What We Really Want to Hear from the Candidates Running for Mayor

What We Really Want to Hear from the Candidates Running for Mayor

The candidates running for mayor are mostly speaking in platitudes about their "leadership" and "vision." Those words mean nothing. Like, who wants a mayor who can't lead?

They must lead—obviously—but we want to hear where they plan to lead us. Here are the policies they should get specific about and what we want our next mayor to say on each topic.

Busting Balls at SPD

Promising to fire the police chief may seem brash. But under Chief John Diaz, the city required a federal intervention before it could even begin meaningful reforms to a police department with patterns of excessive force and concerning racial bias (costing millions of dollars a year in new oversight). Diaz should be fired, of course—because he is clearly not qualified—and a search should begin to replace him.

Even if saying that is too impolitic, mayoral candidates can call for four specific reforms that exceed those named in Seattle's recent court settlement with the US Department of Justice. First and easiest is demanding biennial reconfirmations of the chief by the mayor and city council so firing an impotent chief isn't as difficult in the future. Second, the mayoral candidates should vow to quickly sign a labor contract with the police union, the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, which has been working without a contract since theirs expired in 2010 (seriously). Third, in those labor negotiations, the city should remove the union president, Rich O'Neill, from the city payroll. He's still being paid as a sergeant even though he never works for the city. Under his leadership, the police union has resisted reforms, joked about pulling guns on members of the ACLU and the Urban League, and opposed the city's racial and social justice initiative. We shouldn't pay people to be part of the problem. Fourth, the department needs to be more transparent with public records. Candidates for mayor must call for SPD to quickly release dash-cam footage when requested under open records laws, quickly satisfy records requests on recent events, and post a wider variety of police reports online. These steps will show that the candidates understand how to restore public confidence in the police department.

Putting More Police Foot Patrols on Certain Blocks

The best way to make people feel safe downtown—and actually be safe—isn't with civility laws that further penalize panhandlers (laws that the city council and tourism industry support). Those odious measures do nothing to reduce actual crime and they scapegoat the city's poorest populations. Study after study shows crime is better reduced with police foot patrols in hot spots. Half of all crime in Seattle occurs on just 6 percent of the blocks, according to a 16-year study of crime in Seattle that was reported in the 2012 book The Criminology of Place. Mayoral candidates should pledge to put more foot patrols on many of those blocks. For example, Third Avenue between Pike and Pine should have 24-hour patrols, and not just during the holidays. If that requires asking voters for more money to hire more police, then ask them for it.

Supporting Density

Um, we hate to break it to the Lesser Seattle crowd, but we live in a FUCKING CITY. And cities have lots of buildings. Some of them tall. That's how we pack so many goddamn people into them.

So when folks in the South Lake Union neighborhood start complaining about how greedy developers want to build tall buildings that would block the views from their not-quite-so-tall buildings, we expect you mayoral candidates to listen closely, nod your head compassionately, and then tell them to quit their whining.

Don't give it away for nothing, mind you; we'd love to hear your plans for exacting all the concessions you can out of those greedy developers in exchange for lifting the height limits. But those awful, greedy, view-blocking 400-foot towers? Absolutely! The whole point of the South Lake Union redevelopment was to increase density in this once underutilized neighborhood, and we don't get there by building horizontally.

Promoting More Affordable Apartments

Our smattering of subsidies for low-income apartments—like the housing levy—will never accommodate even half the people who work in the city but can't afford to live here. But by encouraging small apartments, affordable rentals can be built without any subsidies or assistance at all. The aPodments are a prime example, where the rents start below $500 a month. But right now, most of the new one-bedroom apartments that proliferate in Seattle cost $1,300 to $1,700 a month—which isn't affordable to many workers. That's because the city encourages apartments with giant underground parking garages (usually one spot per unit) and floor plans of more than 600 square feet, which both drive up prices. This effectively banishes the city's workforce into the suburbs each night, thus requiring them to spend up to a third of their income on automobiles for transportation or waste away their lives making long commutes on our shitty bus system. This is unfair to the working class, it defines Seattle as a bastion for the rich, and it promotes sprawl. Part of the solution is simple: incentivizing smaller apartments. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg ran a contest recently for micro-apartments, and mayoral candidates in Seattle should promise to do the same. Studios from 275 to 300 square feet and three-bedroom apartments around 900 square feet—for families—could be encouraged through zoning benefits, such as increased height and expedited permitting. With affordable stock disappearing in neighborhoods like Pike/Pine and the U-District, the way to keep the city livable to regular workers is to build rentals that are inherently less pricey in the city core, where the jobs are.

