Only Nikkita Oliver and Bob Hasegawa measure up in race for Mayor

Jon Grant for Council Seat 8 and “anybody but Gonzalez” for Seat 9

Ballots are mailed out Wednesday for the August 1st primary and it’s a critical election for Seattle’s future.  Even though elections are probably far from your mind – only about 30-35% of you will take time to vote in an ‘off-year’ primary – Seattle is in a hotly contested race for Mayor and our remaining two ‘at large’ or citywide council races.

We’ve either interviewed or closely reviewed where candidates stand, especially front-runners, across the critical issues affecting our neighborhoods, and on racial and economic justice issues, housing and land use, homelessness, police accountability and ensuring equity and fairness for all in our city.  Here are our endorsements.

(Following this column, we’ve posted Neil Power’s interview with Oliver and reprinted our earlier interview with Hasegewa.)

The Race for Mayor:  Nikkita Oliver or Bob Hasegawa

Among the six frontrunners, only Bob Hasegawa and Nikkita Oliver measured up. Both were seriously willing to call for reassessment of the so-called Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) upzones. Both backed increasing the developer’s mandatory affordable housing set-aside to 25% of new units rather than the current paltry 2-11%. They gave unqualified support for requiring developers to pay impact fees for a portion of the infrastructure demanded by their projects. And they would require developers to replace at comparable price any existing low-cost housing they remove.

Both Hasegawa and Oliver favored decisions derived from the bottom up over technocratic and elitist solutions. Both called for a re-establishment of the District Neighborhood Council system and pledged to make sure it was more broadly representative and racially diverse, not arrogantly eliminated. Both supported new measures to preserve tree canopy, and older historic and culturally significant buildings and places like Chinatown/International District and Little Saigon now in the wrecking ball’s crosshairs.

Both were critical of the Mayor’s insensitive sweeping of homeless encampments and understood the connection between the continuing loss of existing low-income housing to redevelopment and the rise of homelessness in our city. Both questioned the propriety of spending $200 million dollars for a new youth jail and called for a closer look at alternatives to incarceration. Both understood the treatment-first model and the importance of diversion programs over jail.

The other frontrunners, Jenny Durkan, Cary Moon, Mike McGinn, and Jessyn Farrell, all unreservedly support the HALA upzones. All are “supply siders” who believe that by adding to the supply of expensive housing, somehow affordable units will “trickle down” to the poor. As Joe Hill, the great labor organizer, said, “There’ll be pie in the sky when you die.”

None of these four candidates expressed any great concern about the continuing loss of existing low-cost housing to demolition. In their minds, displacement and gentrification are addressed by spending more tax dollars on low-income units while pressing the accelerator on more market-rate development.

Moon saw the need for some kind of speculator or foreign investor tax, however, and McGinn, Moon, and Farrell have given a qualified “yes” on questionnaires when asked about developer impact fees. But by and large, electing any one of the four is a vote for the status quo.

Durkan has been anointed by the establishment and big business to carry their mantle – raising $321,000 mostly from this crowd (outspending her nearest competitor 3-1).  As if that wasn’t enough, the the Chamber and Hospitality industry just dropped $50,000 into their ‘PAC’ to back her.  

Moon, Farrell, and McGinn are fighting for the “urbanist vote”, those who think density is a religion. Never mind we’re drowning in it now or that it’s destroying the livability and affordability of our city.

McGinn, says he’s mellowed but this is the guy who as Mayor shamelessly handed millions of our tax dollars over to Vulcan in South Lake Union, did nothing to stop demolition of low cost housing and consequent rise in homelessness, and, at the request of a handful of developers, scuttled the Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan that took them a decade to develop.

District 8:  Jon Grant

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Jon Grant  (courtesy of YouTube)

In the race for this open seat, Jon Grant has called for substantial increase in the mandatory housing set-aside to 25%. The other putative frontrunner, Teresa Mosqueda, says she cares about the homeless and about racial and economic inequality, but then on land use and zoning and housing matters she shows a density-at-all-costs pro-development mentality regardless of the impacts. And if you would like to return to the politics of a councilmember like Richard Conlin–defeated a few years ago when voters tired of his consistently pro-downtown and special interest-driven agenda–then vote for Sara Nelson.

While we like Sheley Secrest’s stance on HALA and the upzones and her strong positions on police accountability and racial justice, her lack of campaign dollars likely precludes her ability to get her message out and get through to the final. In this race, we believe Grant has a chance to win while offering our neighborhoods and tenants the best chance for progressive and responsive change.

District 9:  Anybody but Gonzalez

It’s hard for us to imagine any candidate having a chance against Lorena Gonzalez who now holds this seat. With a growing war chest funded by downtown and developer interests, she’ll likely outdistance all the others combined when primary votes are counted. Unfortunately, she’s zealously pro-HALA, pro-developer and pro-upzone, second only perhaps to current District 4 Councilmember Rob Johnson. She only shows up at Land Use and Housing Committee meetings to vote as desired by her developer pals. Gonzalez’s campaign will shower voters with warm and fuzzy mailings featuring big-shot endorsements, while her opponents, lacking funds for even one direct mailing, will barely register in the minds of voters.

We like what Pat Murakami and Ian Afflect-Asch have to say about the need to manage growth and make developers pay their fair share. But we don’t like Murakami’s insensitivity and lack of understanding to the needs of the homeless. And Afflect-Asch with only $1200 bucks for his campaign is not a serious candidate.

In summary:

  • For Mayor: Oliver or Hasegawa
  • District 8: Grant
  • District 9: Anyone but Gonzalez
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About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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