Here’s the first batch of STB endorsements.  Recall that our intent is to focus entirely on transit and land use issues, and not consider (to the best of our ability) other issues.  Given the relative impotence of Councilmembers to impact transit, we’re going to weight their attitude to development pretty heavily.

Our editorial board is Martin H. Duke, Ben Schiendelman, and John Jensen, with valued input from the rest of the staff.

Richard Conlin
Richard Conlin

Richard Conlin for Seattle City Council – Position 2:

Conlin is a dependable vote on transit and land use issues, and we shouldn’t lose him from the council. He voted for the streetcar network plan last year, and will be an ally on a 1st Avenue streetcar regardless of who the mayor is. Conlin serves on the Sound Transit board, where he led the fight to move the Roosevelt station (part of North Link) to the neighborhood core rather than in the middle of the state’s busiest highway. For all the good we see in Conlin, we recognize that he must be a stronger leader on transportation, land use, and environmental issues. Too often he is just the follower of a good cause. If voters give him another term, Conlin should accept his responsibility to propose new ideas and tackle new fights.

Ginsburg, to his credit, has environmental credentials and is for replacing the Viaduct with surface/transit and not an expensive tunnel. But his positions on development give us concern. Neighborhoods must maintain their character, but not at the expensive of vitality and a warming globe. Density in Seattle has some place in most of our neighborhoods, not just downtown. This is not a problem with Conlin. Re-elect Richard Conlin.

Dorsol Plants (Facebook)
Dorsol Plants

Dorsol Plants or Sally Bagshaw for Seattle City Council – Position 4:

We feel this is the weakest field of all the City Council races.  There are important flaws in the positions of Bagshaw and Plants, although there are some offsetting interesting ideas.

What we do emphasize, however, is the importance of defeating David Bloom.  Bloom, a well-known ally of John Fox, is a Frank Chopp-style old-school liberal who gets social justice and poverty issues but not environmental ones.  He opposes projects that replace old, and therefore affordable, housing stock, which rules out virtually all economically feasible projects.  A Bloom development policy would result in long-term skyrocketing real estate prices in Seattle and ever-widening sprawl.

Jessie Israel

Jessie Israel for Seattle City Council Position #6:

Jessie Israel is an exciting candidate who shares most of our transportation views. She is a strong advocate of Transit-Oriented Development, density, bicycle lanes, and environmental issues in general. She supports decreasing or eliminating minimum parking requirements where appropriate, upzoning near transit stops, and removing parking on arterials for bike lanes when needed. These can be tough positions to take in such a balkanized city as Seattle, and she would add momentum and perhaps even some leadership to these goals — which need to be addressed sooner than later.

Incumbent Nick Licata has never been a friend of Sound Transit. He was a member of a group called “Sane Transit” which sued to scrap the original line (which opened last month) when the agency had problems in its early years. More recently, Licata has been opposed to the Seattle streetcar network which this blog has advocated for in the past and Israel supports. Licata is a colorful figure, and to his credit has been an advocate of pedestrian and bicycle improvement programs, but Israel is a better match on substance and would make a strong addition to the Council.

Mike OBrien (
Mike O'Brien (

Mike O’Brien for Seattle City Council Position #8:

Mike O’Brien has impeccable environmental credentials, extending to all the right views on transit, bicycling, land use, and pedestrian issues.  He’s the best of a crowded field, and a field with no incumbent.  O’Brien was the easiest of our four endorsements, and if you’re going to donate to only one City Council Candidate it should be O’Brien.

His transportation plans are not only ideologically sound, but also extremely savvy about what it is that the City Council can and cannot accomplish.  The focus is on things like bus lanes and land use, rather than simply nagging the County for more bus service.

41 Replies to “Seattle City Council Endorsements”

  1. OBrien? Puhleeze! If not for his opposition to the tunnel, he would be an also-ran in a crowded field of talented candidates for position #8. And some of us who are dedicated transit proponents see an opportunity in the tunnel, btw. Build it now with the possibility of conversion one day to the second transit tunnel through downtown to serve west seattle and ballard/nw. seattle, areas completely left out of rail service now. Sounder doesn’t even stop in nw seattle!