Funding a Seattle Subway System Now

Call it a subway or call it light rail—the name doesn't really matter—but Seattle needs to take the lead on funding new mass-transit rail lines within the city limits. We simply cannot wait for a piecemeal system built at the same glacial pace it's taking to get transit to all the suburbs, because that could take a century or more. Instead, our next mayor must take the initiative in leading the charge to ask Seattle voters for money to build a new Seattle light-rail network that borrows liberally from the vision created by Seattle Subway, a group of smart transit activists working with transportation officials.

Use the corridors already identified in the city's Transit Master Plan, and then pay Sound Transit to build the thing. (We don't have to "go it alone" or create a new transit agency to do this.) Voters in Seattle overwhelmingly approved light-rail funding in the past, and there's every reason to believe they'll keep doing that.

Funding Early Learning

Let's be honest, the rest of the state is fucking nuts. Perhaps voters outside Seattle really do want to improve public schools, but they sure as hell aren't willing to pay for it.

So let's do it without them.

That's where you mayoral candidates come in. This campaign is an opportunity to educate voters that no education reform returns more bang for the buck than high-quality early learning, which increases test scores, graduation rates, college readiness, and incomes while lowering teen pregnancy, incarceration rates, and the need for expensive remedial programs in our schools. Best of all, no education reform has been proven to do more to narrow the achievement gap than universal access to high-quality preschool.

Run and win on this issue, and you'll have a mandate to take the lead on its implementation. And implement it here, and the rest of the state will inevitably follow. For if there's one thing the dry-siders can't stand, it's the notion that Seattleites are getting something that they are denied.

Not Obstructing the Arena

Yeah, we know, not everybody's thrilled about locating a new NBA/NHL arena in Sodo (we're looking at you, Peter), but studies have been commissioned, public hearings have been held, and both the county and city councils have overwhelmingly voted their approval. So unless the environmental review comes back way crappier than anybody expects, it's time to put this battle behind us and move on to a more positive agenda (we're looking at you, Peter). The last thing the city needs is yet another mayoral campaign focused on blocking a multimillion-dollar downtown construction project (we're looking at us, SECB).

Obstructing the Shit Out of Coal Trains

Yeah, the mayor of Seattle technically doesn't have the power to do anything about the plans to run mile-and-a-half-long, toxic-dust-spewing coal trains through Seattle up to 18 times a day so that Big Coal can make lots of money shipping that coal out of a port in Bellingham and selling it to China. But a mayor can use his bully pulpit to stoke the righteous fury that people in Seattle already feel about this plan and make sure they know where to direct their protests (Mayor Mike McGinn standing among the thousands who packed a recent Seattle hearing on the possible impacts of the coal trains was a good first step). A mayor can also lobby Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark to deny permits to the coal train. And finally, a mayor can threaten to do crazy, telegenic shit like, oh, lying down on the fucking tracks to stop the coal trains from coming through. The candidate who promises to do that has our attention—and quite possibly our endorsement.

Supporting Hybrid District Elections

At-large city council elections probably made sense decades ago, back when Seattle was a more homogenous city. Who cared if everybody on the council looked and thought like everybody else—or so the thinking went—as long as the vast majority of voters did, too?

It is finally time for Seattle to reshape the council in its image. And we expect the mayoral candidates to use this campaign to explain to voters why a hybrid system, in which some council members are elected from geographic districts, is the best means toward this end.

