In today’s installment, we present our endorsements in Seattle City Council and County Council races. In most cases, this is a rehash of our Primary Endorsements, albeit with a substantially different editorial committee. 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.
County Council, District 4: A 25-year veteran of the State Legislature, first in the House and since 1994 in the Senate, Jeanne Kohl-Welles has basically sound views on transportation. She explicitly identifies with outgoing Councilmember Larry Phillips, who is on the right side of issues more often than not. If opponent Rufe Orr has any views on transportation at all, they aren’t obviously accessible on the internet.
District 1: Shannon Braddock was noncommittal in our July endorsement interview, contributing to our “no endorsement” in the crowded District 1 primary. But with only two candidates, the differences have come into focus. Ms. Braddock shows all signs of being in the center-left Constantine/Murray block that is making great progress across the spectrum of transportation and housing for all walks of life. Opponent Lisa Herbold wants to delay some proposed upzones and is apparently unconcerned about potential policy impacts on further market-rate construction.*
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 a great Vision Zero advocate, helping lead the charge to rechannelize Rainier Ave S 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: In a disappointing race, we are switching our endorsement to Kshama Sawant. Though Ms. Sawant’s overall approach to land use and housing policy is deeply distressing – indifferent to deterring market-rate housing and demonizing developers instead of recognizing them as crucial to alleviating the housing shortage – she is also the loudest and most consistent voice for much needed public housing development. Fortunately, the centerpiece of her housing agenda, rent control, has almost no chance of becoming law. And that’s a good thing, as rent control has had perverse consequences for housing supply almost everywhere it has been tried.
On the other hand, Ms. Sawant has been a reliable pro-transit vote and a strong supporter of people walking and biking. While she is fond of criticizing the funding source of many measures, in the end she realizes that an imperfectly funded transit measure is better that no measure at all.
Meanwhile, despite earning our primary endorsement, opponent Pamela Banks has strongly disappointed us recently, saying neighborhoods should determine transportation priorities in Move Seattle, claiming bike lanes and road diets are “causing gridlock and havoc in our neighborhoods”, and incorrectly criticizing SDOT for a lack of public outreach, saying projects are happening “to us, not for us.” District 3 needs forward-thinking transportation more than most, so this balkanized and reactionary attitude is unacceptable.
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.
Opponent 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. He would earn our endorsement in another district.
District 5: Debora Juarez is the candidate most ready to build housing now, without excuses, and fully support the HALA plan. Opponent Sandy Brown impressed us with nimble thinking and problem-solving when we interviewed him, but has since expressed disappointing sentiments about Move Seattle and HALA.
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 unwillingness to upzone single-family neighborhoods and his fondness for new fees on development. But he has also shown a willingness to compromise, pulling back from residential linkage fees during the development of the HALA Grand Bargain.
District 7: Downtown resident Sally Bagshaw has been a reliable vote for transit projects and bike lanes, and she has a very welcoming attitude to growth. She will be the critical link between business interests and SDOT in getting the Center City Bicycle Network built. Strongly concerned with equity and safety, she will also be a leader on Vision Zero and Move Seattle implementation.
“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.
Opponent 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 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, Zach Shaner, Erica C. Barnett, and Dan Ryan. It serves at the pleasure of the Board of Directors.
* Erica recused herself from voting on this race due to her friendship with Lisa Herbold.