    1. If you think the tunnel has any chance of being converted to rail only traffic you’re crazy.

    2. Firstly we’ve got to get the Sounder to make a station stop in Ballard. Except for KSS, that great piece of our transportation mix doesn’t stop anywhere in Seattle and Ballard begs for such a station. I’d support O’Brien but for his exteme opposition to the tunnel. Like it or not, the “decision” has been made and we have to go forward or else we’re back where we were ten years ago. My worst nightmare is that the tunnel project is stopped and the viaduct will be rebuilt. That would be tragic, IMHO.

      1. If the tunnel is stopped or scrapped it will be very hard to rebuild the viaduct over the City of Seattle’s objections. The city could simply refuse to issue construction permits for one. Furthermore any major action of regarding replacing the viaduct be it a tunnel, new viaduct, retrofit, teardown, or surface+transit has to comply with SEPA and NEPA which means an EIS or SEIS will need to be filed. A new elevated highway will have a lot of impacts and I suspect any mitigation WSDOT proposes will be far from adequate. Plenty of grounds for various groups to file a lawsuit.

    3. You can’t turn it into a second transit tunnel downtown, it’s going to be hundreds of feed underground. However, I do support them just going forward with the tunnel because, although I disagree with it, it was a compromise, so I recognize that no one’s going to be happy with it.

    4. I’m a little nonplussed at this derision of O’Brien. I seriously can’t believe we’re talking about the same person. His interview tape from Friends of Seattle shows him to have a pretty astounding grasp of finances, transit, density, and how to make them all part of one big, beautiful transit- and density-oriented system. The guy is probably the wonkiest transit nerd of anyone running for *any* position in this election, with perhaps the exception of a few of the candidates for King County Exec.

      And Dan Bertolet has a some lessons to teach you people who think the tunnel is a done deal:

  2. Barman: If you read my post, I said “transit”, not “rail”. There are many modes of “transit”. Living in nw seattle, I ride the bus. Although I think it is feasible to convert this tunnel to rail, I don’t expect that in my lifetime. I do envision “transit only” lanes through this tunnel in my lifetime however. It would be a great help for those of us who ride the bus and need fast, efficient routes through town. And I’m sure buses will soon be leaving the current “transit tunnel” once Link is expanded too. You think they will all fit on third avenue? no way.
    The state money for construction of the tunnel comes chiefly from “gas tax”, earmarked for road construction. Build the tunnel, a road, and get transit options for the future.

    1. The demand for transit in the waterfront corridor, of whatever mode, that bypasses downtown Seattle, is practically nil.

      Any major transit investment in the West Seattle/Ballard corridor HAS to serve downtown — the downtown bypass routing of the big-bore tunnel means it doesn’t work for transit. Period.

  3. ““transit only” lanes through this tunnel”

    Because this tunnel idea is only half-baked (actually, only about 2 percent baked at this point), it would only be a single bore with stacked lanes, 2 in each direction.

    So, there would be no “transit only” lanes. And, since transit riders are typically going to, not through, downtown, this tunnel idea is doubly not helpful.

    And, since most car trips on the Viaduct are going to, not through, downtown, this tunnel wouldn’t serve them either.

    I supported I-5/surface/transit, but I liked this tunnel initially, if only because it wasn’t a rebuild. I’m back to I-5/surface/transit.

  4. First Avenue IS downtown last time I checked. The proposed tunnel is not on the waterfront.
    When in our lifetimes are we going to have an opportunity like this? So instead you propose we divert all traffic from the viaduct to downtown streets and then a few years later move all the buses currently using the transit tunnel to surface streets too? That’s a recipe for disaster. And wishing people won’t drive their cars to or through downtown Seattle won’t make it happen. I-5 won’t accomodate much more traffic either. Another tunnel is required eventually for “transit” in downtown seattle. Build it now and convert it later when the political will is finally there.
    If this tunnel isn’t built, corporate and neighborhood interests (mainly West Seattle) will reopen the fight to rebuild the viaduct, which would be the worst possible outcome for all of us.

      1. Consider that the Beacon Hill Link station is 167 feet underground and they needed special high-speed elevators to make that work. Plus a new downtown transit tunnel would be a lot better off going west of Seattle Center and emerging in the Uptown neighborhood.

        I have to cross the off-ramp from the viaduct at Western Ave every day, and so I can tell you that an awful lot of the traffic on the viaduct is not interested in a straight shot to the north side of Denny Way. If they build this thing an awful lot of the traffic on today’s viaduct will end up on surface streets anyway, and they will have spent an awful lot of money on tunnel that will be underused by car traffic and useless for transit.