Every Seattle voter deserves a council member who knows their neighborhood and who is expected to be responsive to its needs. It's only fair.

Killing the SPD Drone Program

The people who are freaking out about the Seattle Police Department's new $82,000 flying drone have a point. As one protester shouted at a forum on the drone, held in the Central District in October: "We don't trust you with the weapons you do have!"

Really: The police should have to repair their troubled relationship with the community before they are given any new toys. And controversial drones only erode the little public trust that remains with the cops. Plus, they are a tool without a proven need.

Drones like the one the SPD bought can be hacked, they can't fly in high winds or rain, and they tempt law enforcement to do stupid things like mount guns on them. We need a mayor who isn't suckered by expensive robots and will instead make a priority of using city money, officer time, and federal grants for proven tactics that make streets safe. Let other cities experiment with drones and all their attendant problems. Candidates for mayor should push for a ban on all drones here in Seattle.

Paying for Bike Lanes

This spring, the city council is due to update the Bicycle Master Plan, a bible of local bike infrastructure planning that was created in 2007 but that the city has barely funded. Five years into the 10-year plan, we've paid for only $36 million of the $240 million goal. That's miserable.

If you mayoral candidates want us to take you seriously on bikes—and transportation in general—then promise to fully fund the renewed Bicycle Master Plan that the council approves next year.

Doing this will cost at least $25 million to $30 million annually, so start thinking. And don't tell us that's too big a sum. Right now, the city spends $300 million annually on transportation, and only 3 percent of that is spent on bike-related improvements.

Other cities are doing better than us and securing federal funds for bike infrastructure improvements right now, so don't tell us it's not possible. We need more greenways. We need more cycle tracks. We should have a 200-mile network of bike routes connecting the neighborhoods of this city, and it should be completed in the next 10 years.

Trying Again for Later Bar Hours

In 2010, when Mike McGinn was still a wet-behind-the-ears baby mayor, he proposed an ambitious plan to improve Seattle's nightlife scene for everyone. It included giving tickets to obnoxious drunks on the street, new rules for noise complaints, taxicab stands, later bus service, prepaid morning parking, and, finally, staggering last call for responsible bars to eliminate the 2 a.m. mass push-out, which results in a chaotic clusterfuck as hundreds of drunks flood our city streets at once. Nearly three years later, all of these proposals have been implemented—except later bar hours, even though the Seattle Police Department and all elected city officials support the plan. Why? Because our state liquor board, which regulates drinking hours, is stacked with a couple of tight-assed, teetotaling chickenshits. We need a mayor who's willing to stand up to state officials and continue pushing for later bar hours, which studies have shown help reduce public safety issues like drunk driving and drunk-on-drunk street fighting. If you don't support this popular plan—if you're not willing to make it a priority—step the silly fuck off the podium already.

Improving Rules for Street Food

In July 2011, the Seattle City Council passed controversial legislation that gave food trucks more flexibility to park on city streets. But that same legislation fucked over sidewalk vendors at the behest of brick-and-mortar restaurants, which squawked at the added competition. The end result: Mobile food trucks are flourishing in the city while sidewalk vendors, which must set up shop at least 50 feet from any eatery entrance (among other restrictions), are dying out. City records show the number of sidewalk vendors has dwindled from 35 in July 2011—right before the new legislation passed—to only 19 today. That's a 54 percent drop in a year and a half. In the end, the buck stops with the mayor, who manages the transportation department that oversees street-food vendors. The candidates need to promise to fix these rules—even if some restaurant owners whine—because active sidewalks are essential to safe, fun cities. recommended


