Candidates, photo by the author

On June 13th, all seven candidates appeared at the Queen Anne Community Center for a public debate sponsored in part by the Seattle Transit Blog.  Sponsoring this event was a big win for transit, as much of the debate revolved around transportation at the state and local level.

I was impressed by all of the candidates – though nobody beat Gael in political savvy, most were strongly pro-transit and each was sharp and had reasonably good grasps on the issues.  The candidates ranged from Left-Wing Linde that proposes a state banking system, to Republican Ryan that believes homelessness is caused by real estate taxes.

In regard to transit, here was an interesting series of questions:

Question: Should we prioritize road maintenance over building new roads?

Answer: Everyone says yes.

Question:What % of transportation budget should go to transit, bike, feet? (currently 7%)

Answer Ryan:  (I wrote “depends” in my notes, don’t recall exact answer)

Answer Evan: 15%

Answer Sahar, Noel, Gael, Brett: 50%

Answer Linde: 75%

Question from audience: How can you both increase transit spending to 50% of budget, while prioritizing road maintenance? Are you just telling us what we want to hear?

Answer: Nobody answers this correctly (in my humble opinion).  Gael answered best by changing the subject, saying that we need to spend money on transit at the state level to chase federal grants.  Noel had a reasonable approach, saying this 50% is a starting point for negotiations.  Brett said his 15% came from the proportion of people that use transit.  I think a fair answer anyone could have given is that the first question was effectively just saying we shouldn’t be building new roads, or at least focus on fixing our existing roads first.

One transit-adjacent issue that most candidates need to work on is the issue of toxic runoff.  This came up as two seperate questions, and I wasn’t satisfied with several answers.  Sahar  and Noel gave answers that revealed they need to study the issue more, and although Gael seemed to understand the issue well, her answer to the problem was very weak (#1 measure: improved government procurement).  Linde suggested we tax lawn fertilizer.  The shining winner on this issue was Brett, whose answers were detailed, intellegent, and implementable (get Puget Sound listed as a national Great Water, provide incentives for green roofs, subsidise transit and electric cars, and #1 solution would be reducing single occupant vehicles).

From left to right in the picture:

Sahar Fathi (Prefers Democratic Party), Ryan Gabriel (Prefers Republican Party), Brett Phillips (Prefers Democratic Party), Evan Clifthorne (Prefers Democratic Party), Linde Knighton (Prefers Progressive Party), Noel Christina Frame (Prefers Democratic Party), Gael Tarleton (Prefers Democratic Party)

25 Replies to “36th District Candidate Debate Review”

  1. Is it just me, or does “Gael answered best by changing the subject…” pretty much summarize what’s wrong with our current political climate?

    1. On its own, probably. In the context of the question, “changing the subject” above means explaining the federal funding rationale for the chosen funding ratio.

    2. Yes. Gael is truly a politician, and this was a politician’s non-answer. The answer she gave was great, but it was to the wrong question.

  2. Brett and Gael were the best players on the night. Sahar was underwhelming. Noel was petulent and ambivalent to transit and the environment (surprising for a Dem), Evan was smart, but just not in it, Linde was crazy and embarrassing, and Ryan was giving coded responses of disdain for taxes, transit, and the environment.

    1. This is a cliche used on every 3rd party candidate. The problem is that we often think outside the box, and are honest in what we say. Taxing lawn products, such as fertilizer and pesticides, and not building in flood plains really sounds crazy and embarrassing, huh? It wouldn’t do much to prevent polluted runoff? No further comment.

      1. That’s not my point, Linde. I’m the poster child of an independent voter. I’d like to vote 3rd party and often do when it’s possible. But, you are incredibly unprepared for politics or campaigning. And, that’s truly unfortunate because I would like to cast my vote for someone who isn’t a D or R.

    2. From the summary, Linde sounds great, but too “outside-the-box” to win.

      Perhaps she can change the conversation, though. That would be worthwhile. If nobody’s suggesting “75%”, then the people who suggest “50%” get called “extremist”. If nobody’s suggesting taxing lawn fertilizer, then Brett’s proposals get called “extremist”.

      Linde needs to be there in order to prevent the discussion from getting dragged off to the right of Ryan.

  3. I really think that in response to the toxic storm water question, Clifthorne was the only candidate who broke the mold and answered the question based on what the legislature can do immediately. He argued that the legislature prioritizes projects by passing legislation that basically says, “this is a priority.” In terms of making progress, the first step is always the hardest, and he definitely knows what that first step must be.

    Additionally, I just re-watched the debate on Seattle Channel 21. (You can watch it here: http://www.seattlechannel.org/schedule/programdetails.asp?title=5551201)

    The only candidate who responded in the ballpark for the appropriate funding levels for transit was Clifthorne. He (not Phillips) was the candidate who responded using the proportion of people who use transit as the basis for his answer.

