Election 2017

Sweep the Sweepers! Our Endorsements For the Nov. 7 Election

What you need to know about every race on the ballot.

Editor’s note: Are you a social creature? You can find individual endorsements, perfect for promoting your favorite candidate on Facebook and Twitter, here.

KING COUNTY PROPOSITION 1

Yes

Politics has rendered this proposition less than it could be. As first proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine, Proposition 1 would have tripled the rate of the the current veterans, seniors, and vulnerable populations (read: homeless) levy, which expires at the end of the year. That would have meant raising about $60 million a year in the first year; the expiring levy raises $18 million a year. Constantine’s proposal also evenly divided that funding among the three constituencies, reflecting the needs of each. However, the King County Council—specifically, the three Republicans on the Council, joined by two Democrats—amended the levy to lower the tax’s total revenue (though it would still double the levy from its current level) and devote half of it to veterans at the expense of services for the elderly (homeless services would still receive a third of the funding). This is despite the fact that projections show the veteran population in King County dropping in the coming years and the elderly population ballooning. These councilmembers reasoned that the changes would make the levy more palpable to a tax-weary county. Maybe so: Voters rejected a much smaller tax to fund arts and education programs in August. Whatever the shortcomings and their justifications, this levy should be approved. The expiring levy has helped, but the crisis is an all-hands situation where everything helps, not least of all $51 million a year—the amount that would be raised by the proposition now before voters. With the City of Seattle having scrapped its plans to bring its own homelessness levy this year, the need for voters to step up here is all the more important. In the latest homeless count, 30 percent of unsheltered folks lived outside Seattle city limits.

COURT OF APPEALS

DIVISION 1, DISTRICT 1, POS. 2

Michael S. Spearman

At first glance, this race appears to be between a qualified incumbent and an unqualified challenger. Incumbent Michael S. Spearman served as a state judge on the King County Superior Court for 12 years in addition to his seven years on Appeals, plus several years as a public defender. He boasts a slew of endorsements and is rated exceptionally well-qualified by every bar group that’s opined on the race. Nathan Choi, by contrast, has one endorsement from a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. He boasts on his campaign website that he’s a member of Mensa, a club for people with high scores on certain kinds of intelligence tests: “It can be almost assured that [other candidates] do not hold a Mensa Certificate. With Nathan Choi, you know your vote will ensure an Extremely Intelligent Judge that will make the right decisions for King County’s prosperity and sustainability.” But on closer inspection, what looked like a hands-down endorsement of Spearman became a hands-waving-furiously-up-and-down endorsement of Spearman. That’s because one of Choi’s main criticisms of Spearman is that he is too soft on poor criminals. Choi cites a 2006 decision Spearman made while on the King County Superior Court in a case that involved former prisoners who had served all of their sentence but had not yet fully paid off their legal financial obligations (LFOs). Spearman ruled that people cannot be denied the right to vote based solely on their ability to immediately pay their debts. Refusing to disenfranchise poor people is not a failure of justice, but its fulfillment. Spearman’s record defending the least among us as a public defender and jurist is a credit, and Choi’s criticism of him for it is telling. Here’s what it tells us: “Re-elect Michael Spearman to the Court of Appeals.”

COUNTY EXECUTIVE

Dow Constantine

We endorsed incumbent Dow Constantine in the primary, and we do so again. His opponent, Bill Hirt, is a single-issue candidate fighting against light rail on the Eastside. That alone puts him on the wrong side of the ledger for us. But it’s not for want of a better option that we endorse Constantine. In his eight years as county executive, Constantine has led King County to a place that is more transit-friendly, more responsive to homelessness, and more innovative at solving public-health problems. As chair of the Sound Transit board, he led the fight to pass ST3, possibly the single most important transportation project this region has ever undertaken; he fought for a bigger human-services levy, with measured success (see our endorsement for Proposition 1); and he’s continued the politically brave effort to establish a pilot safe drug site in King County, a program that will save lives but also stir up NIMBY animosity. In sum, he’s had a successful eight years at the county helm; let’s give him four more.

