Our Picks for the August 16 Primary Election—with Our Handy CHEAT SHEET! Vote NOW!
These are even longer, excruciatingly wonkish, yet more tirade-packed endorsements than appeared in the print edition of The Stranger. –Love, the SECB
Before we get to the tunnel, a confession: The Stranger Election Control Board wants to have Richard Mitchell’s baby. Mitchell is intelligent, passionate, progressive, and eloquent. We’d vote for Mitchell for anything. City council. School board. Legislature. Cruise director. Power top. Savior.
If there are issues on which Mitchell and the SECB disagree, we’re probably wrong. The man could dig a deep-bore tunnel that even the SECB could get behind.
It’s too bad there aren’t more candidates around like Mitchell—he’s running for King County Council against Republican Jane Hague in an Eastside district where none of us can even fucking vote—because we sure could’ve used a few Mitchell-caliber candidates in the Seattle City Council races. Each of the city council incumbents up for reelection sucks some serious ass, yet most lack serious challengers.
Clark, Godden, Rasmussen, Burgess, Harrell: These fucktard incumbents should be fighting for their lives in this election, having pissed off just about everyone recently. They’ve considered mandating sick pay for workers (pissing off some miserly business owners), hiked parking rates (pissing off some miserly drivers), and delayed planning for light rail and postponed homeless housing while approving a $4.2 billion tunnel that’s only half funded (pissing off anyone with any common sense). Yet three of the five open city council seats this year drew only one challenger—which means those races don’t appear on the August primary ballot and go straight to the general election in November.
Never in the history of political fundraising in Seattle—or, at least, not since the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission started archiving detailed online records way, way back in 2003—has every single city council incumbent raised so much money. Incumbents this year lead their closest challengers in the money race by an average of $166,000. In 2009, at this same point in the year, the best-funded city council challengers lagged an average of $46,000 behind the incumbents they were challenging. In 2005, all but one newcomer was actually ahead of his or her challenged incumbent.
Fundraising by incumbents is scaring good people away. Filmmaker Sandy Cioffi—who was briefly a candidate—said she could have beaten Tom Rasmussen if she had been able to raise “half his money.” Cioffi raised $20,000. Rasmussen—the darling of moneyed downtown business, construction, and real estate interests—has raised nearly $300,000. He’s reaped handsome rewards for carrying water for the deep-bore tunnel. And this election cycle, he’s not just unbeatable—he’s unchallengeable.
Seattle is going to need campaign finance reform. Or maybe the time has finally come for district elections for the city council. Or term limits. Because what we have now is an out-of-touch council that’s got so much money that contenders can’t even get into the game.
Okay, on to the shitshow! And the tunnel! We mean our 2011 primary endorsements! Those!
Proposition No. 1: Veterans and Human Services Levy
Richard Mitchell is voting yes and so should you. This proposition renews a tax on property owners—an average of $17 per homeowner annually—to keep funding successful programs that help needy veterans. Even if you’ve opposed the wars, you shouldn’t want veterans—people who served our country! People with weapons training!—stumbling around the city homeless and hungry, broke and angry. Vote to approve, asshole.
County Council District No. 6
Richard E. Mitchell
We’re finally here—to his race.
Incumbent Republican Jane Hague—best known for her 2007 DUI arrest—is a boozy, allegedly-cop-abusing, reportedly-degree-inflating shopaholic who lives in Bellevue Square and has spent 17 years on the county council. She’s now running on the ironically mixed message of experience and reform. Or so we’re told. Hague wouldn’t meet with the SECB or return our phone calls. Not that it matters: Any of Hague’s three challengers would have won our endorsement over her.
Mitchell can walk on water. He can raise the dead. He can even manage to answer a reporter’s question directly, without a hint of equivocation, all the while remaining nuanced. That’s not meant as a slam against fellow challenger John Creighton, a pleasant surprise as a port commissioner, but a stereotypical waffler as a politician. Oh wait. We guess it is.
