—Szwaja is ready to alter the priorities at City Hall. (Plus, he had two fake IDs in college; one said Tom Selleck and the other said Frank Zappa!)
Szwaja supports strong measures to increase police accountability. Unlike incumbent Jean Godden, he would amend police-accountability rules so that the police chief can't overturn the disciplinary recommendations of the Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates police-misconduct allegations. He supports a proposal by Nick Licata to require the police chief to go through reconfirmation every four years—the same as every other department head. (Godden does not.) Szwaja said he would not vote to reconfirm embattled Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.
On climate change, Szwaja is both more radical and more pragmatic than Godden (whose green credentials seem limited to voting to purchase offsets for City Light's already minuscule greenhouse-gas production). An early proponent of the surface/transit option for replacing the viaduct, Szwaja wants to reduce Seattle's greenhouse-gas emissions by 4 percent a year—a far more ambitious plan than the plan Godden has supported. Among other green ideas, Szwaja supports replacing the SR-520 bridge with a four-lane bridge with two HOV lanes across Lake Washington, narrowing down to two HOV lanes and one reversible lane over Portage Bay. It's a smart idea that no one on the current city council is even talking about—yet.
Our biggest reservation about leftist Szwaja wasn't that he'd be another Nick Licata (to quote one SECB member: "What's wrong with another Nick Licata?"); it was a domestic-abuse case that put Szwaja's then-girlfriend in the hospital in 1990. We're endorsing Szwaja despite these troubling 17-year-old charges because he seems to have genuinely redeemed himself. "I did a thing I really regret on a particular day. I never did anything like it since or before. I learned my lesson. I've contributed a lot to my community." We believe him and think he has a lot more to contribute.
Jean Godden gets points for having the best name on a fake ID (Phyllis Richmond, which is actually pretty convincing) and for giving alcohol to the youngest minor of anyone in any race (a teething infant). The other two candidates in this race, Robert Sondheim and Lauren Briel, got 86'd by the SECB—Briel for telling us she's for Libertarian whack job Ron Paul, and Sondheim for trash talking the bar across the street from his own bar Rosebud, the harmless Maharaja.
Seattle City Council Position 3
Vote for Venus Velazquez
First, let's dispense with the obvious: None of these candidates is Peter Steinbrueck. Steinbrueck has been alone on the council as an outspoken advocate for density, smart growth, environmental protection, and alternatives to cars. His retirement from the council leaves a hole that would be very difficult for any first-time council member to fill.
Of five candidates who are attempting to do just that, Venus Velazquez gets our support. We believe Velazquez will be a forceful, independent, effective voice on the council. A public-affairs consultant whose clients have included CASA Latina and the United Indians of All Tribes Federation, Velazquez has experience navigating challenging political issues.
Like all novice candidates, Velazquez can seem a bit rough around the edges. However, all council veterans were rookies once, and Velazquez is a rookie whose goals are right on. She supports increasing density in neighborhoods, full-time bus lanes on Third Avenue through downtown, and funding for new police. She also wants to see the city create a land bank for nonprofit low-income housing developers and tax incentives for middle-income family housing. And she opposes the mayor's odious nightlife license, saying, correctly, the city already has the tools in place to crack down on problem clubs.
Bruce Harrell, Velazquez's front-running opponent (who refused to hand over his ID to the SECB) mouths platitudes about the issues ("these are all issues we're grappling with") but doesn't offer solutions ("I want to be sort of a thought leader, a bridge builder"). Yes, the city is "too expensive to live in," but what are you going to do about it? When he gets specific, his proposals range from questionable to bizarre. He appears to believe the police have enough accountability (it was really hard to pin him down on the question) and says the council's job isn't to be "a fact finder" on disputed police-misconduct cases. In the bizarre category, Harrell suggested during our interview that people who have committed misdemeanors and first-time felonies serve as security and litter patrol outside bars.
He was also vague about affordability, suggesting that people need to make more money and reminiscing about how he saved money by having lots of roommates in college.
Other candidates include: Scott Feldman (running to save the Sonics), disgraced former city-council member John Manning (we don't know why he's running), and nutty professor Al Runte (he doesn't know why he's running).
Seattle City Council Position 9
Vote for Sally Clark
It's easy to like Sally Clark, but hard to get excited about her. However, it's even harder to get excited about her opponent, Stan Lippmann, a twitchy-eyed anti-vaccine activist who's spent the last 10 years running for every office imaginable. So we're supporting Clark despite our frustration with her on a whole range of issues—from nightlife (she continues to support a new license for bars and nightclubs) to police accountability (she supports Chief Gil Kerlikowske and doesn't believe the council should have oversight over the chief).
On the other hand, the affable Clark is popular with her colleagues and seems to have a mandate (no real challenger)—qualities that make her a powerful consensus-building voice on the council. We hope she'll use those abilities to revisit the neighborhood plans, an issue she seems passionate about; continue to reduce minimum parking requirements in neighborhoods citywide; and support the creation of living-wage jobs.
Ultimately, we like Clark, and we admire her commitment to involving neighborhoods in her neighborhoods committee by holding meetings throughout the city. We just wish she had done more to stand out in her first year and a half on the council.
King County Prosecutor
Vote for Keith Scully
The King County Prosecutor's Office will be in good hands with either Keith Scully or Bill Sherman, the two Democratic candidates vying to take on Republican Dan Satterberg. (And some members of the SECB—male and female!—would love to go out drinking with both of them!) In fact, the Stranger Election Control Board had trouble telling these hunks apart. Sherman used to work on environmental protection for the feds and now works for the King County Prosecutor's Office; Scully used to work for the King County Prosecutor's Office and now works on environmental protection.
