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)