Last week the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) announced its endorsements for the 2019 Seattle City Council election. Candidates who pined for that sweet cash from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's PAC—and those who'd like to set themselves apart from those
After the endorsements came out, the Stranger asked the top candidates in each of the races to send along their answers to CASE's questionnaire. Most of the candidates obliged, a few wobbled, and a few gave us the cold shoulder.
Did Heidi Wills tell the Stranger Election Control Board one thing during our District 6 endorsement meeting and CASE another thing? How about Alex Pedersen in District 4? Or Jason Williams in District 7? We can't answer those questions at the moment because none of those candidates responded to multiple requests from The Stranger. I can only imagine they'll be just as communicative with the constituents they hope to represent.
Update 7/1: Wills finally got back to us with her questionnaire. She says some of the positions contained within in it have "evolved" based on her conversations at the doors over the last couple months. "For example, I’m no longer talking about FEMA-style tents. Modular housing and container housing make more sense so people experiencing homelessness can have more privacy than what large tents would allow," she said.
Anyhow, reading through these questionnaires reveals some common themes among candidates most willing to kiss Chamber ass, particularly when it comes to raising taxes to pay for homeless services.
To assure our corporate overlords that they wouldn't be taxed to pay for housing or homelessness any time soon, several candidates promised a full audit of current city spending before committing to any action.
With classic lines like "before we pursue raising those funds, we need to do a complete review of our current methods, programs, and services" and "after this thorough review, we can build a new, comprehensive plan to address homelessness...and present it to all stakeholders, especially those who we may seek new revenue from" it's easy to see why Egan Orion, who is running against incumbent Kshama Sawant in District 3, scored the Chamber's endorsement.
This is a fun claim, given the fact that last year the Chamber itself paid McKinsey consultants to analyze the amount of revenue needed to address homelessness. They found the region needed to raise over $200 million above current spending. A memo from Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda's office puts that number closer to $1 billion. We're not going to find that money in the couch cushions. We're only going to find that money by taxing big businesses.
Jim Pugel, CASE-endorsed reformist cop running for the open seat in District 7, used stronger language. "We need to get back to the basics and restore the principle of fiscal accountability to the City Council before we keep spending and taxing," he said. Imagine my surprise when later on, in a question about funding child care services, Pugel suggested paying "premium salaries/fees" and offering "student loan repayments" for child care providers. Sounds pretty spendy to me! But the Chamber endorsed him anyway.
Another interesting line from Pugel should please the NIMBYs over at the Queen Anne Community Council: "Might not be flashy, but a ‘wait and see approach’ may be our best bet in terms of any further upzones."
Despite his reputation as a reformer, Pugel also appeared to advocate for a Safe Seattle-type law-and-order approach to homelessness: "Leaving dirty needles in parks and playgrounds where kids and dogs play cannot be dealt with with a disappointed look and a timeout. Come on!” Get 'em for littering, Pugel!! His thoughts about property crime and the "ancillary ‘crime’ issue" of losing "a sense of public order" are fun to read, too.
Progressive candidates who filled out the form took a different approach. Cathy Tuttle, who is running for the open seat in District 4, tried to kill CASE with vagueness. She admits we need to raise more money for public safety, but wasn't exactly clear how she'd use it. "I will partner with a wide range of constituencies to craft a revenue package highly targeted to solving the problem, supported by a clear and realistic plan for how the money will be used," she wrote. Specific!
There are plenty of gems in these responses, and I'm not going to find all of them for you. But here are some more words and phrases to fill out your bingo cards: "efficiencies," "public-private partnership," people who choose to be homeless, "reputation for being unfriendly to business," and "pay more attention to the person speaking than to my phone."
I asked incumbent Councilmember Lisa Herbold, Phillip Tavel and Brendan Kolding for their questionnaires. Kolding ignored the request. Tavel apologized for not responding to one email and then did not respond to a follow-up email. Herbold sent hers along.
I asked Tammy Morales, Christopher Peguero, Mark Solomon, and Phyllis Porter for their questionnaires.
Morales said she didn't fill one out. Peguero said he didn't fill one out either, emphasizing that he didn't do so "out of principle."
"We are supportive of taxing the wealthy and corporations their fair share and wanted the EHT to have gone further than it did," Peguero added.
King County Public Defender Ami Nguyen and Seattle School Board member Zachary DeWolf told me they didn't fill out the questionnaire, and I didn't even ask incumbent Kshama Sawant. But PrideFest guy Egan Orion, Hashtag Cannabis co-owner Logan Bowers, and Pat Murakami sent me their responses.
In a statement, Shaun Scott said he was "proud that the Chamber of Commerce and its political PAC Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy didn't so much as ask me to fill out their questionnaire or attend an endorsement interview."
As I mentioned earlier, Alex Pedersen, a former aide to Tim Burgess, did not respond to multiple requests.
Incumbent Councilmember Debora Juarez, who also picked up CASE's endorsement, printed out her CASE questionnaire and handed it to me. The only other candidate I asked, John Lombard, told me he "did not seek their endorsement."
Chamber-backed candidate Heidi Wills did not respond to multiple requests. Jon Lisbin said he'd send his answers to me later, but he did not. Land use lawyer Mellisa Hall said she didn't fill out the questionnaire.
I only asked tech person Jason Williams, Pike Place market stan Michael George, reformist cop Jim Pugel, and prosecutor Andrew Lewis to send me their CASE questionnaires. Both George and Pugel were endorsed by CASE.