Just commit to dressing up as a slutty Republican Speaker of the House for Halloween already and listen up!!!
We have a major local election to discuss. How major? Well, there’s a $1 billion housing levy to chew on, a school board to set straight, and seven of nine city council seats up for grabs. Pretty fucking major! Especially those city council seats. Whoever grabs 'em will determine the trajectory of the city for a generation.
In the next few years, we need to complete a once-in-a-decade urban design plan without fucking it up this time, draw up a transportation levy that will make it possible to live in Seattle without a car, tax the rich to fund more housing, and pass more protections for workers in our increasingly gig-ified and AI-ifying economy.
Of course, big corporations, landlords, and commercial real estate interests want to control all of that, so they bought a slate of council candidates to pair with the Mayor they bought a few years ago. Those NIMBY concern trolls spent all year exploiting legitimate fears while offering bullshit solutions as a salve, promising to hire cops that don’t exist, get drug users into treatment programs that don’t exist, and sweep homeless people into shelter beds that don’t exist.
They feel confident in spouting all that nonsense because they think you won’t do your homework. But here you are in class, looking fabulous in your Halloween costume, ready to participate in democracy. As ever, we here on the Stranger Election Control Board have come prepared to serve.
We’ve selected a slate of candidates who want to build more housing, expand and speed up transit projects, scale up police alternatives, and otherwise create a welcoming, walkable city that actually feels like a city and not a playground for rich people with bad taste.
As usual, we came to all of our decisions after grilling these power-hungry maniacs in a crammed conference room, researching their backgrounds, and reporting out their dirty little secrets. Read all our infernal manifestos below, but, if you’re in a rush, then feel free to consult our handy dandy Cheat Sheet and move on with your one precious life. And, hey, while you’re in the mood, why not tip us for saving you some time? Did we mention how great you look in that costume?
Anyway, you know the drill. Your ballot is either sitting in your mailbox right now, or it’s on its way. If it doesn’t arrive by October 23, then call King County Elections to find out what’s going on. When your ballot arrives, grab your favorite pen, fill out the bubbles in accordance with our legally binding endorsement guide, stuff the ballot in the envelope, SIGN THE ENVELOPE, and then stuff that big beautiful package into the nearest drop box or into your very own mailbox–no stamp required! Do it all before 8 pm on Tuesday, November 7, and you’ll be golden.
The Stranger Election Control Board is Hannah Krieg, Vivian McCall, Charles Mudede, Ashley Nerbovig, Megan Seling, a high-ranking member of the “graffiti society,” and Rich Smith. The Stranger does not endorse in uncontested races, or in races we forgot.
Director of Elections
No one in King County knows how to run the elections department better than two-term incumbent director Julie Wise. She's devoted 23 years of her life to the agency, including nearly three years working as deputy director before voters chose her to lead the place.
During that time she’s successfully overseen 32 elections, led the charge on pre-paid postage for ballots, launched voter outreach initiatives, installed 68 new ballot drop boxes (impressive, but one more would have been nice hehe), and added four languages to the department’s full suite of voter materials, bringing the total number of languages covered to seven.
That history of accomplishment gives us faith in her ability to manage the little tornado of structural challenges headed her way in the coming years, from the inevitable shit-show of the 2024 presidential election to standing up Seattle’s ranked-choice voting system to ensuring the smooth transition from odd-year elections to even-year elections for some King County offices.
When she’s not handling all that, she plans to shore up security, promote civic engagement in schools, and add more options to the ballot verification process so that we’re not only relying on signature-matching, which disadvantages the youth, whose tender scribbles change with age.
You will not find the same level of passion for election nerdery and voter outreach in her opponent, Doug Basler, an election-denying Republican freakazoid who makes a habit of challenging unbeatable Democratic incumbents for reasons that have nothing to do with his digital media company, we’re certain!! To the degree that this loser has a platform, it’s ending mail-in voting and undermining democracy, two things we’d actually love to keep around, thanks. Vote Wise.