Comments (30) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Gee,all of them are racially "White" Upper Middle Class and over a certain Gregorian year of age;doesn't seem to be a microcosm of the Seattle demographic by a looooon shot!(Pfft!).Hey!SECB!Are you gonna report on the King County Council seat elections?And the fact that the Socialist Alternative Party plans to front candidates for ALL of Seattle's city-council seats up for grabs next year?Or will you kiss the ass of the NIMBY Nazis who run the Overpriced City ??? ------
Posted by 5th Columnist on December 26, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
What we DON'T need to hear is mayoral take-over of our school district (I'm looking at YOU, Burgess). Unless you want to turn Seattle into the Rahm-credible basket case in Chicago. Seriously!
Posted by burb on December 26, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Report this
re: Seattle Subway. Sound Transit promised light rail in Seattle (Seatac to UW) by 2006. Now the date is 2016. What makes you think it could build out a subway in your lifetime? Are you fags getting paid to flog for ST?
Posted by just curious on December 26, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
Density: All your f-bombs won't change the fact that Seattle does "give it away for nothing." Repeatedly. For decades. South Lake Union is no exception and the proposal handed by McGinn to the Council is a larger give away than most. It is not inherently NIMBY or anti-density to advocate for more accountability in land use planning (planning? what planning?) and decision making, and for the City to stop giving away public resources.

Zoning capacity is a public resource, and up zones have consequences, like the need for more transit (and open space, and police, fire dpt, etc.). And yes, blocking views and light is an adverse impact. (As is the suburban ugliness of most of the new buildings going up in SLU.) The fact is, Seattle has lots of unused housing and commercial and industrial capacity without a single rezone. Why don't you cover that issue (GMA, growth targets, unused capacity, who owns what and gets what from specific decisions) instead of uncritically flogging for density?

Arena: Same story; Seattle gives away public resources and conducts the environmental review, if ever, after the fact. There is pending litigation over this ass-backwards process by the City. If Hansen doesn't want a public siting review process under SEPA, he shouldn't ask for public assets. It's quite possible Seattle will get away with this travesty because they have done so numerous times as SEPA and GMA is eroded into meaningless by developers and their municipal handmaidens.

The Stranger should not go along with such uncritical decision making; you argue for more accountability in most areas, but when it comes to your god density, no decision is wrong no matter how poor and non-transparent the process, or how many impacts have not been evaluated, let alone mitigated.
Posted by TobyinFremont on December 26, 2012 at 3:05 PM · Report this
The 3% we spend on bikes is equivalent to the 3% of people who commute by bicycles. The percentage we spend on sidewalks is a fraction of the percentage of people who are pedestrians. Want to make transit carry more people? Build sidewalks so people don't have to walk in the middle of the street or stand in a drainage ditch to catch the bus.
Posted by Not "lesser" but better on December 26, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
I'd rather prefer a mayor tell the NBA that if they want an arena in Seattle we have one that needs some work or they're welcome to pay the cost to play in our desireable market, without Seattle fronting projected tax revenues to the project (or property taxes that are paid by citizens being used to pay bonds on the arena).
Posted by ChefJoe on December 27, 2012 at 6:22 PM · Report this
Frank Blethen's vodka distiller 7

The city already has an arena deal. No Mayorial candidate alone is going to undo it.

Go back to Field of Schemes and bitch about Virginia Beach some more.
Posted by Frank Blethen's vodka distiller on December 28, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
The city has an arena MOU, pending some studies and another round of votes on those results. On top of that, there's no bonds being created until Hansen finds a team and gets them to sign a lease that all parties are happy with.

I could care less about them, but Virginia Beach's arena money-backers are sitting down and talking with NBA teams so they've got that leg up.
Posted by ChefJoe on December 28, 2012 at 1:39 PM · Report this
Complain about the cops but then advocate for putting more of them on the street?!?!?
Posted by Centrifugal Force 5 on December 29, 2012 at 8:21 AM · Report this
I believe in density. But I believe it can be balanced by controlling height. Views are important to all of us. The over-building of a city affects how people behave within the confines of that concrete jungle. Also, they find something like 300 dead birds a day in NY. We can do better than that. A good starting place is smaller apartments rather than taller buildings.
Posted by northender on December 29, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
A bit off-topic but . . . why doesn't that coal train leave Montana and go north to Canada giving them the opportunity for a brand new coal-dust paradise to the coast? Why the route through Washington?
Posted by northender on December 29, 2012 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Bikes: I'm for bike lanes. But, does anyone else have trouble seeing the damn things at 6:30 pm on a rainy, windy night as they approach a busy intersection with their one teeny tiny Christmas light? Crazy idea: add the bike lanes in the center of the street where drivers can easily see them and create an ordinance that all riders must be wearing a reflective garment.

