These are STB’s endorsements for the November 2019 general election. The sections are listed in rough order of importance. As always, we base these endorsements solely on our assessment of their ability to improve transit and land use.
The latest Tim Eyman initiative would dramatically reduce the amount of money available for transit. Proponents like to claim transit is inefficient relative to their platonic ideal, but offer no explanation on how drastic cuts will produce better outcomes instead of more suffering for riders.
King County Council
While Seattle Council gets most of the attention, King County government is the level with the most impact on both Metro and Sound Transit.
District 2: Neither candidate responded to a request for an interview. As both candidates admit to similar policy views, in the absence of further questions we are unable to discern a relevant difference on transit.
District 4 is blessed with two strongly pro-transit candidates, so we interviewed them both. Abigail Doerr has dedicated her career to improving the transit system, will bring fresh ideas to problems, and make transit a priority. We especially liked her system view of how to improve transit: more off-peak trips and east/west connections. She has firm command of the need to meet King County’s growth targets with new housing. While we think Doerr is the best candidate to make transit better, the incumbent, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, is doing a fine job.
District 6: Claudia Balducci is the most sophisticated transit expert on the Council. Her opponent has spent over a decade running against East Link.
District 8: Joe McDermott is a solid transit supporter who engages on these issues. His opponent is not a serious candidate.
In our ranking of district 6 candidates, last week, we critiqued Ed Pottharst for “concerns about his work on the Phinney Neighborhood Association during its fight to stop more apartments from being built in the neighborhood.”
The Phinney Neighborhood Association was not involved in any such fights. We regret the error and have changed Pottharst’s rating from “fair” to “good.”
District 7 includes downtown, Queen Anne, and Magnolia. Though there’s higher population density in downtown and Belltown, the more suburban enclaves tend to punch above their weight in off-year elections. This may explain why many candidates in this district appear skeptical of density and in favor of an expensive Magnolia Bridge replacement.
Michael George is a professional transportation and housing planner who has been involved in planning Link, RapidRide, and every ST TOD project. He is the only D7 candidate who supports congestion pricing, red light cameras, and the streetcar. However, like most candidates he supports replacing the Magnolia Bridge and is less than full-throated in supporting duplexes and triplexes in single-family zones.
Naveed Jamali‘s transportation platform reads almost like an STB blog post (except for the opposition to red light cams). He upbraids the City on taking away funding for pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements. While he has a great platform and an admirable record of military service, we’d like to see a longer record in local politics or policy chops on local issues.
District 6 is Northwest Seattle. Besides the coming light rail station in Ballard, the Burke-Gillman Missing Link looms large over this election. Read Seattle Bike Blog for a deeper discussion of these candidates and the Missing Link.
Dan Strauss is a cyclist who wants to create a network of bus lanes and protected bike lanes. He is more moderate on opening up more housing options, but better than most of the rest in this NIMBY-leaning field. He has worked in politics for a decade (most recently as an aide to Sally Bagshaw) and therefore understands the system. He prefers to build the Missing Link on Leary Way (see above).
Melissa Hall is another density advocate who defines livability through a walkability and equity lens. She wants to apply that equity lens to how public space is divvied up among transit modes. She cites STB’s David Lawson as an influence on transportation issues, which is a very good sign. She’s worked as both a land use attorney and a planner, which is great preparation for issues facing the council. Hall opposes congestion pricing, but she is one of the few candidates who wants to stop talking and build the missing link.
Jay Fathi is a physician who wants to build Ballard Link faster, invest more in public transit, build more housing so people don’t have to commute as far, and decarbonize our transportation system. He’s in favor of congestion pricing and wants to convert single family zones to “residential zones” to allow more housing types. He’s noncommittal on the Missing Link and is light on political experience.
Ed Pottharst is a bicyclist and long-time City employee who advocates for congestion pricing and offers the idea of free transit passes and income-basing the congestion charges as mitigation. He supports the Shilshole Ave option for the Missing Link, more bike lanes including on 8th Ave NW, and restructuring bus routes to better feed light rail and connect urban villages to each other more frequently. We have concerns about his work on the Phinney Neighborhood Association during its fight to stop more apartments from being built in the neighborhood (see our update here).
Terry Rice is a manager at a small tourism company and a critic of NIMBYism and Seattle’s racist land-use history. He has the right ideas (aside from opposition to congestion pricing), but is short on specifics and experience.
The STB Editorial Board had less information to work with in District 5 than in the five races where the Move All Seattle Sustainable Coalition held forums. But between Councilmember Deborah Juarez’ record, and what the other candidates had to say, we had more than enough to see the clear differences.
City Councilmember Debora Juarez has been a dependable vote for much of what we like, while representing a not-particularly-urban district. In the face of the usual pitchforks, she has stood her ground on HALA and parking minimum reductions. She also stood firm on 130th St Station, negotiating deftly with a skeptical Sound Transit Board. Our most significant disagreement with her is her lack of enthusiasm for protected bike lanes.