    Clifthorne on the appropriate level of transit funding:

    “15% represents about double what we have now. And the reality is that 15% is also much closer to the current distribution of the modes of transportation used by the citizens of this state. And when we talk about where the funding should go, we should be (every single year) at the very least allocating funding to the modes of transportation that people are using. With at least a little bit of a push each year, to make sure that we’re pushing that envelope and helping people get towards modes of transportation, and convert towards modes of transportation that are more sustainable both for our environment and for our economy”

    1. That’s all very well for mass transit — but what percent should go to feet?

      100% of the people in the state either walk or roll in wheelchairs. That’s right, 100%.

      Now what percentage of their travel time is spent on sidewalks rather than in cars or trains or buses or on bikes? Harder to say, but even for the people who walk the least, it’s a significant percentage, because you just have to walk.

      So if we allocate by usage what percent should go to walking paths? Did Cliffthorne even look at that?

      1. And before you dismiss this as unimportant, in rural areas, small towns, and suburbs, the absence of sidewalks is actually an enormous issue which drives *much* higher car usage than is necessary.

  4. I am supporting Sahar, but I too was impressed with Gael’s knowledge. She was the only one who had specifics and ideas. Everyone else was vague generalities and platitudes. I was expecting Brett to hit it out of the park, but he was underwhelming. Noel scolded the audience, which I thought was a little tone deaf. Sahar is my vote, but I wouldn’t be sad to see Gael and Sahar make it through the primary.

    1. I really couldn’t stand Noel. “Transit and the environment is nice, but education is my issue…blah, blah, blah.” “No, we can’t do X, Y, Z….I lack imagination and creativity…blah, blah, blah.”

      1. Yes, you’re being more direct than I am, but I agree. I didn’t understand why a candidate would come to an environmental forum and then not talk about the environment at all. She seemed almost hostile or irritated at the questions.

  5. What budget are you talking about that transit/bike/feet get 7% of? Is this the state transportation budget?

    If you look at the PSRC’s Transportation 2040, you’ll see all current funding for transportation laid out in a table extended over the next 30 years, and you’ll see that local and regional transit combined account for over 60% of all regional transportation funding. I’m not sure where the 7% comes from, but it’s not right. Before ST2, transit accounted for about 1/3, but $18 billion bonded is a whole lot of money. (see http://www.psrc.org/assets/4856/Chapter_4._A_Sustaniable_Financial_Framework.pdf, Figure 22 on page 44 for details.)

    1. This is a state election, of representatives that could be responsible for the state budget. The source of the 7% wasn’t given, but I assume this was the state budget.

      1. Still – it’s a misleading question in my opinion, if not simply misinformed. Local and state governments take on different funding responsibilities in Washington, and there is a lot of local authority to pay for transit (less so for streets, which is why we are always at wits end to take care of street preservation, repaving and complete street improvements – but the solution should probably be more local authority rather than to devote state transportation funds to that.) The fact that transit is in perpetual funding crisis is more related to the unreliability of the sales tax, not the lack of funding overall.

      2. I agree that the answer to many of our state’s problems would be an income tax. Now that would have been a great question.

        But the state level funding question is a fair one. It boils down to the 18th amendment to our constitution, requiring all fuel taxes to be spent on roads. Repeal that, and we could slow down our state’s love of big road projects.

      3. I wonder how that 18th amendment is written. Sidewalks and bike lanes are an inherent part of roads.

      4. That’s easy enough to look up. Section 40 here.
        “used exclusively for highway purposes” “construed to include” “The necessary operating, engineering and legal expenses connected with the administration of public highways, county roads and city streets”

        So not directly. I could imagine someone arguing that sidewalks are necessary on roads and streets, but it might be a stretch. We need to just kill that ammendment.

  6. Evan was the only one who said 15%. Every else was being crazy and unrealistic. The other candidates are totally incompetent when it comes to budgeting. If you have any concerns the regarding transportation budget, you should vote for Evan.

  7. The entire event was embarrassing to the candidates, only a couple of whom came close to telling the truth about anything, and the audience, which basically demanded to be lied to.

    No wonder we have such terrible government at every level; no wonder the largest party is now “independent”; no wonder voter interest and turnout is so low. This is what happens when you turn this country into a mix of the Soviet Union and Argentina.

    To call the “debate” a “big win for transit” is insulting to yourselves and your cause, and to all of the candidates who pandered to you at that shameless event.

    http://queenannenews.com/main.asp?SectionID=9&SubSectionID=308&ArticleID=33052&TM=77090.8

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