Mitchell is exactly the sort of smart, thoughtful, competent, clean-as-a-whistle politician everybody always says they want, but who never seems to get elected. So don’t just vote for Mitchell, pray to Him. Build a church in His honor. Sell all your earthly belongings and devote your life to getting Him elected. Or suffer His mighty wrath. Without hesitation, Mitchell said he would approve a $20 car-tab fee to avert a devastating 17 percent cut in Metro bus service and believes in a minor sales tax bump to rescue the county’s underfunded criminal-justice system. Mitchell served as Governor Gregoire’s general counsel, but when asked about her legal interpretation in vetoing last session’s medical marijuana bill, he bluntly stated that he disagreed with it. And unlike Gregoire, he is in favor of complete marriage equality.
County Council District No. 8
Next to Diana “I’ve Honestly Never Considered the Issue of Gay Marriage” Toledo and Goodspaceguy “Colonize Space” Nelson, Joe McDermott is tits-down the dullest person in this race. But even though his ties look like they were made from old La Quinta bedspreads, and even though we’ve had more engaging debates with packages of Top Ramen, McDermott is also the only qualified candidate.
Before being elected to the county council last November in a special election to fill the seat vacated by county executive Dow Constantine, McDermott spent 10 years in the state legislature. Last session, then-senator McDermott led the legislative effort to support the county’s TIGER I grant and replace the South Park Bridge. And in his short time on the council, McDermott has supported temporary legislation requiring life vests for people utilizing major King County rivers (waters are unseasonably high, fast, and cold) and a $20 car-tab fee to preserve King County Metro services—good moves that both of the fucking idiots running against him oppose.
Speaking of those fucking idiots: Goodspaceguy is an “amateur economist,” and Toledo just makes shit up to justify her positions. (She wants to shut down arts funder 4Culture because, Toledo told us, “some artists are getting $500,000 or $600,000 from King County.” She never got back to us with the names of these lucky artists.)
Which is not to say McDermott’s head is never in his ass. He supports Constantine’s moratorium on all political bus ads, for instance, which was imposed after Metro refused to post advertisements criticizing “Israeli war crimes” on the side of Metro buses. Constantine’s ban has been called “illegal” by ACLU of Washington director Kathleen Taylor, so McDermott’s support prove that he can be both boring and wrong. Anyway…
Council Position No. 1
Despite spending 79 years on the city council as chair of the Budget Committee, Jean “I’m Dying Up Here” Godden received only a “good” rating from the Municipal League this summer. What did her challengers get? “Very good.”
One of those challengers is Maurice Classen. There’s not much difference between Classen and Godden on the issues—gather up Godden’s excess skin, stuff it with public-safety talking points, and strap a tunnel-humping penis to it, and you’ve basically got Classen—but it’s his stance on a proposal mandating paid sick days for everyone employed in Seattle that really pissed the SECB off. Classen says he supports studying the legislation over implementing it (a play for endorsements from business lobbies), which would definitely stall and could ultimately kill the measure. “Classen’s inability to show clear, unambiguous leadership about the health and welfare of Seattle’s working families is a troubling development,” said David Freiboth, executive secretary of the King County Labor Council. And Classen can be squirrelly: He evaded questions initially about an aggressive panhandling bill, and then never gave a firm answer, and said he supports the tunnel but cited no data to back up his position.
So because Richard Mitchell isn’t in this race… we’re throwing our endorsement to Bobby Forch.
Forch has good instincts. He enthusiastically endorses paid sick leave for all Seattle workers, he was the first candidate to talk about police accountability, he was critical of Tim Burgess’s overreaching antisolicitation ordinance, and he once was a tunnel critic (and, fingers crossed, could be again). Forch is a career city employee who worked his way up from being a parking-meter installer to being a manager in the Department of Transportation. He should be able to grasp how the city runs. He’s also walked away with a shitload of Democratic endorsements—the 11th, 34th, 36th, 37th, and 46th District Democrats, as well as the King County Democrats—a vital indicator of a candidate’s ability to get through the primary.
While we agree with the third challenger, Michael Taylor-Judd, on the important issues (coughcoughTUNNEL), Taylor-Judd hasn’t shown much hustle in raising money or winning endorsements, one of the indications of how well he’d perform for his constituents if elected.