      2. The deepest station on the London underground is 192 feet, at Hampstead. The elevator goes 181 feet. It doesn’t make sense to say it can’t be done. Build it and we’ll figure out how to convert, post-auto.

      3. I’m not a huge fan of elevators, I don’t like sharing my personal space with the crazies with no escape…

    1. There is no “convert” for the deep bore tunnel. I’d say there is more of a chance of converting lanes of I-5 to rail than there is of being able to use the SR-99 tunnel for any meaningful transit use.

      A viaduct rebuild will have plenty of people fighting it as well. I doubt WSDOT will provide adequate impact mitigation for the sort of elevated highway they are likely to propose. If the Native Tribes get involved in fighting an elevated highway anyone pushing for one might as well pack up and go home.

    2. Given the fuss the state is putting up over converting the I-90 lanes to light rail, when they were built specifically for that purpose, I just don’t think it’s wise to rely on the state turning over this incredibly costly tunnel to transit. We all like to think that peak oil or something will hit and all of us transit proponents will be validated by mass shifts in popular opinion and political influence, but that seems scarily optimistic.

  5. I’ve got a better idea for $4 billion plus of public money, why don’t we get a start on Ballard to West Seattle light rail?

    1. Because it is not public money – it is mostly gas tax which MUST be used for highways. Period.

      1. Only a portion is gas tax revenue. I’m well aware the gas tax has to go to roads or ferries (not just “highways” BTW). On the other hand there is no lack of compelling road, bridge, or HOV projects in Seattle or King County even if you limit the scope just to state highways.

        We don’t even really know how much the damn thing is really going to cost. With only 2% of the engineering done I have a hard time believing the cost estimates are any real reflection of reality.

      2. Can you link me to information on what the gas tax can and can’t be used for? Google is failing me on this.

        I’m pretty sure I remember this very blog discussing the lack of demand for gas last summer as being one of the reasons why Metro’s revenue was sliding (due to the never-ending comedy of funding public transit via means that shrivel up if public transit is actually successful).

    2. And you still have to tear down the viaduct, fix the seawall, and redo the surface streets. It ain’t $4 bil, but it ain’t cheap.

      1. Quite true but with just doing those things there is less risk of cost overruns and we’re not digging a hole and throwing $2.6 billion into it.

  6. Most of the state’s share of that $4 billion comes from gas tax revenue, which is earmarked by law primarly for road construction. If we don’t use it for roads, I know of plenty of communites in rural Washington who would love to get their hands on it. Yes, in an ideal world, we could say let’s use that money for transit construction instead of road construction, but we live in a real world.
    And only parts of the proposed tunnel go as deep as 200 feet. Stations could be planned in the shallower sectins of the tunnel. Besides, my escalator ride at the Woodley Park Zoo stop on Metro in DC was almost that long. Didn’t seem to be a problem building that 30 years ago.
    If you check out the WSDOT website on the tunnel, they predict 17,000 transit riders will use the new tunnel. They clearly state that they envison future traffic growth in that tunnel to be mainly related to transit.
    One final comment: Mr. Stefan I hope you’re right and I say god bless the Native Tribes!!! They might save us from ourselves.

    1. Well how about $2.6 billion in HOV lanes and direct access ramps? How about fixing the 14th Ave S bridge? There are a large number of worthy projects in King county alone that would be a better use of the money. For that matter if a surface+transit option was selected some of the money could be used for rebuilding the surface streets.

      I don’t see a primarily road tunnel as being all that useful for transit. The alignment isn’t a particularly good one for bus or rail use either. I doubt WSDOT do much to make it easy to convert. At some point it is cheaper and easier to just build the purpose-built tunnel you should have built in the first place rather than try to convert and old one built for another purpose.

      I have no idea where WSDOT thinks all those transit riders are coming from. If the tunnel is built I really doubt Metro will run many bus routes through it.

  7. As much as I love the plug for Dorsol Plants for City Council… I’m not sure I entirely understand from reading this how you guys reached your conclusions.

    Don’t vote for Dorsol or one of his opponents but against David Bloom?

    Should you maybe consider asking a question or two of the candidates?

    And vote for Richard Conlin? Seriously? He’s one of the folks responsible for killing the monorail by processing it to death, and a quick review of some of his endorsements will go to show that. On the other hand, he is extremely pro-light rail.

