Seattle residents must be sure to vote — for Jenny Durkan for mayor. Voters should also look closely at the relatively thin qualifications of her challenger, Cary Moon.
Seattle voters should be sure to cast their ballots — for Jenny Durkan in the race for mayor.
Durkan has more than 20 years’ experience as a state, federal and private attorney. Most notably she was U.S. Attorney in Seattle from 2009 to 2014 when her office found Seattle police were using unconstitutional, excessive force, then negotiated a settlement leading to broad reforms.
It’s rare for Seattle or any city to have a candidate with Durkan’s deep civic and management résumé. Even better is that she’s running without the baggage that activists and longtime politicians tend to bring to office.
Leading the city is a multifaceted job. In addition to being a figurehead, the mayor manages a large organization, negotiates with other agencies and legislative bodies, brokers agreements between factions and strives to provide the best service with finite resources.
Durkan has proven ability to do all of these things well in service to the general public.
Voters should also be skeptical of Durkan’s challenger, Cary Moon, whose campaign and ads present her as an urban planner. Such experience sounds good for the mayor of Seattle, a city that’s struggling with growth planning.
But Moon has scant job experience as an urban planner. Actually, she acknowledged in an interview she hasn’t had a regular job outside of a few contracting gigs for many years. Before running for mayor, she frequently described herself on campaign contribution forms as unemployed or retired.
Moon told this editorial board that she went to graduate school to become a city planner but realized after one semester that wasn’t her interest. She graduated with a degree in landscape architecture and a certificate in urban design.
After moving to Seattle in 1997, she worked as a subcontractor to an activist helping the city develop the Pioneer Square neighborhood plan. That was followed by four years on the city’s Design Commission.
During that period she collaborated on a few projects with landscape architects doing building-site planning.
Around 2005, she formed an advocacy group called the People’s Waterfront Coalition and was its paid director. The coalition fought for a waterfront park near Moon’s Pike Place Market neighborhood. It was focused on blocking construction of the highway tunnel beneath. Moon said the group stopped seeking donations in 2009 after the state decided to pursue the tunnel.
Moon has since been an unpaid activist, recently working on committees and boards focused on political and economic reform.
Moon’s career choices, which she says allowed her more time with her family, and her activism deserve respect.
However, that leaves her with far less experience than Durkan, whose successes are well- documented, to run the city.
There’s also a question of whether voters are getting the full story. Public-disclosure reports over the years give a more complete picture.
On past reports for donations to city office candidates such as Kshama Sawant, Mike McGinn, Mike O’Brien and Jessyn Farrell, Moon describes herself as “retired” or “unemployed.”
Donating in 2011 and 2012, Moon described herself as an “advocate” or “director” for the People’s Waterfront Coalition.
Donating to McGinn in 2013, Moon described herself as an “urban designer” working for Landscape Agents. That was a business she registered in 1998, but it’s been inactive since 2006, according to the Washington Secretary of State.
In October of 2013, Moon described herself as “retired” when donating more to McGinn’s campaign.
As recently as July, Moon described herself as “unemployed” when donating to Seattle council candidate Teresa Mosqueda.
The first campaign report on which Moon described herself as an “urban planner” was Sept. 14, after she won the primary election.
It’s fine for Moon to identify personally as an urban planner. She has done some work in the field and studied it at university.
But voters should be aware that Moon’s civic experience has been largely as an activist and that she has worked only sporadically in urban design.
That may not be the urban planner some had in mind for Seattle’s next mayor. Nor does it come close to Durkan’s extensive and relevant experience.