Four years ago, in one of the dirtier campaigns in city history, David Della won election to the city council by labeling incumbent Heidi Wills "Rate Hike Heidi." Della trashed Wills for her leadership of the city council committee that oversaw Seattle City Light, which was then $1.7 billion in debt and had raised electric rates 58 percent. After his election, however, he declined to take over the City Light committee, opting instead to lead the less controversial Parks and Education committee. (Jean Godden took on City Light.) The move was a catalyst for critics, who have spent the last four years accusing Della of failing to take the initiative on many other issues.


In many cases, Della has taken positions with which The Stranger disagrees. He supported (and continues to support) a massive new rebuild of the Alaskan Way Viaduct despite its rejection by 57 percent of voters; he backed a controversial license for bars and nightclubs; he opposed building the "missing link" of the Burke-Gilman bike trail in Ballard because business owners in the area complained that bikers would get in the way of their trucks; and he adamantly supported subsidizing a huge new garage at Woodland Park Zoo because, according to an endorsement questionnaire submitted to the King County Democrats, it would "accommodate all the visitors who currently use and will continue to use the zoo... I am not in favor of having visitors to the zoo park in the adjacent neighborhoods."

Della, who tends to see issues through a populist but often reactionary lens, has racked up endorsements from establishment politicians, business groups, and labor organizations, including Governor Christine Gregoire, five members of the city council, the Alki Foundation, and the King County Labor Council. His opponent, former cop and Ethics and Elections Commission head Tim Burgess, tends to see things from an environmental and good-government perspective; he's supported by several former council members, representatives of the bar and nightlife industries, the Seattle Fire Fighters' Union, and the Sierra Club.

He's lost some endorsements, too, including the Seattle Metropolitan Elections Committee (SEAMEC), which rates candidates on issues of concern to gays and lesbians, and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. Initially seen by many as a potential antidote to Della's pro-business, environmentally complacent posture on the council, Burgess fell out of favor with some liberals when it came out that a company he'd owned had done consulting work and media buys for far-right-wing organization Concerned Women for America, which opposes gay marriage and equal rights for women. "Not only has he made significant contributions to Republicans [state Attorney General Rob McKenna and 2000 presidential candidate John McCain]... he professionally promulgated the antichoice, antigay, antiwoman agenda of Concerned Women for America for many years during the Bush election and reelection," 36th District Democrats vice chair Janis Traven said at a meeting earlier this month. The 36th did not endorse either candidate.

Much of the discussion around this race has focused on Burgess's work for CWA instead of the issues facing the council. Here are a few of the issues that could come up before the council in the months after the election, and how the two candidates stack up. (Della was out of the office and unable to return a call Tuesday, so we relied on his statements at council meetings and to various endorsement groups.)

Density. Della opposed a plan by the Port of Seattle to turn 57 acres of industrial land in the Interbay neighborhood into offices, signing a letter from the council to the port commission saying that the plan could "seriously erod[e] the integrity and viability of our key industrial lands." Della talks frequently on the campaign trail about the need to "preserve middle-class and family-wage jobs," and is likely to oppose any plan to reduce the amount of industrial land in the city or convert industrial land to offices or housing. Burgess seems more likely to vote to open up industrial land to nonindustrial uses. "I definitely favor [residential density] close in around the stadiums," Burgess says. "A lot of these manufacturing and light industrial companies are going to leave anyway... I'm reluctant to use city power to force something that is already changing." Burgess does hate the "really horrific townhouses and condos" he sees going up around the city, and would like to see a design overlay that prevents ugly, out-of-neighborhood-character developments.

Nightlife. A closely related issue is how each candidate will manage Seattle's evolution into a big city in which nightlife and condos can peacefully coexist. Della supported the mayor's proposed nightlife license, which would have placed onerous new restrictions on bars and clubs. Thankfully the legislation was gutted by other council members. Asked if he would support resurrecting the license, Burgess replied bluntly, "No. Absolutely not."

Support The Stranger

Transportation and the environment. Della has been an emphatic supporter of rebuilding the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In an endorsement interview with the 36th District Democrats, whose district includes the viaduct, Della called rebuilding the "safest option" that will "allow people and goods to get to their destination" and protect the waterfront's 37,000 jobs. Burgess supports the surface/transit alternative endorsed by the majority of the council. Della opposed completing the Burke-Gilman Trail through Ballard, losing support from bicyclists and others who didn't buy local businesses' claims that their trucks would hit bikers if the trail was completed behind their businesses. "We've had significant disagreements with David," says David Hiller of the Cascade Bicycle Club, which endorsed Burgess. Burgess supports completing the trail. recommended

Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.