The Stranger Election Control Board faced tough choices this endorsement season: Concerned Women for America lackey Tim Burgess or certifiable dolt David Della for Seattle City Council? Trial lawyers or insurance companies? And the most strenuous brain bender of all—should we give the thumbs up to 50 miles of light rail even though it comes with 182 miles of roads? Ultimately, we decided we didn't want a Big Gulp with our salad on that one, and advise rejecting the $17.8 billion package.
The SECB hasn't faced such vexing choices in years. Usually, it's been pretty easy for us: Yes monorail, Yes monorail, Yes monorail. But this year, we were forced to rack our brains in earnest. It got so bad—Jesus, even the picayune state measure on inmate labor is a mind fuck—that in the end, after all the intellectual debate, we were forced to take out some sheets of notebook paper and make pro and con lists to decide. (Except in the clear-cut Sally Clark vs. the Anti-Statues Lady race.)
The SECB is Erica C. Barnett, Josh Feit, Tim Keck, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, Ari Spool, and Annie Wagner. We do not make endorsements in uncontested races like the Tom Rasmussen race (where you should vote for the gay guy).
Sound Transit/RTID Proposition No. 1
The joint roads and transit ballot measure shackles expansion of Sound Transit's popular light-rail system to a massive roads- expansion package that could never have passed on its own.
After road proponents realized they didn't have voter support for a stand-alone roads package (a major roads-expansion proposal died at the polls in 2002), legislators in Olympia linked roads expansion to light rail. This proposal is an attempt to use urban voters to pass a suburban agenda. Rather than letting compromised politicians tell us what's possible, the people should tell the leaders what's needed: more light rail without massive roads expansion. It's time to flex some urban muscle. Seattle voters shouldn't have to fund roads on the Eastside in order to get light rail.
But by voting No on 50 miles of new transit, wouldn't Seattle's pro-transit voting bloc be cutting its nose to spite its face? No. By unwisely voting Yes on 182 miles of new roads, including four new lanes on I-405 to accommodate an extra 40,000 cars a day, they would be.
Supporters of the roads and transit package love to talk about all the light rail we'll be giving away if we don't vote for the $17.8 billion package. The SECB sees it differently. If we turn roads and transit down, the invaluable transit side of the package can come back next year (which would be great given that Democratic Party turnout will be huge), or else in 2009, when the light rail track from Sea-Tac Airport to downtown will be rolling out and making the on-the-ground case for expansion. True: Voters turned down a rail package in 1968. But this isn't 1968. This is 2007. Global warming is an international crisis, Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace Prize, and Sound Transit is already building a $5.7 billion line that will demand expansion in its own right.
For roads, this package is the last gasp. No one in his right mind looks at the environmental realities we're currently facing and says, "Let's build hundreds of miles of new roads!" But that's exactly what this package would do—152 new miles of new general-purpose lanes, 30 miles of HOV. If we pass this package, we'll have wasted our last chance in a generation to do light rail right. Yes, we'll get light rail to Microsoft and Tacoma (by 2027) but we'll also get a 43 percent increase in miles driven in this region. The new roads will just fill up, as roads do; they'll contribute more to global warming than light rail takes away; and they won't do anything to reduce congestion without further investments in transit in the future. But we won't be able to make those investments, because we'll be committed to paying for a compromised light rail system for the next 50 years.
There are other problems with the package. The light rail in this proposal would be paid for with a regressive sales tax instead of user fees (like tolls). The line itself (through a low-density area) may feed sprawl in south King County, instead of promoting the dense urban development that will grow alongside light rail stations in North Seattle. Meanwhile, the roads in the package are not, as supporters of the package claim, necessary investments in safety and maintenance: The biggest investments in the package include a massive expansion of a suburban freeway (I-405), new connections between sprawling exurbs and an already overtaxed I-5 (SRs 509 and 167), and a highway that will serve sprawl and pave over some of the last remaining oak prairie in Western Washington (the still-on-the-table cross-base highway.)
The SECB wants light rail, but we can do better than a package that shackles a transit solution to a transportation disaster. Vote No on Proposition 1.
Seattle City Council Position No. 1
VOTE JEAN GODDEN
Both candidates in this race have solid liberal credentials. Back in August, we endorsed Green Party activist Joe Szwaja, because we wanted to see an eloquent challenger with a firm commitment to the environment, social responsibility, and police accountability on the general-election ballot. However, incumbent Jean Godden has been impressive in her first four-year term (particularly last month, when she stood up to Mayor Greg Nickels by short circuiting his oafish nightlife crackdown). Godden deserves a second term.