Council Position No. 9
Sally J. Clark
The SECB loves incumbent council member Sally Clark on paper. A certified lesbian and dog lover who was appointed to a vacant seat in 2006, Clark is a wonk and a quick wit. And she says she’s a progressive. But we don’t love Clark in office…
Clark dithers, she’s timid, she’s passive. She votes with the council’s moderate majority on every single issue. Clark supports the deep-bore tunnel (even going so far as to tell a “total lie,” according to the Seattle Transit Blog, when she said the tunnel project funds Metro bus service). Support for bad city planning is not what we want to see from the chair of the council’s Built Environment Committee. She also voted for an anti-panhandling bill to fine aggressive beggars, even after the ACLU of Washington opposed the bill and the Seattle Human Rights Commission said it violated the city’s human-rights standards. Clark won’t pledge to replace all the subsidized housing for low-income residents on site on the Yesler Terrace redevelopment project.
And in one of the few instances where Clark attempted something on her own, the legislation she wrote sucked.
In 2007, she introduced a bill that allows police to fine bars and clubs that make noise that is audible from inside a residence, even if the new home was built right next to an old bar. Just before the council passed that bill, Clark acknowledged it could make nearby historic bars illegal. “New building structures… need to take into account that there is noise at the street level and it comes up,” she said. Since then, hundreds of residents have complained to police (including 500 calls about Neighbours nightclub from a new nearby building). Has Clark passed a grandfather law to protect these venues? Or has Clark, as chair of the committee that handles building codes, introduce a bill to require soundproofing?
No and no.
“This has been on my to-do list for a long time,” Clark told the SECB.
So why are we endorsing her?
Her only real challenger, Dian Ferguson, is bananas. A former public-access television executive, Ferguson launched her campaign this year from Tukwila and held her first meeting in Renton—for a race in Seattle. Ferguson explains that she’s a local by saying she “probably” has four houses. Probably? Ferguson also thinks recreational pot smokers should be locked up, a stance that always goes over well with the SECB. (By contrast, Clark smoked us up after the meeting—or was Clark the one who made us toast? It was one or the other.) Finally, Ferguson supports retrofitting the viaduct. Fathi Karshie, another challenger, is AWOL.
So we’re endorsing Clark. Reluctantly. She vows to stop being “milquetoast,” and we want to believe her. Clark can show some spine by sponsoring a genuinely progressive bill—one that means something—and get on undoing some of the damage done by her noise ordinance. (See your to-do list, Sally.)
The deep-bore tunnel—if it’s approved—will cost more than $6 billion. That will buy us four lanes of roadway (two in each direction) that run for less than two miles. Most of the money will come from residents of King County. If the megaproject runs over budget, as most of these projects do, a 2009 law says the state won’t pay for the overruns. And once it’s built, tolls will cost up to $5 each way, it won’t have exits in downtown Seattle, and two-thirds of the traffic that currently uses the Alaskan Way Viaduct will divert to downtown streets and I-5, according to the state’s final report on the tunnel released in July.
If we tore down the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct and did nothing, according to the state’s own study, traffic would be no worse on streets and I-5, and we would have saved billions.
This tunnel would be an expensive mistake: Reject Referendum 1.
Specifically, this measure asks voters if the city council—and the council alone—should be allowed to finalize the city’s support for the project. And the council is clear that it wants the tunnel.
But the council hasn’t been straight with you: The tunnel would require transit funding and extensive roadwork to mitigate all that extra traffic on Seattle streets, according to the state’s research. Neither the city nor the state has money to pay for that. Mitigation will add billions more to the $4.2 billion base cost (plus around $2 billion more in interest).
Love or hate the tunnel, we don’t have the money.
Let’s Move Forward, the pro-tunnel campaign, is spending a lot of money to convince you that we do have the money. And where is Let’s Move Forward’s money coming from? Two of the top tunnel-campaign funders each gave $25,000: Dragados USA and Tutor Perini Corporation.
If those national companies sound familiar, it’s because they’re the very same corporations that have a contract to build the tunnel. They recently combined to form Seattle Tunneling Partners, which won a $1.09 billion contract from the state for the most expensive portion of the project. Practically speaking, these companies are taking money from the state—from state taxpayers—and investing it in a campaign to secure their future profits. Microsoft also gave $25,000, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce gave over $20,050, the Downtown Seattle Association gave $20,550, and property owners downtown have contributed thousands more. They’ve raised about $312,000.