SHERIFF

John Urquhart

We understand, and in many cases agree with, the critiques of John Urquhart. The sheriff clearly has a background in public relations—he was the department’s spokesman for years before taking charge of it, and is hyper-conscious of his messaging and how it reflects on himself. This has led to plenty of problems: As exposed by The Stranger, he’s talked a widely different game on immigration and safe-consumption sites depending on what audience he’s in front of. As explored by this paper, when a rape allegation was made against him, he directed the captain in charge of internal investigations to not document it—which the captain later said went against protocol—in part because he did not want the allegation to be used against him by political opponents. The rape allegation itself is suspect, and has been ruled unfounded by several law-enforcement agencies, but Urquhart’s handling of it smacks of bald self-dealing. So we get it. But we’re still endorsing him. While his comments about undocumented immigrants are troubling, we can’t ignore a recent report out of the University of Washington’s Human Rights Center that praised the King County Sheriff’s Office for its “strong language” on rebuffing unconstitutional requests by immigration agents. We also can’t ignore the fact that, when an opioid-crisis-committee proposal for safe-consumption sites was unveiled, Urquhart was there for the announcement, and unequivocally stated his office’s support for them in front of a bank of television cameras. Whatever games he plays with massaging his messages to different audiences, we contend that when it matters most he says the right thing, and we contend that that matters. His opponent, Major Mitzi Johanknecht, is a department veteran who’s running for all the right reasons: She cares about the Sheriff’s Department, has deep reservations with Urquhart’s management of it, and is putting her money where her mouth is. However, Johanknecht’s focus on improving morale within the Sheriff’s Office concerns us. Urquhart may be hard on deputies who screw up, and he may do so in a very public way, but in many cases that’s been to his credit. The county recently settled with a group of deputies who claimed wrongful termination, including two deputies who were caught on camera berating a Metro bus driver who asked them for help. Johanknecht points to the settlement as proof Urquhart is messing things up; we were pleased to hear Urquhart apologize for nothing when the settlement was announced. Were we inside the department, we may feel differently. But from our vantage point, we’d rather have the top cop be overcritical of county law enforcement than under-. That’s why, with reservations, we say vote Urquhart.

PORT OF SEATTLE

COMMISSIONER POSITION 1

Ryan Calkins

Incumbent John Creighton has a fairly impressive environmental resume, but when Shell barged into Puget Sound with its Arctic drilling platform in 2015, he was unwilling to stand against dirty energy. Calkins, on the other hand, says he would have said Shell No, and we believe him. No candidate for Port Commissioner has been so precise in his opposition to the Port’s potential role in fossil-fuel extraction. “I will vote No on any effort to lease Port facilities to fossil-fuel-extracting equipment,” Calkins says. Add to that some very specific ideas for how to use the Port’s authority and dollars to help reduce urban sprawl, wean us from our car addiction, and reduce carbon emissions, and you’ve got a fresh, eco-conscious voice to add to a Commission that could definitely use another shove in that direction. For years, Calkins ran one of Seattle’s Greenest Businesses (a designation awarded by Seattle City Light in 2015), and he currently works for a nonprofit that supports low-income entrepreneurs. He’s also firm in his support for immigrants, refugees, and the LGBTQ community, and is on board with labor rights: He fought for a $15 minimum wage and paid leave, and supports fair wages and union jobs. He also makes a specific plug for the importance of ethics and transparency at the Port, noting that this year, commissioners will need to select a new executive to follow in the footsteps of former Port CEOs who’ve allegedly been far less than ethical. Given the agency’s recent string of scandals and lawsuits, an emphasis on transparency is a welcome stance.

PORT OF SEATTLE

COMMISSIONER POSITION 3

Ahmed Abdi

Incumbent Stephanie Bowman has done a fine job, but Position 3 challenger Ahmed Abdi would bring the unique experience and perspective we need at the Port. A Somali immigrant and a refugee, Abdi made a name helping to score one of the nation’s first $15 victories in Sea-Tac. From there he’s gone on to provide opportunities for low-income workers as the outreach manager at Seattle’s Fair Work Center, giving Know Your Rights trainings as well as advocating for struggling families on the Seattle Housing Authority board. The Port employs many immigrants, and given the airport, also has the power to influence the fate of people coming and going from the country as well. In that capacity, Abdi’s experiences as an immigrant are more crucial than ever as the Trump administration’s rhetoric and actions surrounding immigrant rights grow more wanton and dire. A vote for Abdi is a vote for someone whose record shows a clear and consistent dedication to helping lift up the least privileged among us.

PORT OF SEATTLE

COMMISSIONER POSITION 4

Preeti Shridhar

On an issue-by-issue basis, not much separates port candidates Preeti Shridhar and Peter Steinbrueck. Both want to push for biofuels at Sea-Tac Airport; both generally want to “green the port”; both want to “incubate small businesses,” prioritizing living-wage jobs. But when you take a closer look, a few key differences should tip your vote toward Shridhar. Herself an immigrant, Shridhar has made immigrant rights a core issue in her campaign as dialogue around those issues continues to heat up on a federal level, and she’s specific on how she’ll use her position at the Port to do so—for example, she’s pushing for an extension on the federal REAL ID requirements that will mandate two-tiered ID verification at airports and federal facilities, so that the Port has more time to raise awareness in immigrant communities that might get tripped up at the airport. Given that many Port workers are immigrants themselves, she’s also promising to listen closely to how immigration policy is affecting them and, in turn, Washington’s trade-dependent economy. Given her numerous endorsements from leaders in the local Indian, Somali, Latino, and Filipino communities, we know that’s not just rhetoric. While Steinbrueck certainly has civic experience from his years on the Seattle City Council, Shridhar would bring the Port a new, vital perspective, backed up by her work in immigrant communities and as the Deputy Public Affairs Administrator for the City of Renton.