When David Della refused to take on leadership of the energy committee, newcomer Godden stepped in to fill the challenging role. Eventually, her committee lowered electric rates more than 8 percent—significantly more than the mayor requested. She supported a tax on commercial parking that now helps pay for transportation maintenance around the city. She stood up for cyclists when the powerful industrial lobby wanted to eliminate the planned "missing link" from the Burke- Gilman Trail in Ballard, and she says she'll fight to restore a bike lane on Stone Way. And she has fought hard for her budget priorities, including libraries, crossing guards for schools, and community health-care centers.
On priority issues for the SECB—getting drunk and naked ladies—Godden has been outstanding. Seriously, Godden's feminist candor (when she spoke out against Nickels's strip-club crackdown) and her political smarts (when she torpedoed Nickels's nightlife license) cast her as the council member with perhaps the keenest civil-liberties sensibility.
Godden's popularity with her council colleagues has been key to her success. In her second term, she says she hopes to chair the powerful budget committee. We look forward to seeing what she accomplishes. Vote Godden.
Seattle City Council Position No. 3
VOTE VENUS VELÁZQUEZ
The SECB is nervous about losing progressive council member Peter Steinbrueck, who's been an advocate for the poor, an environmental champion, and an outspoken check on Mayor Nickels. Most notably, Steinbrueck reformed Nickels's downtown rezone legislation to extract more public benefits from developers. After 10 years of good work on the council, Steinbrueck is stepping down.
We believe Venus Velázquez, a public-affairs consultant whom Steinbrueck has endorsed, will be a forceful, independent, and effective voice on the council. Her social-service advocacy on behalf of clients such as CASA Latina, her no-nonsense approach to negotiating issues, and her firm commitment to social justice and working-class people convince us she has what it takes to fill Steinbrueck's shoes.
The race between Velázquez and her opponent, private attorney Bruce Harrell, has been ugly. Harrell accused Velázquez of exploiting race, of being a Republican (not a chance), and of illegally colluding with a PAC on her campaign. Meanwhile, Velázquez's campaign accused Harrell of being a bad father to his son from a past relationship.
In an interview with the SECB that was frequently punctuated by name-calling and petty snipes (Harrell: "I couldn't make heads or tails of what she's agreeing to"; Velázquez: "Let me speak! I'm not interrupting you"), when the two actually got around to the issues, Velázquez emerged as the stronger candidate. Unlike Harrell, Velázquez cited several specific agenda items, including targeting families and education levy dollars where they're needed, putting resources into neglected areas like the Duwamish and South Park, and loosening zoning restrictions in industrial areas.
We do worry that Velázquez, whose campaign is expected to get a big boost from a pro-business PAC called Forward Seattle, will be a bit too cozy with the business interests that lobby city hall. We're also concerned that someone who talks out of both sides of her mouth on housing (blaming restrictions on new multifamily housing for Seattle's affordability crisis in one breath and declaring that "we still have a lot of capacity" to build in multifamily areas in the next) won't be a champion for density, Steinbrueck's signature issue.
Harrell is a likable but odd guy with a tendency to say juvenile things ("Do you guys smell that?") when his opponent makes a point he doesn't like. More importantly, he's vague on the issues, sidestepping positions with promises to consult experts, and he tends toward platitudes ("I'm the real deal in terms of getting power to the people") instead of solutions. Vote Velázquez.
Seattle City Council Position No. 7
VOTE TIM BURGESS
In case you haven't figured it out from our 24/7 Slog coverage: Tim Burgess kind of freaks us out. His past work for right-wing groups like (anti-gay, anti-woman) Concerned Women for America and (anti-sex, anti-birth control) Food for the Hungry gives the apostate progressives on the SECB the willies. What swayed us into the Burgess camp is this: He's in the right place on some of our most important issues, including nightlife and the environment. Sealing the deal: Lightweight incumbent David Della—a seat-warmer who never met an environmental policy he liked—simply isn't intellectually fit to be on the council.
On the issues: Burgess wants to fully implement the city's Bicycle Master Plan, and opposes watering it down by removing bike lanes, as the city has done on Stone Way. And he strongly supports the surface/transit option for replacing the viaduct—a big contrast with Della, who was the loudest proponent for a rebuild. A former cop, Burgess also gets it on nightlife and public safety.
Certainly, we remain a bit shocked by Burgess's work for the CWA and his past statements about the "sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman," as well as his assertion that people of faith, like him, "don't like abortion." But we believe him when he says he "made a mistake," and that he "fully supports marriage equality" and a woman's right to choose. So do high-profile gay leaders like Rep. Joe McDermott and former Lifelong Aids Alliance leader Tina Podlodowski, who have endorsed him.