Metropolitan King County Council District No. 4
Both of the candidates running to represent the fine people of Belltown, South Lake Union, and the greater Ballard area would do a fine job, but Jorge Barón is your best bet here.
He ran the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for 15 years–sometimes literally running through airports to stop unlawful deportations. During his tenure, he helped build the organization from a small nonprofit into a major operation, where he successfully advocated for laws to keep cops off the backs of immigrants and convinced the state to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in immigrant relief funds.
His success in lobbying the Legislature to move on immigration bodes well for future success in other tough lobbying efforts on behalf of the county, like trying to squeeze more progressive tax dollars out of the state. His coalition-building skills and his relationships with key lawmakers in that arena–including state Sen. Noel Frame, who endorsed him–increase our confidence in his ability to complete the mission.
But even if the state keeps dragging its feet, Barón’s expertise with the immigration system puts him in a strong position to swiftly roll out policies that could help solve one of the county’s biggest problems: staffing. We need more people to fix and drive the buses, watch kids at child care facilities, administer medicine for the public health department, and lend a hand everywhere else. Barón’s ideas for speeding up immigration paperwork can help with all that, and his union bonafides will mean those new workers won’t get the shaft.
Our only real beef with Barón involves his lukewarm feelings about a newly proposed sales tax to increase access to arts, science, and heritage programming countywide, a yearslong effort to help spread King County’s cultural treasures more equitably. After looking at the first draft of the proposal, though, Barón now tells us he “feels a lot warmer about it,” which makes us feel a lot warmer about him.
Though Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld strongly supports that measure, there’s no other real policy daylight between the two candidates. We like the emphasis and urgency Barón drums up around progressive taxation and immigrant rights, so we’re going with him. Vote Barón.
Metropolitan King County Council District No. 8
We like Seattle City Council Member Teresa Mosqueda because she likes to tax the rich for more affordable housing, win worker protections and pay raises, push funding toward evidence-based solutions to crime, and use her bully pulpit to fight back against all the hatred and contempt that too many people have for the poor.
Her six years of experience managing mayoral and councilmanic egos in one of the most contentious political environments in the country more than qualify her for retirement a seat on the King County Council. From that post she promises to stay laser-focused on expanding child care services, securing higher salaries for care-givers and social workers, and making larger investments into public health to treat the sick and the dying–and she’s not afraid to tax big corporations to get the money, as she so ably demonstrated on council.
Since we last spoke to her in June, Mosqueda’s opponent, Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon, voted to ban sleeping outside at night. Adding insult to injury, she justified her cruelty with half-truths and some disingenuous language around equity. And all the while, her command of policy seems weak as ever. In policy interviews with other outlets she’s still just wandering through vagaries while continuing to run a back-the-blue grievance campaign that she found on the clearance rack from the 2021 Seattle elections.
Judging by her embarrassing performance in the primary, voters thankfully do not seem to be buying her bullshit. We hope she takes that rejection as a sign to escape her bubble and parlay what little power she’s amassed into another line of work, but it looks like she’ll just return to making the lives of poor people in Burien more miserable. Boo. Vote Mosqueda.
Commissioner Position No. 5
Port Commissioner President Fred Felleman deserves a third term because he knows how to expand our overstuffed airports and port terminals without polluting the sky or nuking the orcas. Or, at least we're certain that he’ll do a better job of all that than the corporate tool running against him.
But before we substantiate our praise, we must admit that the intensity of Felleman’s love for marine life sometimes goes a little too far. At the end of September, the Port’s ethics board slapped him on the wrist for using his position to try to attend leadership meetings for Washington Maritime Blue’s Quiet Sound, a program from a nonprofit group that works to muffle underwater noise from big ships that can disorient passing orcas. According to the Seattle Times, Felleman tried to attend meetings after they told him he couldn’t, and he was rude to a Port employee at some point in the process. Nothing he did resulted in any financial or electoral gains, and Felleman said he just wanted to help the project succeed. Still, he acknowledged his “words and actions sometimes lack respect and courtesy.” The SECB would never.