I've thought a lot about this and placing bikes on inside lanes down the center of the road would work. Yes, there would have to be right-turn bike crossways but that could be worked out. Think about it before tossing it as just another crazy idea. I've thought of many anti-arguments myself but I've worked out a solution for each one. We need creative thinking in transportation.
Posted by northender on December 29, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
I see that the "progressive" Stranger is on its knees sucking developers' dicks again. Hey, why don't we just rename this city "Allentown," and fill in Lake Union? Then the "progressives" would be happy. What a bunch of greedy, corrupt phonies you people are.
Posted by Mister G on December 29, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
And of course the arena. The "progressives" do a lot of blah blah about the downtrodden, but who did they just give $350 million to? A California billionaire and his bondholders. If you want to know what someone really believes in, watch where they spend money. In this case, as in so many others, it's not even their money.
Posted by Mister G on December 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM · Report this
#12, how about telling bicyclists that, as authorized road users, they will have to pay road use fees like every other class of road users? Motors scooters pay $85 a year. So should bikes. Time to end the free ride.
Posted by Mister G on December 29, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Masi 16
More lame blanket statements.

Or not.
Posted by Masi on December 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
What, obstruct the coal trains? NIMBY!
Posted by Mister G on December 29, 2012 at 6:25 PM · Report this
south downtown 18
Typical, naive bullshit opinions from The Stranger.

When it comes to opining about zoning, how to develop, and what a city is REALLY like, the last place to go to is bunch of uninformed self-important white kids from Seattle...
Posted by south downtown on December 29, 2012 at 8:21 PM · Report this
Bikes are low maintenance when it comes to roads. Also, they keep cars off the road. Imagine even bigger traffic jams at rush hour. You might try to develop your imagination and enter the twenty-first century where fossil fuels are low tech and climate change is upon us. Your posts sound like those of another old angry white guy who is trying to match the juvenile language word for word from those of a trying-too-hard-to-be-so-not-pc SECB.
Posted by northender on December 29, 2012 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 20
The Stranger like the fucking aPodments?!?!? ARe you fucking kidding me?
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 30, 2012 at 6:28 AM · Report this
#20, they looooooove the apodments. Seattle's "progressives" are and always will be developer whores.
Posted by Mister G on December 31, 2012 at 1:08 PM · Report this
Social justice? I know we have equal justice in our constitution but what's this social stuff?
Posted by No parking tix for POCs? on January 2, 2013 at 12:26 PM · Report this
@9 More cops walking a beat means more personal relationships, personal investment by both cops and folks in that neighborhood in their mutual relationship, and therefore less abuse and mistrust. You don't beat the shit out of a stranger as readily if you know you'll see that person's cousin at work the next day.

Anyway: my vote is going to the candidate who can convince me that they are going to make the most sustained changes to the police department.
Posted by sahara29 on January 2, 2013 at 1:54 PM · Report this
cressona 24
northender @10: I believe in density. But I believe it can be balanced by controlling height.

Sounds like, when push comes to shove, no, you don't believe in density. But sure, good luck creating a market for smaller apartments without taller buildings.

SECB on Seattle subway: Use the corridors already identified in the city's Transit Master Plan, and then pay Sound Transit to build the thing. (We don't have to "go it alone" or create a new transit agency to do this.)

No, that is going it alone. And how much faster would that move things anyway? Last I checked, there's still the possibility of Sound Transit 3 going to the ballot in 2016, and Sound Transit is going to need a big, capital-intensive project (i.e. Seattle subway) to balance out the suburban rail projects it's considering. And I recall from reading Seattle Transit Blog, from which Seattle Subway emerged, that their focus has been on ST3.
Posted by cressona on January 2, 2013 at 2:00 PM · Report this
I agree with most of the above, particularly regarding the police department and public safety.