    Then again, you’ve done a similar thing in endorsing Jessie Israel, haven’t you? She’s a fine candidate, but this sounds more like simply voting against Nick. You mention he’s been good on pedestrian and bicycle programs, but it seems like you’re really just pissed off that he was ever opposed to anything about Link. He’s been pretty clear that the problem isn’t streetcars as a technology, but streetcars as tools of development rather than transit options — a view I share with him.

    Can’t disagree with your call on Mike O’Brien — but it helps that he helped lead the fight for ST2, doesn’t it?

    I suppose that forces you to endorse Mike McGinn for Mayor, then — for all the same reasons, doesn’t it? Or is it going to be hard to not support Greg Nickels who — no matter how you feel about his leadership of the city — has clearly shouldered much of the burden in seeing Link finally open and running.

    I’ll stress as always that I like Link and light rail, but as usual I worry that this is less of a pro-transit blog, and more of a pro-rail blog.

    1. There is little concern that any city council candidates have problems with buses.

      Our editorial slant is for the streetcar network and for light rail expansion. Secondary to that, land use is an important consideration for us. We don’t want to have a council that re-argues the merits of streetcars, rail, and density at each meeting. We want a council who shares our values, or one that isn’t expressly opposed to them (see Bloom) — how is that a shocker?

      Our values is that, in general and where appropriate, fixed-guideway rail is a better transit mode than bus. We can narrow “general” and “appropriate” significantly when we recognize that these are races for the region’s biggest city.

    2. There are a couple of cases we’re less excited about the candidate we endorse than afraid of the opponent.

      Land use stuff played a really big role for the City Council level. When we do County Exec and Mayor, the formula will shift a bit. Viewed in that prism I the rationale becomes a bit clearer.

      Pro-transit/pro-rail: We’re pro-transit obviously, but our perception of the region’s situation is that the number one priority should be completing the buildout of ST2 and laying the groundwork for ST3. That doesn’t mean we don’t want more bus service, etc., but you’ll be hard pressed to find a candidate opposed to that.

      Our positions on the monorail vary (and Ben’s most vocal), but I’m not sure it’s relevant to the current situation.

  8. I have to give Conlin credit for being one of the first council members to endorse and advocate surface+transit for the AWV replacement.

    I have to agree in the position 4 race, Plants is probably the best bet. Both Bagshaw and Bloom have aspects to their policy views and political support that I find troubling.
    With position 6, even though Nick doesn’t have a great track record on some things regarding land use and transit, I like him and respect him. Jessie is a great candidate and much better on some issues. I really wish she’d run for one of the other council positions. Still I’m voting for her in the primary while reserving the right to change my mind in the general.

    As for the position 8 race I must say Mike O’Brien is one of my top two but I am a little upset at the way David Miller has been demonized. Having spoke with him at length on several occasions he’s quite the wonk when it comes to things like parks, open space, and land use. At first glance he may come off as a bit of a NIMBY but when you talk to him for a while he’s usually got a good point. The city promised various neighborhoods amenities like sidewalks or parks in exchange for accepting more density. To some extent you could argue these and other improvements are needed in order to prepare a neighborhood for density. However in many cases the density has come but the amenities haven’t. Another issue are the seas of poorly designed and constructed townhouses. If anything they create opposition to density among their neighbors. David has a number of ideas for revising the relevant codes and zoning so we get a better built environment. As you can guess I’m voting for David Miller in the primary. I’ll see who makes it into the top two before I’ll make a decision about the general.

  9. What I’m most confused about is that both you guys and The Stranger have made endorsements for positions that I do not even see listed on my Primary ballot. Am I . . . missing a page?

      1. Yes. Position 2 and Seattle School choices aren’t on my ballot. I was gonna mail it tomorrow but now I’m confused.

      2. Since this is the primary, any position with only two candidates is not on the primary ballot. I know for sure that this includes Position 2.

      3. I figured it was something like that, but then that judge position only has two candidates and we have to vote on that right now, so I was confused.

      4. Aleks is correct about Position 2. The only candidates are Richard Conlin and David Ginsberg, so they move directly to the general election ballot.

        You won’t see School Board races unless you are in one of the two districts up for re-election this year, as members are narrowed to two in the primary by voters only residing in the district they will represent.

        So even if you have a School Board position on your ballot, you’ll see only one.

        In the general, ALL Seattle voters will be able to choose between the top two for both seats.

  10. Licata voted yes on the City Council streetcar network resolution after getting some fact-finding conditions included. It’s fair to say he’s skeptical, but “Licata has been opposed to the Seattle streetcar network”–that’s just not accurate.

Comments are closed.