While we tend to reserve our discourteous words for our highest-paying clients, we do support the work Felleman has done for the environment over the years. Early in his career, he helped strategize the best way to clean up marine debris. He started pushing for state regulation of cruise liners all the way back in the 2000s, when the companies first docked in Seattle. In his 2015 campaign for commissioner, he promised to make the Port greener, and he followed through on that promise by banning the practice of cruise ships dumping untreated wastewater in Puget Sound. All very good things, in our view!
His opponent, Jesse Tam, is a former member of the banking industry and a board director for the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce. He’s hyper-focused on using the Port to spur development, which makes sense given how much money his campaign has taken from developers and realtors. He also wants the Port police to waste time cracking down on minor offenses. In contrast, Felleman sports donations from unions and cool people with jobs such as “healer/guide.” Vote Felleman.
Council District No. 1
Maren Costa made a name for herself by standing up to the bosses at Amazon, and she plans to bring that pro-worker spirit to the Council. She’ll tax the rich, she’ll push for density across all neighborhoods, and–god willing–she’ll stop the sweeps.
Could she be a stronger critic of the police? Hell yes. In a particularly awkward moment during The Stranger’s Candidate Survivor, she said she wanted to see “anti-racist police,” which, our sister in Christ, is an oxymoron.
Nevertheless, she’s leagues above her competition, Rob Saka. The SECB’s disdain for big tech lawyer Saka goes back more than a year, when (very credible) rumors spread about Mayor Bruce Harrell hand-picking him to replace one of his many political enemies. Given the Mayor’s terror campaign against the unhoused and his undying love for the cops, we did not have high hopes for his stooge.
Lo and behold, Saka proved to be the vapid twat of our nightmares. Before the primary, it felt like pulling teeth to get him to talk about anything besides himself. Nice backstory. We loved it the first five times we heard it. Now, can we get to the policies? No? Gonna wait ‘til the month before the election? Okay. We’ll wait.
We should have known to be careful about what we wished for. When he finally started to take stances, they sucked so bad we understood why he kept pussyfooting around our questions. In one recent memorable moment, he said we cannot only “root cause” our way out of the homelessness crisis, which is a nice way of saying we must humiliate and punish homeless people with expensive and unhelpful sweeps while we wait years for housing to come online.
Speaking of homelessness, he thinks we can solve the crisis via corporate donations, and by “donations” he doesn’t mean $1 billion per year in taxes for the next ten years, which is what we actually need. And like the others on his slate, he wants to hire 500 more cops, even though we all know that number is wildly unrealistic. Even with Harrell offering $30,000 in hiring bonuses, the police department hasn’t come close to meeting its recruitment goals.
By no means are we alone in our criticism of Saka’s campaign. All of his former competitors endorsed Costa, even the ones that aligned more closely with him on the issues. But don’t feel too bad. Saka can cry on the shoulders of the CEOs and Trumpers who pumped tens of thousands of dollars into his campaign. Vote Costa.
Council District No. 2
SECB members collectively blush, lie on our bellies, and kick our feet in the air when we think of Council Member Tammy Morales. Writing an endorsement for Morales feels like composing a sappy diary entry in glitter gel pen about our middle school crushes. Except our middle school crushes did not tirelessly advocate for the working people of Seattle.
Morales votes the right way on every issue. Cops? She won’t give them more money. Renters? She goes to bat for them. Sweeps? She decries them. Housing? She wants to decommodify it. When a contentious vote comes before the council, she rarely gets a frantic call from our City Hall reporter to ask which way she’s going to go. (Thanks for that, by the way. It saves her some time.)
Morales also advocates specifically for her district, which includes the Chinatown-International District, Beacon Hill, and Rainier Beach. When the Mayor cut funding to programs to prevent violence against Asian-American Pacific Islander communities last year, Morales brought the money back. When the council allocated money for traffic safety, Morales called dibs to invest on Rainier Avenue. When summer sun brought South Seattle to a boil, Morales funded community resiliency hubs for her constituents to beat the heat. And as rising rents push more Black and brown people out of Seattle, Morales pushes for social housing like no one else.