On the whole, however, we believe Scully has more innovative ideas to reform the prosecutor's office, which has been occupied by a Republican for more than half a century. He wants to expand the county's drug court to encompass more low-level drug offenses (and erase all charges if an offender completes the program), create an environmental crime division at the prosecutor's office, and implement a binding, citizen-led system of sheriff's office accountability. He also had smart things to say about sentencing, arguing that while some sentences are too high (those for drug possession and "third-strike" offenses), others, such as the sentence for second-degree assault (three to nine months), are too low.
Sherman impressed us, too, arguing passionately for laws to protect children who witness domestic abuse; treating addiction as a public-health problem, not a crime; and calling for a gubernatorial moratorium on the racially and economically biased death penalty. Ultimately, however, we found Scully's arguments more compelling.
Position No. 2
Vote for Gael Tarleton
Position No. 5
Vote for Alec Fisken
The string of recent embarrassments and scandals at the Port of Seattle—sexist port police, a holiday-season comedy of errors, and sweetheart retirement deals—highlights the incompetent leadership at the port. But the gaffes don't highlight the actual problem at the port: The $68 million tax levy is serving corporate interests instead of public interests.
The scandals—better fodder for sexy headlines than white papers on corporate power—have caught the public's attention, alerting voters, at least, to the fact that something needs to change at the port.
We agree. Luckily, this election offers an opportunity for the public to vote for reform over the status quo.
Incumbent Bob Edwards, an ally of (and recipient of massive donations from) the port's corporate puppeteers such as SSA Marine (and also directly implicated in the crass Mic Dinsmore retirement payout scandal), should be promptly bounced. It's also a no-brainer that he should be replaced by Gael Tarleton—a stern advocate for accountability, integrity, and financial success at the port. Her main opponent, Thom McCann, is irresponsibly running a catchy bumper-sticker campaign to unequivocally end the port tax, while Tarleton responsibly wants to go after corruption, but also settle on a reasonable tax so the port can do business—investing in environmental stewardship and wise projects.
The other race features challenger Bill Bryant and incumbent Alec Fisken. However, this isn't a case where the challenger deserves your vote. Bryant has stronger ties to the establishment than the incumbent; he's a big supporter of status-quo commissioner Pat Davis and is supported by ultraconservative PAC Builders United in Legislative Development and former port CEO Dinsmore. He's also a generous Republican donor. While the SECB has endorsed Republicans in the past, 2007 is not a year we're willing to support the GOP in any way.
Incumbent Fisken is a watchdog on the inside—he drew port counsel's attention to the inappropriate locked-door sessions. And as opposed to Bryant's corporate backing ($155,000 from a concentrated pool of establishment donors), Fisken has half as much cash, but twice as many donors, relying on $50 contributions from just about every cool progressive in the city.
Seattle School District
District No. 2
Vote for Darlene Flynn
District No. 6
Vote for Steve Sundquist
Sherry Carr was the only serious challenger in the race to take out North Seattle's Darlene Flynn. The SECB was impressed with her no-nonsense approach to whipping schools into shape, her experience as president of Seattle's PTSA, and her management background at Boeing. Her support for a ban on military recruiters in schools —she called the unethical recruiting tactics "criminal" —was cool, too. But Carr just didn't make the case that experienced incumbent Flynn needed to go.
In 2003, The Stranger voted to throw out the whole damn school board—they'd put the district $35 million in the hole—and we backed newcomer Flynn, citing her "laser-beam focus on racial disparity in the schools." We still like her. Flynn remains convincingly focused on the achievement gap, and she stood by her pragmatic position —"unfortunate but necessary"—she says, to close failing schools. Flynn also pointed out that the district, thanks to her number-crunching on the executive committee, is now operating in the black.
SECB believes in continuity and Flynn seems to have a handle on the job. And again, none of Flynn's challengers—including the the jittery, inarticulate Lisa Stuebing, whose résumé touts her work as a Girl Scout "nut-sales coordinator"—articulated any reason to 86 Flynn.
The SECB almost had to bounce all three candidates looking to fill Irene Stewart's vacated West Seattle seat. We decided to allow retired Russell Investment Group managing director Steve Sundquist past the velvet rope because we think this board needs some stern pragmatism. He's committed to fighting "anti-Seattle bias" in Olympia. He also has much-needed board experience (at West Seattle's Fauntleroy Church and the enviro group Climate Solutions).
Maria Ramirez—a Seattle Schools equality task-force member—seemed like she'd been overserved, stumbling during the interview, flipping and flopping on her stance on recruitment and failing to lay out any platform. She was better than loopy math teacher Dan Dempsey, though. The SECB denied Dempsey entry due to his unhinged diatribes at several school-board meetings last year.
Sundquist stumbled a little too—he thinks the WASL should be a graduation requirement, and one SECB member declared that Sundquist "looks like a jerk"—but we're confident he'll use his no-nonsense biz background to help get this dysfunctional board on track.
Regional and Rural Parks Levy
Open Space, Regional Trails, and Woodland Park Zoo Levy
Vote Yes on Both
The Stranger Election Control Board likes parks. For one thing, we like trees and flowers and open space. For another, a park is a great place to go drink when you've been kicked out of a bar! Plus: no cover charge! Vote yes on King County Propositions 1 and 2.
Rebecca Tapscott contributed to this report.