Correction: A previous version of this endorsement stated that Peter Steinbrueck “supports the SoDo arena.” That was a reference an Urbanist questionnaire, in which Steinbrueck said “yes” to the question: “Are there any circumstances in which you’d support an arena in SODO.” However, on an King County Democrats questionnaire in which Steinbrueck was asked whether he supports Chris Hansen SoDo proposal as it now stands, he answered “no.”

CITY OF SEATTLE

MAYOR

Cary Moon

This year’s mayoral race pits a former U.S. Attorney with the backing of the establishment against a self-described public-policy wonk with fewer accomplishments in the public arena, but whose vision for the city’s future is inspiring. In terms of overall experience, Jenny Durkan has the edge. For five years she led the U.S. Attorney’s office for Western Washington, overseeing a 150-person workforce while coordinating with local and federal law enforcement. Moon’s early experience as a manager at her father’s manufacturing firm and her work with the People’s Waterfront Coalition gives us less confidence in her ability to handle the $5.3 billion, 12,000-employee bureaucracy.

When considering the issues facing the city, though, the tide turns decidedly in Moon’s favor and, because of this, we fully support her candidacy.

In judging the candidates, we focused on three issues we believe are most important when it comes to Seattle’s future: homelessness, housing affordability, and policing. On the last of those items, Durkan deserves credit as one of the people most responsible for the Department of Justice’s findings against the Seattle police and subsequent consent decree. While there remain problems with policing, as seen this past summer from the officer-involved shooting death of Charleena Lyles, there can be no doubt that we are in a better place than we were five years ago.

But Durkan falls well short on our other two essential items. On homelessness, she has said that she wants to continue the current policy of routinely evicting unauthorized encampments. She frames this stance as compassion for the homeless, arguing that unsanctioned encampments are inherently dangerous. While true in some cases, such a broad statement about the houseless does not conform with the reality of Seattle streets, and leaves us doubtful that she has either the will or the insight to prioritize human dignity over bureaucratic efficacy on Seattle’s crowded streets. On housing affordability, she adheres firmly to the path set by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda while noting its flaws. What those are or how she would go about fixing them are matters that receive less attention from the candidate.

This is where Moon excels: identifying what works and what doesn’t with current policy and pushing for more. First, Moon recognizes that the dislocation of homeless people is, in fact, a part of current city policy, and proceeds far more cautiously when talking about removing those living under our bridges and in our greenbelts. She has come out strongly against the current sweeps policies, and has addressed the fear-based mind-set of neighbors that leads to animosity toward the homeless to begin with. That’s a bold point for a candidate to make, and we commend her for making it. She also states that we must focus on building housing alternatives for our homeless neighbors, and has committed to a housing-and-shelter-first approach by opening more tiny-house villages and low-barrier shelters. Durkan has recently voiced similar plans, but too easily reverts to the position that the city is currently on the right path. If elected, we hope that Durkan will push for more housing. We know that Moon will.

On housing affordability, Moon also has a vision for the future that we can believe in. She is in favor of keeping HALA in place, but wants the public sector to do more. For instance, she has plans to quadruple the percentage of affordable housing in the city, and pursue creative housing alternatives such as duplexes and triplexes, backyard cottages, co-ops, and community land trusts to get there. Her speculation tax has problems (see “Pure Speculation,” page 12), but comes from an effort to seek new solutions to a problem that has only grown worse under the previous administration, whose policies Durkan appears happy to continue.

Win or lose, we expect Moon to continue to beat the urbanist drum, as she has done for so many years. And that is one of the primary reasons we like Moon more as mayor. She has a clear vision for the city and that vision includes the people most threatened by current policy.

Throughout the innmerable forums that have taken place during the general election, Moon has done a good job of centering these communities. In our primary endorsement of Nikkita Oliver, we expressed concern that the issue of racial justice would fall by the wayside. While conversation about these issues has fallen off some in the general election, we have seen Moon continue to push them forward, forcing the conversation when others might be content to let it die down. We have also seen her engaging directly with communities of color during the campaign. We expect her to put them at the forefront of her administration.