Besides, there is no one else in this race—unless you count Tanya Woo. You know, the woman who led protests alongside the King County Republicans against expanding a shelter in SODO. And no, she did not make that fuss just because the County did not “hear” the community on that issue. She did it because she thought a “mega-shelter” would bring in the riff raff. As we said in August, the mask slipped in our endorsement meeting.
Woo will not bullshit you when it comes to other bad ideas, though. She actually called for “down-zones,” which would stifle density in the midst of a housing crisis. Ms. Woo, no serious person has suggested down-zones since the first Bush administration, and that’s being polite!
Furthermore, in classic conservative fashion, she does not support generating new progressive revenue, nor does she name the vital programs she’d kill to balance a budget without it. You’d think she’d have a list ready, since she’s so informed and so plugged into local politics–psych! She’s only ever voted in two local elections in the 30 years she’s been old enough to vote. And she also lied to The Stranger about that!
So, if you want a NIMBY corporatist with a fibbing problem, then Woo is the one for you! If you want someone who will actually make Seattle a more livable city, then Morales is the only choice. Vote Morales.
Council District No. 3
When Council Member Kshama Sawant declined to run for re-election, the SECB went through all the stages of grief. And now, comrades, we must enter the acceptance phase by selecting a new council member to replace the most tenacious lefty elected official this sorry town has ever seen.
We might not follow any of the potential Sawant replacements into gunfire, but we believe former Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director Alex Hudson outlines a better vision for Seattle than her competition, cannabis-grower and third-generation Seattleite Joy Hollingsworth.
If you’re hoping for someone to stand up to big business, neither of these candidates fit the bill. The Downtown Seattle Association, which represents the interests of giant corporations and landlords, said Hudson and Hollingsworth both felt “aligned” with their values. Neither candidate seems 100% strong on progressive taxation, with Hollingsworth only “maybe” in favor of a capital gains tax and Hudson iffy on expanding the payroll tax on the City’s biggest businesses.
But Hudson’s transit chops far outshine Hollingsworth’s. With a new transportation levy to shape soon and a certain regional transit agency that could use at least one other unwavering champion for transit riders on its board, Hudson brings the policy expertise we desperately need in that arena.
And really, this race comes down to who will support more housing density in a housing crisis. That’s Hudson. She’s already had a hand in developing many units of affordable housing during her time on the board at Bellwether Housing, and as a council member she would support bold zoning reform to allow more people to live in Seattle.
Conversely, in 2017, Hollingsworth tried to block the construction of a small apartment building explicitly to save her view of Bellevue. She was still complaining about the development in 2020. The building was never built.
So what? She did a NIMBYism five years ago, and then again three years ago. People change, people grow. Well, we aren’t convinced she has. When she tried to defend herself, she failed to address the thrust of the critique leveled against her and instead gave a history lesson in displacement, a concern she did not raise in her battle against development on a major arterial. But what did we expect? After all, she took the weakest, least imaginative stance on zoning reform of any candidate we interviewed in the District 3 race.
We cannot rely on someone who opposes new, relatively cheap apartments over concerns about diminished views of a mall city to take the housing crisis seriously, especially since the upcoming council will vote on the comprehensive plan, a once-in-a-decade overhaul of the City’s zoning laws. We cannot afford to fuck up that plan again. Literally. Vote Hudson.
Council District No. 4
Urbanist Father™ Ron Davis is going to put bike lanes in places you didn’t even know needed bike lanes. He’s going to fill the city with apartments wallpapered in Amazon’s money. He’s going to leave a handprint on your landlord’s face after he slaps them with anti-rent gouging laws. He’s going to make Seattle a walkable utopia—or at least keep the NIMBYs from winning every fight in the midst of a housing crisis.