In their campaign, Let’s Move Forward claims the project funds transit and saves the city from gridlock. Both claims are lies.
The pro-tunnel folks are essentially promising that the money will be there when we need it. But it’s going to cost a lot—billion of dollars, largely from Seattle residents—that we don’t have. It’s going to come out of our pockets years after this summer’s decision on the tunnel. We are talking about enough money to build Portland’s light-rail network. Twice.
The final bill for the tunnel—the tunnel plus the surface/transit option and all the financing—will be borne by Seattle’s middle-class and lower-income residents, not by the wealthy and connected people who backed, promoted, and underwrote the campaign for the tunnel. The tunnel will be paid for by drivers, homeowners, renters, utility rate payers, sales-tax payers, bus riders…
Meanwhile, anti-tunnel campaign Protect Seattle Now—which lacks any stakeholders bankrolled by your tax money—has reported only $78,000 raised, most of which the group spent to get the referendum on the ballot.
But the anti-tunnel campaign is right on this one. The deep-bore tunnel won’t help traffic. It won’t pay for transit. And it costs money we don’t have. It’s not a done deal if Seattle rejects Referendum 1.
Vote to reject.
District No. 1
First, let us repeat the long-standing, deeply considered, and eternally unchanging opinion of the SECB as it relates to people clamoring to be let on the Seattle School Board: They are fucking crazy.
So both challengers in District 1 are, in our opinion, nuts. Both say they’re running because they’re disgusted with the bad decisions made by incumbent Peter Maier over the last four years. Which we buy. Maier ignored early red flags related to the district’s $1.8 million contracting scandal—and he could have saved the district up to $500,000 if he’d acted sooner, his critics say.
Who are Maier’s challengers? Sharon Peaslee, who runs a nonprofit math tutoring company, and John Cummings, who has taught math to special-ed students. Both are literate, good with numbers, and, per our definition, crazy.
Peaslee, with her piercing stare and thick glasses, reminds us of Hogwarts divinity professor Sybill Trelawney. She has a master’s degree in English education from NYU and has fought for math curricula reform in the Lake Washington and Bellevue school districts. (Cliff Mass is a fan!) She has two kids in Seattle Public Schools.
Peaslee is also critical of Maier for not listening to the community more before voting to support the controversial shuttering of five schools, a move she says might ultimately cost the district more money than it saved because it’s now reopening closed schools to alleviate overcrowding. Peaslee says she would have taken a much harder look at the numbers and pushed for different decisions.
Cummings, who has good intentions, is not sure how he would have voted. That troubles us. On the other hand, Cummings gets very angry very easily, and that would make school board meetings more fun to watch.
The SECB endorsed Maier when he ran in 2007 hoping that as a smarty-pants consumer-rights attorney, he’d speak up for the people. We were wrong. Vote Peaslee.
District No. 2
Once upon a time, way back in 2009, the SECB interviewed a candidate named Kay Smith-Blum. As we wrote at the time, we were blown away by Smith-Blum’s “new style of nutso.” This year, we met someone who promises to continue the grand legacy of Smith-Blum’s intimidating crazy, and go it one better. Her name: Kate Martin.
Unlike Sherry Carr, the bland, corporate-speaking, stay-the-course (scandal be damned!) incumbent in this race, Martin was pissed off about the district parade of mistakes and scandals.
Martin has been an active leader in the Greenwood Community Council and proved that she knows what kids want when she built a mini skate park in her front yard (which drove the city insane). Also, we like that Martin supports “buses, not bussing” (don’t ask), is a wait-and-see skeptic on new superintendent Susan Enfield, and is as eager to audit people’s performance as she is to move beyond the district’s whole performance audit mess. She seems to be in sync with Peaslee on most things, which is good. Vote Martin.
District No. 3
GRIM. Grim, grim, grim. That was the look on the face of incumbent Harium Martin-Morris throughout the SECB interview with him and two of his challengers. He was almost beautiful in his grimness—a portrait of grimiosity—brow furrowed, teeth clenched, his chin sinking heavily into his hands as if his neck could no longer support the enormous weight of the epic grimness that filled his head.