CITY OF SEATTLE

CITY ATTORNEY

Pete Holmes

Incumbent Pete Holmes’ challenger, Scott Lindsay, left private legal practice to work as former mayor Ed Murray’s public-safety advisor. There he transformed the city’s roving homeless-encampment evictions from an uncoordinated flurry of ad hoc evictions into a well-oiled, well-funded machine which has evicted more than a thousand camps since 2015. Lindsay also served (for Murray) on the task force that recommended supervised-consumption sites for drug users. On the campaign trail he’s promised to aggressively promote harm-reduction over punishment for petty, poverty-related crimes. Yet in 2016 and again in 2017, Lindsay leaked documents in an effort to quash legislative efforts by Mike O’Brien and homeless advocates to limit sweeps, making his commitment to harm reduction questionable at best. First elected in 2009, Holmes led the charge to decriminalize cannabis. He also reduced the length of misdemeanor jail stays to prevent them from triggering deportation for unauthorized immigrants. On the other hand, he’s opposed by all current and former co-chairs of the Community Police Commission, who say he’s logjammed reform efforts for years—for instance by failing to adequately support the expansion of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and by crossing swords with the CPC over their institutional authority. Holmes’ foot-dragging on police reform and LEAD expansion is unacceptable. Yet Lindsay masterminded mass evictions, and his continued sabotage of sweep reforms speaks louder than his verbal commitments to supervised-consumption sites, LEAD expansion, and other progressive justice reforms. Seattle is packed with incredible attorneys. We long to endorse someone like Nikkita Oliver of the Peoples Party or Patricia Sully of VOCAL to assume the seat of the highest lawyer in town. But in fact this race is a choice between the lesser of two evils. So we say: Don’t settle for Lindsay. Settle for Holmes. And then push him to do better.

CITY OF SEATTLE

COUNCIL POSITION 8

Jon Grant

In our endorsement for the August primary, we wrote that “The race for Position 8 is crammed with excellent candidates.” That remains true. Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda have each raised nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from $25 Democracy Vouchers. Both have signed onto the Housing for All Seattle campaign, which seeks to dramatically increase the city’s investments in subsidized housing and to reform evictions of unauthorized tent villages so that they help campers instead of simply suppressing them. Both support progressive taxation and other good reforms, like decriminalizing public safety and weaning Seattle from fossil fuels. Both boast solid resumes filled with progressive organizing. There has been some criticism that Grant—a white cisgender heterosexual man—is hogging space from a Latina who can bring more diversity to city leadership. As a rule we agree with this bias in favor of candidates from underrepresented groups, but in this particular race we believe that the candidates’ factional loyalties are more important than their personal identities. Grant’s candidacy was born from Seattle’s activist left. We’ve seen him get arrested protesting oil-pipeline financing, argue with city bureaucrats at tent-village evictions, and cry recalling the time he found a homeless person’s corpse while volunteering with the One Night Count. Because of his record, we trust him more to put the rights and needs of our most vulnerable neighbors first. For these reasons, we again endorse Jon Grant.

Correction: A previous version of this endorsement misidentified the labor council Mosqueda worked for. She worked for the Washington State Labor Council.

CITY OF SEATTLE

COUNCIL POSITION 9

M. Lorena González

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a president emeritus of OneAmerica, González has been an important voice in the city’s resistance to President Donald Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric. In the fearful first month of the Trump presidency, González sponsored an ordinance doubling down on Seattle’s commitment to immigrant communities, and assisted in the creation of a $1 million fund to help cover the legal costs of people facing deportation. Recently she proposed doubling that fund. Earlier this year, she deftly maneuvered a massive piece of police-reform legislation through a months-long process of potential pitfalls. While the legislation by no means solves Seattle’s police-accountability woes, it is an important step in the right direction. Where González has not led, she’s shown a laudable willingness to follow. In the debate over the $160 million North Precinct building, she listened to community concerns and put the project on hold. More recently she helped appoint Kirsten Harris-Talley, one of the activists who lobbied against the North Precinct, to the City Council as Tim Burgess’ replacement. Unlike González, challenger Pat Murakami has endorsed the #HousingForAllSeattle platform calling for reforms to sweeps and a dramatic increase in public-housing investment. But her actual platform features many NIMBY dog whistles, such as promising to “preserve the character and flavor of Seattle neighborhoods.” González’s inaction while police chase paupers around the city in circles is a serious mark against her, but we have little confidence that her challenger would be any more humane. Given her willingness to bend toward the moral cause on the North Precinct and other issues, we hope González will get similarly woke about our unsheltered neighbors during her second term.

SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT 1

DIRECTOR DISTRICT 4

Eden Mack

Eden Mack co-founded Washington’s Paramount Duty, which lobbies the state legislature to adequately fund public education per the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. That commendable group is still hard at work. WPD decried the legislature’s meager attempt to finally do so this summer as an abject failure; Seattle schools, they report, are “worse off under the legislature’s education funding deal than it would have been had the legislature done nothing.” We need this kind of advocacy on the Seattle School Board. Mack has also racked up a slew of endorsements from local Democratic organizations and elected officials, as well as from Lyon Terry (2015 state Teacher of the Year) and six of the seven current School Board directors. Just as important, Mack’s competitor in this race is sorely wanting. Herbert J. Camet, Jr. uses the phrase “LGBT lifestyle choice” on his campaign website, which reads like an angry, repetitive screed against the “corporate business hacks” and “fake candidates” that he sees taking over the School Board and the schools. While we’d prefer to endorse a candidate who’s more aggressive and specific than Mack has been on racial equity in Seattle schools, Mack is the clear choice here.

SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT 1

DIRECTOR DISTRICT 5

Zachary Pullin DeWolf

The choice for District 5 School Board Director is between a business-minded technocrat and a social-justice warrior. Omar Vasquez is a Teach for America alum and business lawyer who sits on the board of a local charter school. Vasquez has said that he is “not a charter-school candidate,” but then added that charter schools may be “part of the mix” of public education in Seattle. “Working at Summit [charter school] allowed me to see what an innovative model looks like,” he told the 36th District Democrats. We are skeptical, to say the least, of that argument. His opponent, Zachary DeWolf, is a former Peace Corps Volunteer who learned Braille and then set up a school for it in Belize. He currently serves as the President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, where he was an early embracer of supervised-consumption sites and harm-reduction approaches to drug abuse and extreme poverty. Local and state Democrats have lined up to endorse DeWolf, and his resume is so packed with commissions and other civic service that it’s hard to get through the whole thing. Both candidates appear to view the School Board position as a stepping stone to higher office. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Ambition can fuel progress. But progress toward what? Vasquez talks a good game about civic engagement and reducing inequity, but DeWolf’s track record as a public servant and his demonstrated commitment to social justice convince us that he is the best candidate.

SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT 1

DIRECTOR DISTRICT 7

BETTY PATU

As we wrote in endorsing her in August, Betty Patu’s emphasis on racial equity, consideration of her constituents’ concerns, and deftness at navigating the controversial (and at times very tedious) waters of public-education policy are indispensable assets, burnished by her deep understanding of what it actually feels like to work inside Seattle schools. Prior to serving on the Board, Patu worked in Seattle Public Schools for 32 years, directing award-winning programs that helped increase graduation rates and reduce violence while winning half a dozen awards herself. Plus, her opponent in this race don’t pass muster: Chelsea Byers’ only teaching experience is two years with Teach for America, and she has spent most of her career working for private education-technology companies, not schools. That resume is surprisingly similar to Omar Vasquez’s, who’s running for Position 5. In both cases we say skip the technocrat.

editorial@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Photo courtesy King County
King County Could Ban Solitary Confinement for Youth in Detention

Last week, a lawsuit was filed over the practice; this week, King County scrambled to respond.

Welcome to the Bliss Jungle

A party house in Shoreline served as a home base for a community of hippies. It was also, according to multiple alleged victims, the scene of numerous rapes.

As promised, a decision was delivered before the Thanksgiving holiday.
King County Judge Rules Against Seattle Income Tax

The judgment sets up an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Mayor Signs Retirement Savings Plan Into Law

Along with signing the City budget, the mayor also put into motion the nation’s first city-faciliated, privately-administered retirement savings plan.

Bow Hunting in Bellevue, Church Threats, and Much Ado About Mulch

Plus, a former high school office staffer charged with rape.

City Budget Includes Funding for Georgetown-South Park Trail

Tired of feeling like islands, South Park and Georgetown residents pushed the city for greater connectivity between the communities.

Increased Caseloads Plague King County’s Mental Health Court

The Involuntary Treatment Act Court has seen its cases double in the last decade and the staff can’t keep up.

Seattle Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland speaks about a new agreement between the city and Seattle Public Schools at a Monday press conference. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Former Army Base Could Address School District’s ‘Capacity Crisis’

The city and Seattle Public Schools entered into an agreement on Monday to plan for new schools and Fort Lawton’s future.

Is the State Transportation Commission Irrelevant?

A report says the citizen panel often is ignored, and its duties overlap with the Transportation Department.

Most Read