In addition to being the urbanist boss at the end of the video game, the SECB also trusts Davis with the sacred responsibility of replacing Council Member Teresa Mosqueda as Seattle’s queen of progressive revenue. Davis wrote bold, well-informed, pro-tax propaganda before he even announced his candidacy, and he has not wavered since. This makes him one of the few–if not the only–remaining candidates in the City to stay 100% consistent on strong support for taxing the rich. With a looming budget shortfall of potentially half a billion dollars, we need an entire city council of tax dweebs like Davis.
But don’t get us wrong. He called the council’s promise to cut the police budget by 50% a tactical error, and he needed some education on the problems that come along with targeting street dealers for arrest, so he's going to need some more guidance in that department.
But at least he's open to dialogue and change. His competition, Maritza Rivera, loves cops with a fervor that we must assume comes from a clinical overconsumption of true crime podcasts and paranoid dribble on NextDoor. Don’t count on her to tax the rich, either. A bunch of loaded CEOs and Trump donors poured tens of thousands into her campaign, buying her political influence if she wins. Oh, and did we mention she’s allegedly a nightmare to work for? According to 26 workers at the Office of Arts and Culture, where she used to hold the position of deputy director, she’s a middle manager from hell.
To review: Rivera is a bad boss, a bootlicker, and a big biz pawn. Davis is an urbanist and a progressive taxation champ who admittedly could use some work on cop issues. Vote Davis.
Council District No. 5
North Seattle faces unique challenges that the City Council often ignores–an appalling lack of sidewalks, high traffic fatalities, a new light rail station in desperate need of density, and sex worker safety along Aurora Avenue. The SECB trusts no one to have a better command over those issues more than we trust ChrisTiana ObeySumner.
As a social equity consultant and a policy wonk, ObeySumner has an in-depth answer for any question you throw at them. They boast plenty of experience working on policy with current elected officials, so they can dive right into the nitty gritty if they win the seat—they’ve even already read the employee handbook!
Moreover, the issues that North Seattle faces are personal for ObeySumner. As someone who uses walking canes and wheelchairs, they deal with the City’s total disregard for disabled pedestrians on a daily basis. As someone who experienced homelessness and housing insecurity as a child, they know what it feels like not to have a safe place to sleep at night. As a Black person and the grandchild of a Black Panther, they understand the long-overdue calls to end racist policing and brutality. As a former sex worker, they know what a safe Aurora looks like.
Unlike most of the council races, ObeySumner’s competition has gained legitimacy with some progressives. Former King County Superior Judge Cathy Moore supports progressive taxes, social housing, and she looks really cool in a leather jacket.
But don’t be fooled. Moore wants to hire 500 more cops, restrict density to preserve neighborhood character, and she does not support a ban on sweeps during extreme heat or cold.
Moore won the primary, and that made some so-called progressives preemptively admit defeat, as though ObeySumner cannot win an election. News flash, bozos: They can. You just have to get your ass to the ballot box and tell all your progressive North Seattle friends to do the same. Vote ObeySumner.
Council District No. 6
Really? None of you scrappy leftists rallied around the coolest gal in the Signal thread and mounted a write-in campaign against this guy? Really?? Ugh. (Joking. Kinda. Not really.)
Anyway, the SECB regrets to inform you that you must grit your teeth and fill in the bubble for incumbent Council Member Dan Strauss.
With all the constitution of a pile of sugar-free Jello, Strauss spent his first few years on council following the lead of other progressive politicians. But as his re-election approached, he pivoted harder and harder to the right.
He held his tongue on most contentious votes, such as the council’s drug war reboot, but then he inevitably sided with the worst people on the dais. And you are who you vote with, Ballard Dan (pejorative).
During his campaign, he similarly avoided taking sides on big issues—most egregiously, the zoning overhaul he's leading as chair of the land use committee. He only keeps it real on two issues: Pulling cops out of his ass to fill the department's vacancies (boo), and raising more progressive revenue (yay).