However, electing councilmembers by geographical district is a terrible idea, and I refuse to vote for any candidate who supports it.

I hold this position for two reasons.

First, geographical districts can be gerrymandered. Even in the absence of malice, you have to break up the districts somewhere. People on one side of Broadway may have a different representative than people on the other side. Is that a good way to make sure that Capitol Hill's interests are heard? Or is that a good way to promote artificial divisions?

Second, and much more importantly, our city faces many problems which simply can't be solved parochially. For example, every neighborhood has an interest in promoting development... somewhere else. The costs of development are very targeted, while the benefits (though greater) are much more diffuse. With an at-large council, you can make deals, where development is allowed in one part of the city in exchange for restrictions somewhere else. But when members are elected by district, each member vows to vote against any development in their district, meaning that nothing gets built anywhere.

There's a much better way to ensure that diverse interests get heard, which is proportional representation. Candidates run as 9-member ranked slates, rather than individually. If Slate A gets 66% of the vote and Slate B gets 33%, then the first six A candidates and the first three B candidates get elected. This system maximizes the chance that each resident will get to be represented by someone they voted for, which is a much more laudable goal than allowing residents to be represented by someone who shares their ZIP code.
Posted by aleks on January 2, 2013 at 2:12 PM · Report this
If we had light rail everywhere, 3rd and Pine could be sprayed by AK-47 shots hourly and I wouldn't care.
Posted by Swearengen on January 2, 2013 at 6:25 PM · Report this
Many of you should maybe take this conversation outside. you could sit down out on the sidewalk, eat a Seattle dog. You'll see cops...wait, no, you'll see parking enforcement officers. And if you wait a minute you'll watch meth/crack deals go down in the doorways of very expensive apartment towers.
all sarcasm aside, I love living here and the issues are not easy, I guess for my vote this thread would be more like an actual conversation on the streets of Seattle if every other post in it was from someone else asking for money.
hey, can I get a dollar?
Posted by seattletexan on January 2, 2013 at 6:34 PM · Report this
Kinison 28
This list of complaints is proof positive that The Stranger is so far to the left, that it shits carbon credits. Half of these things are wishful thinking ideas that cost ALOT of money to accomplish, money that nobody wants to pay for.
Posted by Kinison on January 3, 2013 at 1:03 PM · Report this
MrBaker 29
You will get bike lanes when I get sidewalks.
If you really want city council by district, and claim to be Seattle's Only Newspaper then get your asses out of Pike/Pine and recognize that the "shitty" bus service doesn't magically start in the suburbs, but as soon as you get walking distance away from downtown or the hill or Udub.

Want to build a bunch of cheap apartments in "Seattle", great, there is a bunch of property in north Seattle that is much less expensive because it doesn't have a view of SLU, the problem is the lack of sidewalks and the shitty bus service, we get told and taxed as if we live in "Seattle" but that's about it.

If you density transit urbanists were serious the you would look at where the cars in Seattle sleep at night (per capita), overlay the shitty bus service map, and have a fucking epiphany.
The only people that need rail are the people that already have sidewalks and busses.
Take a look at the Streets for All failed electoral map of Seattle, pull you heads out of you asses, and promote a comprehensive multimodal set of real solutions for all of Seattls, and not just bikes and rails. Seriously.

Next time you think about Nirthgate realize that there is 40 more city blocks further north that us the city of Seattle, too, 40 fucking blocks.
Posted by MrBaker on January 3, 2013 at 2:36 PM · Report this
what's the history of public universal tutoring programs like?

It seems that with the huge problems of un(derrr)employment and student underachievement, as well as the strong tradition of tutoring in improving academic performance, a massive hiring of enough workers who pass simple standardized tests (since that's the measure for students nowadays) for 20 hours a week at 12-14 bucks an hour or w/e to give each public high school student 2 hours of weekly tutoring might be inexpensive relative to common school expenditures. is this true?
Posted by daws on January 6, 2013 at 2:15 AM · Report this

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