He was like a running car in a closed garage, filling the room with the smothering stench of sorrow. In truth, we found Martin-Morris’s grimness so transfixing that we can hardly recall what was said that day. Something about contracting scandals and math curricula and Teach for America, or something like that. Mostly, the challengers criticized the incumbent for being on the wrong side of these issues. Martin-Morris exuded grimness in response.
It was almost enough to persuade the SECB to endorse Martin-Morris, if only out of genuine concern that he might harm himself should we not. But we can’t. These are grim times for the school district, and the school board is at least partially to blame.
That leaves a choice between Michelle Buetow, a disgruntled TOPS (K–8 school) parent, and John Dunn, a former Eckstein Middle School teacher and past president of the Seattle Education Association. On balance, Dunn displayed superior knowledge of how schools work. Buetow argues that Dunn’s union connections should be enough to disqualify him from serving on the school board, but her anti-union sentiments, and Dunn’s superior knowledge of how schools work, push us in the opposite direction.
We wouldn’t want a school board filled with teachers or teachers’ union presidents any more than we would want a board filled with angry community activists or wealthy businesspeople. But one former teacher/union president on the board wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Nobody devotes more of their lives to pondering how best to educate our children than teachers, and we look to Dunn to help make teachers part of the solution, instead of the rhetorical scapegoats they too often become.
And if that adds to Martin-Morris’s grimness, well, at least he’s no longer in the room.
District No. 6
Joy Anderson doesn’t live up to her first name. “Angry” Anderson, “Irate” Anderson, or “Incrediblyfuckingexasperated” Anderson would all be more appropriate monikers, that is, if any of these words were actual forenames instead of just apt adjectives to describe Anderson’s justifiable reaction to years of being fucked over by a school board. Indeed, the Seattle Public Schools leadership seems to pays closer attention to the distant concerns of suburban editorial writers and Olympia legislators than it does to those of the families in some if its most neglected neighborhoods.
Anderson was drawn to activism after unsuccessfully fighting to save her daughter’s Southwest Seattle school, Cooper Elementary, and we normally don’t endorse one-issue candidates, let alone the angry ones. But in this one issue, Anderson manages to insightfully capture much of the inequity and incompetence that has characterized the district. According to Anderson, the school closure process has “pitted schools against each other” while creating uncertainty and overcrowding, while the new student assignment plan is quickly resegregating the district. True and true. Anderson, who has lived in the same house for 10 years, but whose 8-year-old daughter has already been in three schools, accuses board members of not listening to what the neighborhoods have to say. “I only have one child,” Anderson told the SECB, “and they have been experimenting with her since day one.” That’s a sentiment with which many Seattle school parents can identify.
It would have been nice if Anderson could have enunciated some concrete solutions, but the incumbent, school board president Steve Sundquist, wasn’t much better. Sundquist peppered his answers with phrases like “continuity of governance,” “leadership,” and “stability at the top,” while proudly using the word “we” to address boneheaded decisions like last year’s raise and contract extension for subsequently disgraced and fired superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. We were hoping Sundquist might accept a little blame for Goodloe-Johnson, but instead he seemed eager to claim credit. In defending Goodloe-Johnson’s performance, Sundquist said, “We believed that the superintendent was doing the job that the board asked her to do.”
Uh-huh. Anderson’s right. They really don’t listen.
Another challenger, Marty McLaren, is getting most of the labor and Democratic endorsements, along with that of meteorologist-cum-math-curriculum-activist Cliff Mass. And McLaren is nice and thoughtful enough and all that. But what the school board really needs right now is a good old-fashioned shit kicking, and that’s exactly what Anderson promises to deliver. Plus, behind all the righteous anger lurks a lot of upside: a smart, hardworking community activist who has already invested a ton of time and energy into wrapping her mind around the inner workings of an often-dysfunctional district.
Send a message to the school board that you’re mad as Anderson and you’re not gonna take this anymore. Vote hell-yes for Joy Anderson.
The Stranger Election Control Board is Jennifer Aniston, Riya Bhattacharjee, Christopher Frizzelle, Goldy, Dominic Holden, Tim Keck, Brendan Kiley, Cienna Madrid, Eli Sanders, and Dan Savage. The SECB does not endorse in uncontested races or races we forgot.