Mark Mendez‘ contribution to climate action is that he wants to incentivize widespread installation of solar panels. He wants to connect more bus routes to the new light rail stations. He also wants safer streets, but says little about bike safety. Mendez’ prose on housing ignores current policy debates but talks up partnerships between for-profit and not-for-profit orgs, with emphasis on preserving existing housing stock.
John Lombard is awful on land-use. He hides his bitterness toward HALA behind process concerns. He wants to put onerous restrictions on ADUs. He is, however, a fan of protected bike lanes, and recently attended the Ride for Safe Streets.
Ann Davison-Sattler‘s first priority would be to “put neighborhoods first”. The only new housing she talks about is “FEMA-style relief shelters”. Her website says nothing about transportation.
The Seattle Transit Blog Editorial Board currently consists of Martin Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White.
Voters in District 4 are spoiled for choice. Almost all of these candidates might win our sole endorsement if in certain other districts. In this race, it’s almost a given to support more transit, bike lanes, and upzoning single family neighborhoods. To be excellent in this race, candidates have to show both relevant political experience and a commitment to transit and land use in particular.
Cathy Tuttlehas decades of experience managing the planning and successful construction of public works projects. After her city career, she founded and directed Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, who we can thank for the 20 mph speed limit on most streets.
She proposes to institute “climate notes”, similar to fiscal notes, analyzing the climate impact of every proposed city project. She is a housing construction hawk, including her call to re-legalize micro-housing. She wants more dedicated bus lanes and 24-hour bus service, and is as unsympathetic to a “windshield perspective” as can be.
Shaun Scott is a socialist with a streak of transit geekdom — see his 4-part series on Forward Thrust last year. We think he could help bring the social justice coalition in this city to prioritize things like upzones and bus lanes.
Joshua Newman is a former president of Seattle Subway. As one might expect, his platform emphasizes the bus priority and upzones at the core of our agenda for the city. We trust him more than any other candidate to resist neighborhood interests that oppose these measures. His favored revenue source is a higher downtown parking tax, which is about as good as it gets. Furthermore, Seattle Subway (unlike STB) does real retail politics, a useful training ground for the act of building support in the real world.
Emily Myers is a scientist who is emphasizing climate change in her campaign. She was one of the architects of the City’s “Green New Deal” and has built an impressive array of endorsements, so she’ll hit the ground running.
She wants progressively-structured congestion pricing to fund transit. She wants to expedite ST3 and ST4. She also wants to complete the Bicycle Master Plan, using data to prioritize which arterials need protected bike lanes most urgently.
District 2 has seven candidates for an open seat on the Seattle City Council. While none of them are uniformly outstanding on transit and land use issues, some are much better than others. As a reminder, here’s our rating system.
The two candidates in this tier share a lot of common ground. They are both for safer streets, more housing types in single family zones, and prioritizing transit. In both cases, concern about displacement veers into unproductively demonizing developers. We would not characterize them as transit wonks, and there are occasional positions we don’t like in their policy mix. But we believe the impact of either overall would be strongly positive.
Endorsements for city council races are starting to trickle in, and we are hard at work on ours as well.
With regards to the City Council, we have many, many candidates who are seeking their first office. This new council will see many important issues over the next few years. Some that are top of mind for us include:
Lifting the apartment ban on the majority of Seattle’s residential land
Keeping large housing projects from getting bogged down in NIMBY complaints
Staying strong on bike and bus priority in the face of parochial (or mayoral) pressure
Increasing funding for buses, either through a renewed Seattle TBD or another measure, hopefully in a way that helps get buses out of traffic
Unlike previous cycles, rather than select a single candidate we will rate candidates as “Excellent”, “Good”, “Fair,” or “Poor” based on their estimated policy impact, positive or negative, on transit and land use progress in Seattle. As most candidates in city council races don’t have any legislative or political experience, we’ll rely what’s in their platform and what they’ve said at various debates.
Here’s how we define those terms. This is evolving so we reserve the right to be inconsistent, but we’ll do our best to explain our thinking.
Excellent candidates are ones who have a passion for transit-related issues and the desire to spend political capital making our issues their issues. It’s one thing to call for the elimination of single-family zoning in a debate, it’s quite another to craft the policy and push it over the finish line.
Good candidates are ones we mostly agree with on issues but we either have some reservations or we don’t think that transit is a particular focus or passion.
Fair candidates we may disagree with on one or two major things and are at best a continuation of the status quo on the council.
Poor candidates are unqualified or hold many positions we actively disagree with.
The first round will come shortly. For city council, we’ll be offering ratings in Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Lisa Herbold in D1 hasn’t drawn any pro-transit/pro-density opposition, so we’ll save our ink.
In the meantime, let us know in the comments if there are any suburban races we should be thinking about.
The editorial board consists of Martin Duke, Brent White, and Frank Chiachiere