Teresa Mosqueda gives her answer in the form of an answer. Photo by Kaya Axelsson/GSNAC

Race, Rents, and Burgess-Bashing Dominate Forum for City Council Position 8

A very strong field of candidates somehow got stronger.

The main event of Wednesday night’s Candidate Jeopardy! forum—put on by Seattle Weekly and a number of community organizations, including the Greater Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition, the American Muslim Empowerment Network (MAPS-AMEN), Nickelsville, and Anarchists of Seattle University—was the mayoral forum. You can read all about it here.

But those who stuck around for the District 8 forum were well rewarded, as the notably strong field of candidates tried their hand at the board. The full video of the event can be found here (the D8 portion begins around 1:20), but here are a few notes from the night.

Addressing bad/racist cops: Several candidates addressed police reform and accountability.

Sheley Secrest, a vice president with the NAACP, said the city needs to do more to weed out racism from the force.

“We have to make sure we’re not hiring people who are afraid of black folks,” she said. “If you’re afraid of an afro, please don’t have a gun and a badge.”

Jon Grant recounted the Jesse Hagopian episode, in which the Seattle school teacher was pepper sprayed without provocation at the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr., rally. After Seattle’s police oversight office found the officer should be put on probation, Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole lessened the punishment to a verbal reprimand. “That officer did not face a day of probation. If we do not address the culture of impunity, we will never see police reform,” Grant said.

Addressing racism: A running theme of the night was Seattle’s inability to discuss race. Secrest actually pointed out how much Seattle talks about not talking about race, saying: “I’m tired of talking about it. We need to do something about it.” Still, of all the comments on the topic, Mac McGregor’s was the most colorful: “Seattle is an extremely white city, and people aren’t comfortable talking about [race]… We need to stop farting around.”

Someone opposed the income tax! Out of 13 candidates who participated in the mayoral and council forums last night, only one person said they were against the proposed city income tax: Rudy Pantoja. (Candidate Sara Nelson, who was absent due to a bout of food poisoning, has been noncommital on the issue.) Pantoja argued that it was not up to the city to pass such a tax, but that it would have to be determined statewide. He was presumably referring to state statute some say explicitly bars cities from creating new forms of taxation. Pantoja was heckled during his remarks, which underscored his main talking point of the night, that Seattle has gotten really bad at allowing for a diversity of opinion.

Unfortunately, this line of argument led him to revisit the argument that first placed him in the public eye, that being whether Pantoja was guilty of sexual harassment when a female activist asked him his name and he replied “Hugh Mungus.” Pantoja invoked the term “social justice warrior” in recounting the story, which didn’t play well. He was called an “asshole” and told to “stop sexually harassing women.” No resolution was reached.

Little love for Tim Burgess: One question asked candidates which sitting councilmember they identified with most and least. While the “most” portion drew a wide array of answers, the “least” focused on one poor sap: Tim Burgess, who clocked in with four votes. “Tim Burgess. I am not a man, I am not over the age of 60, and I am standing here proud looking to be the next generation of the City Council,” Teresa Mosqueda said. Bruce Harrell also got tossed some shade for being a multimillionaire, Kshama Sawant for talking with a bullhorn, and Debora Juarez for her stance on the North Precinct.

More calls to cut into single-family zoning: As I note in the mayoral roundup, several candidates are calling for more density in single-family zones. Asked whether she supports additional dwelling units and other forms of density in these areas, Mosqueda replied with an unequivocal “yes.” “We have 65 percent of our land throughout the city zoned for single family units. That is not how we’re going to create affordable housing in our city that’s not how we’re going to be a welcoming city.”

Hisam Goueli had a good night: I have to admit I was fairly unaware of Goueli (pronounced “goily”) going into the night. But he had some impressive moments, including when asked about whether “rapid rehousing” was sustainable in Seattle. That question came up during the mayoral forum as well, where it was posed to Bob Hasegawa. It seemed fairly obvious that Hasegawa didn’t know what, exactly, rapid rehousing is. By contrast, Goueli gave the crowd a quick schooling in the concept—basically giving people money to help with their rent for a limited period of time so they stay out of emergency shelters—and provided a nuanced answer to the question. In sum, the practice has some data to back up its effectiveness, but can’t be entirely relied upon, especially in a city like Seattle where rents are skyrocketing. Also impressive, Goueli made at least two somewhat anti-tax comments—he said he opposed the soda tax on equity grounds and said rising property taxes were forcing people out of their homes—and getting cheers for those stances (as opposed to Rudy). At the end of the night, candidates were asked who among their opponents they would support if not themselves. Goueli got three votes.

Odds and ends: Lots of various policy proposals were tossed out throughout the night. Charlene Strong said the city needs to take on foreign and Wall Street real estate investors … Mosqueda called for free college education … McGregor said it was time for municipal broadband. “I’m almost embarrassed we don’t have it,” he said.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

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