Della has spent his four years on the council avoiding hard work and responsibility. He defeated incumbent Heidi Wills by calling her "Rate Hike Heidi" and promising to take the lead on electric rates. Then, when he got elected, he turned down the chance to chair the City Light Committee. He was unrepentant about this sneaky dodge during his interview with the SECB, telling us "the voters don't care." Meanwhile, he headed up the park committee where—among other gaffes—he failed to do the important groundwork necessary to get the parks levy on the ballot, and he fumbled citizen efforts to build a premier skatepark at Seattle Center.
Della has also been terrible on environmental issues. In addition to supporting the viaduct rebuild, he opposed the extension of the Burke-Gilman Trail, and backed the controversial Woodland Park Zoo garage because "families don't ride the bus to the zoo." Big surprise: Environmental groups don't support Della—not, as he claimed desperately last week, because they're racist, but because he's totally out of step with environmental values. Vote Burgess.
Seattle City Council Position No. 9
VOTE SALLY CLARK
Judy Fenton has one campaign issue: She wants to get rid of naked public art because she thinks it promotes pedophilia and, apparently, lesbianism. Piss her off by reelecting the only lesbian on the council. Vote Sally Clark.
There are six statewide ballot measures this year. They range from significant (preventing insurance companies from stiffing consumers) to picayune (tinkering with higher education bonds).
On the significant side (as in, you must vote No) is Tim Eyman's Initiative 960. Eyman's attempted comeback—like Britney Spears's disastrous VMA performance—is a sign of desperation. Sorry guys, the microphone was formally unplugged on this tired GOP trope in last year's election. I-960 would require a two- blah blah blah thirds majority of voters of the legislature blah blah blah to pass any tax increase. Look: Revenues to fund basic government responsibilities—enforcing laws, maintaining roads, running schools, protecting consumers—should not require extraordinary measures. Vote No.
Another significant measure is Referendum 67. You should vote Yes to prevent insurance companies from gaming the system by unreasonably denying claims. Currently, if your insurance company denies a claim, you have to take them to court. And if you win, the insurance company only covers the original claim—no damages. This means insurance companies don't have anything to lose by denying claims and forcing consumers to lawyer up. R-67 fixes this by bringing our laws up to speed with the 45 other states that allow consumers to collect the claim and collect punitive damages if they prove their carrier denied the claim unreasonably. Vote Yes.
Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 8206 is also a big deal. The legislature passed a constitutional amendment requiring the state to establish a "rainy-day fund"—setting aside 1 percent of revenues each year. Legislators could only tap the fund in emergencies (like natural disasters) or by a hefty supermajority vote. Tough-as-nails Democratic House Budget Chair Helen Sommers dissented because the legislature already budgets with a reserve fund ($1 billion right now)—which they can tap if needed. The SECB agrees with Sommers. It's a bad idea to lock up additional money ($430 million subtracted from next year's budget if this measure passes). The two-thirds threshold would jeopardize the state's ability to cope when a "rainy day" actually does come along. Let's stop micromanaging our legislators. Vote No.
The other big-deal statewide measure is House Joint Resolution (HJR) 4204, a constitutional amendment that lowers the threshold for passing local school levies from a two-thirds vote of the people to a simple majority. The amendment finally passed after last November's Democratic sweep. Thank them for this pro-education legislation by voting Yes.
There are two other constitutional amendments. One, HJR 4215, gives the state more options when investing money in higher education. Vote Yes. Another, SJR 8212, means well—it's an attempt to help rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners by allowing private firms to use prison labor so inmates can earn some much-needed money. Unfortunately, the language doesn't provide enough safeguards against labor abuses (the reason the practice has been prohibited by our state constitution since 1899.) Vote No on this constitutional amendment.
King County Prosecutor
VOTE BILL SHERMAN
The interim King County prosecutor, moderate Republican Dan Satterberg, is a nice, competent guy. However, his Democratic opponent, King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Bill Sherman, is a dynamic, creative attorney who's raring to bring much-needed change to an unimaginative and overcautious office.
The KC prosecutor's office is failing to lead in an era when rehabilitation is poised to revolutionize law enforcement. Looking to expand drug court (bringing felonies into the mix, for example), expand mental-illness court, and remodel juvenile court, Sherman (who cites reform models from Los Angeles to Missouri) wants to go proactive.
He also wants to start an environmental-crimes task force, slash the layers of bureaucracy between trial-level prosecutors and the King County prosecutor's desk, and bring back the assault-weapons ban (which Satterberg's GOP let expire in 2004). And, citing race and class disparities in prosecution of the death penalty (and the latest wave of DNA exonerations), Sherman declares: "As a policy matter, I am against the death penalty. I would call for a gubernatorial moratorium."
Satterberg, chief of staff for his mentor and former KC prosecutor Norm Maleng since 1990, boasts that he has the experience. Unfortunately, that experience rests on a static status quo. Sherman's experience? He has served as domestic-violence prosecutor for King County; done securities fraud work (and the Exxon Valdez case) at Davis Wright Tremaine; and was a staffer for former secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt. That experience screams liberal values, youthful energy, and change. He's a perfect fit for KC prosecutor. Vote Sherman.
