The Seattle Times editorial board is supporting Seattle City Council incumbents for re-election because each of them, for different reasons, has earned another stint.
LIKE most governments in the region, the city of Seattle is having a rough time, especially financially. Seattle’s problems are exacerbated by the rambling, often activist policies of its chief executive, Mayor Mike McGinn.
For that reason and more, voters should select a council that can act as a constructive impediment to McGinn’s lesser ideas. Fortunately, this council, more than many others, has a cohesiveness and proven ability to react.
It is always good for a city to welcome engaging new council candidates, challengers so good they immediately add to the skill set of the legislative body.
This year, The Seattle Times editorial board is supporting incumbents because each of them, for different reasons, has earned another stint. Each also has demonstrated ability to stand up to McGinn. Considering the mayor’s shenanigans on the downtown tunnel, that was not always easy.
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For Position 1, we endorse a candidate rare in Seattle politics these days, a moderate, Jean Godden. Her opponent, Bobby Forch, who currently works for the city transportation department, is a fresh newcomer. But Forch seems unaware of the increasing cost of living in the city. For example, he would have supported an $80 car-tab increase on the ballot this November; the council went with $60. Godden wanted $40 but voted for the council’s $60. This page opposes the measure because the council already adopted a $20 increase and the Metropolitan King County Council also imposed another $20.
Forch also is too critical of Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and seems naive about the dynamics of last year’s recruiting search for a new chief that left the city few choices. The top candidate dropped out of consideration late in the game.
Forch seems to care deeply about public safety, which is important, but he needs time to become a more informed candidate. He did not argue persuasively enough that it was time to dump Godden, who has done a steady job on the budget and voted sensibly with the council majority again and again.
For Position 3, incumbent Bruce Harrell is a better choice than challenger Brad Meacham, a former journalist and chairman of the Municipal League of King County. Meacham not only opposed the tunnel, but also would have supported the maximum allowable car-tab fee. One gets the feeling some of these candidates would support any amount of money for mass transit, even if plans are not well hatched, even if endless charges are imposed on folks who can ill afford them.
Harrell offered a smart pilot project bringing body cameras to police officers, which may help with a public constantly videotaping interactions with police. All that said, Harrell needs to become more consistent and less politically cagey. His wishy-washy behavior on an unsuccessful anti-aggressive-panhandling law made him seem unable to grasp how certain street behaviors intimidate people.
For Positions 5 and 7, incumbents Tom Rasmussen and Tim Burgess have done solid work on transportation and public safety, respectively. Rasmussen skillfully volleyed the tennis ball back at the mayor each time he tried a new way to block the tunnel. Burgess brings a lot of smarts and a laser focus to public safety and education. Burgess gets the fact that street crime, such as prostitution and drug dealing, needs constant attention for the city to be welcoming to people and businesses.
Burgess also was first in the city to highlight the needs of young girls and women forced into prostitution and to make sheltering them a city priority. He did admirable work raising private money for The Bridge Program to help these victims.
Position 9 pits incumbent Sally Clark against a well-versed challenger, Dian Ferguson, but on balance, Clark is the better choice to stand with the council and craft policies on complicated issues, such as land use. Clark, poised to become council president in January, showed legislative range and skill in bringing together disparate interests to allow food carts on public streets. Ferguson led a public-access TV station and cares passionately about education.