Here are Seattle Transit Blog’s endorsements for Seattle City Council in the August primary. As always, our endorsements solely reflect the candidate’s positions and record on transit and land use.
Longtime readers know our core positions well: in favor of transit investment, concentration of resources into high-quality corridors, upzones, and pedestrian and bicycle access improvements. We are also skeptical of taxes on development, parking minimums, and the assumption that all parts of the region must be cheap and easy to access with a car.
District 1 No endorsement. None of the candidates we interviewed particularly stood out. Brianna Thomas had some good values but doesn’t seem to have a good concept for how to manage the bus network. Shannon Braddock has thought through the set of policy proposals currently before the City, but doesn’t seem to have made up her mind about what other policies Seattle needs. Lisa Herbold has neither problem, but we’re concerned that her concerns about displacement will do too much to discourage development. We’re hopeful that at least one of these candidates will make it to the general election and refine their positions.
District 2 Bruce Harrell has a difficult record on urbanist issues. His past has “people are going to drive” dog-whistle quotes, and in his current term he was the only vote against the desperately needed North Rainier Rezone. But recently he’s been in front of the push to rechannelize Rainier even if it slows people’s drives. He’s fallen in with the Mayor’s consensus on transit and land use, and defers to SDOT on service allocation policy (a good thing).
We’re concerned, based on past form, that Harrell may be telling us what we want to hear, so it’s a shame his main opponent, Tammy Morales, has some unsound transit ideas. Her answer to the station access problem is public park & rides and circulator routes — an expensive waste of land and a discredited planning idea, respectively.
District 3 Pamela Banks is the best of a weak field in District 3. She seems the most welcoming of density’s benefits and supports focusing resources in certain bus corridors. On the subject of parking, she had the interesting idea of a city inventory of loading zones and looked favorably upon Portland’s approach to expanding paid parking hours in entertainment districts, while at the same time expressing unfortunate skepticism about the merits of lowering parking minimums. Finally, her experience as a liaison to the Mayor’s office during Central Link construction gave her a unique insight into how to make capital investments that are sensitive to surrounding communities, a skill that will be in demand if ST3 passes next fall.
District 4: Rob Johnson, longtime friend of the blog, is absolutely committed to transportation projects that provide alternatives to driving alone and has earned our endorsement. He understands the macro-implications of micro-decisions about pedestrian access and parking concessions. He understands that a denser city is both necessary and desirable, and is willing to subordinate other goals to that imperative. He understands the details and can therefore check on implementation. Importantly, we are confident he can turn principles into policy given his excellent working relationships with most regional transportation leaders.
Among his opponents, Michael Maddux is a great candidate who is unfortunately running against the very best. We’re skeptical of his call for agency consolidation, and he doesn’t quite have Johnson’s command of transportation detail, but these are nitpicks. We wish he were running in a different race. Jean Godden has a poor record on the council and is out of touch with the dense-living, transit-riding generation.
District 5: Mercedes Elizalde was the best of a surprisingly strong District 5 field. She embraces density, including market-rate, and understands that commercial activity makes places vibrant. Her position as a nonprofit developer helps her understand its implementation details, crucial for a regulator. We asked almost every candidate about their bus service allocation principles, and Elizalde was the only one who emphasized transit should serve density, existing and planned. It was the best answer in any race.
District 6: Mike O’Brien has been an urbanist favorite on transportation and land use for his entire political career. He is a deep thinker on transit issues, a good presence on the Sound Transit board, and willing to stand up to the SOV lobby to allow others to safely share the road. On land use, we are increasingly concerned about his statements about preserving the ‘character’ of single-family neighborhoods and opposing additional density there. Also troublesome are recent gestures toward needlessly restricting the number of units, or paying for affordable housing by adding costs to new housing supply.
District 7: Sally Bagshaw has been a reliable vote for transit projects and has a welcoming attitude to growth.
“District” 8 (at-large) Tim Burgess may be the purest urbanist of the 47 candidates this cycle: he seems to take it personally when Seattle misses an opportunity for more dense housing and workplaces. He unequivocally supports the great transportation and housing initiatives moving forward today. He even talked in depth about Donald Shoup in our endorsement interview, a detail that set our hearts aflutter.
Among his opponents, John Roderick, a very promising newcomer, has the right values for the city council. He would be an easy pick if he’d been in a number of other races. We’d like to see him further develop his policy preferences in the space between measures currently close to the ballot and aggressive rail plans that are unworkable in the near to medium term. Jon Grant is deeply skeptical of the market-rate development that is the broadest component of any plausible solution to the housing shortage.
“District” 9 (at-large) Lorena Gonzalez is a middle-of-the-pack candidate on our issues. She supports the excellent Move Seattle and HALA proposals. She also happens to be running against the worst of the serious council contenders. Bill Bradburd is a leader of the reactionary anti-development activists, eager to pull up the drawbridge to newcomers, and opposed to Mayor Murray’s sensible proposals on both transportation and housing.
The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White, with valued input from the rest of the staff. Special thanks to Zach Shaner and Erica C. Barnett, especially, for their help with this process.