If not for his support of new taxes on the rich, it would have been a close call. His opponent, Pete Hanning, agrees with Strauss about most stuff, including putting people with substance use disorder in jail and giving the cops a blank check from taxpayers. The SECB preferred his bluntness in our meeting to Strauss's canned answers and Stepford Wives smile.
But Hanning denies the existence of gaping holes projected in the 2025 and 2026 budgets, insisting that the council can find all the money it needs in the couch cushions. Seen that movie before. With half a billion in budget cuts on the line, voters should not give the time of day to any candidate unwilling to tax the rich. Vote Strauss.
Council District No. 7
Andrew J. Lewis sends the SECB into an existential crisis—and not in a cool I-saw-God-when-I-took-DMT way, but in a much sadder, how-do-we-tell-Seattle-to-vote-for-the-straight-Pete-Buttigieg way.
Right now, he needs votes from cool, left-leaning voters to beat his challenger from the right, but at the same time, he has not earned a sash and crown from the progressives.
Lewis pissed off the bootlickers when he voted against the council’s first attempt at cracking down on public drug use. But then he pissed off the left by voting for an eerily similar bill after it went through the good ole Seattle Process behind the scenes.
Similarly, he got an earful from The Stranger when he joined landlords in opposition to a measure to cap fees for late rent at $10. But then, to the dismay of conservatives, he changed his mind on that one.
Lewis also championed a slew of protections for gig workers, but he supported an amendment to severely limit who gets those basic rights, siding with big business against the good advice of his co-sponsor.
One more example: He voted on a resolution to defund the Seattle Police Department in 2020. Woohoo for the left. But then he backtracked, calling a promised 50% cut demanded by thousands of protesters a “mistake.”
Though Lewis has a mixed record, the record his opponent wants to start stamping into law looks worse. Bob Kettle, a Sara Nelson protégé, supports carceral “solutions” to public health problems, wants to somehow sweep homeless people around town even harder, and refuses to support new revenue, which means austerity for all–except, of course, for the police department, which he will shower with ghost cops.
Though the SECB cannot in good conscience gush about Lewis, we can say that his malleability may be his saving grace. If Seattle elects a majority conservative council, then he and Kettle would probably perform more or less the same way on the dais. However, if Seattle elects a progressive majority to council, then Lewis falls in line. Vote Lewis.
Proposition No. 1
Property Tax Levy Renewal for Affordable Housing
Without question, filling in the “yes” bubble to renew Seattle’s housing levy will do more good than filling in any other bubble on this ballot.
Over the next seven years, City staff expect the tax to raise $970 million for affordable housing, including nearly 2,900 new units for renters making up to 60% of the area median income, which translates to about $57,000 per year for one person. Most of the construction and preservation money—60%—will build apartments for renters who make less than $29,000 per year, a group of people the market simply declines to serve. If those units don’t get built–and they won’t if we don’t pass the levy–then all those people will wind up on the streets.
The levy also aims to preserve an additional 600 affordable units, keep up maintenance on current buildings, pay the people who work in those buildings better wages, help nearly 300 households buy their first homes, and prevent eviction for thousands.
To do all that work, the City will charge a property tax of $0.45 per $1,000 in assessed value, which will cost the owner of a median-priced home ($855,000) about $380 per year.
Sadly, though that annual cost to homeowners will triple compared to the expiring housing levy, these funds will not triple the number of units we’ll get out of this one. In fact, that number will probably stay pretty flat. (Thanks, inflation!) That said, Seattle-area home values have risen 55% over the same period (thanks, inflation!), so owners should be more than fine. (And those who aren’t fine can apply for an exemption.)
Nevertheless, we know landlords will point to this property tax increase as a reason to raise rents even higher. The only thing you can really do about that is elect a city council that will stand up to the landlord lobby and propose tax credits for renters, better tenant protections, and more generous relocation assistance programs. Luckily for you, we only endorsed the most renter-friendly candidates, so vote the whole Stranger ticket.
