There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm, but there are bad ideas in a candidate forum.
There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm, but there are bad ideas in a candidate forum. RS

On Tuesday evening maybe 100 or 150 people showed up to watch city council candidates from Districts 1, 2, 3, and 7 discuss the intersection of LGBTQ concerns and business at the Greater Seattle Business Association's "Face to Face" candidate forum on Tuesday.

The GSBA (aka the gay chamber of commerce) event was well-catered but only partly illuminating. Conversations with three voters who live in District 3, however, were pretty illustrative of the dynamics of the council race. And we DID end up getting to talk about bike chariots and the possibility of turning Pike/Pine into Barcelona, which was exciting.

The People

Before the forum I met Lonnie Lusardo, a former president of GSBA who has been with the organization since the year it was established in 1981. He says he lives in D3 and plans to vote for PrideFest director Egan Orion in November.

Lusardo praised incumbent Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant for her work on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but he criticized her "style," saying he prefers Orion's "even-tempered approach to similar values."

"This is going to sound very crazy," Lusardo said when asked what he hopes Orion will accomplish in office, "But I would like him to support the kind of issues that his opponent has supported as a member of the council, but to do it in a more gracious, meaningful way; without burning bridges, without pissing people off, without a negative tone to everything. I've watched her, and she doesn't do it for me."

Bob Wood, who ran the Public Health department's HIV/AIDS program for 20 years, also supports Orion. Wood said he's impressed with the candidate's "community connections," adding that Orion "seems to understand the LGBTQ community very well."

The big issues for Wood this election are safe injection sites, homelessness, and expanding PrEP in minority communities.

Wood said he didn't know what to do about homelessness, but he thinks we probably need to build more tiny homes. "We've got apartments going up left and right, but I don't see stuff that homeless people could fit into, unfortunately," he said.

He thinks safe injection sites "would help prevent a lot of OD deaths," and he worked with the ACLU to fight opposition to them in Washington.

Sawant has long supported building safe injection sites in the city. "Seattle should boldly move forward with a CHEL [Community Health Engagement Location, aka safe injection site], which would open up a second front on the Trump administration's recalcitrance," she wrote in her answers to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog's candidate survey. In that same survey, Orion wrote that "the data is far from clear" on the effectiveness of safe injection sites.

Katherine Yasi, a landlord who ran an early learning school in her home for the last 20 years, said she's "strongly leaning toward Sawant" in this election.

Yasi says she's heard Orion speak many times. "He's from Seattle, which I think is wonderful. And he organized the gay pride parade, which I also think is wonderful. But I don't think either of those things qualify an individual to be on city council," she said.

The big issues for her this election are child care, rent control, and homelessness. She says early learning and child care providers can't afford to live in the city anymore, which is contributing to a child care crisis. "Rent control would help keep providers in this city," she said.

The Forum

In the "Face to Face" forum, moderators Liz Dunn (a Seattle developer who built Very Cool places such as Melrose Market, Chophouse Row, and the Cloud Room) and Brady Piñero Walkinshaw (CEO of Grist) more or less asked the same three or four questions of everyone, though they did ask a couple district-specific questions. The only notable responses came from the District 3 candidates.

In response to a question about curbing hate crimes, Orion first thanked Sawant on behalf of his trans friends for her LGBTQ advocacy, but then said there was more work to do, particularly on the Hill, which he described as a traditional LGBTQ neighborhood that straight people call "party mountain."

Orion argued that "conflicts can happen" when the bars close on Pike Street, where straight people and gay people "who are drunk and high" hang out and wait for ride shares together. To prevent these conflicts, Orion pitched a possible solution from Seattle's Office of Economic Development that involved "concentrating those folks" in a well-lit parking lot full of businesses and staffed with security. There they could wait for their ride shares without fear of being bashed.

Orion's contribution to this idea is to "provide bicycle chariots to deliver people from the front doors of queer spaces to that lot," or to the light rail, or another central location.

So, the way to reduce hate crimes in Seattle—which are mostly concentrated in "high traffic areas, areas of dense demographic diversity, and along the borders of racially diverse neighborhoods," according to the city's latest most recent audit—is to hire a fleet of Guy Fieri-looking motherfuckers with obnoxious stereos to pick up teams of queer people outside R Place, and then ferry them over to the Shell gas station's parking lot, which the city has roped off and stocked with hot dog carts and cops, where everyone must wait until their Uber picks them up.

Sounds efficient, innovative, totally legal, and not at all complicated. As everyone knows, Seattleites love those bike chariots. And forcing ride-hailing services to pick up people at a central location, as they do at the airport, only streamlines the process of getting a ride home and does not at all leave everyone stranded in a sea of nearly identical black Priuses playing a game of Marco Polo with the drivers.

Sawant's answer to the question on reducing LGBTQ hate crimes was the same one she gave me back in May. She blames Trump's "emboldening of right wing forces" on the spike in hate crimes across the country, but she also blames rampant inequality. "When inequality spikes, crimes of various kinds also spike," she said. "Tackling economic, racial, gender inequality...that is the most major thing we have to do in order to seriously address LGBTQ rights."

The only other interesting moment happened during a discussion on the topic of turning the Pike/Pine corridor into a pedestrian zone.

Orion said he likes walkable neighborhoods, but he ultimately opposes the idea due to Seattle's lack of the appropriate "infrastructure" for the project.

Sawant said she supports the idea "in general," but, registering Dunn's clear disdain for the idea, added that she would wait to act until hearing more input from small business owners. During the course of her answer, Sawant thanked Dunn for describing her objection to the idea. The exchange ended up benefiting Sawant, as it gave her the opportunity to publicly demonstrate her ability to listen to small business owners in her district, an issue her opponents criticize her for.