Seattle School Board
From the sloppy school closure process to the Manhas meltdown, the school board has been an unaccountable, unchecked, unruly mess for too long now. And the incumbents—the two who chose to run again, anyway—are likely to get massacred this November. That's a lucky break for one challenger, Sherry Carr, who the SECB thinks is an overrated PTSA mom who stumbled on our basic questions about high-profile issues like intelligent design and student free speech. Incumbent Darlene Flynn is kind of a bruiser, but that's exactly why we think she needs to stay on the board. Flynn is a stickler with budgets and hyper about racial disparities and most importantly she's willing to bring a necessary brusqueness to the board's retarded bimonthly meetings. We want change on the board too, but we also think the board would benefit from an anchor like Flynn. Vote Flynn.
The current board is overrun with loopy members, so having straitlaced business types like Steve Sundquist—a former managing director and CIO of Russell Investment Group and a board member from enviro group Climate Solutions—will help keep the unwieldy school board (prone to tangents about recess and vending machines) in check. Sundquist, notably coherent in comparison to this year's batch of school-board candidates, laid out clear proposals for getting families invested in schools—through teacher-student interaction outside of the classroom—and he brought the International Baccalaureate program to Chief Sealth High School to challenge students. It's a drag that this year's other good candidate is his opponent, Maria Ramirez. Had Ramirez—the savvy and organized community activist—been running for one of the other school-board seats, the SECB would have given her the nod. But we just couldn't pass on the opportunity to put Sundquist to work. Vote Sundquist.
One bum that should be booted from the school board is Sally Soriano. Soriano's a kooky hippie who backed parents in suing the district over the necessary school closures—while on the board!—and she suggested that classes in ballroom dancing could be an antidote to freak dancing. We're endorsing smarty-pants consumer attorney Peter Maier—who was behind two big school levies in 2004 and 2007—in the hopes that his by-the-book lawyering will balance out some of the loopy-di-doops on the board. Vote Maier.
We're also reluctantly endorsing Harium Martin-Morris. Why are we endorsing a candidate who told us he doesn't have a problem with intelligent design in schools? Because he's not mentally ill. We couldn't endorse Martin-Morris's opponent—David Blomstrom—whose website is loaded with conspiracy theories about teacher suicides and the "Seattle Mafia." So, we're giving our vote to Martin-Morris, who is former education consultant and president of Nathan Hale High School's PTA. Vote Martin-Morris.
The Port of Seattle
It's rare that a qualified, badass Democrat steps up and runs for the Port of Seattle. Don't pass up on security expert and Democrat Gael Tarleton, challenging Port incumbent Bob Edwards. It's a nonpartisan seat, but Edwards may as well be a Republican. He's an ally of (and recipient of massive donations from) the port's corporate puppeteers, such as SSA Marine. And like the GOP, he's not much of a stickler for ethics: Edwards was directly implicated in the crass Mic Dinsmore retirement payout scandal. Voters should replace him with Tarleton—a stern advocate for accountability and financial success who brings a level of excitement to Port issues we haven't seen since they started importing grain. Vote Tarleton.
The other race features challenger Bill Bryant and incumbent Alec Fisken. This is not a case where the incumbent needs to go. And Fisken definitely shouldn't be replaced by Bryant, who actually is Republican—judging from his donations to Dino Rossi, Mike McGavick, and the Republican Central Committee. Fisken is a watchdog on the inside. Let's keep him there. Vote Fisken.
King County Council District No. 8
VOTE DOW CONSTANTINE
Very liberal Dow Constantine was a punk rocker when he was a little younger and should run for mayor, but won't because he's from West Seattle and doesn't want to embarrass his friend Greg Nickels. Keep him on the council. Vote Constantine.
King County Assessor
VOTE SCOTT NOBLE
Vote for Democratic incumbent Scott Noble. Singular. The other guy's a Republican asshole who helped kill the monorail. Vote Noble.
King County Initiative 25
Initiative 25 is a vote to vote on whether or not King County should vote for its director of elections. Yeah, it's just as stupid as it sounds. Vote No against frivolous voting.
King County Proposition 1 (Medic One)
Proposition 1 renews taxes to fund Medic One. Vote Yes for it unless you really hate life.
Seattle City Charter Amendments
Charter Amendment 17 adds a preamble to the city charter stating the charter's purpose (basically, as far as we can tell, to ensure that city government doesn't suck). Charter Amendment 18 is an ineffectual but harmless alteration that would change the official date of the mayor's State of the City address and officially require the mayor to present a budget address to the council; both aspects of this amendment merely codify what's already being done. Vote Yes on both.