Another reality we must face: though $970 million is a lot of money, it will come nowhere near close to solving the city’s affordable housing problem. Recent reports show we need 30,000 affordable units yesterday and somewhere between 112,000 and 120,000 new units by 2044, depending on who you talk to. Very roughly speaking, to make a real dent in those numbers we’d need to quintuple the cost of this proposal, or else hold a general strike until the federal government dramatically increases its investments in housing–neither of which is going to happen.
But if we don’t pass the levy, then the housing crisis worsens, which would, well, be worse. At least we can take some comfort in the fact that the last housing levy exceeded its performance expectations in all but two categories, and it appeared on track to meet expectations in those two categories by the end of this year, according to the latest report from the oversight committee.
This is the best neoliberalism is gonna do, folks. Vote yes.
Seattle School District No. 1
Director District No. 1
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) needs to claw its way out of a budget deficit while ensuring it stays steadfastly dedicated to improving outcomes for Black boys, and School Board Vice President Liza Rankin is the best person in this race to accomplish those goals.
She demonstrated her dedication to equity in her first term by helping to transform the district’s Highly Capable model into one that allowed students in any classroom to access advanced learning curricula. She also helped ban the practice of punishing students using isolation, a punishment that staff used at disproportionately high rates against Black students, students with disabilities, and those in the foster care system. More recently, Rankin pushed for the district to act with more transparency and fairness when accepting parent-teacher association donations.
Though Rankin performed well in the primary, the district’s recent teacher reconfigurations seemed to piss off people enough for them to erroneously blame the school board, a furor that Rankin’s opponent, Debbie Carlsen, used to support her argument that Seattle needs to elect her to help better manage the district.
But we don’t see much evidence to support that claim. First off, her response to the district’s deficit seems confused. She simultaneously believes the district can find more money in the couch cushions and yet also needs to advocate more aggressively for progressive revenue at the state level.
Okay, it’s true that some fat may exist in the budget, but not enough to fill a $100 million deficit. We would all love more progressive revenue for the district–including Rankin–but we don’t think we can blame a lack of high-intensity lobbying from Seattle’s school board for the Legislature’s foot-dragging on that issue, because lots of those lawmakers wrongly think that Washington schools have too much money as it is. And while we’d love to see Rankin more aggressively push for progressive taxes to fund our public schools, it’s not like her more diplomatic approach hasn’t paid off. Last session, she helped secure a 9% increase for special education statewide, a move that she said miffed more than a few legislators. Moreover, Rankin’s endorsements from state lawmakers, including state Sen. Joe Nguyen, who will hold a powerful position on Ways & Means next session, puts her in a better position to shake down those losers for more money.
However, Carlsen’s endorsement from the Seattle Education Association (SEA), which supported Rankin in her last election, did give us pause. Sometimes, Rankin makes noises that make the union frown, like when she told the Seattle Times she felt “nauseous” when she signed a labor contract that blew a hole in the district’s budget, but the important part is that she signed it anyway. She’s stood with labor in the past, she signed the last contract, and she tells us she’s “on great terms with the rank-and-file members” of the SEA.
At the end of the day, the school board faces a broad array of issues too important to entrust to someone who doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, and, point-for-point, Rankin knows both SPS and Washington’s education system better than Carlsen. Vote Rankin.
Seattle School District No. 1
Director District No. 2
As the only candidate in this race who has experienced homelessness in a state with one of the “largest homeless student populations in the country,” Director Lisa Rivera Smith brings a valuable perspective to the school board. That perspective helps her see Seattle's affordable housing crisis as a primary driver of lower enrollments, which gives her two handy tools: a more equitable lens to use as the district attempts to deal with the deficit, and plenty of armor to use against wealthy parents who shout the loudest about cuts they don’t want to see.
She also wants to stick with the new governance model that will help make the board more effective while still molding it to better fit our district. We think the model reduces unnecessary delays, duplicative work, and ultimately allows the board to step back and focus on the big-picture goals of SPS.
However, we want her to remain true to her values. Her openness to putting cops back in schools after voting with the rest of the board to suspend that program makes us raise our eyebrows and look around at each other with faces of concern. She said some members of the Latino community told her cops in cafeterias would help their kids build friendlier relationships with police. We think that’s a bad idea. Schools aren’t Bumble BFF for kids and cops. Social workers or other kinds of counselors could serve as a more effective resource than a living embodiment of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Rivera Smith’s opponent, former Whitman principal Christinia Posten, opposes putting cops back in schools, which is cool. She also wants to focus on a way to provide special education students with consistent services districtwide as they age, which sounds nice but okay how? Plus, she told us she didn’t trust the board’s new government model because it didn’t give members enough direct oversight over the superintendent. Sounds like someone who wants to micromanage pet policies and district staff, which is exactly the kind of impulse that has made the board so acrimonious and ineffective over the past several years.
She also sent us an email after our meeting that sounded like she planned to drop out of the race if we didn’t endorse her. We understand that it’s nice to plan ahead, but the lack of commitment to running for school board made us think her heart was only half in it. Vote Rivera Smith.
Seattle School District No. 1
Director District No. 3
Evan Briggs deserves your vote because she has a solid backbone and creative ideas for assessing student success. Plus, between our interview with her this summer and now, she started working on a jazz program for incarcerated youth, which is cool.
She showed some serious spine in 2019, when she stood up to some parents and staff at Thornton Creek Elementary to help another mom draw attention to a civil rights investigation that the district mishandled. After realizing that the school community had no interest in changing how it treated Black students and families, Briggs ultimately transferred her kids to the more racially and economically diverse Sand Point Elementary, where she now volunteers with the PTA.
She pitches strong, realistic ideas for progress, such as establishing policies to ensure that schools benefit equitably from parent-teacher association funds. But she also pitches good big ideas, such as ditching the standard grading system and moving to one where teachers assess students based on how well they managed to learn the core concepts of a specific course.
The fact that she can point to specific plans she wants to oversee puts her head and shoulders above Ben Gitenstein, who makes broad critiques of the district but offers zero real solutions. When pressed for any specifics during our interview, he made weird claims that showed he lacked a basic understanding of the district and its history. For example, in trying to show how the school district mismanaged its money, he criticized the Rainier Beach High School remodel, a school with a long and well-documented history of needed renovations.
Finally, he sends one of his kids to private school. We cannot support a candidate for school board who does not support public schools. Vote Briggs.
Seattle School District No. 1
Director District No. 6
A former policy advisor and chief legal counsel to King County Executive Dow Constantine, Gina Topp knows what she’s talking about when it comes to education policy, and she’s ready to hold the district and the superintendent accountable when they fuck up. Honestly, that’s all we’re asking for–not sure why it’s so hard.
In our endorsement meeting, her opponent, Maryanne Wood, a retiree running for director because she wanted a “project” to keep her busy, offered shallow criticisms that lacked the depth of knowledge Topp brings to the issues. Wood’s main critique of the district centered on inadequate parking around a remodeled Alki Elementary, which she described as a “mega school.”
In a demonstration of how she’ll likely act on the board, Topp led her response with expertise, but she pulled no punches. Though everyone would prefer the smallest schools with the most individualized attention to children as possible, she noted that the state’s funding model incentivizes districts to create schools with a minimum of 400 kids–or “mega schools,” as Woods would call them–to get more resources to serve more students. Though she thinks kids can still get a good education at a larger school, she agreed that the district’s poor messaging about the remodel created avoidable suspicion around the project. As a board director, she vows to communicate more clearly and holistically with parents, and we think that approach will serve the district well as it prepares to make budget cuts in the near future.
Topp also promises to keep cops out of schools, lobby the City and County on affordable housing for SPS families, and call out the superintendent if he fails to live up to the board’s expectations. What more could we ask? Vote Topp.